Saturday, May 19, 2012

Paju...on Mother's Day

I can't even begin to tell you how exited writing this post makes me. I took well over 200 pictures! Now don't freak out on me. I will not make you guys suffer by posting all of them, but it WILL be a very long post. I HAAAAVE to share this place with you, it was amazing!

First of all, Mother's Day in Korea is celebrated on May 8th, and it's not really Mother's Day but Parents Day. That day S. came home with a beautiful box filled with Peonies (my very favorite ♥). As my clueless self usually is, I was completely unaware of this day so I was pleasantly surprised. So come next Sunday which happens to be US Mother's Day I was not expecting anything at all. (actually I'm never expecting anything to begin with, not because I'm an all goodie-goodie girl, but because as you know, I can NEVER remember any special dates... : (

S. goes for a run and gives me a call to get the kids ready because he rented a car so we could go on a drive for Mother's Day. Whaaaaattt!!! Y yo como casi-casi no soy andariega'... Road trip!!!!!

So we headed towards the North side of South Korea to a city called Paju.


Paju is a city in Gyeonggi Province. It's about 40 minutes from Seoul by car and you drive along the Imjingang River through a road that's called the "Jayuro Road of Freedom". This river flows from North Korea trough the DMZ and down to South Korea. This drive left me with quite the impression as trough the whole drive you are on a road that's lined with barb wire and guarded military posts like every 300 meters. It felt as if you were entering some sort of a prison town. To me, this was pretty intense stuff!

Border between North korea and south korea, barb wire, korea, Freedom road, Road to Freedom korea, seoul

I guess they are for protecting the South from Northern invasions. Or maybe from crazy swimmers that try to cross the river to come to the south.  
I'll tell you something... it's the first time since we moved here, that I felt and realized I was living on a Country that could go into War at any given point. 

I hope it never happens...

More on this feeling later, because on our way there we saw a sign for a place called "English Village" and you know, I haaad to see what it was! : )

English Village, Korea South Korea, English Village in Seoul, Paju, Heyri Paju, fun for kids in korea, English in korea

Now, I don't know if people actually live here, but there are houses. I do know it's an English School during the week. To me it felt a little bit like an amusement park, a British themed one. 

railbike in korea, raibike, fixie, track, dirtroad, mixed kids, korean american, english village, english village korea, Paju

& we got to ride on a railbike, wich totally made Markus' day. 

Railbike, korea, south korea, seoul, track, mixed kids, Heyri Paju, paju, English Village seoul, English Village Korea, 

Actually just walking on the dirt/gravel trail and looking at a real track made him happy... "dito" he's a city boy... : P

Me... not so much as you can see... Someone's gonna be ready to head back as soon as this ride is over!

Just kiding, it was motorized! hehe... Although I did think up until the last minute I had to pedal. S. loooooves messing with me like that. Since I can't understand anything they say. 

And you go around a small tour of the town-like village.

Trains, engines, English Village, English Village seoul south korea, Paju, Heyri Paju Thomas & Friends, Seoul south Korea, Korea, mixed kids, interracial families, modern families, love
Marky was so happy...

Engines, Thomas and friends, mixed kids, Korea, south korea, modern families, English Village Seoul, Seul, South Korea

Even though there wasn't much to do, it was fun to walk around, look at the shops and of course take pictures. 

And we had lunch there... hotdogs and fish & chips.

& now what we came for... 

We left the English Village to go find what we came to see. The Heyri Art Valley in Paju is another town like village. It's hidden in a valley filled with art galleries, cafes, book shops and film studios. If you are familiar with Korean Dramas (if you are not, you should...they are goooood!!!), well the Seoul Action School of the Drama Secret Garden was filmed here. 

Eco friendly Architecture, design, urban planing seoul, South Korea, Korea, Modern, Houses in Korea, modern families

Heyri is an experiment on ecologically friendly architecture, design and urban planing.

Instagram, instagram, hashtag, street art in korea, Seoul, south Korea, Art, Heyri Paju, Paju, Art Valley in Paju, 

Whaaaat.... One of my pictures of the weekend won me a spot on instagrams blog on this weekends hashtag project,  streetartistry... I was sooo exited when I saw my picture made it out of over 12,000 others... I know it's silly, but I'm sooo into these hashtag projects! I look forward to my weekend hashtag adventures! : )
Yes, instagram is my new addiction... 

There's lots of great little shops with handmade goods..

Cafes in Korea, korean cafes, coffee prince, coffe in seoul, beautiful cafes, Heyri Paju, Paju Korea, Paju South Korea, 

Beautiful cafes...

Heyri Art Vallery in Paju, Korea, South Korea, Seoul art, Art in Seoul, English Village in Seoul, What do do in Korea

Art everywhere...

& we got some street snacks for the road...

They tasted like waffles filled with melted whipped cream... tasty little fellas! : )

Trick art museum in korea, Heyri Paju, korea, South Korea

There was also a Trick Art Museum. We had soooo much fun here! I will do a post on this later, as there are just too many pictures. : )

I was thinking this was it, but my dear S. had a Grand Finale  planned for the perfect day!
He wanted to take me to a very famous eel restaurant, (the town is known for specializing in this dish).

✳✳✳ Do you guys remember what I've told you a couple of times before... If not, I'll remind you before I continue. I am NOT Andrew Zimmern or Anthony Bourdain. But... I am getting much better with trying new things! I'm becoming quite the foodie here! : )

To get there we had to drive trough the DMZ. The Demilitarized Zone is a strip of land that serves as buffer between North and South Korea. It cuts the Korean Peninsula in half.

Rice Fields in Korea, Seoul, Rice fields, rice fields in south korea, sunset, beautiful rice fields, asian rice fields, south korea

& trough some amaaaaaizing rice fields...

Rice fields in Paju, South Korea, Korea, korean rice fields, sunset in korea, asian rice fields

I love this picture. The color, the sunset, the field, the fogginess, the lady  & the bike at the end... like a movie...
I was blessed with a BIG imagination!

rice fields in korea, asian rice fields, sunset in asia, rice fields in South Korea, South Korea, korea, seoul

We arrived at the Imjingak Unification Park, so we could take a look at the North and the Bridge of Freedom.  

Imjingak, Imjingak seoul, south korea, korea, war memorial, unification monument in korea, border in north korea

magical, sunset, sunset in korea, korea, south korea, mixed kids, rice fields, asian rice fields, freedom bridge, freedom road


Viewing  north korea, Puerto Rico, sunset, asian rice fields, Korea, Paju, South Korea, mixed kids, modern family

Beautiful sunset in korea, Seoul, south korea, sunset, Paju, Imjingak, memorial monument, Korean border, buffer zone

The Bridge to Freedom. Taking in the view... It's hard to believe that such peaceful looking and feeling place has such a turbulent past.  

No matter how serene this place may seem, the constant reminders of "what could be" can change the mood in an instant. The sign says: "DO NOT COME CLOSE. DO NOT TAKE PICTURES". I read this after I took the picture, and after I did, I ran to the car... hehehe....: P

We arrived at the Restaurant, I think called "Bangujeong Naruteo Jip"... More info. on it here, but if you need to translate because this site is in Korean. : (

famous eel restaurant in Korea, eel in seoul, grilled eel in korea, Famous eel dish in korea, korea, south korea, 

As I got of the car, the barbecue smell made my stomach talk...

eel restaurant in korea, seoul, south korea, famous eel restaurant, eel in Paju south korea, Paju, famous eel dish in Paju

And as soon as I entered this place, I knew I was in for a truly amazing and authentic experience.

eel from paju, barbecue eel, korea, eel in Korea, authentic korean dinner, authentic asin experience, asian dinner, Korea

The structure of the restaurant itself was like an upgraded version of what would be a traditional Korean restaurant. The indoor sitting areas are divided in private sections. We were guided across these rooms, towards the back to the outdoor sitting area.  

grilled eel, korea, south korea, Paju, eel in Paju korea, famous eel dish, famous eel restaurant in korea, south korea

And you walk by these ladies that are grilling the eel out in the open. 

Authentic korean dining, eel in Paju, korean foods, what to eat in korea, where to go in korea, famous eel restaurant

I felt as if I was entering a picnic area...

One thing you should keep in mind when you come to Korea, "don't come with missed matched socks, or if you are a girl remember to do a pedicure!!! (sorry for my ugly feet). You always have to take your shoes off. : )

authentic korean dining experience, koran food, korean dinner, eel, famous eel dish, famous eel restaurant in Paju korea

Stealing a private moment... 

Whether it was someones birthday or sending their kid off to the Army, (Army is mandatory for all boys in Korea) families come here to commemorate special occasions. I was so happy, I felt like toasting with them! : )

Bangujeong Naruteo Jip

Then two young men come bringing a whole table with our food! 

Authentic korean dining, korean dinner, barbecued eel, korean cuisine, eel in Paju, Paju south Korea, famous eel in Paju

This is how a typical Korean dinner table is set. You are given a bowl of white rice, kimchi, radish soup (tastes like vinegar) and side dishes of veggies that compliment the main course. 

famous eel in Paju south korea, Paju, famous eel restaurant in Paju korea, eel dish, korean dining, asian dining experience

And the grilled eel comes...

What makes this dish special, is that these eels caught in the river here are supposed to be specially meaty & delicious, as they come from sweet water. It's said that they are good for when you need a little more stamina, are feeling down, blood circulation or to increase apetite. 

grilled eel , asian dining experience, eel in korea, where to eat in korea, eel famous restaurant in korea, Paju south korea

& meaty they were...

S. giving us the prep. instructions. "A little rice, some fresh ginger and a piece of the eel. 

Bangujeong Naruteo Jip

I won't pretend...
 I do not like green eggs and ham....

 I kinda' was secretly imagining this table filled with "tostones", "mofongo relleno" (stuff some of this eel inside a mofongo, and I probably would have liked it more) and "arroz guisado" claro!!! ohhh...I miss you "Mi Viejo San Juan"...

You know what they say; "you can take the girl out of Puerto Rico, but you can't take Puerto Rico out of the girl"... : )

Bangujeong Naruteop Jip

Even tough eel is not my thing, I would TOTALLY recomend and I will ABSOLUTLY bring anyone that visits me here. The athmosphere, the place, the lights, the people... The building and the feeling of peace it gives you. Tradition keeps this place running and tradition made us have an amaaaaazing authentic dinner experience. 

Bangujeong Naruteo Jip

To think that as I'm havin the best time on this side, right behind me is the barbed wired fence and the lives of many other's that suffer. 

Maybe one day... here, there, "en el Caribe", we will all have peace...

After this looong day I was so looking forward to our dear city, as I know you must be looking forward to me ending this post! hehehehe... No worries it's over!

For now,
To be continued... : )



Miriam said...

absolutely love this post tania! What a special day! <3 sounds and looks amazing..You made me want to come visit even more:) besos de NY mimi

Tania said...

Awww.... Gracias Miriam! It was and we are totally waiting for you! xoxo

ckim said...

What an awesome Mother's day!!! S knows how to make it special!! :) the eel looks soo tasty, you def have to take me if/when we visit! :)

Tania said...

I know!!! & for sure!!!! hehehe... I think you will love it! It's eel kalbi!....

diana__delgado said...

What a lovely post, Tania!! I could feel your excitement in every word!! Kudos on trying the eel, here eel is also a regular dish but I can't force myself to try it, I used to have nightmares about eels when I was a child, so it's not happening. Were there other dishes you could try besides the eel?

Tania said...

hehe... Thanks! Eel is hard even for Sean. He doesn't really eat eel, but he says that this way is the best he's had. And nope, most traditional restaurants in Korea (if they are good), specialize in one dish. They either served it marinated in soy sauce or with salt. We had the marinated one, cause they say it's the easier one to eat...: ) I have to admit it wasn't toooo bad. It was less "chewy" than I imagined, (kinda had the texture of very moist chicken)but, what made me not like it was that it had an after taste that I couldn't get rid of. : )