Morning Running

Since the start of the warm weather, Dean and I have made an effort to get outside more and enjoy all of our days left here. We now walk or run everyday. I've been meaning to get a bit more into running but during the long cold months, this was not going to happen. But now I have no excuse. I found this great app called "10K". It coaches you to be able to run 10km in 14 weeks (or 5 by 8 weeks). I skipped the easier beginning weeks and I have really started enjoying running with it. We live on the edge of Jeonju so we have many places to run; mountains, forests and rivers that spread out into the country.

I really like running outside of Jeonju in the "country" because it's much quieter than the city. We have seen many people walking their big dogs off lead and even though we are the only runners, it feels more normal.

It's great to get outside before it is too hot and to make the most of our mornings. I look forward to doing more running when I get home.

The start of summer in Korea

This past weekend definitely felt like the official start of summer. It was the first time we wore shorts (since about October last year) and the weather was so lovely and warm. The flowers out at the moment are amazing, there are bright colors everywhere. The azaleas are in full bloom, the cherry blossoms are long gone and the trees are beautiful and green. Everything is looking alive and happy compared to the long, dry, brown winter. The cat is of course content with life as she gets to watch all the noisy birds and lie in the sun.

I'm sure these mildly warm temperatures will be short lived as I can imagine we will be boiling soon enough. But in the mean time we are making the most of this weather. We are enjoying lots of morning walking, running and hiking. Last weekend we went to the Bukchon Hanok village in Seoul and it was good to wonder around in the sun and eat. icecreams

Our time in Korea will be coming to an end soon. We have just one month left here, I can't believe it! Time seems to have flown in the last few months. We are looking forward to making the most of our time left here and enjoying the start of summer.

Bulguksa Temple

Bulguksa Temple is perhaps Korea's most famous temple and it was a must see while we were in Gyeongju. We went there early on a Sunday morning before all the crowds. We timed it well because it started getting really busy as we left just before midday. The spring morning was again really misty but luckily no rain. There were so so many cherry blossom trees, they really were beautiful and I was constantly in awe.

Bulguksa Temple was built in 528 during the Silla dynasty has some interesting history behind it. It was almost destroyed during Japanese invasions but has since been resorted and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can read about the history as you walk around the temple grounds. Entrance to the temple complex is 4000won. It's definitely recommended to go early because it is Korea's most visited temple and is bound to be crowded. I think Bulguksa is one of the nicest temples I've visited especially because the surrounding grounds are so pretty. I would recommend a visit.

Outside the main entrance, towards the back, there is a path that heads up the mountain. Some ladies at the information booth told us the trail was about 2km and would lead up to the Seokgurum Grotto. We walked the trail, which is a nice gradual walk up. It was so peaceful and we hardly saw anyone else walking. I'm sure the views would have been lovely if there wasn't such thick mist. We were a bit surprised when we got to the top as we reached a busy car park. To enter the Seokguram Grotto, you have to pay 4000won and walk for about 500m from the car park. This path was lined with Buddhist lanterns and quite crowded. The grotto is also a UNESCO site and there is a Buddha set in the grotto. It is protected by a glass window and no photographs are allowed. The grotto was a bit disappointing, perhaps because of the crowds. Perhaps it would be better on a sunny day when you can apparently see the sea. Afterwards we walked back down to the temple because the buses down the mountain only come on the hour.

How to get there

There are a few ways to get to Bulguksa Temple. There are a few local buses which take about 40 minutes. If you time it right, you can catch a train to the town of Bulguksa from the Gyeongju Station. We caught the train there (8:13am). This only takes 10 minutes and then you can catch a bus up to the temple. Buses 10, 11 and 700 run between  Gyeongju and Bulguksa. We caught a bus home which took ages because of the traffic jams, it was rather unpleasant but at least we had a seat because the bus got fuller and fuller the closer we came to Gyeongju.

Beautiful Gyeongju

While cherry blossom season was in its prime, we visited the old city of Gyeongju. Visiting Gyeongju has long been on my bucket list because it is the ancient city of Korea. It was once the capital during the Silla dynasty (57BC-935AD) and is filled with ancient sites. It is also a really popular tourist destination as it is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Gyeongju is really far from Jeonju so our time there was limited. We caught a bus via Daegu which made the trip about 4 hours. 

We went to Gyeongju during the first week of April and the amount of cherry blossom trees constantly blew my mind. My mum was visiting us in Korea for the second time and she timed her trip well to see the beautiful spring flowers. They were in full bloom everywhere but unfortunately the weather was rather miserable. The actual city of Gyeongju is a bit of a dump with the attractions scattered around the outside. It's really easy to find your way around because there aren't any skyscrapers blocking your views and things are well signposted. After we arrived in the afternoon we wondered to the area of the Daereungwon Royal Tombs. On the way we passed beautiful streets lines with blossoming trees.

The entrance to the tombs is 2000won. Under these mounds there are kings and queens buried. The park was peaceful with not too many people around.

At the back end of the park you can walk out to the Wolseong Forest and the Cheomseongdae Observatory. This area was really beautiful and the blossom trees were huge. You can rent bikes to ride around but we opted to walk. Just as we were at the other end of the forest, it started to absolutely pour with rain and there was thunder and lightening too! With no umbrellas, we had to sprint (along with many others), to find shelter. The rain didn't stop for ages and we were completely drenched. We had wanted to visited some other sites around like Anapji pond in the evening, but we were soaked and cold so we went back to our hostel for an early night instead. Although I was disappointed not to be able to see everything I had wanted, I still enjoyed the seeing the tombs and all the blossoms.

A must thing to do while in Gyeongju is visit Bulguksa Temple, which we did the next day (post coming soon). 

Maehwa Spring Flower Festival

Winter has sure been long and cold here in South Korea. We have been anxiously waiting for spring for a while and now the temperatures are slowly starting to rise. Spring started rather suddenly, just last week we had freezing weather, but this week has been rather pleasant. One thing I have been looking forward to with the end of winter, are the spring blossoms. Blossoming trees are a big deal here and in South Africa we don't get to see too many.

With the start of the warm weather, we felt like doing a day trip so we headed south to see the first blossoming trees. We have already been to a summer flower festival in Korea, so we wanted to check out a spring one. We went to the earliest spring festival in Korea, the Gwangyang International Maehwa Festival (광양매화축제). The festival takes place for 2 weeks every March. The trees in the south start flowering first and we haven't seen any in Jeonju yet. 

The Maehwa Festival is unlike many of the other spring flower festivals in Korea as the blossoms are white apricot blossoms, compared to the pinkish cherry blossoms. The apricot trees at the site cover 83 acres, making it the largest number of apricot trees in Korea. 

We packed a picnic and caught the train south (more on how to get there later). The weather was so lovely and warm. After a long walk, (with a Korean guy who followed us the whole way), we were a bit dissapointed when we got to the festival site. Unfortunately most of the trees hadn't started blooming yet and the mountain was mostly brown. Apparently it is normally covered in white. We wondered up the mountain and went in search of some flowering trees, there were a few! The crowds weren't too bad when we were there (I think most of them were stuck in traffic), and only started to pick up when we were leaving. 

We wondered the festival site, had our picnic, ate some ice creams and took some pictures. Although the trees weren't as impressive as they were ment to be, we still enjoyed ourselves and it was a good way to start off the spring season. I'm really looking forward to the cherry blossoms and can't wait to see Korea in spring.

How to get there:

We had instructions from one of our colleagues how to get there but unfortunately it didn't go according to plan. She had made some calls and found it would be quicker to go via Hadong instead of Gwangyang. We caught the train to Suncehon from Jeonju (1hour) and then transferred to Hadong (45min). From there we planned to catch a bus to the festival but when we got to the bus station we found that the buses had been cancelled. We were a bit stuck with how to get to the festival and in the small "town" of Hadong, no one spoke Englsih. We tried to ask a taxi driver to take us but he wouldn't because there was too much traffic going to the festival and it would be quicker to walk. We ended up walking there (and back) which was about 5km and took about an hour. It's not a bad walk as you walk along a river and pass many flowering trees on the way. Oh well, good exercise, and we got there in the end! I don't think there was a quicker way to get to the festival as we were walking faster than the cars were moving, so if you go, be prepared to walk. 

Han River Biking

On one of our days off during Seollal, Dean and I went for a tandem cycle along the Han River. It was a great, refreshing and active way to spend an afternoon. We started our ride from just near Yeouido Park We had wanted to go up to the top of Building 63 but unfortunately the sky wasn't so clear, and we didn't think the view would have been great. Hopefully we will still get a chance. 

Anyway, you can rent bikes on an hourly basis. It is 6000won/hr for a tandem and 3000won/hr for a regular bike. 

It was our first time riding tandem and it was good fun. There were so many people spending their day off along the river. people were riding bikes, walking dogs and there were lots of children playing. These are some pictures taken with my camera and of course our selfie pole too. 

Philippines in pictures

I must admit that it has taken me quite a while to do a post about our trip to the Philippines. Our visit to the Philippines was definitely not the most successful holiday and was rather brief. In fact, it was a holiday where everything seemed to go wrong. We had a well-planned trip organized and intended to visit Moalboal and Bohol in Cebu. Things started to go wrong from the start where our flight (Air Asia), was delayed by 12 hours. As we only had 5 days for our trip, this was a big deal. This meant we only spent 2 nights in Moalboal.  The next thing that happened was the Philippines was hit by a typhoon. Ferries were suspended for a few days to the island of Bohol meaning that this part of our trip had to be cancelled. We ended up changing our flight and coming home early. Dean and I were really sad and were so let down. I guess sometime things just happen that you can't control. From what we experienced during our short time in the Philippines, I must say it is an amazing country. The highlight of our trip was Kawasan Falls with its amazing colour water and massaging waterfall. We also enjoyed delicious food and fresh fruit, very different from Korea. The Philippines is definitely high on my list to return to, and I can't wait. Here is a look into our short time in the Philippines, mainly in Moalboal.

Skiing in Muju

We finally got around to going skiing on the last weekend of January. We went to Muju resort and I must say I was really impressed. Dean and I really love skiing and had wanted to go for a while. We were a bit weary about skiing in Korea compared to skiing in the Alps and we were worried we would be dissapointed.  But actually we had a great time. It's a good thing we waited so long in the season to go as I'm sure if we had gone earlier we would have spent all our money on skiing weekends. Skiing in Korea was really interesting and a completely different skiing culture to that of France. The slopes were decent and the snow was good too. Although there wasn't much snow around, the slopes were well kept. It was really crowded at the bottom of the slopes. The lines to get the lift up the mountain were really long but once up the mountain the slopes were empty and the views are beautiful. We look forward to a couple more trips before the season ends. These are just a few snaps from our iphones. We were way too busy skiing and making the most of our short time to focus on taking photos.

To get to the resort was really easy. We took a bus to Muju town, about 9000won and 2 hours from Jeonju, and then a free shuttle bus to the resort, about 45 minutes. The ski rental and passes are also well priced and easy to organize. You even get a great discount with your Korean bankcards (nh and kb cards). 

Gochangeupseong Fortress

Now that we are in the heart of winter, it is often difficult to get motivated to leave the house to explore new places. But, we are always looking for easy day trips from Jeonju and so we started off the new year with a trip to the small town of Gochang. We were eager to check out the Gochangeupseong Fortress. Gochang is about an 80 minute bus ride from Jeonju. 

Dean and I both love being outdoors and in nature so Gochang has definitely been one of our favourite outings. It is not often in Korea that you can escape the thousands of people, but the Gochang fortress was surprisingly quiet and peaceful. There were only a few families around having fun in the snow.

We arrived in Gochang to thick snow which made the fortress look particularly beautiful and gave it a different feel to what typical pictures showed. We were dressed really warmly (Nowadays I wear 2 jackets!!) but there were blue skies, the sun was out and the weather was actually rather pleasant.

 The entrance fee to the fortress is 1000won. 

The fortress is just behind the town and was built in 1453. It was used to defend against Japanese invasions. You can walk along the wall which is 1.6km. We walked around the whole fortress and didn't see anybody, it was great!

Inside the fortress there are many different paths and there is a bamboo forest which is an interesting contrast to the surrounding pine trees.

I would definitely recommend a visit to Gochang fortress. It was nice to have a change from some of the typical Korean sites, especially since it was so quiet.

Directions

The available directions online were a bit vague but the fortress is actually easy to get to. When you leave the Gochang bus terminal, walk left at the main road. After about 500m, turn right at an intersection just before a school. Walk for about 150m, cross a bridge. and the fortress entrance is straight ahead. 

An afternoon in Muju

Now that we are nearing the end of autumn, warm days are far and few. Fortunately for us, we were blessed with a lovely warm sunny day when Dean, myself and a couple of friends decided to take a trip to the town of Muju. Muju is a popular ski destination in winter, and so we were eager to pay it a visit to check it out before ski season starts. We were also hoping to catch the last colours of autumn but the trees were already turning brown. We didn’t do any planning and were sort of expecting to arrive in the town and that the ski resort would be obvious. However, we arrived to a somewhat sleepy town with no sign of anything that would suggest it would offer skiing. We have since learnt that where you ski is Muju Resort and not Muju town. Two separate places. The bus to Muju from Jeonju takes 2 hours and costs 9000won one way (longer and more expensive than we were expecting). When we arrived we grabbed some lunch and decided to go exploring some of the mountains instead of travelling further to find the skiing area. 

The town was really quite and I think the locals were a bit surprised to see a group of foreigners wondering the quiet streets. We followed a trail to the top of a small mountain and got some beautiful views of the surrounding rural areas. 

I was a bit lazy with taking photos but here a few snaps. 

Muju isn’t exactly the most exciting place to visit but it was nice to go on a short hike in the warm weather. When the ski season opens, I hope we will make some frequent trips to the resort for some skiing. 

Colours of fall in Korea: Naejangsan National Park

On the first week of November we took a trip to Naejangsan National Park to see the bright colourful leaves on the trees. Coming from South Africa, where we don’t see too much of a dramatic change in autumn, I was really excited. My Korean rough guide book had also rated an autumn trip to Naejangsan as one of the top 25 things to do in Korea, and luckily it is relatively close to Jeonju. Unfortunately the weekend we planned to go was miserable, rainy and foggy, but we still decided to go as we thought the crowds would less (not true by the way). The temperatures have dropped a lot here already in Korea and it has been rather chilly.

To get there we had to catch a bus to Jeongeup which takes about an hour and then a 40 minute city bus to the National Park.  Luckily we managed to squeeze ourselves onto the bus as it was absolutely packed and definitely not the most pleasant trip standing on top of people the whole way. We had an eventful trip there as when we got to Jeongeup and were waiting for the next bus, we spotted a small little puppy running in the road and avoiding cars. Of course we rushed to pick him up while everyone watched and did nothing. The puppy, a Jindo, must have been about 10 weeks and was cold and lost. We spent the next hour trying to find his home with no one being interested in helping us except for some people who wanted to try claim him. One thing that always breaks my heart in Korea, is the treatment of animals and Dean and I would have taken him home in a flash if it were not for the exorbitant cost to send him to South Africa. Luckily we eventually found his home, where we spotted some more puppies and he must have wondered off through the open gate.  No one even noticed. 

Once we got to the park we had to wind our way up to the actual entrance past the colourful stalls selling some strange things, blaring music and dancing ajummas. I don’t think we were quite prepared for the chaos and thousands of people. Literally there were thousands and thousands of people. I guess like all outdoor or “natural” activities, we should have expected it. The entrance cost to the park is 3000won. From there we walked up through the park to a lake and a temple, taking in the amazing colours. They really were beautiful and impressive. There is an option to catch a cable car to the top of one of the peaks, but there was a really long line and because of the mist we didn’t think it would be worth it. 

Despite the hordes of people, a trip to Naejangsan was definitely worth it. The colours and sites were breath taking and unlike anything I have ever seen. Although the sky wasn’t blue, the mistiness gave a somewhat magical feel and I am glad we decided to go.

Gujeolcho Flower Festival

We were lucky enough to visit the Gujeolcho Flower Festival (구절초 제전). Or in other words, the Siberian chrysanthemum festival. The festival takes place for 10 days every October. I found out about the festival by coincidence on a Friday night when I was phone teaching and a student happened to tell me she would be visiting a flower festival on the weekend. This sparked my interest and so I asked her where and she asked her mom for me. I then mentioned it to a teacher and she said she had been the week before. She gave me a few pointers how to get there and we decided it would be a pleasant trip on what may be one of the last hot days of the year.The festival was held at Okjeongho Lake Gujeolcho Theme Parknear Jeongeup. The park is basically a large natural area with paths winding all over. The festival is famed for its Siberian chrysanthemums that cover the floor of a forested hill, the largest chrysanthemum hill in Korea. To me the flowers look like common white daisies and I didn't know they had such a fancy name. In their large amounts they looked particularly impressive though. 

At the festival there were also fields of cosmos and sunflowers. The flowers were really beautiful and of course I loved photographing them. There were many fields so there was plenty of space for everyone to enjoy taking pictures in the flowers. We wondered around the grounds and then found a spot to enjoy our picnic. Luckily we packed a picnic as we are not very adventurous when it comes to Korean food, and there was only some rather interesting looking food at the many food stalls.

We tried to do a bit of research before we went and find out exactly where we were going, but there was not much English information available as the festival is not one of the bigger well known ones. It is featured on Korea’s Miss Flower promotional video which tells you the best places to see flowers throughout the year. It was not the easiest place to get to and took quite a while. We first had to catch a bus from Jeonju to the town of Jeongeup and then another bus to a small village called Sannae-myeon. From there, there were shuttles to the festival area. The 2 bus rides were each an hour long but we had a bit of a wait when we got to Jeongeup because the buses were very infrequent to Sannae-myeon. The scenery on the drives was very beautiful and we could tell when we were getting close to the festival area as flowers started to line the roads.  Many people tried to help us along the way even though we couldn’t understand them much and we scored some chestnuts on the bus ride home from a kind lady who showed us how to go back. 

The entrance cost was 3000won but free if you wore something with flowers on, which I planned ahead for.

It's a pity the festival is not better known, especially amongst the English community. We were by far the only western people there and one man even asked us how we knew about it. I didn't even manage to find it on the list of Korean festivals.

A trip to this festival is well worth it and a perfect place to visit during autumn as the temperature starts to cool down. 

The tea plantations of Boseong

I had wanted to visit the tea plantations of Boseong for quite a while, but it had always seemed so out of the way. I am pleased now that we got around to it. To get to Boseong from Jeonju, you either need to go via Gwangju (bus) or Suncheon (train) to the small town of Boseongand then catch a city bus to the plantations. The round-trip transportation takes a couple of hours and takes a bit of effort making sure you are heading to the right place. So while we were in the Suncheon area, we decided it was a perfect chance to visit Boseong . 

We went to the most famed plantation, Daehan Dawon, and although there are others in the area, they are apparently not nearly as impressive as Daehan Dawon. This plantation has a farming area of 5.7 million square meters and 5.8 million tea plants-in other words, it is huge! Daehan Dawon has become quite a popular tourist destination and when we got there at 10am, there were already so many people there. 

This plantation is beautiful and much more impressive than the Osulloc plantations in Jeju. The bushes reach all the way up the mountain, which gives a beautiful view of the farm. We walked up to the top, which was quite steep with many stairs and even ropes to help you. Thank goodness I changed into trainers from my slip slops, as they definitely wouldn’t have been practical and everyone was wearing trainers or hiking shoes. I am also pleased that we didn’t visit the plantation in summer as it would have been way too hot but was perfect in the warm autumn sun with a cool breeze. 

There are quite a few paths spanning over the plantation, and once you are off the main ones, it wasn’t too crowded. 

After we reached the top to admire the beautiful views, we wondered back down in the cool forests, passed a waterfall or 2 and headed for the café where we tried some green tea ice cream. 

They sell all sorts of green tea flavoured things. The ice cream was so delicious and we bought some green tea candy and chocolates too. 

I thoroughly enjoyed our trip to Boseong and I think another trip may be in order in the winter months when the rows of tea bushes are covered in snow. 

Suncheon Bay and Garden Expo

Suncheon City is known as Korea’s eco city, and fittingly so. We caught a train to this southern city as part of one of our long weekends. It was a sort of the spur of the moment decision as the holiday weekend crept up on us and with no plans, we took the advice of one of Dean’s teachers and headed to this coastal city. We were a little apprehensive as Suncheon barely featured in my Korean tour book but it was worthwhile visit and should perhaps be given more credit. Suncheon is near Yeosu and the train ride is just over an hour from Jeonju. 

Suncheon Bay Ecological Park is Korea’s first coastal wetland and it is listed as one of the world’s 5 major wetlands. The wetland plays an important role to migratory birds and is teeming with fauna like crabs and mudskippers. 

At the top of the hill in the background is the Yongsan Observatory.

There are boardwalks that snake over the reads with look-out spots to watch for birds and look at the mud below to see the hundreds of crabs. Walking across the wetlands you get to a rather steep hill that you can walk up to reach the Yongsan Observatory and get a good view of the wetlands. The round-trip to the observatory was a good 40 minutes and thank goodness for the breeze and the drop in humidity as the walk was rather steep and tiresome. 

Some beautiful views from the top-looking over the wetlands and to the farmlands in the distance.

Another of Suncheon’s sites is Suncheon Bay Garden. This garden was host to the 2013 World Garden Expo and is still open to the public and well maintained. Another World Expo I had never heard of, but the Garden Expo was started 150 years ago in Europe and it showcases different gardens and flora from around the world.  I think there was a ticket special while we were there as we bought tickets for 2500 won that allowed us entrance into both Suncheon Bay Eco Park and Suncheon Bay Garden, so it was a great cheap visit! 

The garden is absolutely huge and you could definitely spend a good couple hours walking around. As we got there towards the end of the day, we only had about 2.5hours to explore and we didn’t come close to seeing it all. 

There are 2 sides to the garden and they are connected by the “Bridge of Dreams”. The one side is filled with themed gardens from around the world and the other is where the Korean garden, wetlands and more “wilder” gardens are. 

A view from the gardens towards Suncheon City in the background.

The Bridge of Dreams. The walls are covered with thousands of tiles of drawings done by Korean school kids and they have drawn their dreams. As a person who loves flowers and nature, Suncheon was a great visit for me and I loved all the opportunities to take photos of the beautiful flowers. I’m definitely enjoying taking photos and learning a lot with my new camera!

A trip to Suncheon is an easy day trip from Jeonju although we did opt to spend the night at a motel as we planned on doing some more things in the area the next day. 

Nami Island

During our Chueseok in Seoul, we took a day trip to Namiseom, or Nami Island. The island is an easy train ride from Seoul, we got there using the metro which was great and cheap too. The island is half-mooned shaped in the Han River just outside the town of Gapyeong. The whole situation surrounding the island is a bit confusing to me because from what I have read, Nami Island is actually called Naminara Republic and is an imaginary country which requires a visa. You can catch a quick 5 minute ferry or zipline to the island-the option that Dean and I took. Ziplining was good fun and definitely my recommended choice of arriving on the island. 
Going through immigration and getting "visas". 
The more conventional way to arrive of the island and return to the mainland.
Nami Island is a beautiful place just to wonder around and it is really photogenic. There are paths leading everywhere and I never felt like it was too touristy or crowded. 


There were quite a lot of other Asian tourists around as Nami has been host to popular Korean drama scenes and the spots around the island are famous. We opted to walk around Nami but there are the options of renting bicycles too. We just loved and appreciated the coolness of being under the trees. There are lots of things to do around Nami from water activities to crafts, as well as just simply having a picnic.





 Being on Nami Island was a really great escape from the usual city life in Korea and it was definitely our highlight during our Chuseok break.

** Thanks again to Sue for letting me use some of her photos

Maisan Provincial Park and Tapsa Temple

One of the last places we took a trip to when my mom was here, was Maisan Provincial Park, or “horse ear mountains”. The name comes from the obvious 2 rock peaks, which from a distance resemble horses ears. The park is

located just near the town of Jinan, a 40 minute bus ride from Jeonju. We were trying to think of a day trip to do from Jeonju, and my Korea Rough Guide book had a short description about Jinan, which gave us this idea. It was a great choice as Tapsa Temple is a truly unique place and unlike any of the other temples in Korea (which all seem to look very similar).

After arriving in the small town of Jinan, we caught a bus from the terminal to the park. I guess the town doesn’t get many foreigners as the old men who seem to spend their days hanging out at the terminal, were very excited to see us and had fun jabbering away at us in Korean. 

After arriving at the park entrance, you wind your way up through a few tourist shops and restaurants. We first reached the smaller, more traditional temple of Unsusa before we got to Tapsa. We arrived early in the morning before most of the crowds, so the walk was rather empty and relaxing. 

Unusa Temple.

After passing the restaurants and little shops, you get to this lake just before the temple. You can even hire a swan paddle boat.

The word “Tapsa” means “Pagoda” and the temple is surrounded by 80 pagodas. What is amazing about this, is that the pagodas were single-handedly constructed by one man over 30 years. Even more amazing, is that these stone towers are not held together by any adhesive and the rocks simply balance on each other. It is still unknown how they “stick” together as the valley experiences strong winds (we can attribute to the very strong winds!). The man behind this magic is Yi Kap-Yong. After the start of his pagoda “project”, Yi Kap-Yong became a monk and so the area is now a Buddhist temple. 

Behind the temple, you can walk up to between the horse-ear mountain. Unfortunately, the rocks are closed for restoration so we couldn't climb them, but the walk to the middle of them is quite a decent walk (I think around 300 stairs if I can remember correctly), and there are many pleasant Buddhist features along the way. 

The flowers are lovely in the summer.

The temple just below the horses ears.

What the horse's ears look like from the distance.

You can bang this giant drum and it sends an eary echo down the valley.

Our trip to Tapsa and Maisan Provincial Park was well worth it and definitely a truly unique place to visit. 

Jeju Island-Day 2

Our day 2 on Jeju Island was jam-packed. We got up early and headed to the town of Seongsan to visit the UNESCO World Natural Heritage site of Ilchulbong or “Sunrise Peak”. Jeju is the first place in the world to receive the UNESCO triple crown. After some dolhareubang chocolates, a quick stop at a black sand beach and breakfast at Starbuck we started our trek up Sunrise Peak. 

Many mandarin oranges grow on the island so there are many orange flavored chocolates and other goods. Oranges weren't in season when we visited but they hang fake oranges on the trees for photo opportunities (of course Korea).

A black sand beach with Sunrise Peak in the background. 

Our neat little car.

Sunrise Peak is a cone type mountain that really looks amazing from aerial views but you can hike up 180m to the crater to look over Seongsan and Udo Island in the distance. 

The busy walk up to the top. 

At the top-looking across the crater.

Looking across to Udo Island. Although a really popular island in Jeju, we didn't manage to visit it. The side of the island looks like a baboon face doesn't it?

When we were in Seongsan we were lucky to see some of the famous Jeju diving grannies. These women dive for shellfish and urchins without any breathing equipment for many minutes. The tradition started when men found loopholes in the law that they would not have to pay tax if their wives did the work. So instead the wives would dive for food and the men would look after the children. Some of these women are as old as 70. The tradition of the diving grannies is fading and so we were lucky to see some.

Getting ready to go diving. She wouldn't let us get a proper picture of her. 

We had a most enjoyable visit to the Jeju Maze Park. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a real maze and it was good fun trying to find our way to the centre to ring the bell. The Jeju Maze Park was actually developed by a western man who loves living in Jeju. He must also love cats because the park has a bit of an underlying cat theme and there are about 20 cats hanging around the entrance. 

Styling in raincoats.

Around the corner from the maze is Manjanggul Cave, another UNESCO World Natural Heritage site. The Majanngul Cave is a long (13km but long about 1km is open to the public) underground cave formed by volcanic eruptions. It is a famous example of lava tubes and it is one of the longest in the world and has many lava features. The cave is quite deep underground and it gets pretty cold (poor Dean didn’t have a jersey and was shivering the whole time). You walk 1km to the end of the cave before you turn around and walk back. The cave really is amazing. It’s difficult to capture the experience of the cave on a camera because it is dark and water droplets sometimes mist up your lense. 

At the end of the 1km tunnel walk. 

Umbrellas are useful to avoid the water drops falling from the cave roof.

Our last stop on our second day in Jeju was Yongduam or “Dragon Head Rock”. The rock formation is along the seafront of Jeju-si and is a big tourist attraction. We visited in the evening and it was very busy. I’m not quite sure what the hype is about but it is clearly very popular. 

Walking along the promenade. 

I'm not quite convinced I can see the dragon...

July Round-up: Part 2

When my mom arrived, Dean and I were proud to act as tour guides of Jeonju and show her around. Her visit was also perfectly timed to coincide with our 3 day vacation so we were extremely lucky to be able to visit Jeju Island.  Here are just a few photos to finish off the end of the month. 

Mum catching on with the Korean ways :) 

The flowers this time of year are lovely.

One of the larger traditional Hanok Village houses.

Enjoying the wonderful treats the village has to offer on a hot day.

A moving tribute to the victims of the Sewol tragedy. Korea is still in deep pain about this. 

More flowers and a cat!

My mom became a bit obsessed with cute Korean children. Snapping pictures whenever she could. Her camera must be full of them :)

Hillside village. How to disguise a drain pipe. 

Lucky for my mom, she also celebrated her birthday while she was here. We took her to try the famous Jeonju Bibimbap. We went to a restaurant called Gajok Hwegwan and it was definitely the best Bibimbap we have had so far. We followed up with traditional Korean desert Bingsu which is made from shaved ice and has various toppings. It is truly most delicious.

More flowers. In the forest behind our apartment. 

Gym time!! In the forest.

-One a side note, a funny thing happened at school the other day. My middle school students rushed in one evening to tell me about Ebola. And how Ebola is in Africa and that now I am lucky and I don't have to worry because I'm in Korea, I'm safe!!. The blissful ignorance...

Hiking in Jeonju

A drizzly Sunday morning inspired us to get out and explore some of the nearby hiking trails. Hiking, being a firm favorite among Koreans, we bumped into many avid hikers. Some who even offered us a drink of their very strange flavored water. The hiking trails are about a 20 minute walk from our apartment and there are many different trails that snake all over the hills. To our surprise, shortly after starting the walk, we came across a beautiful Buddhist temple and shrine. There were monks walking around too. There were also a couple of outdoor gyms scattered around the walk where a few locals were doing push ups, pull ups and other exercise. A great idea I think! Another strange/clever thing we saw, was a "high pressure air drying station". Basically there are hoses which blow high pressure air and you can use it to get rid of the dirt on your shoes and clothes. The hiking was really steep, but it wasn't too far to the top. We were rewarded with some amazing views. Definitely a place to visit more than once, and maybe even at night because some of the paths have lights.

After a very steep and sweaty walk we reached this Buddhist temple.

I love these paintings and engravings on the side.

Just look at all those tall buildings. One of them is ours in the faaar distance.

Again, now you can really see what I mean when I say there are tall buildings everywhere!

Just incase you need to know the time while you're walking!

One of the gyms (note the guy doing push ups back there)

View of Jeonju at the top.

Many more trails to be explored. Looking into the mountains from the top.

At the top-not very high!

Butterfly that was following us around.