We are in Asia!!!
After 30-hours of flying, we finally arrived at our first stop of our travels in Asia: Seoul. And yes, 30 hours of flying. As my sister-in-law put it: “Can’t you fly around the world twice in 30 hours?!”
Not only did we fly across the globe, but we crossed over from the southern hemisphere to the northern hemisphere, so perhaps that does count as flying around the world twice?
It’s been three months since we’ve seen a familiar face, so Jason and I were excited to travel with his parents, along with his sister (Jeanne) and her husband (Dave) for the next two weeks.
Jason’s aunt and uncle also happen to be in Korea and they were so sweet to pick us up at the airport. It was a welcome change after 3 months of arriving in new places and having to figure out where to go and how to get there as soon as we arrived.
We pretty much went straight to a Korean BBQ joint (I guess, they just call it BBQ there) close to the apartment we were staying at. I’ll be writing a separate post about the food in Korea so I won’t go into too much detail now. All you need to know is that we ate like we hadn’t eaten for the past 3 months.
Actually, after three months of South American food, it was as if we hadn’t really eaten in 3 months. I know that comment may draw some negative responses but we really gave South American food a decent chance to win us over. I’ll get into it more during my food post….I’m digressing.
You know how they say, “Home is where the heart is?” Well, for those two weeks, our hearts were in Korea. And thanks to Dave’s persistence in tracking down a traditional Korean house (called a hanok), our hearts even got to stay in a pretty cool place in Seoul.
We visited the popular neighbourhood of Insa-dong with Jeanne and Dave. The main street of Insa-dong (called Insadong-gil) is a fascinating mixture of traditional and modern Korean culture. I’ve read that 40% of Korea’s antique and art galleries are found here, along with the majority of traditional calligraphy and stationary shops. Queen Elizabeth II even visited this street to peruse the traditional stationary items a few years back.
Mixed in with the traditional art shops are also some interesting food stalls and snack shops.
We also spent an afternoon with Jason’s parents at the Gyeongbokgung Imperial Palace. It’s the main and largest Imperial palace in Seoul, standing as a symbol of national sovereignty.
Almost completely destroyed during the Japanese occupation in the early 20th century, work has been underway to restore it to its former glory since 1990.
There’s a beautiful garden and pond near the back of the palace grounds. It was probably my favourite spot of the whole palace – so peaceful. It actually reminded me a lot of the beautiful temples I saw in Kyoto, Japan a few years back.
While the sights were pretty interesting in Seoul, the most unique experiences while in Seoul came from taking part in many of Jason’s family gatherings.
We met up with both his mom’s side and dad’s side of the family. His dad’s side owns a large plot of land on the outskirts of Seoul. It’s used for farming, food production, and as an occasional vacation home.
There’s also a family burial plot where many important members (e.g. politicians, influential business leaders, etc) were laid to rest – dating back as far as the 1500s. Once a year, the extended family gathers here to pay their respects.
And of course, no family gathering is complete without a huge feast of Korean food. (I guess, they just call it food there)
The next day, we met with Jason’s mom’s side of the family. We were lucky enough to visit during Chuseok (or the Harvest Moon Festival) celebration. It’s basically the Korean Thanksgiving and one of the most important and festive holidays of the year. During the Harvest Moon Festival, family comes together from far and wide to honour their ancestors and to share in a fantastic feast together.
Jason’s family went all out and made everything from scratch. It’s not everyday you get a delicious, authentic home-cooked meal – especially when travelling for 6 months 😛
After dinner, we all went out in search for some drinks (and more food…the eating never stops when you’re with family!)
And of course, no family gathering is complete without some Karaoke! Quintessential Korea = Dancing to Psy’s ‘Gangnam Style‘ during our Karaoke party in Korea.
I love family.