South Korea: Ihwa Mural Village

A village covered entirely in art is a sight out of a dream. Ihwa Mural Village was my favourite place to visit in Seoul. It was truly remarkable to be surrounded by so much creativity. The local Art Committee carried out this art project to improve the environment of the village. Which in my opinion was a success! Everyone is welcome to visit the village and enjoy the beautiful murals, artwork and sculptures.  It was really fun capturing and viewing the several murals. At everyone corner there was something new and interesting to look at. I really enjoyed my stay.

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Changdeokgung Palace & The Secret Garden Huwon

Changdeokgung Palace is my favourite palace I visited in South Korea. Although it looks similar to other palaces, it has a beautiful palace garden.  You can enter the palace grounds without a tour guide and wander aimlessly around. The palace grounds consist of a public area and a royal family residence building which is the most reserved of the other five royal buildings. The grounds are massive and there’s much to see.

Huwon garden can only be entered with a guide. It’s known as a resting place for the king and royal family members. The garden is provided with lots of pavillions, greens and has even a tree that’s over 300 years old. Although, you have to stick mostly with the group it’s still a wonderful place to visit.

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South Korea: Achasan mountain hike scenery

Although I already did a lot of walking in South Korea, I really wanted to hike through the mountains. In my country I don’t have mountains or hills. So, I wanted to take this opportunity. I decided to take it easy and decided to hike at mountain Achasan, which is suppose to be a 30-40 minute easy breezy walk. But…ok…first, I got lost. I couldn’t find the damn mountain and walked aimlessly throughout the city. Secondly, when I thought I actually “found” the mountain…it wasn’t that fucking easy as they promised. The tour map promised  an easy hike with lots of stairs but instead I was walking on slippery rocks and landed in the “jungle”. I wouldn’t be surprised if an actual beer would pop out and attack us! Later I discovered that I actually took a very difficult route on mountain Yongmansan which eventually connects with mountain Achasan. When I arrived at the top I saw another path with lots of stairs and it became clear that was the “easy Achasan route”.

Although I was dying and trying my best not to fall. It was all worth it in the end. At the top, you have this really beautiful view overlooking Seoul city and Hangang river. The photos don’t do it justice. It’s so much more stunning in real life.  

Oh yeah…after succeeding in not falling, on my way down…reaching the ground, I fell out of nowhere.

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When I went home I ordered pizza at the Korean Pizza Hut and chocolate oreo boba tea. Very deserving for our hard hiking accomplishment. If I remember correctly I ordered a bulgogi pizza, with cheese, green and red peppers. The pizza was of course was very delicious, I could eat the whole thing just by myself.

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South Korea: Jongmyo Shrine

Jongmyo Shrine was the only shrine I visited in South Korea. I had a hard time remembering it and had to look it up. It slowly came back to me when I recalled seeing the racoon dog scavenging around the shrine grounds. One of the few instances I saw wildlife in Seoul. Although the shrine was impressive, it still felt a bit underwhelming compared to the other attractions I have seen. To be honest, I regretted skipping Jogyesa temple for this. It still haunts me that I didn’t went to see the pretty colorful lanterns at the temple.

Anyway,  Jongmyo shrine was a place of worships for the kings throughout the Joseon Dynasty. Here is where they performed the oldest ceremony and still reenact it to this day. Our tour guide also told us not to walk on the stone footpath. It consists of three separate pavements and the middle one is only meant for the king. If you would disrespect this, the king would come and haunt you. So, she made us jump over it! Haha!

After the tour I went and explore the city for a bit.

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South Korea: Gyeongbokgung Palace & Cheonggyecheon stream

Visiting the beautiful palaces in Seoul was one of my highest priorities of my trip. One of the first palaces on my list was Gyeongbokgung Palace Also known as the North Palace. The premises were once destroyed during the Japanese Invasion. Thankfully, they were later restored and made it possible for us to admire it today. Although, restorations are still ongoing, there are still a lot of beautiful things to see. You have Gwanghwamun Gate, which greets you and welcomes you inside the palace. Geunjeongjeon, which is the Imperial Throne Hall where the king was greeted by ambassadors. Gyeonghoeru, which is a pavilion surround by water like an island. And, Hyangwonjeong pond which is truly one of my favourite. A pavilion which is also surrounded by water but connected to the ground by this picturesque bridge. It made me feel like I was in a fairytale.

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What I really love about the Korean palaces is that they are really colorful. This traditional decorative coloring art is called Dancheong (단청) and has various symbolic meanings. The function is not only decorative but also had the purpose to protect the buildings surface against hot and cold temperatures and to make the material less noticeable.

After visiting Gyeongbokgung Palace I traveled to Cheonggyecheon stream which is nearby. This creek is about 8,4km long and eventually connects to Han river. In 2005 it has been restored and transformed into a lovely and calm stream. I had a nice leisurely stroll following the stream. Afterwards, I rested and relaxed for a bit while putting our feet in the water. A quiet moment amidst the buzzing city life.

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Travel: The Island Crete

Travel: The Island Crete

A short while ago I traveled to Greece. Crete to be precise. Crete is the largest among the Greek Islands and the fifth largest in the Mediterranean Sea.

Honestly, I didn’t want to go because the trip would clash with my other obligations. Also, I have this huge fear of flying and try to fly as little as possible throughout the year. After some contemplation I decided that I should just go. I never been to Greece, never been to a tropical island before and I’m sure I would regret not going in the end. And you know what? I had such a wonderful time.

The first day we went to the sea and we decided to hike along the coastline. The sea is breathtaking. I remember being mesmerized by the  greenish, blueish, clear water. The photos I have seen online didn’t do it justice at all. There were locals fishing too, which was nice to see as well. All I wanted to do was throw myself in the sea because of the heat. The heat was unbearable. The sun sits high in the sky and was shining really bright on my face. Even with SPF 50+ I got sunburned like a roasted chicken that’s been in the oven far too long. One of the locals explained that in the past “the pale faces” cut all the trees and planted olive trees instead. That kind of explains why there is hardly any shadows and only dry land. But it wasn’t all that bad, the heat did wonders for my skin, hair and nails.

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We walked from Hersonissos to Stalida, Malia & Sisi. All very touristic but still breathtaking towns. The towns were surrounded by sea and by the mountains. At the west coast of Hersonissos, there’s a haven and an Orthodox church. We went inside the church for a bit and lighted a candle inside to make a wish. Also there were this two geese, one of them was so fat that it couldn’t swim properly. We laughed forever but it was actually quite sad. I guess gluttony is in all living beings.

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Although the water is really salty, swimming in the sea of Crete is ideal. The quietness, small waves, no weird sea creatures to be sighted and it wasn’t that deep near the coast. If you have enough, you can just lie down and read a book under the parasol. Have a refreshing summer drink while you are at it. This is truly heaven.

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We lodged at this cozy village Koutouloufari. Away from the touristy Hersonissos and its crazy party animals. There are a lot of cute shops and restaurants to be explored. The village Piskopiano is also nearby. Located in the center, a beautiful church with a stunning view of the city below. A few meters further there’s also this park with benches and trees. It took me a while to leave that breezy place and go back into the hot oven that’s the sun.

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After a few days of relaxing, swimming and exploring the villages nearby, we took the bus to the capitol Heraklion. About 30-40 minutes from Hersonissos. When we arrived they handed us a map of the city. That was really thoughtful. We first visited The Venetian Harbour and its fortress. In 1204 Crete fell in the hands of the Venetians, hence the name. Apparently at this harbour you can take ferries to other Greek islands like Santorini. It would be a really nice experience but regrettably, we were too far away and only a one-day trip would be a waste of money. As we walked through the harbour, waves from the other side of the shore hit the pavement. The sea nearby the port was the wildest I have seen so far.

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After visiting the harbour we went to explore the city. We looked through some shops, a church and we ate sunflower seeds at the square. The city was dazzling. Although full with tourists, it still had a calming effect on me. But what left me really in awe was the church Saint Minas. Beautiful architect, one of the most fascinating churches I’ve ever seen and I have seen many…far too many in my still short-lived life. I was truly perplexed that there were hardly any tourists visiting this area. But this gave me a chance to sit on a bench under the trees to admire it peacefully.

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Overall I had a fantastic time and I’m glad that I decided to go along. The Cretans were really friendly and helpful. They speak English rather well. At one of the restaurants the owner could even speak my native language. He told me he learned it from the tourists visiting his establishment. Pretty impressive! The only downside was that we were running out of time, so I couldn’t visit Agios Nikolaos and other alluring cities. Maybe next time?

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