Teapot Cafe in Jangseong (Jeongeup Countryside), South Korea - En Rogel Teapot Café

Teapot Cafe in Jangseong (Jeongeup Countryside), South Korea -  En Rogel Teapot Café

I have been wanting to visit the Enrogel Teapot Cafe ever since reading about it on Seoul State of Mind. When my friend Sam from There She Goes Again (you might recognise Sam as the stylist behind a lot of my styled photo shoots) recently took a trip there and I saw her photographs, I knew I had to make a plan to get there. Most of the weird and wonderful places to see in Korea are in Seoul. As I live way down south in a tiny little town called Buan, getting to Seoul is only really possible on the weekends.

I was delighted to find out that the teapot cafe is a mere 40 minute drive from Buan, and so I was able to go visit it one afternoon afternoon after school.

The cafe itself is actually just outside Jeongeup, which makes getting there quite easy as you can catch a train to Jeongeup and then from there a local bus. I am not sure of the exact route to take via public transport as I have a car (having a car in Korea is a real game changer especially if you have a dog here like we do).

The cafe is located in just outside Jangseon village , which is between Jeongeup & Gwangju and is actually quite near the famous Baekyangsa Temple in Naejangsan National Park. Naejangsan is particularly famous for its display of Autumn leaves, and Baekyangsa temple is a very special place to visit during Autumn.

We visited the teapot cafe at the end of Spring, and must have just missed the cherry blossoms. We were able to catch a glimpse of the end of the blossoms, but from the little we could still see of the blossoms, it must have been magnificent during full bloom. The drive itself from Buan to Jangseon is beautiful, and well worth an afternoon drive if you have a car.

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Racoon Cafe in Seoul, South Korea - Blind Alley Cafe

Racoon Cafe in Seoul, South Korea - Blind Alley Cafe

If you're from the US, chances are you're not a big fan of these furry creatures. You probably have visions of your rubbish being riffled through and your pets being harassed. But to us South Africans, this funny little creature is a complete novelty. 

We don't have racoons in South Africa, the only thing we can compare to the US 'racoon' in terms of how much havoc they wreck around your house is the vermit monkey. Most South Africans (at least those from Kwazulu-Natal) have at least 1 story of a monkey (or even a troop of monkeys)  breaking into their house, causing complete chaos with the dogs and cats and stealing any food they can get their hands on. 

I'm not a big fan of monkeys, so I can understand some of my American friends and their aversion to these so-called 'pests' but I was quite taken with these two racoons that we spent time with at Blind Alley Cafe near Sookmyung Women's University in Seoul. Obviously, these racoons are pets and so tame, I wouldn't advise anyone running up to a wild racoon and try and give it an affectionate scratch (ouch...you'll be in for a nasty surprise). 

These two racoons were very entertaining (especially the white one who was the braver of the pair).

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Island Camping in Korea...Wido Island

Island Camping in Korea...Wido Island

This was our second camping trip to Wido Island, a small island on the west coast of Korea, accessible only by ferry from Gyeokpo.

Even though right now it's technically Winter here in Korea, I saw buds on the trees while working to work yesterday. So thought this post would be a good one to write now so that you can get planning your first Spring camping trip of the year. 

Having a dog here in Korea (click here to read more about our rescue pooch #ShadowTheJindo & owning a dog in Korea) makes it hard to travel. We do have a car, which makes our lives 100 times easier, but the accommodation is always a problem. You see many Koreans are terrifies of 'big' dogs (even though our pup would only be considered a medium sized dog in most countries). Here in Korea, he is a great big, scary wolf. and so booking accommodation is always a problem. Even the places which allow dogs usually turn us away when they catch a glimpse of him. This is why we go camping so much. This post is all about Wido Island, and one of our favourite (usually deserted!) places to camp in Korea.

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Baekyangsa temple in Naejangsan National Park, South Korea

Baekyangsa Temple Naejangsan National Park South Korea

Naejangsan National Park is known throughout Korea as one of the best places to see the Autumn foliage. As with all National Parks, it's huge! Even after living in Korea for over 3 years I only just found out that there are in fact two separate temples which are on different sides of the park, each falling in a different province. Naejangsan Temple is in Jeollobokdo (click here for a full post on how to get there) and then Baekyangsa Temple (featured in this post) is actually in Jeollonamdo and closer to Gwangju. 

Both temples are beautiful and offer spectacular scenery, but Baekyangsa was my favourite. They are pretty far from each other and unless you have your own car, it would be very hard to get to both in one day. Naejangsan Temple is quite a far walk from the parking lot where the bus from Jeongeup drops you off, but there are lots of food stalls and beautiful leaves to keep you occupied as you make your way up to the temple. The temple at Baekyangsa was a much shorter walk from the parking lot, and had a lot more diverse scenery, and was my favourite place to photograph.

If driving, I have posted the address below. We started at the Naejangsan temple parking lots and then drove the 35km to Baekyangsa temple. The roads weren't very well marked and the sign posts were very erratic. It ended up taking over 1.5 hours to make the 35km journey. You might have better luck by bus going from Gwangju, however as I haven't made the journey by bus I can't offer too much info on it. When in doubt, call the English Helpline (1330 from any cellphone) here in Korea, those guys and girls work magic and will help direct you where you need to go with bus times and other useful info.

There was ample free parking near the entrance to the National Park (W3 000 per person). From there the walk to the temple was beautiful, with lots of views of the mountains and streams.

Address:

26 Yaksu-ri, Bukha-myeon, Jangseong-gun, Jeollanam-do

Just a note

Dogs are not permitted in the national Park (although we did see a few little fluffy heads poking our of handbags and backpacks). #ShadowtheJindo is too big to hide in a bag and so had to stay at home for this trip. National Parks don't allow dogs, but Provincial Parks like Seounusa and Gaemsa Temple near Gochang are pet friendly as long as your dog is lead. 

Autumn in Korea - Naejangsan National Park in Jeongeup

Naejangsan where to see autumn fall leaves in korea

Farmboy and I had a very exciting time last weekend as my mom arrived from South Africa to spend the next 2 weeks with us. She has been wanting to experience a Korean Autumn since we arrived here back in 2013 and so we took her to Naejangsan National Park just outside of Jeongeup so she could experience the vibrant colours for herself.

Naejangsan is one of the most popular places in all of Korea to see the Autumn (or Fall) foliage and it's easy to see why. The hillsides and pathways are covered in a multitude of red, orange and yellow leaves. We headed there on a Friday afternoon in the hopes of missing some of the crowds, but only got lucky because of the freezing cold weather and icy wind. By the time we had arrived most of the people were on their way home, racing back to their cars and tour buses to escape the wind. This was very convenient for us as we had the mountainside just about to ourselves, and were able to quickly take these photographs before it got dark.

Naejangsan is easy enough to get to by public transport. You can catch a local city bus from the Jeongeup bus station. The bus leaves from right outside the CU Convenience store (not from the usual bus platform inside the bus terminal) which is right next door to the bus terminal. If you get lost just pop into the CU and ask for the bus to Naejangsan.

The bus ride is about 40 minutes long and you'll get dropped at the parking lots at the base of the park. From there it's about a 25 minute walk to the entrance to the National Park. There is a small (W3 000) entrance fee...make sure to bring cash as they don't accept cards. From the National Park entrance you slowly make your up through the leaves and trees to Naejagsan Temple, it's about a 1.5km walk.  Along the way there are a few stalls to buy souvenirs and other trinkets, as well as a cable car  closer to the temple which you can take all the way up the mountain side. 

Once you get to the temple and make your way back down to the visitors centre, you can catch a shuttle bus back down to the entrance (W1000 per person) or you can walk the 1.5km back down. 

Here are a few photographs of some of the interesting people we saw along the way. The walk up (and down if you don't take the shuttle) can take a looonnnggg time if you enjoy taking photographs, so make sure to bring along some water and snacks to keep you going. 

Address:

Naejang-dong, Jeongeup-si, Jeollabuk-do
전북 정읍시 내장동 , 전남 장성군 북하면 백양로

Nami Island Zipline and the Autumn Leaves

Nami Island Zipline Autumn Fall Leaves

Nami Island is a teeny tiny 'island' situated in the middle of the Han River just outside of Seoul. It's quite a way from Seoul itself, so keep that it mind if you are hoping to just pop by while you're next in Seoul. You need to get to Gapyoung Station (about a 1.5hour subway ride from central Seoul).

Nami Island became a popular tourist destination after the wildly successful Korean drama, Winter Sonata. In the movie, the famous 'Kiss Scene' can be re-created (complete with little snowmen replicas) but be prepared to queue up for your photo opportunity. Even though it seemed quite silly to replicate something from a movie we had never heard of or watched, it was fun and definitely a part of the Nami Island experience.

Nami Island Kiss Scene Winter Sonata Autumn

We had a long weekend and make the long trek up to Seoul from our town after school, Buan, arriving in Seoul at 11pm and taking the last subway as far as it would go before the lines were closed. We got as far as PyeongnaeHapyeong at midnight and found a motel and restaurant open all night to grab dinner before crashing in our motel. Our aim was to to get to Gapyeong Station (the subway station right the Island) the night before so that we could get to Nami Island early the next morning and catch the first ferry/first zipline. We only ended up getting to the Gapyeoung Wharf at 09h00 and realised that there are a few motels/pensions you could stay at to be right at the ferry terminal to catch the first ferry. Nami Island is ALWAYS busy, so week days would be far quieter but most of us aren't able to get there on a week day. If you get there early it will be MUCH better than later in the day. By the time we were heading home, thousands of people were only just arriving and the queues for everything were so long. Also, we caught a taxi from Gapyeong station to the ferry terminal (W7 000) but there really is no need. It's only about 1.5km's and will only take you about 25 - 30 minutes to walk.

The first ferry runs at 07h30 and goes every 20 - 30 minutes. The Zipline opens at 09h00 and they take about 8 people up at a time so the waiting time is long. We arrived at 09h30 and had to wait until 11am before we could go across. It wasn't a bad wait, as there is a cute coffee shop to grab a drink and people watch. The Zipline itself was a lot of fun. A little scary for me, but nothing crazy, and lasted about 90 seconds. There are two courses (the family course & the adventure course). The family course lands right on the Nami island and the adventure course lands on a smaller island next to Nami, and then you take a small boat across to to Nami. The adventure course was W38 000pp and included entrance to the island and the ferry back to the mainland.

ZipLine Info

Fare: 38,000 won
Operating hours: April-October 09h00 ~ 19h00 / November-March 09h00 ~ 18h00
* 8,000 won discount with SK Telecom T-membership
* Operation may be discontinued in the case of snow, rain, or strong winds
* For inquires: +82-31-582-8092

Dogs up to 5kg's are allowed on the island, you can see all the rules in the photo above.

Nami Island declared its cultural 'independence' in 2006 and re-named itself the Naminara Republic (Namisun).
The Naminara Republic is an imaginary country, but it has invented its own passport, currency, stamp and telephone card.  A 'passport' issued from Naminara is required to enter the Namisum. We didn't need this passport as we got onto the island via the zip line and we were rather happy to avoid the huge lines at 'immigration'. If you bring your passport with you to prove you are a 'foreigner' to Korea you get a small discount on admission. Normal entrance to the island is W10 000 pp but with the foreinger discount it is W8 000.

Korea, (and Nami Island is no exception) sure know how to do cute. Here are some photographs from the coffee shop at the ferry terminal. Snowball couple EVERYTHING.

We had hoped to see more Autumn/Fall colours on Nami, but we were obviously a little too early. The leaves usually peak at the end of October/beginning of November, but bear in mind that is when the rest of Korea will be wanting to see the colours too. Be prepared for the crowds and go as early as possible. Even with a lot of green, Nami was beautiful. There is a wonderful, relaxed feeling on the island. Everyone was smiling and there was a lot of laughter. I would definitely recommend going there, and from what I could tell online, it's beautiful in every season so even if you miss the Autumn leaves, you can can go anytime of the year. The recommended months to visit are May, July - August & October.  

Everything is more expensive on Nami, this isn't a surprise (our pizza costs us W28 000!!!!) so I'd suggest packing a picnic lunch and a blanket and finding a spot under the trees to enjoy your lunch/breakfast. There are also a number of places to stay on the island (cute cottages and a hotel of sorts) in case you are able to book ahead and want to spend longer on the island. We were there from 11h30 and by 3pm we were definitely ready to head home. Nami isn't big, you can wall around the entire island in an hour or so. There are also bycicles, tandems and other things to rent and we saw lots of families enjoying themselves.

How to get to Nami Island

By Subway:

  • Get off at GAPYEONG station (on the Gyeongchun Line) & walk/taxi to Gapyeoung Wharf (the ferry terminal). It's a 30 minute walk or a W7 000 taxi).
  • If walking, head out the station and turn left. Then follow the cars!

By ITX Train:

  • Yongsan → Gapyeong Station (about 60 min.)
  • Cheongyangni → Gapyeong Station (about 42 min.)
  • Chuncheon → Gapyeong Station (about 20 min.)
  • Bear in mind the train doesn't go very often so make sure to look at the train schedule (or book online here). 

By Shuttle Bus:

  • Insa-dong: 09h30 (Nearby the West Gate of Tapgol Park)
  • Namdaemun: 09h30 (Sungnyemun Square Bus Stop in front of Namdaemun Market)
  • Price: Adult W15 000(round-trip) / W7 500(one-way) 

More info on the shuttle bus can be found here >>> Nami Shuttle Bus

Let me know if you make it to Nami Island and what you thought of it! I love hearing from you.

Where to see the Autumn/Fall Leaves in Korea 2015

Where to see Autumn Fall leaves in Korean 2015

Typically, mid-October into early November is the peak time to see the leaves turning here in Korea. But this year, the leaves have begun to change earlier than expected. 

Just as wonderful as the spring blossoms (click here) the Autumn/Fall foliage is breathtaking. For us South Africans, we just don't get sights like this back home. The trees turn of course, but it's just nothing like the sea of red and yellow that greets you here in Korea.

The four most popular mountains (and therefore the busiest!) places to see the Autumn colours are Naejangsan (내장산) just outside of the town of Jeongeup, Jirisan (지리산) which is close to Namwon, Seoraksan (석악산) in Gangwon Province and Gwanaksan (관악산) which is closer to Seoul. 

We made it to Naejangsan (pictured below) in 2013 and and last year I took some photographs at Seonunsan, just outside Gochang (pictured at the bottom of this post).

As with many outdoor activities here in Korea, be prepared for the crowds! We were stuck on a bus for 2 hours making our way to Naejangsan, due to the hoards of people and cars, and eventually jumped off the bus and decided to walk the 5km road from the base of the mountain to the actual main viewing. It was a logistical nightmare. But, as long as you know it's going to be chaos and you are prepared for that, you will be rewarded with stunning sights. Seoununsan is much quieter, and offers just as much beauty as Naejangsan.

Here is a map of the expected Autumn/Fall foliage here in Korea:

Fall Leaves Foliage Korea 2015

Naejangsan (Jeongeup, Jeollobokdo)

Seonunsan, Gochang Jeollobokdo

Do you have any recommendations of places to see the foliage here in Korea? Any secret spots you've been to? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below.

Jinju Lantern Festival

Jinju Lanter Festiva South Korea

The Jinju Lantern Festival kicked off this past weekend (October 3rd) and goes on until next weekend (October 11th). Next Friday is also a public holiday (it's Hangul Day!) making it a long weekend for everyone here in Korea. Here are photographs from the festival last year. We drove there from our town (Buan) and had underestimated the traffic that comes with festivals here in Korea. Sometimes, especially when it comes to festivals here in Korea, it can end up being easier to just take a bus instead of driving. We had no choice but to drive as we had just rescued Shadow and had planned on camping for the night, therefore needing lots of space for all our camping gear.

We had already planned to go to the festival before we found Shadow, and so our poor little pup had to just put up with the fireworks and hustle and bustle of people. There were so many people at the festival, but it was still a good experience. We ended up caping on a spot of green that we could see on our iPhone map, which turned out to be the plush, very well cared for, front lawn of a Public Library! We woke up as soon as we heard the first library visitors and packed up as fast as we could, and hurried on down to the water front to have breakfast.

You can 'technically camp' anywhere in Korea (we have camped on abandoned tennis courts, closed roads, river streams, near train lines and in a golf course parking lot!) as long as you clean up after yourself. I wouldn't say it's actually legal to camp on library laws or golf courses where we have camped, but we usually leave before anyone can find us, and make sure to leave the place spotless so no one would know we were even there. Click here to see more posts on camping in Korea.

Address:

The festival is all along the Namgang River:

626, Namgang-ro, Jinju-si, Gyeongsangnam-do
경상남도 진주시 남강로 626 (본성동)

By bus: Take an intercity bus to Jinju Intercity Bus Terminal.
Exit the terminal towards the river.
Turn right, and walk for 5min to arrive at the festival site.

Things to do & places to stay in Seoul, South Korea

Things to do in Seoul South Korea Places to visit in Korea-01.png

We had friends out from South Africa recently and spent a wonderful weekend with them in Seoul. Farmboy and I have been to Seoul numerous times (click here to see other posts with things to do in this vibrant city) but there is always more to see and do in Korea's capital.

We found a wonderful apartment on AirBnb called SeoulSketch (click here to make a booking) and stayed there for 2 nights. The apartment was clean and spacious with 2 double beds, a kitchen, living room area and bathroom.

It was perfect for 4 people and was situated only a 5 minute walk from the Gyeongbokgung Palace Subway Station.

Places to Stay in Seoul Airbnb Apartment Rental

We spent our first evening wondering around Hongdae (Hongik University Subway Line) and doing some late night shopping. The stores only close around 10/11pm and restaurants are usually open till even later. 

Saturday morning we spent walking around Samcheon-dong which is the very artsy neighbourhood surrounding Gyeongbokgung Palace. The Buckcheon Hanok Village (a traditional Korean folk village) is also right next to the palace, so you can definitely spend a good number of hours strolling around, taking photographs and eating your fill of great food. 

We spent the morning wondering around Samcheon-dong, and then headed to Myeong-dong for some more shopping in the afternoon. There are also dog & cat cafes in Myeong-dong (click here to read more about these interesting cafes) which are a fun way to spend a few hours. 

After an afternoon nap we got showered and all dressed up for a night out at Club Ocatagon, one of the famous super clubs in Gangnam. Entrance for Octagon was W10 000 before 11pm (after which it jumps up to W30 000 per person) and includes a drink. Make sure to bring ID (you must be over the age of 19) and they ask EVERYONE! Never in my life did I think I would be asked for ID at the ripe old age of 27, but I was, along with every other person in line.

Saturday morning was spent at Suji's in Itaewon for brunch (click here for a full review). Suji's is our absolute favourite place for breakfast/lunch in Seoul. Most restaurants and cafes in Seoul only open at 10am making eating more of a brunch than a breakfast.

Then it was back to Yongsan station to catch the train to take us home. You can book train tickets In English online through the Korail website using your Korean/International credit card or Korean debit card.

Do you have any other recommendations of places to see and things to do in Seoul? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below.

Experiencing a Korean Temple Stay: Naesosa Temple

Naesosa Temple Stay South Korea

All the English teachers in my small town were taken on a workshop recently, hosted by our local department of Education. Most education departments organise for their teachers to attend workshops, some of which are more team building, while others are planned around lectures and seminars. For this one we were taken to Naesosa Temple to experience a traditional Korean Temple Stay.

Temple Stays are a way for ordinary people to experience the life of the Korean Buddhist Monks, with 4am wakeup calls for worship and meditation as well as arts and craft activities.

We did a lot of activities during our 2 day 1 night program. We made lotus lanterns, painted traditional Korean Buddhist temple designs on wood, rung the bell to call monks to worship, participated in a tea ceremony as well as a traditional Buddhist monk eating ceremony. I found the eating ceremony to be the most fascinating. During the meal, we had to sit in front of our bowls and wait to be called upon to complete a particular role during the ceremony (dish out water or rice). Each bowl had to be placed in order, chopsticks and spoon were only to be placed on top of the top right bowl, and once e had eaten, we were instructed to clean each bowl 2 times using water that was ceremoniously poured at the start. We used a piece if radish to clean the bowls in order, three times, and then had to drink the water used to clean the bowls. Our Monk leader told us that people these days are so wasteful, and so drinking the water used to wash the bow reduces waste and creates more of an awareness for food wastage...it was a rathe interesting experience to say the least. 

As Christians, Farmboy and I were a little hesitant before the trip, and although the local monks wern't too happy with us not wanting to participate in the 108 bows to Buddha, we were able to just wait outside until everyone else was done.  I had a really great time and enjoyed the experiences. If you are interested in a temple stay (and are prepared for the traditional Korean sleeping style and vegetable diet eaten by the Monks) then I would really recommend a temple stay. Naesosa is situated in Jeolloboko, near the Byeonsan National Park.

For more information about Naesosa and the programs they offer, click here.  

Address:

243, Naesosa-ro, Jinseo-myeon, Buan-gun, Jeollabuk-do 
전라북도 부안군 진서면 내소사로 243

Boseong Green Tea Fields

Boseong Green Tea Fields

The Boseong Green Tea fields are a very popular tourist destination here in South Korea. With rolling green hills, a souvenir shop selling green tea ice cream and every other kind of green tea infused souvenir you can possibly think of, a trip to these fields is a must while here in Korea.

We headed to Boseong on Labor day in 2014. Labor day a public holiday for us English Teachers, but a normal working day for the rest of Korea. This means it is the ideal time to visit the tea fields, unless you like being around big crowds. It was an awful day for photographs really, harsh bright sunlight and lots of smog meant that most of my photographs came out looking so contrasty, hence the use of film filters below. Labor day falls in Spring, which is a really good time to visit as the fields are really lush.

There is a W4 000 entrance fee payable once you walk through a gorgeous avenue of cedar trees. There is also a restaurant, gift shop and ice cream stand near the entrance. These particular fields are part of the Daehan Dawon Tea Fields (there are loads of green tea plantations in Boseong) but these are the most famous.

The fields are open in Summer (Mar-Oct) from 09h00 - 19h00 and in Winter (Nov-Feb) from 09h00 - 18h00. 

How to Get There

From Boseong Bus Terminal take a local bus bound for Yulpo and get off at Daehan Dawon Bus Stop (don't worry about missing the stop, you'll see the fields as the bus drives past). 

763-43, Nokcha-ro, Boseong-eup, Boseong-gun, Jeollanam-do 
전라남도 보성군 보성읍 녹차로 763-43

Camping in Korea - Namhae Island

Camping On Namhae Island, Korea. Camping on the beach in Korea

Four weekends of camping in a row, I didn't know I had it in me! We spent 2 weeks in Jinan at Yongdam (click here to find about more about this dog friendly camp site), a long weekend in Gangwon Province (click here) and then this, our last camping spot on a secluded beach on Namhae Island, on the Southern Coast of South Korea. 

Namhae is an island off Korea that you can reach without a ferry, something that is quite important to bear in mind if your are traveling over a long weekend and haven't booked ferry tickets in advance. It only took us 2 hours to get to from our home in Buan (a small town near the South West coast of Korea). Namhae Island has quite a lot of interesting attractions (which we did our best to avoid due to the large crowds) like the German Village; an odd settlement of houses along the coast built to welcome home the Korean families (and their German spouses) who had moved to Germany in search of work in the 1960's. 

Namhae is also very famous for it's rice terraces (although rice is farmed all over Korea it seems that Namhae is one of the few places that farms on terraces) and these terraces made an interesting contrast to the ocean views. The canola (or Rape Seed as it is called here in Korea) fields were still out in full bloom and also made for a pretty photo stop on our drive around the island.

I can't tell you exactly where we ended up camping, but i can say that it took us nearly 4 hours to find. We ended up driving up a tiny forest road, parking at the top of a very steep hill and then having to bundu (bush) bash through a forest and along a path that had not been used in years to get to this gorgeous stretch of quiet beach. We were alone, apart from a few early morning fisherman and hikers and had the beach to ourselves the entire time. 

Food is always a challenge with camping, unless you are able to bring along a fridge (something we would never be able to fit in our little red Matiz) and so one has to do quite a bit of planning. We only ended up camping on Namhae for one night (although we had planned for two).

Here is the menu we planned and prepared for:

DAY 1

  • Breakfast: coffee/tea and digestive biscuits
  • Lunch: bologniase mince wraps with salad
  • Snacks: store bought popcorn 
  • Dinner: pre-cooked sausages/vienna sausages, sweet potatoes fire roasted with garlic & spices
  • Dessert: s'mores (& wine!)

Day 2

  • Breakfast: coffee, tea and digestive biscuits
  • Lunch: tuna wraps with salad
  • Dinner: Left over mince, sweet potatoes and sausages
  • Dessert: s'mores (& wine!)

We spent the weekend on Namhae Island over Buddha's Birthday, one of the many long weekends here in Korea but what we hadn't realised is that it was also the famous Namhae Beef & Garlic festival. As we drive around the island we were greeted wit the warm smiles of of garlic farmers going about the business, reaping (is that even the right word?? must ask farmer husband) garlic. I have never seen so much garlic in all my life. We also managed to buy a small bunch/pocket/posie??? of garlic from a gaggle of adjumma's on the side of the road. They were full of smiles as we we drove away with our prized garlic in tow. 

The first picture below is of the famous Silver Sands beach, which we avoided at all costs as it seemed like the whole of Korea had gathered to camp there. We prefer to stay away from all the noise and chaos of the traditional camp grounds here in Korea and were so happy to finally find our secret spot after many hours of driving and searching. 

You can technically camp anywhere in Korea, as long as you clean up after yourself. We have on occasion when we have been able to find a land owner, asked permission to camp and have so far been greeted with a warm welcome (even with our pup!). 

Have you been camping here in Korea? Do you have any recommendations of places to stay? Please leave me a comment below, I'd love to hear from you!

Camping in Korea - Hwacheon, Gangwon Province

Camping in Korea, Hwacheon Gangwon-do, RIver bed camping in Korea

After a very successful camping trip with our pooch to Yongdam (click here to read more about this dog friendly camp site near Jinan) Farmboy and I, #ShadowTheJindo & our fellow SA friend and blogger Jenna (who blogs over at Komodoness) set off in search of adventure in Gangwon-do. It was a rather long, 8 hour drive to get there and so we broke up the trip with our first stop on a random gold course near Wonju. We left on the thursday after school and arrived at 10pm, and so we just set up camp in a very random place. It has been our experience that you can camp anywhere in Korea (we have camped on abandoned tennis courts, closed off roads and museum gardens) as long as you clean up after yourself. We did feel rather nervous about the golf course though, as it seemed very fancy, needless to say we packed up at first light and beetled out of Wonju and further up north to Hwacheon in search of a better site for the next 2 nights.

Before we set out we had looked on google and Naver maps and had found a load of great looking camp sites. We drove to a lot of them but didn't stay at them as they were very much the Korean set up on either gravel roads, or with tents right ontop of each other. We had something very particular in mind; a river/stream, shade and a whole lot of nothing else. After another 5 ours of driving we finally came across a stream and river bed with a very friendly looking farmer overlooking his crops. As it looked like he was the closest authority in the area, Farmboy used his Korean skills and asked the farmer is it was okay to camp on his stretch of the river. He was so friendly! With a big smile we told us that we could camp there for as long we wanted to. I wish I had gotten a photograph of him (note to self...take more photographs of the delightful people we encounter along our travels).

Bear in mind when looking for a camping spot, those neglected gravel roads are usually where the best spots are. Don't be afraid to go off-road a little. Our car has done some serious off-roading and hasn't failed us yet! 

Camping is never complete without a roaring fire. Luckily I married a farm boy who knows exactly how to make the perfect fire.

And then there's the food. Camping for 1 day is easy, but when you camp for 2 or more days there's lots to prepare and of course you have to figure out a way to keep everything cool. For this trip, we went to our local Baskins & Robbins ice cream shop and asked very nicely if we could buy some dry ice (our town is so small we know the manager by name and he was very kind to give us a huge chunk free of charge). The dry ice kept everything cold for 3 and a half days!

We are still working on the perfect menu, but here is a rough idea for 3.5 days worth of meals, from the thursday night dinner (it was a long weekend and we had dinner at one of the rest stops along the way) to the Sunday afternoon:

Day 1

  • Breakfast: homemade granola bars, coffee, tea and digestive biscuits
  • Lunch: tuna wraps with salad
  • Snacks: store bought popcorn
  • Dinner: pre-cooked sausages/viennas, samgyupsal cooked on the fire with a grill plate with kimchi, garlic, lettuce & onion
  • Dessert: s'mores!

Day 2

  • Breakfast: homemade granola bars, coffee, tea and digestive biscuits
  • Lunch: pre-cooked bolognaise wraps with salad
  • Dinner: pre-cooked sausages and fire roasted sweet potatoes
  • Dessert: S'mores!

Day 3

  • Breakfast: coffee, tea and digestive biscuits
  • Lunch: left over Bolognaise mince, wraps & salad

If you make it all the way up to Gangwon Province, the east coast isn't too far a drive for the day and is incredible beautiful. The ocean at Gangneung was incredible blue, and the sand was like powder. It was still a rather windy day with a quite a cold breeze as summer has yet to hit Korea, but it was a great way to spend a few hours.

Can you recommend any great places to camp in Korea? I'd love to hear from you in the comments section below.

Gamcheon Art Village, Busan

GamcheonArtVillageBusan

I didn't know much about Gamcheon Art Village except for having seen images of multicoloured house dotting a hillside in Busan. Armed with the knowledge of how to get there, and that it would be a very different experience to most festivals and temples in Korea, I set off in search of the village with a group of adventure loving friends.

GamcheonArtVillageBusan

Here is a little more on the history of the Art Village as written by Jessica Steele for the BusanHaps Website (all images are my own):

"Gamcheon has long been home to the city’s poorest residents. In the 1940s, only 20 or so houses dotted the hillside, but that number swelled dramatically at the beginning of the Korean War in 1950. War refugees fled their homes for the relative safety of Busan, the only area of the peninsula that remained free from fighting. Within a year, Busan’s population grew from 880,000 to 1.4 million people, and a half million homeless refugees needed a place to live–and fast. Approximately 4,000 people moved from the crowded port areas surrounding the Jagalchi Fish Market to nearby Gamcheon, erecting some 800 makeshift homes using scrap iron, wood and rocks.

GamcheonArtVillageBusan

Those shanty homes were built up into the brick-and-concrete Lego-like houses that you see today partially thanks to a man named Chol-je Cho. Cho founded Taegukdo, a religion that believes that the Taeguk, or yin and yang symbol, represents the true meaning of life and the universe. Practicing again after persecution and suppression during the Japanese occupation, Cho and his followers converted nearly 90 percent of the refugees living in Gamcheon with their gifts of rice and candy. With this help, residents were then able to funnel their earnings into rebuilding, and in 1955 the area became known as the Taeguk Village when Cho moved the religion’s headquarters there.


Although better established by the 1990s, Gamcheon and the Taeguk Village remained poorer than the rest of Busan, which busied itself by erecting skyscrapers and high-rises. In 2009, the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism stepped in with the Dreaming of Machu Picchu in Busan project. Reparations were made, artists were hired to paint murals and 10 artworks were installed, some created with the assistance of the residents. In 2010 the follow-up Miro Miro project saw the addition of 12 more works, including alley paintings and path markers perfectly suited to the project as miro means ‘maze’ in Korean. These days, visitors can see trick art, sculpture, and even rooms or buildings remodeled around a singular art concept, such as the Book Cafe shaped like a giant coffee mug, or rooms interpreting themes such as ‘peace’ or ‘darkness’.

GamcheonArtVillageBusan
GamcheonArtVillageBusan
GamcheonArtVillageBusan

While the village’s remaining 10,000 residents are now used to the influx of tourists, photographers and filmmakers, they are still wary of them, and many do not care to be the subject of photos. The village is open from 9:00 to 5:00, and is free of charge. For more information, and to buy the illustrated souvenir tourist map, you can head to the village’s Haneul Maru Tourist Information Center and Observatory, where you’ll also get a great view of the city".

GamcheonArtVillageBusan
GamcheonArtVillageBusan

When we arrived we headed straight for the tourist help centre and bought one of the super cool Gamcheon Village maps. There is a blank page inside the map for you to collect stamps that are hidden inside some of the art rooms. This made our walk into a sort of treasure hunt adventure and was lots of fun. My tip to the art village was one of the highlights so far of my 3 year stay in Korea and I highly recommend visiting it. Perhaps in Spring or Autumn when it's not so cold and try head there for early morning or late afternoon when the light isn't as harsh for photographs.

Directions

  1. Take Subway Line 1 (accessible from Busan Station) to Toseong Station.
  2. Come out at Exit 6.
  3. You will be facing an intersection. Turn right at the corner and walk straight. You will see a hospital on your right. The bus stop is right in front of the hospital.
  4. Take either Bus 2 or 2-2 (W800 pp)
  5. This will take you to Gamcheon Culture Village at top of the hill.

Jeju Island Travel Guide

Jeju Island Travel Guide

Farmboy and I visited Jeju Island over the Chuseok holiday here in Korea (September 2014). This was our second trip to Jeju (click here for info on our first trip) and we enjoyed it just as much as the first time. The first time we travelled by public transport, waiting for buses and taking taxis, and this time we decided to hire a car and camp for the 3 nights we were there. We went with two friends which really brought the costs of the car hire down and it worked out to be incredibly cheap.

You may be thinking of heading there soon (or sometime in the future) so to help you plan your trip, I have put together a rough budget, as well as some tips from our stay. 

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South West Coast Beaches in South Korea

A few weekends ago Farmboy, #ShadowTheJindo and I road tripped down to the South West coast of Korea in celebration of the first warm day the year. The beaches here in Korea are a little different from what you typically see in the rest of South East Asia (click here to see a little more of Wido Island which we visited this time last year, also here in Korea). Even though it was far from tropical, it was a great day out and our pup had a ball chasing my scarf.

This beach was located on the coast between Gochang and Yeongwang.

Have you visited any beautiful beaches here in Korea? Please drop me a comment below, I'm always on the look out for new places to explore.

Where to stay when skiing in Muju

AcommodationMuju

Muju resort is the closest ski resort for us here in Jeollubok Province and so Farmboy and I have spent most of this and last ski season there. The last time we went, we camped (it was horribly cold but an adventure to say the least...click here to read more about camping in Muju). 

This time around we wanted to go with a group of friends and find a warm place to stay. Th