My trip to Korea was even more amazing than I imagined it would be! I feel like I've been to quite a few beautiful places in this world, like Indonesia, London, Mexico and Hawaii, but Korea's beauty surpasses them all! I was in awe the entire week. Every view from every angle was breathtaking! I ooed and aahhed the entire way from Incheon Airport in Seoul to Andong. Mom and I stayed in Andong with my brother and sister-in-law, Gyeong-ok, for the first part of the week and were able to meet her family and spend a good bit of time with them.
Our first day was spent recuperating from the 18 hour trip from Atlanta to NYC to Seoul and we had a delicious dinner with Gyeong-ok's family that evening. Getting to meet them was the highlight of my trip. Her parents and sisters are absolutely incredible - warm and welcoming! They showered us with gifts and love and I'm all teary just thinking about them.
On our second day we visited the wooden bridge in Andong and the Folk Museum and Gyeong-ok and her father took me to several historic sites including Bongjeongsa Temple and Dosan Seowon. It was all so beautiful and such a pleasure to be guided through each place by Geyong-ok's precious father, Ryu Jung-ki. Her mother, Shin Chun-ja was also the sweetest thing with the most amazing smile!
Andong-si and Family
Andong Mask Dance and Hahoe Village
Our third day was spent at the Andong Mask Dance Festival. This event is held annually and celebrates Andong and highlights the traditional mask dance. It brings in groups from countries all over the world like India, Thailand and Australia. We decorated our own masks and did a little shopping. They also have musical and dance performances on the main stage and in their amphitheater. That evening we were able to have an amazing duck dinner with the family!
On our final day we went to Hahoe Village and watched the Andong Mask Dance and drove a golf cart around town. The village is surrounded by green mountains and a river and there are these beautiful thatched roof and tiled roof homes. The views from the village are stunning and Gyeong-ok said her "heart felt cool" just being there. I think that must be the most accurate description I've ever heard! If you ever get a chance to go be sure to find the wishing tree in the center of town and write down your wish and add it to the hundreds of others.
Our final days were spent in Seoul which is 3 hours away from Andong. Gyeong-ok took Mom and I to the top of Lotte Tower (Seoul Sky) and it was beautiful even though it was cloudy and raining. On a clear day the views are incredible from that height! Gyeong-ok, my brother Paul and I went to Gyeongbokgung Palace and shopping in Insadong. Gyeongbokgung Palace was built in the 14th century and was the main royal palace of the Joseon dynasty. The place is gorgeous! Tourists from all over come to see it and many dress in beautiful traditional Korean clothes for the occasion. While we were shopping in Insadong we found a cat cafe and ate amazing fried mandu and dumplings.
I can't express how wonderful the entire trip was and how happy I was to see my brother after so many years away and to meet Gyeong-ok and her family. The immediate connection I feel for all of them is so strong and I miss them terribly already. I can't thank my mom enough for treating me to such an amazing experience! Without her making the trip possible I have no idea how much longer it might have been before I was able to take a trip like that. Here's to hoping I get to return soon and to take Brian with me next time!