Monday, December 6, 2010

Day 16 : We're officially back in Korea and we couldn't be more excited.We had an amazing summer and we want to thank all our family and friends for making our time back home so special. That being said, its great to be back doing what we love, traveling, taking photos, and teaching the occasional English class. For any of you concerned about the situation over here don't worry, things seemed to have calmed down and as usual the media makes it seem worse than it is. When we arrived, we wasted little time and our friends here had already planned a road trip adventure for our very first weekend. There were six of us in total so we rented a big van and hit the open and often unpredictable Korean roads.

Luckily we were in the very capable hands of our driver Patrick and he was able to reduce the near death collisions to only a handful. We were heading south to start in a place called Gokong, which is famous for its prehistoric tomb sites called Dolemans, that date back to early Korean civilization. They're scattered all over the country but the main cluster of them lie here.

They're basically massive rocks laid on top of each other that kind of resemble a table. We hiked around the area a little, felt rain, and then got lucky as the sun tried to break through and made for some cool photos.

After we had our fill of Doleman tombs we left for Jeongju an hour away to visit a very interesting Fortress. We made it to the huge walls surrounding the fortress but it seriously looked like it was going to pour. Shay and Patrick decided to not risk it with their expensive cameras and checked out a museum on the grounds. Jenny, Phil, and I thought we'd chance it and see what happened. We got close to the fortress and then the skies opened up and torrential rains came down, but we were able to seek refuge under the main gate.

It didn't last long and we were able to walk around a beautiful fortress garden and check out some traditional housing as it was hundreds of years ago.

On the way out we also scaled the fortress walls and made it to a look out point that gave sweet views of the foggy city below.

We met up with Shayna and Patrick at the museum in the midst of them being serenated by a trained Korean opera singer who had taking a liking to them. By this point we were starving so we grabbed some food. On the way out we saw an advertisement for a traditional Korean music performance that evening close by, so we jumped at the opportunity for some culture and bought tickets. To kill some time we walked around a traditional Korean village right in the middle of town, and they had converted much of it into interesting little shops for visitors and tourists.

We got to the performance and being the only foreigners there got a few looks but mostly went in undisturbed. The performance was a fusion of traditional Korean music, rock n roll, and opera with several very good singers making appearances throughout the performance.

I ( Brandon) really enjoyed it and so did everyone else but some of the group thought is was a little long winded for their taste. All in all everyone was happy to get to experience something unique like that. Being pretty beat from the day, we all checked into the classiest love motel we could find and crashed. The next day we woke up early to visit one of the biggest catholic churches in Korea. The building had really spectacular features, and we hope the people didn't mind us joining their morning mass.

Shay was even able to capture an older women in deep prayer.

Next we went off to a famous temple close by called Toepsa. It was a little bit of a hike to get there but it was worth it. On the way up we ran into some of the cuttest puppies we have ever seen and Shay wasted no time getting the shots.

Most temples in Korea look pretty similar, but this one was special because a monk had spent his whole life stacking rocks on top of each other to form these massive rock pagodas all around the temple. Now that's dedication!

It made for some cool shots and we even got to meet the monk in charge of the place, who was looking out with a megaphone in his hand ready for any temple troublemakers.

After climbing to the top and seeing all that there was to see at the temple, we decided it was time to make our way home, in hopes of beating the dreaded Korean traffic jam. We had a little pit stop at Costco on the way home, where we blew the remainder of our budget on old cheddar cheese and Costco muffins. We got back to our place, and much to our delight our bed had been delivered as promised and our new apartment was already to starting to feel a little more like home. It was a great weekend and a great chance to catch up with old friends we hadn't seen in half a year but none us seem to have missed a step and we all had a awesome time.

It was also our first Korea adventure where we both had good cameras to capture the moments with, so it was nice for me (Brandon) to graduate from equipment manager to full on photographer. Shay's been a great teacher and she's still teaching me more and more so we look forward to more adventures and more stories to share with you! We hope everyone is doing great back home, and we hope you all have an amazing holidays!

With love from South Korea,

Brandon and Shayna xo