As you have probably gleaned from past blog posts, Koreans pride themselves on many things, and one of them is the beauty of autumn. You might be thinking, “Uh, yea? Fall is pretty everywhere…” Well, I am here to objectively state that autumn is actually more beautiful here than anywhere else I have ever visited. That’s right. The topography of this peninsula is outstanding, with mountain ranges and valleys galore (I live in a valley, it’sgorgeous.), and when the fall colors begin to shine, the hills are golden and are most definitely alive with the sound of music (maybe even K-pop).
With the arrival of autumn comes the mass migration of ajummas and ajashis (middle-aged women and men) to the mountains each weekend for hiking. Myself and some friends decided to see what the hype was all about, and headed south to Sunchang in Jeollabuk-do for some hikeage. We went with a tour group geared towards younger ex-pats (English teachers, naturally) called Adventure Korea, who were absolutely fantastic leaders. The hike up Mt. Gangcheon was beautiful and at times difficult, and reaching the top was a truly glorious feeling. In total it was about a 5 hour hike, and afterwards they took us to a hot spring jimjilbang at the base! (My favorite.) It was in a 5-star hotel, and we only had to pay 7,500 won ($7.50) to enter the spa. God I love this country. I must hike more before the season ends. Okay, time for me to stop rambling and show you the pictures.
The next day, Adventure Korea took us to the Gochujang Festival (chili pepper paste) which was a wonderful, unique, learning experience…to say the very least. As foreigners, we were literally treated like VIP’s at the event. All the media that was there took our pictures, they let us stand in line first to eat the bibimbap, and they even asked 2 members of our group to stand on stage with the festival officials! So insane. They are very intent on sharing Korean culture with the world, espeically through food, so I think they were just estatic to have us at the festival. It felt a little strange…but hey, I’m not turning down free food. We attended a cooking class with a crazy Korean announcer, pounded on rice dough with huge wooden hammers, ate tons and TONS of free food, and last but definitely not least, got to help stir the world’s largest bibimbap!!!!!
Bibimbap is one of my favorite Korean dishes. It comes in a heated bowl and is filled with a medley of ingredients; cabbage, peppers, tofu, spices, mushrooms, raw egg. You then stir it up quickly in the heated bowl. It is savory and delicious, and this region is known for its bibimbap…basically we were in bibimbap heaven. Apparently our names are going to be in the Guinness Book of World Records…so keep your eyes peeled for that one, folks.
It was nice to break away from the routines we’ve all established here and see what’s happening in other parts of the country.