Gyeongju and Upo - Living the life of a rural expat!
Gyeongju-Si, South Korea
The first three weeks of April have been FULL of adventures!
To begin with:
I went down to Gyeongju - which is the ancient capital of the Silla Dynasty. It was very rainy, but I went mainly to see the Cherry Blossoms. We bike road through the town, saw a lot of small restaurants and local families, and got to stay in an absolutely BEAUTIFUL hostel. I went down and met up with my friend April, and we met this awesome couple who just got married like a month ago. We met a few couples actually, and they were awesome. Got to see many beautiful beautiful sites, including Anapji Pond, a royal garden, as well as many others from the Silla time period. It was a pretty low key weekend overall, but the cherry blossoms were absolutely to die for. At one point, pink was all you could see. We went on some back roads, saw some Korean farmers, small families who yelled out to us in greeting, and offered us food. We didn't stop (this time), but everyone was soo so nice.
The following weekend (this past weekend) we trekked down to the Upo Wetlands, another UNESCO world heritage site in korea. While it left a little to be desired (we didn't see any of the crazy birds that were advertised. BUT we went to one of the quietest areas i've been in months, biked through incredible farm land, and saw rice paddy workers, as well as ajushi (older men) working in the water and ponds. Life is so different outside the city. I can't imagine waking up on these small farms in rural South Korea each morning. In fact, that is why I'm strongly considering a paid farming internship in mid-Australia within the next year. WHY NOT? (Another story).
So the rest of the day, we made our way to a small village where we would be doing our homestay. This family had us stay with them, cooked us Korean bbq, fresh fish, and had a bonfire. We had delicious local makgeolli, there were so many flavors. We then stayed at a traditional ondol room (heated from the floor.) I will truthfully be able to sleep anywhere when i get home. I can pass out on one layer of quilt on a rock hard floor and no pillow, no problem. We had essentially a girl scout camp where we stayed, as there was one boy on the trip. We fell asleep very early. Which was fine because we woke up, grabbed some water out of the local well, and then walked down to the river in the town. Here, you could take a bamboo raft down the river for free, as a man and his son welcomed us to take them.
This was one of the most relaxing weekends of my life, and somehow, no matter where you wake up in Korea, you feel like you're in a postcard. I remember back when I watched the Amazing Panda Adventure (87 times) when I was little. It was China, but I remember specifically the mist over the mountains and the feeling of - just awe in how beautiful everything was. (Could this be where I got my travel bug from?)
But that's how it really is here. Everything in the country is covered by mist and fog in the mornings. And laying on a bamboo raft taking pictures of the mountains, i mean, yeah I could live like this.