After taking over a month off from writing, I thought I would give an update on what I’ve been up to. When looking back, I feel like there is really only 1 thing I have done that is worth writing about. One of the great things about living in Korea, besides the pay and free housing, is the amount of holidays and days off. Having only been back in school for 3 weeks, it was time for another Korean holiday- Chuseok. Chuseok is the Korean Thanksgiving, where Koreans offer their harvests to their ancestors and enjoy spending time with their families. Just like in the US, we had Wed-Fri off from work, with Chuseok being the Thursday, so some friends and I decided to take this time to explore some of the smaller towns that are near Daejeon.
Over Chuseok break, a friend had been told that all of the museums, palaces, and royal tombs were free so this was the perfect opportunity to do some exploring. Two friends and I decided to take an adventure to the city of Gongju because it was close by and had ancient tombs and a fortress that needed to be explored.
Our first stop was the ancient tomb and adjoining museum. When we walked up to the “park” that had the tombs, we weren’t so sure if it was actually free or if there just wasn’t anyone working to collect the entrance so you could just walk right in, or as others would refer to as trespassing. We looked around and saw plenty of Koreans scooting past the gate, so we joined right along with them.
The grounds were beautiful and very well kept, but the tombs were located inside the grassy mounds meaning all we could see was a door leading into the tomb- very anticlimactic. I don’t have a picture of it but just imagine a mound of grass and there ya have it! Oh well, at least we didn’t pay for this! And of course, the museum wasn’t open, so we weren’t able to see much at this location but the grounds outside were very pretty so it wasn’t a complete fail.
Next, it was time to tackle the fortress. This place was actually free and there were people working here and didn’t charge anyone an entrance fee. Once we first walked through the gates, we saw a place to shoot bow and arrows. All 3 of us immediately jumped at the chance to do this, even though we were the only adults in a crowd of children participating.
We decided to start walking around the wall of the fortress but quickly hopped off that path because it was incredibly hilly and none of us prepared to walk that. At one point, we tried to go up a steep hill and an ajushi (older Korean man) physically blocked us and said we couldn’t handle it and we needed to take the easier route. It’s kinda embarrassing that people around the world don’t have much faith in Americans and our ability to do any type of physical activity. But we followed the ajushi’s advice and took the other route and saw some beautiful scenery of the river and mountains along the way.
While we were in Gongju, we saw advertisements for a Baekje cultural and beer festival that Gongju would be hosting 2 weeks later. So of course, we came back for the festivals! The culture festival was on one side of the river and was filled with different types of lanterns and decorations. Living in the city, all we see are the numerous neon signs and it was a nice change to see lanterns and more of what you imagine when you think of Korean culture. Once the sun went down, all of the lanterns and nights reflected off the river creating a beautiful sight.
The tradition is to buy a lantern, write a wish on it, then release it into the universe. After a little bit of a struggle, we released our lantern and let it fly away.
On the other side of the river was the beer festival. This was only the 2nd annual beer festival so it wasn’t very big, but there were about 7 different vendors. If you are ever abroad and want to find other expats, just go to where ever a beer festival is, because that is an expat magnet and they will be the only ones there. Craft beer isn’t really a big part of Korean culture, so not many of them showed up for this event. Even though there weren’t a lot of people here, I had a great time and it was a very relaxing environment with beer and bands playing. One band was all English teachers and they really weren’t that bad, although that impression might have been influenced by the beer. Then, a Korean band played and sang some American songs ranging from classic rock to current songs.
This tiny little town on the outskirts of Daejeon quickly became one of my favorite places in Korea. Sometimes we all get caught up wanting to experience the big cities like Seoul and Busan, but these smaller cities really allow you to experience a more true version of Korean and can be even more fun.