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Amelia Island, Florida

Arrived on Amelia Island just east of Jacksonville, Florida late last night.  The views and family time are incredible.  Spent all day at the beach and then the pool.  Can’t wait to be here for the next 7 days!

Namdaemun Marke

Shopping anyone?  Korea is full of traditional markets.  When I was growing up all we had was pretty much outside markets.  Now Korea is full of very high end modern department stores and malls.  However markets such as Namdaemun Market are the best places to shop for goods and get a bargain.  

This market originally opened in 1964.  It is the largest traditional market in Korea and has everything from bedding, to hair pins, bags, clothes, food, and pretty much anything someone might need.  It is crazy busy and opens late morning and doesn’t close till 3:00 am.  It is blocks upon blocks of independently owned shops.  Some no bigger than a closet.

For lunch we went to the food area filled with food stalls and people eating side by side.  As we walked through the aisle ladies were yelling out to us to sit and eat at their food stall.  It was an experience!  It was nothing Zoe, Ty and Michael had ever experienced.  For me it just brought back tons of memories.  

Jirisan Mountain

Every year my family meets for a long weekend at Jirisan Mountain National Park.  This year because of the four of us and my mom visiting from the US we had a total of 27. It was a spectacular weekend of family fun, hiking, and of course eating.

Wang E is my cousin’s husband.  That is not his actual name but a nickname which basically means “King E.”  Wang E’s Great Aunt actually owns the Inn where we all stayed and run by his sister-in-law who does all the cooking.  When we arrived we were greeted with the local fermented alcohol drink made with rice and local berries along with pig feet slices and Korean scallion pancakes.  Great treat after a long drive from Seoul.  Can’t you tell how happy it made Michael feel! 

After most of our family arrived we set up for dinner where the Inn Keeper put out a giant spread of food.  A massive table for all 27 seven of us.  Cousins, kids, aunts and uncles whom I have not seen in 28 years!  We all sat and feverishly devoured the food laughing and talking over each other with excitement for the weekend.  Everything you see on the table is locally harvested locally and/or foraged by Wang E’s Great Aunt.  

Wang E’s Great Aunt actually forages a lot in the mountains of Jirisan.  She takes finds roots and other wild plants with medical qualities and makes tinctures.  Some of these have been have been soaking for decades.  She also finds wild plants and puts them in pots outside of the kitchen.  I was totally fascinated!

The next morning we woke up and all headed for a visit to Suncheon Bay Eco Park.  There was a caravan of 5 cars that all belonged to our large family.  We took a long walk checking out all the little creatures that have a home in the bay.  The sun was strong and it was packed with people simply taking a nice stroll and checking out the bay.

For lunch we walked across the street.  Half of the group decided to eat Korean and the other American.  Michael and I choose the seafood noodles but Zoe and Ty were determined to try American food in Korea.  Zoe and Ty said the burgers were not bad, just different toppings and sauces.  The amazing thing for me was the price, only about $2 for a fried chicken sandwich.

The next day we took a 4.5 hour hike up Jirisan and back.  It was tiring but so much fun. Afterwards we dipped our feet in the icy cold creek which really helped our sore legs.  Actually I ended up dunking my whole body in at one point.

People we saw having a pinch lunch by the water.  What a beautiful backdrop. 

The top of Jirisan.  Rewards are these rocks and a natural spring to help you hydrate before turning around and walking back down.

We spent the last night hanging out and laughing.  And of course it would not be a Kwan family get together without massive amounts of tasty food and playing Haw-tu a, Korean card game!

Bittersweet leaving Jirisan after such a amazing reunion.  I really am so blessed to have such an incredible family who truly love to be together and enjoy each other’s company.  This is what life is all about.  This is TRUE BLISS LIVING.

Hwaeomsa Temple

Hwaeomsa Temple

In the slopes of Jirisan Mountain is one of Korea’s most famous temples.  It has been over 30 years since I visited a temple in Korea.  But I have fond memories of walking through the gates giving thanks and prayers with my mom when I was little.  Even back then I was so drawn to the peace and tranquil setting.  We took a nice stroll with my family and took in the amazing buildings and the energy that surrounded us.  My family took the time to show Zoe how to correctly bow, give thanks, and blessings to Buddha.  It is my hope to be able to return someday and do a Temple Stay.  It is a unique cultural experience held at a traditional Korean temple that gives you the opportunity to live the life of a Buddhist practitioner.  Korean Buddhism has a rich history that is over 1700 years old.  As we walked through the Hwaeomsa you can truly feel this history surround you.  It is a very humbling experience and makes you grateful for all you have in your life.  

The Slow City

We found ourselves in the city of Jeonju known as “Slow City.”  The area is known for the over 800 traditional Korean “hanok” houses which have a beautiful roof curve.  However we were not there to see the Jeonju Hanok Village but instead came for a taste of the city’s most famous dish, dol solt bibimbap.  This dish is a traditional Korean rice dish that is served in a hot stone bowl topped with vegetables and seafood or meat, it’s one of Michael’s favorite.  He likes to wait awhile before he begins to eat to allow the rice to get crispy up against the hot stone.  The restaurant we stopped at is a big favorite in my family. I was told that the restaurant is known in the country for this dish and that it is because the roots and vegetable sides are freshly farmed in the local area.  Just outside the restaurant there was a street filled with food and shopping. Of course even with our stomachs full we had to walk around and checkout the local venders. 

Just outside the restaurant there was a street filled with food and shopping. Of course even with our stomachs full we had to walk around and checkout the local venders. 

Seoul, South Korea - Day Four

Today was a very special treat. My cousins’s kids had the day off from school so we all took a special road trip to The Korean Fold Village. It is an area filled made to look like an old Korean village. There are multiple things to see and experience. It is also a location where many historical Korean dramas are filmed. 

After walking around for a while we all took a break and sat down for lunch at the food court in the village. One of the best meals I have ever had. Again made fresh with wholesome ingredients. 

Next we took in some of the performances