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Saturday, August 31, 2013

Suwon Hwaseong Haenggung {Palace}

A few days ago, I talked about our trip to the Suwon Fortress and how much fun we had. Today I wanted to share with you the other half of our day trip: 
The Hwaseong Haenggung. 

{The view of the palace from the fortress} 

This palace was built in 1789, the 13th year of King Jeongjo's reign. It was the largest and most beautiful Detached Palace at the time of its construction because it had almost 600 rooms and was shaped like the main palace in Seoul. 

When Matt and I were researching this trip we saw that there was a changing of the guards ceremony every Sunday at 2:00. {The Jang Yong Yeong Guards Ceremony} On Sunday, we got to the fortress at 1:00 and immediately started to find our way to the palace. We got completely lost! We were inside the fortress walls and could not figure out where the dang palace was. After getting really frustrated we just decided to head back to where we started and try finding the palace by walking on the fortress. 

{Helpful Hint: If you start at the Janganmun gate and walk straight down the main road for what seems like forever, the palace will be on your right.} 

After about two hours we finally found the palace. {But we missed the guards ceremony, so we will have to go back to see it.} 

{Sinpungnu- "The King's new hometown" - The main entrance to the palace.} 

 {Zelkova- This tree has protected Suwon since before the palace was built. It is believed that anyone that makes a wish it will come true. People write their wishes and tie them around the tree. You can see the strings of the wishes in this picture.} 

 {King Yeongjo put his son, Sado Seja, in a rice chest like this because the King didn't think his son was fit to be king. Sado died in the duiju (rice chest) of starvation. Sado Seja was the father of King Jeongjo- the king who built this palace. Now people can pay to get in the rice chest and feel how Sado felt. Matt and I opted out of that experience.} 

 {Bongsudang- This is the main building of the palace. The 61st birthday of the King's mother was held here.} 

 {The Servants Quarters.} 

{Naknamheon- Several events and banquets were held here.}  

{Deukjungjeong- The king practiced archery here.} 

{Woonhangak- This was built in 1801. It was used for morning assembly and it holds a portrait of the king.} 

You will see that this building is not as colorful as the other pictures I have shown you. This is because this part of the palace has not been restored. During the Japanese colonial era, most places of cultural value were destroyed. In the 1980s, the people of Korea formed a Committee for Restoration and Repair. Their mission is to restore what was destroyed by the Japanese. The palace and fortress were finished in 2003. 

 I was about 85% on board for running through these fountains- I was so hot by the end of the day. 

If you want to see both the fortress and the palace, but you don't have enough time to walk around, I would recommend the Hwaseong Trolley. It goes around the fortress and drops you pretty close to the palace. It is 1,500 won per person. Plus, it's shaped like a dragon, so you can't go wrong. 
{Dad you will be proud that we opted to WALK the fortress} 

Again if you find yourself in Suwon, you need to make a stop here. 
{For the fortress, palace, and cultural foundation it is only 3,000 won} Matt and I will be going back to see the guards ceremony, and the other performances they have. 

We had loads of fun and we hope you enjoyed the pictures!

*Note: All information for this post was received through the signs and brochure given at the fortress and palace. 

Friday, August 30, 2013

Friday's Letters #3

Dear Chopsticks, I think I finally figured you out. Well, at least 80% of the time I can get food in my mouth. Thanks for being patient with me as I stumbled through my first few dinners here. It feels good not to ask for a fork when we go out to eat. But I would still say I am a Novice Chopsticker. 

Dear Bus 34-1, I have you all figured out. Thank you for making it so easy to get to and from work. P.S- if you haven't heard I am official now- I have my bus card and it feels great. I'm basically Korean now. 

Dear English Teaching Books, You are really bizarre and I can't imagine teaching from you for a whole year. But I guess I gotta do what I gotta do. I love that you are filled with tons of mistakes, and gems like this- 

Dear Korean Lessons, You are going okay. If you need to know how to say girl, boy, woman, or man then I'm the one to go to. Haha... so maybe okay is not the best word to use, but Korean is really hard. 

Dear Students, I never thought I would say this, but my students in Hawaii are a lot better behaved than you are. I understand you are tired of being in school all day, but you have got to pull it together! 

Dear September, I am so excited you are so close! I can't wait for Fall. 

Love, Alex 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Suwon Hwaseong {Fortress Wall}

Last weekend, Matt and I had the opportunity to go to the Suwon Hwaseong {The Fortress Wall} and Hwaseong Haenggung {Palace}. Tickets to the fortress, the palace, and the Suwon culture center are only 3,000 won per person! 

The fortress wall was built between July of 1795 and January of 1796. King Jeongjo, the 22nd Joseom dynasty ruler, moved the capital from Seoul to Suwon in 1794. The Suwon Hwaseong Fortress was registered as a World Heritage Site in 1997. 

This place is huge. Matt and I were not expecting it to be so big! We only made it about a quarter way around before we stopped for the day. We will definitely be going back to see the rest of the fortress. 

{Suwon Hwaseomun gate} 

{The ceiling of one of the buildings} 

{Bukporu - Northern Sentry Post- This is one of 5 sentry posts at the fortress, and it was used as vantage points to spot an approaching enemy.} 

{If you want a good workout just climb up these stairs three or four times, which we did because we kept getting lost.} 

{Seobukgangnu- Northwestern Pavilion} 

{I love this picture because you can see how far the fortress goes!} 

{More stairs. This is the point where I sat down and had a little pout.} 

{But I made it to the top and the view was wonderful. -You can see me sitting to the side still in my pout.} 

{After my pout} 

{More ceilings} 

{Map of the fortress- we started at the blue pin and ended at the red. You can see how large it is from this picture.} 

If you are in the area, I would really suggest doing this. Matt and I can't wait to go back and explore the other part of the fortress, but we will probably wait till it gets a tad cooler. If you are going to go, I would suggest tennis shoes and comfy clothes. There are a lot of stairs and you will be walking a lot... but it is worth it {and that's coming from someone that hates walking}. 

And because you endured all these pictures and commentary- I'll show you my full pout: 

And there you go.

*Note: All information for this post was received through the signs and brochure given at the fortress and palace. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Gratitude 101 {A Link-Up}

Today I'll be linking up with Erika for her first ever Grad-Itude 101: Mindful Lessons in Thankfulness. 

GRAD-ITUDE 101: A Linkup By Chimerikal

I believe everyone will agree with me when I say gratitude is something we could all use a little more of. 

Often times we get so down on ourselves and our situations it is hard to look up and see all the good. 

Life can always get us down. It is easy to be negative; being positive is the challenge. 

For this, there is a song called "Count Your Many Blessings". 
My favorite verse says: 
Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?

Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
And you will keep singing as the days go by.

{image via

We all have burdens. We all have days that we feel life is too hard, or things aren't going our way. It's what we do when we have those days that makes us who we are. 

I encourage you to count your blessings when life is great, count them when life is okay, and definitely count them when life is hard. 

When I read Erika's post last week, I started really thinking of things/ people that I am grateful for. During the month of November last year, I started writing my Thankful Thoughts down everyday, and that was a great start. When I did this, I felt really good. My worries and burdens seemed to be a little lighter. But then November ended and I moved on. 

I want to start being more vocal about my gratitude, so here are this week's Gratitude Moments: 

I am grateful for the opportunity to travel and teach overseas. 
I am grateful for a family that raised me to believe travel and exploring was a definite possibility 
I am grateful for my travel buddy and best friend 

I will continue to add to this list week by week. 

So what are your thoughts on this topic? What are you grateful for? 

Many thanks to Erika for this link up. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Road to Hana {Travel Tuesdays}

It's time for another edition of Travel Tuesdays brought to us by these two wonderful ladies- Bonnie and Belinda. Last week I shared with you my amazing scuba experience in Hawaii- if you missed it click here

This week I wanted to go back to Hawaii and share with you the Road to Hana on the island of Maui.

The Road to Hana
Cost: Free (other than ticket to Maui and rental car)
Time: The drive starting from the Kahului airport will take 4 fours to get to Hana. That is with no stops, and that is a one way trip. 
Location: East Side of Maui  

A Compass Rose

The Road to Hana is a 68 mile drive from Kahului to the town of Hana. In all the guide books, it says the road to Hana is a beautiful drive with many scenic stopping points along the way. And the books are right, but it is also one of the hardest drives I have ever done. This was the first time I had ever rented a car and it was nerve wracking driving along the twists and turns, and driving over 50+ one lane bridges. 

 {image via

The problem with being the one driving the rental is that I couldn't fully take in the drive, and the problem with the twists and turns is that my passengers were car sick and couldn't take that many pictures of the drive. 

Now there are plenty of stops along the way, but since the road was so narrow often times all the room on the side of the road was taken and we couldn't stop to get out and take pictures. 

However we did make one stop, and it was one of the best places I have ever been to. 

Pailoa Bay is one of the prettiest beaches there is, and it has great snorkeling. Plus, it's black sand and who doesn't want to see that? This was a much needed stop on our road to Hana and we couldn't get into our bathing suits fast enough! 

Jessie and I opted for snorkeling and Jake wandered around to explore. 

The water was so clear and there were tons of fish. 

Jessie with a dead octopus... yum 

We swam around for a while and then continued on our drive to Hana. We went as far as the Seven Scared Pools, but we weren't prepared for a hike so we just got in the car and drove back down the road to Hana and to our hotel. 

On our way back we stopped and went snorkeling at the nature preserve Ahihi- Kinau. {If you can't tell- we love to snorkel.} 

The Road to Hana is something I would suggest doing, but I would be prepared. Make sure you have food and water because there aren't too many places to stop. And make sure you plan what stops you really want to make. I wish we knew we had to hike to the Seven Scared Pools, but next time I'll plan better. 

*Note- there are parts of Maui that you can't drive on with a rental car. Make sure to read the road map your rental company gives you. Our plan was to take the road to Hana all the way around the island, but once we got to Hana we realized we couldn't go any further so we had to turn around and go back the way we came. 

So what do you think? Have you been on the road to Hana? Would you go if you had the chance?