Hey, friends! The past few weeks have been so long! Has anyone else been feeling this way? I feel like I have been biding my time the past few months just waiting for it to feel like fall. I was so done with summer by the time school started this year. Now that the temperatures are starting to cool down and we are on the precipice of fall I'm starting to feel more adventurous! We've been staying busy with adventures, but haven't had as much time for them as we'd like.
G started school and we were able to get him involved in baseball! He loooooves it so far and it is so satisfying to watch him grow and learn. I don't get to play as active a part of the growing and learning while he is in school, but it is SO fun to watch it happen in real time while we're at practice. I played some softball growing up and it's one of my favorite sports, so I'm over the moon that he's enjoying it so much. We've also signed him up for a volunteer program at his school. It's always good to serve and I want my kids growing up knowing what it's like to do things for others. Because of this, however, we haven't had as much time on the weekends to do exploring. And as our time in Korea is coming slowly to a close our bucket list is growing shorter and we're getting anxious to start preparing for our next adventure. I plan on making a fall bucket list with my family this coming weekend, though so we don't lose our momentum. I KNOW this experience is going to go by fast. It already has! (*crying*) So, we need to soak it up as much as possible!
In August I went on a day trip to one of our favorite cities: Asan. The Babe was out of town, so some relatives and I planned a day trip and took off with the kiddies. I love Asan because it's not too far from Osan, it's surroundings feel more rural and there are hidden gems here. It is home to the oldest hot springs in South Korea and has a reputation for it's spas. I have not traveled to Asan for a spa since there are so many near by my home. We have been to Asan as a family several times and just happened upon it on a random, cold January day. I'll get to that later . . .
The first place we visited was the Gongseri Catholic Church. It was established as the first Catholic Church in the area in 1894. It was small and beautiful. It actually reminded me a lot of what the small cathedrals in Savannah, Georgia looked like. We were able to peak inside, though I didn't take pictures as I wanted to be respectful. There was a worship service going on in a large courtyard area down below and we ran down to take a peak as some kind of parade was going on with the musicians.
We took a some time to walk the grounds and around the cathedral. It was a lovely place to visit and I thought served as a good start to our exploring. The typhoon was on it's way and I do have to say it was so incredibly humid which made the low 80 degree weather feel like 95. Pushing the kids around was tiring. Traveling and exploring with them always is. But, it's worth it. We bring plenty of snacks, water and car toys to keep them as happy as possible.
Bonggoksa Temple was our second stop. We parked at the lower parking and walked up. There is parking part way up but there are only handful of spots. We didn't know this until the way down, or we might have tried to park there. This area was scarred by Japanese troops who left jagged gashes in the trees. These gashes signified sources for fuel, but, thankfully, they never came back for these trees before they left the area. The surrounding forest as you walk to the temple is beautiful and holds memories it tells you about with the scars on the tree trunks.
It was, as I said, a very hot and humid day. It is uphill the entire way to the temple and the kids really struggled. I pushed A in the stroller, but G was so done before even the half way point. Lucky for me my kids are used to us pushing them to do things like this, so they made it and were so happy to be at the top. It took about ten minutes with little feet to get to the temple. If my understanding is correct, the two temple structures were restored in 1891. There was a fresh spring you could drink from and a stairway leading to a shrine to the south. It was so peaceful being surrounded by forest. The kiddos had a good time playing with the cat that seems to be living here. I need to research the cat thing because every temple we've been to seems to have a cat or two as the welcoming committee.
We originally planned to go to Hyeonchungsa Shrine at this point. But, we were so hot and tired, we decided to head to Oeam Folk Village before finding a place for dinner. Oeam Folk Village is one of our absolute favorite villages we've been to so far. It is currently a living folk village, which means people still reside here. It dates back more than 500 years ago and was built to be ecologically sustaining. The Yi family settled this beautiful place in the 1390s. This village was built after Confucianism in the way it was laid out architechturally. This was something popular to do at the time of the Joseon Dynasty. We love to come and get a smoothie from one of the nearby cafe's, take a stroll along the river, around the rice fields and down the old town roads. If we time it right we have randomly come on Korean Holiday's. This means there were activities for kids and local and traditional goodies to purchase. It isn't as commercialized as The Korean Folk Village in Yongin, but I think that's why we like it so much. It is so calming and beautiful. We love to come here on a day we are too tired to go on a big adventure and let the kids run free. There are cars since it's a living village, but only one here and one there.
FLASHBACK: The first time we happened upon this place it was a freezing and windy January day. Everything was shut down because of Covid and we were only allowed in certain areas (military restrictions). So, we found a folk village outside (we couldn't go anywhere inside at the time) and took a chance. Boy, we were glad we did! We explored in the freezing (seriously, it was SO COLD that day! But with Covid we were desperate to get out) wind and made our way back to the car and drove home for some hot cocoa and a movie. The point is, this is a great way to get out and explore in a calm environement any time of the year. Like anywhere in Korea, however, it is very pleasing to the eye in spring and fall.
BACK TO THE PRESENT: Once we finished exploring Oeam, we drove to the Blue Crystal Village for some dinner and quick trinket shopping before heading home. The Blue Crystal Village is short on parking, so, if you go on a weekend or holiday be prepared to be there by 10 or 11am or plan on searching for parking somewhere nearby. In our opinion it isn't worth the trip out to Asan just to go here. I have been here once before with The Babe and kids and we decided it was a one time thing. My relatives seemed to enjoy their time here and we randomly got some really yummy Korean BBQ at "Jib" ("집") and then directly next door to a cute coffee shop with yellow awnings over the windows. The Babe and I went there last time and I HAD to show my relatives. They have delicious Honey Bread (A yummy Korean treat of thick bread with ice cream or whipped cream on top as well as other toppings. It's one of my favorites), smoothies, ice cream, and they serve coffee and tea. It's a cute, hip vibe with touches of Mediterranean style. A good place for a date night. (Click below for slideshow.)
Full of delicious food and worn out from adventuring in the heat, we headed home. It was a perfect day. I feel like I've been here forever and not long enough at the same time. Korea has so much to teach us. There are new things to see and do everywhere I look. Though our "Korea Bucket List" may be dwindling, I look forward to days like this where known places turn out to be a new experience and we gather all the memories we can to last us forever; to remember our time here in Korea.