Jeju, Korea: Gapa IslandJeju, Korea: Gapa IslandGapa Island (가파도), the second southernmost point of Korea, sits just 5.5 kilometers off the coast of Jeju from Moseulpo Port (모슬포항) in Seogwipo. The island isn’t as famous as Mara Island the southernmost landmass of Korea, the other island accessible via the port, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty to enjoy there and there. With far less people taking the ferry over, it’s the perfect island to get away from the touristy crowds and enjoy some alone time, or couple time, with nature. The island is rather flat with the highest point only reaching 20.5 meters which makes walking along the Jeju Olle 10-1 path rather easy. Even better though, is renting a bike at the shop near Gapa Port and biking along the paths that circle and criss-cross the land.Jeju, Korea: Gapa Island ferry

Low lying houses sit along a narrow road that runs down the center of the island and fields walled in by lava rocks stacked together spread out from there. Gapa is special in that it is a carbon-free island, the first in the country, and solar panels and wind turbines collect energy for the residents.

Jeju, Korea: Gapa IslandPeople have inhabited the island and started cultivating barley there since 1842 and the fields are especially nice from late winter to early summer. The coasts of the island are lined with rocks that make walking out to sea rather easy, though be sure to wear comfortable shoes. Pools of water collect between the rocks and make for a great place to take a swim and cool off in the heat of the summer. If you plan the ferries correctly, you can hop over to the island to grab some lunch and bike around before getting back to Jeju. Be sure to have your Korean prepared to order some delicious fishy delights, but also perk up your ears to listen to some pretty strong Jeju dialect.Jeju, Korea: Gapa IslandJeju, Korea: Gapa Island

The women of the island are strong, diving into the ocean to collect seafood for their meals, but they are very friendly and even when the restaurants are not technically open, they will gladly fill your belly with a hearty meal if you can ask. On our trip out, we asked an older grandmother to point us in the direction of a good restaurant as we hadn’t eaten breakfast and were pretty hungry. She showed us to one, but finding that the door was closed and no one was inside she went and found the owner of the establishment, brought her back and told her to make us some food. Little did we know, the owner really had nothing prepared in the back and after ordering we peered around into the kitchen to see that she was on a mat on the floor making noodles for our soup from scratch. Suffice it to say, we ate them all up as they were delicious and worth the wait.Jeju, Korea: Gapa Island, kalgugsu, noodle soupJeju, Korea: Gapa Island kalgugsu, noodle soup

She made us two kinds of soups to enjoy: spiral shellfish noodle soup (보말갈국수) and sea urchin noodle soup (서게갈국수). The kimchi was especially spicy, but a nice break from the soup on the palate and we were grateful she’d taken the time to feed us.

Gapa Island

Address:

제주 서귀포시 대정읍 가파리

Gapa-ri, Daejeong-eup, Seogwipo-si, Jeju-do

Directions:

From Moseulpo Port, ferries depart to Gapado at 9:00am, 11:00am, 2:00pm & 4:00pm.

Returning from Gapado to Moseulpo Port, ferries depart at 9:20am, 11:20am, 2:20pm & 4:20pm

Cost:

Adult round trip ticket: W10,700

Amenities on the island: restaurants, bike rental (W5,000), restrooms

Noodle Restaurant (춘자네집)

Address:

제주특별자치도 서귀포시 대정읍 가파리 383

383 Gapa-ri Daejeong-eub Seogwipo-si, Jeju, Korea

Phone: 010-3691-7170

Hours: 9:30am – 7:00pm

Biking Around Gapa Island Gapa Island (가파도), the second southernmost point of Korea, sits just 5.5 kilometers off the coast of Jeju from Moseulpo Port (모슬포항) in Seogwipo.
25 weeks

25 weeks

Jeju, Korea: Sanbang GrottoThis mountain was the peak of Mt. Halla before it was broken off and thrown to this spot in the southwest part of Jeju island, at least that’s one of the legends that surrounds the Sanbang mountain (산방산) and the grotto that’s there. The legend starts off with a mighty hunter who was hunting at the peak of Halla mountain. While shooting arrows at the white deer before him, the hunter missed and hit the Halla spirit in the rear-end. Angry and in pain, the Halla spirit ripped the peak of the mountain off and threw it at the hunter. It fell to the coast and killed the hunter beneath it. It doesn’t end there though, the hunter was then reborn as the female spirit of the mountain made by the top of the Halla that had been thrown. This mountain, unlike the others on the island, doesn’t have a crater at the top, hence the legend.

Jeju, Korea: Sanbang GrottoJeju, Korea: Sanbang Grotto

Another, more romantic, legend surrounding the mountain is centered on the goddess Sanbandeok, the beautiful daughter of Sanbangsan. She fell in love with a mortal boy named Goseong but an official of the village in which Goseong lived would not have it and he wanted Sanbandeok for himself so, he banished Goseong and took his possessions. Taken over by grief and mourning, the goddess went to her mountainside cave and turned to stone to mourn the loss of her love until this day. Water that drips from the top of the cave to a pool below is said to be the tears from the goddess and visitors are welcomed to drink the tears and say a prayer for the good health of their family, something that she had always wished for. Now, her cave is shared with a statue of the Buddha and a woman that chants the Buddhist sutras day in and day out. It is said that the visitors to the grotto should visit again and again and upon doing so they will find that they see different images in the stone that sits behind the seated Buddha statue.

Jeju, Korea: Sanbang GrottoThe more scientific information explains that the 395 meter high Sanbang mountain was formed by volcanic activity some 700,000 to 800,000 years ago and is actually a large body of lava. The name of the mountain can be translated to mean ‘a cave inside a mountain’ which makes sense because the sides of the rock are spotted with numerous caves and cavities produced by the weather over the years.

Jeju, Korea: Sanbang Grotto

At the foot of Sanbang mountain sit Sanbang Temple and Bomun Temple which welcome visitors to step up and enjoy their beautifully painted walls and statues before beginning the steep climb up to the grotto in the mountain above. The walk up may take only 20 minutes or so, but it’s a climb and in the heat of the summer, it’s a wet climb. There are altars and places to stop along the path up periodically to take a rest before reaching the site that everyone comes to see, Sanbang Grotto (산방굴사). The entire place from the foot of the mountain with two temples to halfway up the mountain to the grotto is a must see on any adventure in Jeju. Natural beauty, colorful cultural and religious relics and breathtaking views of the beaches and islands below are just some of the perks of this stop on the island.

Jeju, Korea: Sanbang Grotto

Jeju, Korea: Sanbang Grotto

Address:

제주특별자치도 서귀포시 안덕면 사계리 184

184 Sagye-ri Andeok-myeon Seogwipo-si, Jeju, Korea

Phone: 064-794-3087

Directions:

Bus: 700, 750, 900

Hours: sunrise – sunset

Admission:

W1,000 ~ W2,500; the admission ranges as you can buy tickets for just the grotto or you can buy a mini package deal ticket which includes other stops in the vicinity.

Amenities: bathrooms, souvenir shops, parking, convenience stores and cafes

This is a must see if you’re headed to Jeju! This mountain was the peak of Mt. Halla before it was broken off and thrown to this spot in the southwest part of Jeju island, at least that’s one of the legends that surrounds the Sanbang mountain (산방산) and the grotto that’s there.

Hongdae, Cafe Burano for BrunchBreakfast lovers are always on the hunt for good places to eat their favorite meal of the day. Being aware that not everyone falls into the breakfast lovers category, it’s good to have a restaurant in the area that isn’t just breakfast or sweets, but brunch and lunch too. Cafe Burano (카페부라노) invites people in with pictures of plates overflowing with food with everything from french toast and eggs to pasta and sandwiches. The cafe is spacious and provides seating inside as well as out on a lovely patio. As the cafe isn’t on the busy side of the street out of Hongik University subway station but out the opposite side into the neighborhood sprawling with guest houses and hostels, there is usually plenty of space to go around.Hongdae, Cafe Burano for Brunch

Hongdae, Cafe Burano for BrunchThe plates come out and are true to the pictures that enticed outside. The food is filling and the only Koreanized portion on the french toast brunch platter would be the strawberry dressing on the side salad. The abundance of food on the plate is transferred into growling bellies and satisfies the eaters at the table. If you’re in the area and don’t want to head into the busy side of Hongdae, but you’re looking for a cafe that will satisfy, this is a great option.

Hongdae, Cafe Burano for BrunchCafe Burano

Address:

마포구 동교동 201-16

201-16 Donggyo-dong Mapo-gu, Seoul, Korea

Phone: 02-322-8476

Directions:

Bus: 110B, 270, 271, 273, 602, 603, 604, 721, 740, 753, 760, 5712, 5714, 6712, 7011, 7013A, 7013B, 7016, 7611, 7612, 7613, 7711, 7737, 7739

Subway: Hongik University station, exit 1. Turn right out of the station, when you come to a large street two blocks in cross and turn left and then turn right at the first street. Cafe Burano will be on your right.

Hours:

Weekdays: 10:00am – 11:00pm

Weekends: 10:00am – 10:00pm

Website: blog.naver.com/cafeburano

Hongdae, Cafe Burano for Brunch

Brunch @ Burano Breakfast lovers are always on the hunt for good places to eat their favorite meal of the day.

Jangeo: A Summer Staple

What are you having for lunch? Jangeo: A Summer Staple

Jangeo, Eel

Jangeo (장어), or eel, is one of the top three dishes to eat in Korea on the hottest of days in the summer, but it’s just as good any other day of the year as well. Here in Seoul, jangeo-gui (장어구이), is most often served after it has been de-boned and sliced down the center and marinated in a mixture of sesame oil, sesame seeds, soy sauce and sugar. Another option is to have the eel served without…

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Saving Money the Multicultural Family Style

Saving Money the Multicultural Family Style

Couples in Korea & Money

Banks are a fickle sort, aren’t they? After finishing up a 2 year savings CD, we were looking into another one and I heard through the multicultural family grapevine, over which much information is passed, that there were CDs especially available for us with higher interest rates. What? Did this exist two years ago when we opened our first one? Why hadn’t the bank teller mentioned this when it…

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Tagpol Park, Jongno, Seoul, KoreaWhile it is unclear exactly when Tagpol Park (탑골공원) was first established in Jongno-gu, it’s relevance in the history of the city is unquestioned. The site originally housed Weongaksa Temple and remnants from that time are still visible on the grounds, but the park, established at some point in the late 1800′s, is more widely known as an important location during the fight for independence from Japanese colonization in the early 1900′s. Now, the park is an open and welcoming area where people young and old sit reading newspapers, having conversations and taking a rest from the busy city streets just meters beyond the front gate.

Tagpol Park, Jongno, Seoul, Korea

Weongaksa Temple, known as Heungboksa Temple during the Goryeo Dynasty and renamed to Weongaksa during renovations during the Joseon Dynasty was destroyed during the time of Buddhist repression during the reign of Yeongsangun and Jungjon, however, some relics can still be seen on the site. One relic is a tablet. A tortoise stone prop with lotus leaves carved on its back to hold up the tablet was erected under the direction of King Sejo, a devout believer in Buddhism. After a thirteen story pagoda was completed in 1467, King Sejo held a dedication ceremony at the same time as Yeongdeunghoe, the Buddhist Lantern Festival that celebrates the birth of the Buddha, and had this tablet erected to record the history. The statue is made of granite and marble and is one of only two relics that still exist on site from the temple.

Tagpol Park, Jongno, Seoul, KoreaThe other relic from the time that Weongaksa sat on these grounds is a 10 story stone pagoda. This pagoda, National Treasure No. 2, was completed in 1467. King Sejo had this pagoda erected “after he experienced the wonder of the sarira incarnation” the sign in front explains. According to historical records, and as the tablet previously mentioned details, the pagoda was once 13 stories, but currently sits at 10. Carvings of dragons, lotus flowers, monks and other tales of the Buddha surround the pagoda that is made from marble that was rarely used at the time. It is now protected by a large glass enclosure as it is one of the finest examples of a Joseon Period pagoda to still exist in the country. Tagpol Park, Jongno, Seoul, Korea

Though these two relics are important artifacts from the history of the area, the park’s most important role in history came years later in 1919 during the March 1st Movement, a fight for Korean independence from Japanese colonialism. On this spot in 1919 on March 1st, college student Chung Jae-yong read Korea’s Declaration of Independence and it set off proclamations of Korean independence around the country which resulted in a year of 1500 protests. The protests were not welcomed by the Japanese leaders and thousands of people were killed or wounded and even more were rounded up and arrested and many of them taken to the infamous Seodaemun Prison. Inside the park, statues of notable Korean patriots and stone carved depictions  of the movement can be seen as well as a large stone carving of the Korean Declaration of Independence.

In the center of the park sits the large and colorful Palgakjeong Pavilion. The pavilion was built in 1902 and was where the first declarations of independence were made. Today, old men reading newspapers, taking a break from the heat and chatting line the steps taking in the views of the comings and goings on of the park.Tagpol Park, Jongno, Seoul, KoreaTagpol Park, Jongno, Seoul, Korea

Tagpol Park, Jongno, Seoul, KoreaIf you’re looking for a quiet place to rest in the heart of the city after walking up, down and all around the Insa-dong alleys or through the Jongno Markets, this is a great place to take a load of your feet and gain a better understanding of the fight for Korean independence.

Address:

99 Jong-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul

Directions:

Jongno 3-ga Subway Station, exit 1. Walk straight and there will be an entrance on your left.

Admission: Free

Hours: 6:00am – 8:00pm

Independence in Tagpol Park While it is unclear exactly when Tagpol Park (탑골공원) was first established in Jongno-gu, it’s relevance in the history of the city is unquestioned.

Wait, we aren’t friends?

Wait, we aren’t friends? How many Korean “friends” do you have?

Wait, we aren't friends?
“Thank you”, “Hello”, “Give me… please” and a few other words and phrases are among a handful of words that foreigners just in Korea learn and among them is often the word chingu (친구), translated loosely as “friend”. Foreigners splice this word into their English sentences without hesitation and use it seemingly without understanding exactly what it means. This is probably one of my least…

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The summer is about to heat up. If you thought the heat had already arrived, well you’d be right, but it’s about to get hotter. Sambok, also known as boknal or the dog days of summer, is fast approaching so, make your plans to be some place that you can take a dip or plan to eat like the Koreans to keep your cool.Gyeongpo Beach Konglish

Sambok covers a month of time at the peak of the growing season and encompasses the three hottest days of the summer. This year, chobok (the beginning or first hottest of the days) falls on July 18th. Junbok (the middle or second of the hottest of days) is ten days later on July 28th and malbok (the last or final of the hottest days) is 10 days later on August 7th. These days became holidays for the farmers that toiled throughout the summer because it was just too hot and they would head up into a mountain valley or get to the nearest coast to cool off and visit family before the rice harvest. These days this particular tradition isn’t as prevalent, but one custom has remained and that is the food that is eaten on these especially broiling days.

Ice cream, patbingsu (shaved ice with sweetened red beans) or another chilly treat does not make it onto the table, unlike what you might expect. Instead, traditionally, Korean belief promotes iyeol chiyeol, or the idea of controlling heat with heat. The idea promotes eating rejuvenating and stamina restorative food and the three main dishes that most Koreans opt for are piping hot. According to Eastern medicine, blood concentrates near the skin in hot weather to cool the body which can lead to bad circulation in the stomach and muscles which is why it is common to lose one’s appetite or feel tired during the summer. To offset this, Koreans believe we need to warm the body from the inside out and the three dishes they choose to help with that are: bosintang, jangeo and samgyetang.

Bosintang is a stew that gets a bad wrap in western media. It’s a slightly spicy peppery stew with dog meat as its main ingredient and it has a long history in Korea. It may not be at the top of many foreigners’ must-eat-while-in-Korea lists, but it is a favorite of the older generations here. For those not prepared to eat dog just yet, there are two other options. Jangeo, or eel, is rich in vitamin A and E and stimulates blood circulation and prevents aging and wrinkling. It is most popular with men in Korea as it is believed to be an aphrodisiac and good for stamina, but preventing aging and wrinkles it’s right up a woman’s alley as well. The final dish of the popular trio is samgyetang. Samgyetang may be the most popular of the three eaten on the hottest days of the summer. It is a ginseng chicken soup served in a hot stone bowl. The chicken is boiled to tender perfection with ginseng, garlic, jujube dates and stuffed with rice.Gyeongpo Beach

You’ve got some choices to make. Head up to a mountain valley or to a beach like the farmers have done for centuries or head to your local grub shop for one of the three main dishes mentioned. If you will be dining on bosintang, jangeo or samgyetang, be sure to head out early though as almost everyone else will have the same idea for their dinner meal.

Heating Up and Eating Up The summer is about to heat up. If you thought the heat had already arrived, well you’d be right, but it’s about to get hotter.

Colorado Springs, Colorado: Garden of the GodsThe final leg of our trip back to the States was spent in and around Denver, Colorado. The weather was gorgeous with blue skies everyday, not surprising considering they have about 300 clear blue skies on average a year, and though it was hot, it wasn’t humid like the last two places we’d visited. One of the great things about Denver is that you can live in a city, but you are surrounded by so many opportunities to experience nature. Just a short drive outside of the city we found Garden of the Gods. I hadn’t been there since I was a little girl so, it was great to revisit the park and see where some of those old snapshots I have in my photo albums were taken.Colorado Springs, Colorado: Garden of the GodsColorado Springs, Colorado: Garden of the GodsColorado Springs, Colorado: Garden of the Gods

The reds of the rocks shoot up from the green grasses that blow in the wind and with blue skies as far as the eye can see, it’s really a stunning view. There is evidence that prehistoric people visited the garden in 1330 BC and from 250 BC multiple Native American tribes have stories of the rocks that have been passed down. The Ute, Comanche, Apache, Kiowa, Shoshone, Cheyenne, Pawnee and Lakota tribes all have tales of the garden and how it came to be. Colorado Springs, Colorado: Garden of the Gods

Originally called Red Rock Corral, it wasn’t until 1859 that two surveyors, including Rufus Cable, were in the area and with awe and admiration Cable proclaimed that it was a “fit place for the gods to assemble,” and the name was promptly changed to Garden of the Gods according to the Garden of the Gods website. The park allows strolling, hiking and rock climbing with a permit. For those pregnant like me, there was still plenty of places for me to climb up and around safely and for my more daring cousin there were plenty of rocks for him to climb up onto as well. It’s the perfect place to spend a day outside of the house with friends or family.Colorado Springs, Colorado: Garden of the GodsColorado Springs, Colorado: Garden of the GodsColorado Springs, Colorado: Garden of the Gods

The head of the Burlington Railroad Company, Charles Elliott Perkins, purchased the land that Garden of the Gods sits on and 200 acres surrounding it for a summer home, but never built on it preferring to leave it in its natural state for visitors to enjoy. Upon his death in 1907 the land was gifted to Colorado Springs  to be a public park and open and free to all to visit, lucky for us. The Garden of the Gods is not to be missed on a trip out to Denver or Colorado Springs.Colorado Springs, Colorado: Garden of the GodsCan you spot some boys hiding between some rocks? Not only are the rocks magnificent and striking, they provide some great places to climb around, have some fun and hide if that’s what you want to do.

Address:

1805 N. 30th Street

Colorado Springs, Colorado 80904

Park Hours: May 1 – October 31 5AM – 11PM; November 1 – April 30 5AM – 9PM

Admission: Free

Colorado Springs, Colorado: Garden of the Gods

The last week of our trip to the States was spent in and around Denver, Colorado. One stop: Garden of the Gods The final leg of our trip back to the States was spent in and around Denver, Colorado.