In every relationship, there comes a point–in most modern relationships, before marriage–when a couple decides to take an overnight trip together. In Korea, actually, first travel–첫 여행, cheot yeoheng–is basically a euphemism for the first time sleeping together, since, in a country where most young singles live with their parents, and most parents of young people are still very conservative, it’s not quite as easy a feat as over here in the States. In fact, a year ago today, Mr. Kim and I had just returned from our first time to travel together–but no, not that way, you pervert!

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Suncheon-man, a wetlands area where a significant portion of the world’s hooded cranes winter.

I was planning to go home for Christmas; we had just decided to get married; and we wanted to take a trip somewhere together before our week or so apart. Mr. Kim had a few places in mind, places he’d been and decided he wanted to revisit with a woman, and in the end, he settled on Yeosu and Suncheon in Jeollanam-do (South Jeolla Province), the southernmost province on the Korean Peninsula. We both worked full-time (in the same place), so we left right after work on the Friday before Christmas, takin the high-speed KTX down to Yeosu.

Saturday morning, we lazed around a bit and then started with lunch in a fish market. We had samchi and pyeong-eo.

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The ajumma slicing our pyeong-eo while the samchi waits its turn.

After lunch, we walked around Yeosu and to Jinnamgwan, which was the headquarters of Korean naval hero Yi Sun-sin.

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The ceiling of Jinnamgwan. I love the painting in these old Korean wooden structures–the colors, the shapes, the patterns.

There, we took a lot of selfies:

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Us and a small column of Jinnamgwan. Aren’t we cute?

We wanted to walk to this island Mr. Kim knew about, across a long causeway or bridge, so we walked through the town along the waterfront in that direction.

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Along the waterfront.

At causeway, they had a little train, like the kind many US zoos have, and we took it out to the island. We hiked the trails and went up a lighthouse. Unfortunately, when we had read in the forecast how much warmer it would be than in Seoul, we had been overly optimistic and not taken really warm clothes. As a result, we nearly froze, especially on the long walk back across the causeway after we missed the last train.

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Documenting our extreme discomfort on the cold and windy causeway.

So, we did what anyone would do to warm up: Headed to a pojang-macha (포장마차) for some soju.

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Pojang-macha! Tents with street food and alcohol!

We got some eel that I did not like so much and some Jeolla-do soju that was also not up to par with my favorite brand, which for the record is 처음처럼 (Chum Churum… literally, “like the first time.”).

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Ip-sae-ju: Not my favorite soju.

The place had filled up by the time we left, rather less sober but very much toastier than when we entered. We also saw mice climbing around in the kitchen area… the Korean Ratatouille? Even though I didn’t particularly like the food, or the first bottle of soju (we switched to Chum Churum after the first), I had a great time enjoying the pojang-macha atmosphere.

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The pojang-macha got busy as Saturday evening wore on.

The next morning, somewhat hungover, we got into a taxi and asked the driver for lunch recommendations. We ended up going to this cockle (꼬막) place, which was probably my favorite food of the trip.

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Nearly half the dishes on this table contained cockles!

Then we headed over to Suncheon-man, really the highlight of the trip. It’s a wetland and bird reserve, and one of the most peaceful places I’ve been.

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Me and Mr. Kim at Suncheon-man. (See also the first photo on this page.)

Finally, after two cold but wonderful days and a last dinner of rather disappointing 한정식 (han-jeong-sik, a normally delicious meal made up of lots and lots of different traditional side dishes), we headed back to Seoul on the good ol’ KTX.

Writing this, I realize it doesn’t actually sound like we had such a great trip. I didn’t like about half the food, and the weather was terrible. In my memory, though it was one of the best trips of my life, the highlights being the pojang-macha, Suncheon-man, and 2.5 days straight with Mr. Kim.

How much of this was the newness of traveling together, and how awesome were Suncheon and Yeosu themselves, really? I guess we’ll find out, because we’re already talking about heading there again the next time we’re back in Korea.

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2 thoughts on “Cheot Yeoheng – First Travel

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