Iksan

I was tired of being in Seoul and even though the virus hasn’t completely been eradicated (averaging around 50-60 per day now), I wanted to explore. There was a sale on day trips through one of the travel sites and I bought all three trips. It was 19$ per trip and it included transportation, lunch, a “cooking” class, and visits to 2-3 different historical sites. What a deal! All three trips highlight parts of the Baekje Kingdom which was one of the three kingdoms in Korea which lasted from approximately 57 BCE to 668 ACE (according to Wikipedia). The Baekje Kingdom was in what is now the southwestern region of Korea, keeping in mind that Korea used to be bigger than just the peninsula it is now.

This first trip was to Iksan, which is approximately 2 hours south of Seoul.

We visited a total of four places. A prison shooting location, the cooking class, a traditional market, and finally the Baekje Historical site.

The prison shooting location, literally named Iksan Prison Set used to be a school and it was converted into a prison for the purpose of shooting dramas and movies. Literally all the dramas and movies that have prison scenes were filmed here. Most of the rooms were closed but we were able to walk into one of the most famous rooms from a movie (that unfortunately, I never saw). We had free reign to walk around and take pictures, we were allowed to into any door that opened. There was a courtroom set as well and a few of us sat in there and waited until it was time to go.

There was a wall of all the films and dramas that were shot here and Sense8 was on the list! I remember the scene where Doona Bae was in prison training inside her cell.

After the prison set, we went to have lunch and then the cooking class. They were in different places but next to each other that we could walk from one to the other. Lunch was delicious! The dishes laid out were specialties of the region and basically it was side dish galore. Koreans love their side dishes and honestly it’s so filling.

The main dish hadn’t arrived when I took this picture but it was thinly sliced pork cooked in a not so spicy red sauce.

The cooking class was held in a place called Goseurak (or Goseulag). They ferment everything in the pots (called onggi), like soy sauce, vinegar, and kimchi. We made apple cider vinegar using apples, onion vinegar, and brown sugar. I’ll be able to use the apple cider vinegar after July 4th. Recently there was another drama that was filmed there titled The King (it’s on Netflix!) so they had banners with a scene from the drama.

I tried to go out and take photos before going inside the cafe to relax and wait for the bus to go to the next location which was a traditional market. Traditional Korean markets are very similar to the markets in the Philippines. I bought some rice cakes and blueberries but both went bad a few hours later…..

The fruits and vegetables were definitely cheaper but how am I supposed to eat a whole watermelon by myself?! They don’t sell the cute little “I live alone” watermelons like they do in the States.

The last location was my favorite! It used to be a palace but the only structures standing are two pagodas built by buddhist monks. The pagodas were beautiful and one of them had bells on each corner so they would ring when it was windy.

All of that open space used to have a palace! That blew my mind. Korean palaces take up so much space, everything is spread out and each building had its own purpose. I decided to walk around first and then go inside the museum to cool down. There was a replica of what the grounds looked like before and it was really cool seeing that. However, my trip to the museum was cut short because I bumped my head loudly on the glass….I laughed at myself and quickly walked outside out of embarrassment.

This trip was fantastic and I was so exhausted but it was so great leaving the city for a day. Our tour took several precautions such as having hand sanitizer on the bus and keeping our masks on the whole time. Our temperatures were checked before leaving Seoul and everyone had a seat to themselves unless they came with friends.

After booking this tour, I bookmarked all of the English tour group websites in Korea because it is definitely easier and more convenient than trying to do everything by myself. It’s also more cost effective, especially when visiting these small cities.

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