Discovering South Korea
South Korea, a country where history, traditions and customs go back ages, slowly unveiled its secrets as my plane landed in Seoul. Modern infrastructure and buildings harmonically share space with ancient temples, and I must say, you can feel a Japanese influence in many ways! Let’s not forget that South Korea was annexed by the Empire of Japan, turning Seoul into a colonial city. Although a great project of modernization; many palaces were destroyed and city walls torn down during this process. Almost every element of ethnic Korean architecture vanished in history, leaving only 30% of pre-Japanese structures standing in Seoul.
Today, in the digital age, Seoul is one of the safest and cleanest cities in the world. With security cameras on almost every street corner and the fastest internet I've experienced, I must admit that the U.S. has room for improvement. However, my discoveries didn't stop here!
A true foodie, I was eager to try different Korean dishes, experience new spices, and expand my palette. I started my adventure at a fish market, since Korean seafood is world-known for its freshness and exclusive taste. From crab to abalone, I took in the sights as vendors showcased their sea creatures in live tanks, allowing customers to pick the freshest and finest. To my big surprise, even the fish market was clean! We got a fresh fish and grilled it right there! I also had the opportunity to experience Korean sushi rolls with beef, pickled radish and very little rice (nothing like a traditional Japanense roll). I've never had anything like it!
There were two islands I planned to visit: Ganghwado Island and Juju Island. Locals compare both to Hawaii. Ganghwado Island amazed me with the beauty of its nature. Cold fall weather didn’t stop me from hiking the mountains, enjoying fall colors, and exploring the wall that was built to protect South Korea from the Mongolian invasion. I visited the Serene Temple and experienced the flavors of locally harvested teas, from its very own Tea House, and even discovered how monks preserve kimchi, hot sauce and bean paste over the winter! Walking through the doors of this serene temple, and embracing the beauty of Korea’s architecture and nature really makes a person forget about our usual busy lifestyle.
Juju island was so different and unique in its own ways. The food was out of this world! How many ways can you prepare a crab? I discovered there’s many: Crab Korean style, Crab Stew, and many more. Juju island even gave me my first taste of live octopus. It was still moving as it cooked in front of me! Quite an unforgettable experience.
To finish my Korean trip, I toured one of seven tunnels that connects North and South Korea by the Imjingak River which divides the two countries. I highly recommend it! While waiting to embark on my next journey, I came across a quote from Master Jin Know: “Be mindful of every little pleasure in life. By living everyday like it’s your last day”… a perfect summary of my Korean discoveries! With that, I wish you many inspired adventures.