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Citron-flavored Soju, Anyone?

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I just found out last week that we are going to have 회식 (hwesik) before summer break, and I am kind of nervous about it. Hwesik is when colleagues dine and drink together, more like an after-work party. I looove parties, but hwesik … Continue reading

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Pictures to sum up Week 1!

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It's the end of kimchi boy's first week in Singapore! His trip is almost ending now :( 

@swensens having dessert with family. 

@swee choon's having dim sum 

Lady M @ Merlion Park

Watching a concert at esplanade. 

Nus commencement 2015

Sis grad ceremony happened to be on the same day as mine! 
Lucky parents just have to take one-day leave. 

So many moments fit into this tightly-packed two weeks. Amazing how this relationship has been working for us all these while. This December will be the end of our third year together & still loving !

Yongyeonsa Temple – 용연사 (Daegu, Gyeongsangbuk-do)

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The guardian murals inside the Geukrak-jeon main hall at Yongyeonsa Temple in Daegu.

Hello Again Everyone!!

Yongyeonsa Temple, which is located north of Mt. Biseulsan, and south of Daegu, was first established in 912 A.D. by the monk Boyang. The name of the temple, Yongyeonsa Temple, means “Dragon Flying to the Sky Temple,” in English. According to a legend, a dragon lived in a pond at the temple. By flying up into the sky, the dragon became a divine being. Repaired in 1419 by the monk Cheonil, the temple suffered severe damage by the invading Japanese in 1592. Finally, in 1728, the temple was restored to its former glory.

Just to the left of Yongyeon-ji pond, and at a bend in the road, you’ll finally approach the temple grounds. The first thing to welcome you to the temple grounds is the rather unique Iljumun Gate. Squat in stature, the gate is both vibrant and elaborate in the decorative artwork that adorns it.

A little further up the trail, and the path forks to both the right and left at the temple’s tea shop. To the right lays the temple’s main courtyard, while to the left lies the temple’s Jeokmyeol Bogung (a shrine that houses the Buddha’s remains established by the monk Jajang-yulsa).

To the right, you’ll first make your way through the temple’s Cheonwangmun Gate. Housed inside this gate are four older looking murals dedicated to the Four Heavenly Kings. Emerging on the other side of the Anyang-ru Pavilion, you’ll finally be situated in the centre of the temple’s main courtyard.

Straight ahead is the early 18th century Geukrak-jeon main hall at Yongyeonsa Temple. The exterior walls are lined with various Buddhist-motif murals like the Bodhidharma, Wonhyo-daesa and Uisang-daesa, and several others. Additionally, the lining walls that divide the grounds from the main hall are occupied by devotees’ rosary beads and statues that they’ve left behind. As for the main altar inside the Geukrak-jeon, it’s occupied by a centrally seated Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise). He’s joined on either side by Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion) and Daesaeji-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Power and Wisdom for Amita-bul). The interior is also filled with numerous ancient paintings that are spread throughout. These paintings include a mural dedicated to Gwanseeum-bosal, as well as protective guardians.

Out in front of the Geukrak-jeon stands a 3.2 metre tall, three-tier stone pagoda that dates back to the early Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392) or the late Unified Silla Dynasty (668-935). To the left of the pagoda and the main hall is the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. Inside are housed three elaborate shaman murals dedicated to Sanshin (The Mountain Spirit), Dokseong (The Lonely Saint), and Chilseong (The Seven Stars). And to the right of the main hall stands the Nahan-jeon with beautiful Palsang-do murals decorating the exterior walls. As for the interior, and sitting in the centre of the main altar, is Seokgamoni-bul (The Historical Buddha). He’s joined by two lines of Nahan statues and vibrant paintings of the Historical Disciples of the Buddha.

Back down the pathway that leads through the temples grounds, and back to the part of the trail that forks, you’ll now need to head left to make your way towards the historic Jeokmyeol Bogung. No more than 5 minutes up the hillside lays another compound at Yongyeonsa Temple. Past the newly painted Four Heavenly Kings that await you, and up an uneven set of stone stairs, you’ll be welcomed by the hall that looks out onto the Jeokmyeol Bogung.

During the Imjin War, in 1592, the Buddha’s sari (crystallized remains) that were housed at Tongdosa Temple were safely moved to Mt. Myohyangsan. After the war, the sari were returned to Tongdosa Temple, but a portion of the sari were enshrined at Yongyeongsa Temple by the monk Cheongjin (a disciple of the famed monk, Samyeong-daesa). The ordination altar, or Seokjo Gyedan, that houses the sari was first established in 1613. Alongside Tongdosa Temple and Geumsansa Temple, the ordination altar is only one of three in Korea.

The ordination altar is buttressed by two smaller sized auxiliary halls. And the hall that people can pray inside that looks out onto the Seokjo Gyedan is occupied by several blue Buddha paintings populated by even smaller images of Seokgamoni-bul. As for the exterior walls to this hall, it’s decorated with simplistic Shimu-do, Ox-Herding, murals.

HOW TO GET THERE: From the Daegu Seobu (West) Bus Terminal, you’ll need to take Bus #606 and get off after 17 stops, or 27 minutes, at the Dalseong Middle School stop. The stop is across from the middle school. From there, take Bus #600 or the Dalseong 2 bus. After riding either bus for 11 stops, or 31 minutes, get off at the Yongyeonsa Temple stop. From this stop, you’ll need to walk about 1.1 km, or 15 minutes, up the road to get to the temple.

You can take a bus to the temple or you can simply take a taxi from the Daegu Seobu Bus Terminal. The taxi ride should take about 25 minutes, or 14.8 km, and cost about 13,000 won.

OVERALL RATING: 8/10. Just for being one of three temples in Korea that houses a historic ordination altar, it rates as highly as it does. But there is a lot more to see at Yongyeonsa Temple like the elaborate shaman murals inside the Samseong-gak, as well as the historic murals that fill the Geukrak-jeon main hall. While a bit out of the way, Yongyeonsa Temple makes for a nice day trip in the neighbouring Daegu countryside.


The squat Iljumun Gate at Yongyeonsa Temple.


Some of the decorative artwork that adorns the Iljumun Gate.


The path and Cheonwangmun Gate the leads up to the main temple courtyard.


One of the Four Heavenly Kings inside the Cheonwangmun Gate.


The Geukrak-jeon main hall at Yongyeonsa Temple.


Some of the murals that adorn the exterior walls to the Geukrak-jeon.


A closer look at Wonhyo-daesa and Uisang-daesa.


Some of the knick-knacks that have been left behind by temple devotees.


The main altar inside the Geukrak-jeon.


One of the historic murals inside the main hall.


The mural on the back side of the main altar.


The Gwanseeum-bosal mural inside the Geukrak-jeon.


The Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall to the left of the main hall.


One of the Shinseon (Spirit Immortals) that adorns the Samseong-gak’s exterior walls.


A look inside the Samseong-gak hall at a seated Sanshin (Mountain Spirit).


To the left of the main hall stands the Nahan-jeon.


One of the Palsang-do murals that adorns the exterior walls of the Nahan-jeon.


The main altar inside the Nahan-jeon.


A row of Nahan statues and paintings.


The path that leads towards the Jeokmyeol Bogung shrine.


One of the vibrant Four Heavenly Kings near the ordination altar grounds.


The hall that looks out onto the Seokjo Gyedan.


Just one of the beautiful Ox-Herding murals that adorns the observational hall.


And a look at the Seokjo Gyedan ordination altar.

The post Yongyeonsa Temple – 용연사 (Daegu, Gyeongsangbuk-do) appeared first on Dale's Korean Temple Adventures.

My First 24 Hours in Vietnam: Oversized Baggage, Cheap Meatballs, and One Very Sticky Used Condom

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I arrived in Ho Chi Minh City yesterday morning and spent the day wandering aimlessly around District 1, which is a maze of street food, mopeds, and foreigners.

So. Many. Foreigners. Women in flowy skirts wandering in droves with backpacks. Men with dreads and rose tattoos. Couples giving each other the silent treatment over coconut milk and pho. European families in SAIGON shirts ushering their disgruntled offspring to the next trinket shop.  Ugly middle aged men flanked by gorgeous local girls.  Everyone’s hot. Everyone’s on vacation, everyone’s pawing at somebody.

It seemed like the city itself was sweating gloriously along with us, and for the first time since I’ve left the United States, I felt truly happy.

I spent the night at the Saigon Inn, which I strongly recommend. The hostess was seriously the nicest lady ever, even when she was giving me shit for arriving with 60+ kilos of luggage. (Yikes.) I met some cool people over meatballs, and overall had a great but short stay in the city. I can’t wait to return in the future.

I’m actually writing this blog post from my new home in Qui Nhon (pronounced qui-nyon).

So far, so good.

My boss greeted me at the airport and I instantly felt comfortable around him. And am loving the vibe of the city, which is messy and has a lot of cows. And a beach. Right there. I work with only three other foreigners, a married couple and a tall middle aged guy.  We all went to dinner together, and from what I can tell, the couple does their own thing and the guy does his own thing. They’re the only three foreigners (well, plus me now) in this city of 280,000 people. Honestly, right now I don’t see myself becoming super close with any of them, but I don’t see myself not liking them either. So it doesn’t look like I’ll have the most vibrant social life here, but I’m happy for that.  I can’t wait to spend quiet mornings on the beach, drawing and reading my book.

I got to sit in for a little bit on some classes today and I found out a bit more information about what my teaching schedule will look like. Six days a week, two classes in the morning, three hour break, three to four classes at night. So doesn’t look like I’ll be taking any weekend trips off to Cambodia or Laos for the time being, but that’s ok. Classes range from one hour to one and a half hours. I’m going to teach from a book, but I will have a lot of creative liberty.

….And guess what the best part is? ALL MY CLASSES WILL HAVE A VIETNAMESE TEACHING ASSISTANT! And guess what? She helps with class management and explaining directions!! Ah! Stoked. This makes life so much easier. Plus, bilingual classrooms generally have more positive vibes.

Ok so living arrangements. I’ll be staying in a hotel for the six months that I’ll be here, a couple doors down from the married couple.

I unpack/pack at lightening speed ;)
The bed’s big but….sketch.

The room’s ok. Obvi not enough space for all 60 kg of my clothes. But it does have wifi, aircon, fridge, TV. It’s a bit dirty, though, and I’m terrified to sleep in the bed…(stains). Also, the bathroom smells a little…off. And I found a used condom on the floor next to the toilet.

And when I removed it, it left behind a small puddle of goo.




Pride Gives Back Party at DGBG

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In celebration of how great this year's pride festival turned out, Rainbow Gathering is hosting a free party tonight, July 11th, at Club DGBG in Hongdae.

Check out Heezy Yang's page for more information on the performance.

Doors open at 10 with the performance starting at 11:30.

The sorry state of this post makesit painfully obvious that I am writing on my cell phone not a computer. My apologies. Craziness at work lately but hopefully getting back into regular posting starting Monday.

Separating China from NK is Worth SKs Silence on the South China Sea

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South China Sea

I got this map from here. Very useful. The article below was originally published at the Lowy Institute last week, here.

In short, I don’t mind too much that the Koreans aren’t engaged on the South China Sea freedom of navigation dispute, because keeping their mouths shut and schmoozing the Chinese is necessary to get China to finally cut North Korea loose, which in turn is the only way North Korea will ever collapse. This is why I have never thought much of the criticisms that President Park Geun-Hye is a ‘sinophile.’ If you were South Korea, you would be too. If you lived next to giant China, and they were permanently bailing out your mortal enemy, then sucking up to them (within limits) is a good idea. I am not a big fan of PGH, but she has really gotten the Beijing-Pyongyang nexus right that her predecessors did not. Let her keep flattering Xi Jinping.

So you say that SK is a US ally and they’re getting a free-ride on the US, and therefore they should be involved in the SCS. Fair enough, but think a few steps further out. Getting China to dump Pyongyang is way more valuable than a little more weight on the scales in the SCS. SK can’t add much there, but openly throwing in with the US and Japan on the SCS would push Beijing back to Pyongyang when PGH’s schmoozing and flattering of Xi Jinping has done so much to push them apart. That’s hugely valuable.

Remember that NK will not collapse until China cuts it off, and that NK’s collapse is vastly more valuable to everyone – US included – than one more minor voice in the SCS flap.

The full essay follows the jump.



Last month at The Diplomat, Van Jackson made an important argument about South Korea’s increasingly notable silence freedom of navigation (FON) in the South China Sea (SCS). Jackson, like many analysts, recognizes growing Chinese misbehavior there, most obviously the destabilizing island reclamation strategy and expansive sovereignty claims it fuels. Jackson would like to see greater South Korea engagement (actually, any at all). He rightfully notes that the more unified the Asian front regarding rules in the western Pacific, the more likely China is to moderate.

Where is the ROK in the South China Sea?

South Korea is a US ally. As a trading state heavily dependent on open, safe sea lanes, it has a strong interest in FON rules. As a proximate neighbor of China, it has a similarly strong interest in China’s socialization into a rules-bound regional community. Countries around China’s periphery, from Japan south and west to India, worry that if China is not rebuffed in the East and South China Seas, then a sense of hegemonic dominance in the region may grow in Beijing. These minor conflicts are widely seen as the leading edge of the larger question of regarding China’s regional intentions as it grows ever stronger.

These concerns about China’s integration or rejection of regional rules are, of course, well-known, but Jackson helpfully fingers the growing unease in the US over South Korea’s hedging on China. Besides silence on the SCS question – on which almost every other regional state has weighed-in against China – the South Koreans also quickly signed up for the Chinese-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and they have dragged their feet for years on missile defense deployment (THAAD, or Terminal High Altitude Area Defense).

The corresponding American anxiety is predictable. In Washington, it seems obvious that South Korea should sign up with the US camp regarding China. The Republic of Korea (ROK) is a US ally who spends far less on defense than it otherwise would because of the US commitment. Why should the US provide world-class defense to the ROK without something in return?

Separating China from North Korea is Vastly More Valuable

The ROK’s silence on China in the region, and the trust, or at least credibility, which that brings in Beijing, has a huge benefit not mentioned in Jackson’s essay and elsewhere in this debate: gradually convincing China that it can safely give up its North Korean ‘buffer.’ The current Chinese-North Korean relationship is the coldest it has ever been in the post-Cold War period due to vigorous diplomacy by the current Park Geun-Hye administration and its necessary (if unfortunate) reticence on Chinese regional behavior. This Sino-North Korean drift is a fantastic turn of events which should not be jeopardized with minor South Korean gestures regarding the SCS.

North Korea is not economically self-sufficient – not even close, ironically, given its autarkic ideology. Specifically, North Korea has great trouble feeding its population on its own; the last time it had to, it suffered a famine that killed roughly 10% of its population. Nor can it power its machinery, vehicles, power-grids, and so on without fuel imports. Nor can its decadent elites enjoy the fruits of tyranny – mansions, cars, top-shelf liquor, yachts, and the rest – without a pipeline to the world and access to banks and credit. Permanent subsidization is required.

During the Cold War, the USSR and China were maneuvered into competing for a North Korean ‘tilt’ by sponsoring its inefficient economy. After the Cold War, the US, South Korea and Japan also occasionally subsidized the DRPK as part of various deals (which would invariably collapse). North Korea routinely asks the United Nations and any other country that will listen for aid of almost any sort as well.

But this decades-old ‘aid-hunt’ is slowing exhausting itself. Last year’s definitive UN report on North Korea’s ghastly human rights record makes it harder for UN agencies to assist Pyongyang without crushing criticism in the democratic world. The regionally relevant democracies – Japan, the US, and South Korea – have also been suckered once too often by the North to help again without serious concessions. The South Korean Sunshine Policy has been defeated twice at the polls, and the current US attitude of ‘strategic patience’ means in practice, no aid without verifiable denuclearization, which will not happen. The USSR is gone, and Russia today is too weak, economically stagnant, and underpowered in Asia, to play the supporting role it once did. Other rogues like Iran or Venezuela may sympathize with the North’s aggressive anti-Americanism but can hardly muster the aid flows needed.

That leaves China. China is the last lifeline. It provides the fuel that keeps the lights on and the cars on the road. It looks the other way on sanctions-busting luxury imports. Robust cross-border networks help meet basic needs for food, clothing, and consumer goods for the general population. China provides a location for North Korean financial activities, which are often illicit. Beijing gives diplomatic cover in international organizations, including blocking a referral of Pyongyang to the International Criminal Court. In the language of game theory, China is the final hunter in the ‘stag hunt’ game needed to pin down the North.

To cut this lifeline would almost certainly produce a regime crisis. The population would once again be thrown into the penury of the famine years, while at the top, the cash, lifestyle, and goodies for elites would dry up. Given that Kim family has essentially bought off the army brass for decades to prevent a coup, the prospect of Pyongyang elites turning on each other over a diminishing budgetary and resource pie is arguably the greatest threat to Kimist rule. The Kim family almost certainly senses this vulnerability.

Prioritizing North Korean Collapse

The end of Chinese support is a necessary (if not sufficient) cause for North Korea’s eventual collapse. South Korean President Park’s robust efforts to woo Beijing have helped push China and North Korea apart in the last few years. This is a huge achievement – arguably the most important in her otherwise scandal-laden presidency. For South Korea to weigh-in on the South China Sea would jeopardize this tenuous break-through. Beijing must believe South Korea is at least neutral regarding Chinese power before it will give up Pyongyang. Given that US forces are stationed in South Korea, Park must be flattering Xi Jingping quite a lot, and she has probably bit her tongue on other issues, like the SCS. But ultimately who cares? Cutting Pyongyang off from its last sponsor would be a sea-change and is well worth these costs.

Ideally, South Korea, as a fellow regional democracy and US ally with strong FON interest, would support the regional pushback on China in the SCS. But the realities of Chinese growth force tough choices. As I have argued before, rigid democratic maximalism regarding China will openly provoke it; Asia does not need ideological neocons. The democracies need to find ways to work with the realities of Chinese power without betraying core values. Abandoning Taiwan, for example, is a bridge too far in such accommodation. But in the South China Sea (and AIIB), a bit of South Korean silence or free-riding is a tolerable swap for a much greater gain. The US has many other allies/friends on the SCS issue. Laying the groundwork for the cessation of Chinese support for Pyongyang is of far greater strategic significance to the US, and just about everyone else, than the mild extra weight South Korea could bring on the SCS.

Filed under: Alliances, China, Engagement, Korea (North), Korea (South), South China Sea, Strategy

Robert E Kelly
Assistant Professor
Department of Political Science & Diplomacy
Pusan National University


Rubber Ducky, you're the one!

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photo courtesy of Ondong Kim

After a wonderful morning seeing ancient tombs, a beautiful observatory, dressing up in traditional clothes, and walking through gardens and fields that went on for miles it was suddenly lunch time.  I expected to have to board the bus again and venture 20 minutes or so to our next destination.  Instead, I was more than pleasantly surprised to discover not only was the restaurant directly across the street, but the food was already presented on a giant table in a private room.  Lunch at Guro Ssambab was starting out right!

"A unique part of Korean cuisine, ssambap (쌈밥) is a rice dish served with a variety of vegetable leaves, meat, and side dishes. Rice is wrapped inside a vegetable leaf with meat and topped with condiments. Though ssambap is readily available in many regions, Gyeongju ssambap is characterized by the number and variety of side dishes. Using seasonal ingredients, the servings are always fresh and plentiful. Dozens of ssambap restaurants are located along the road near Daereungwon. 
Price: 9,000~10,000 won per person." -VisitKorea

We learned a few key Korean phrases before digging in.

Above 3 photos courtesy of Ondong Kim

We learned to say some traditional phrases before diving into the food.  There were hamburgers patties, pork dishes, famous Gyeongju Bread (ppang - they're like mini pancakes filled with red bean paste), fish, tons of pickled vegetables, mushrooms and peppers in what appeared to be a thick plum sauce, and a variety of other dishes to mix with our rice and pop into a lettuce wrap.  It was nice to finally sit down with the group and learn more about the Koreans and foreigners with whom we were spending our day.

I really couldn't figure out why they had listed Starbucks on the Trip Schedule until we actually arrived.  This was a rest stop beyond my wildest expectations.  There was a 3-storey Starbucks with beautiful furniture and a top floor balcony overlooking a stunning lake vista.  There was also a Colosseum that seemed to be dedicated entirely to Cafe Bene.  I could spot a large rubber-ducky looking thing in the water, so we had to run down to the "beach" to check it out.

Can you believe it?  We even got gourmet Macarons as part of our trip!

We had a wicked time relaxing and taking in the view while getting a little silly with our hosts.  This was the perfect rest stop to really prepare for what came next: Bulguksa Temple.

*Remember when I said this was a 3-part series?  Sue me - I have too many pictures.

** Please don't sue me...

Explore Suwon Castle in Korea

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Did you know that Korea has castles? Let's explore Suwon Castle with my friend Jisun, and we’ll show you what it’s like to take a trip into Korea’s past.

Check out the video below!

The post Explore Suwon Castle in Korea appeared first on Learn Korean with GO! Billy Korean.

 Learn Korean with GO! Billy Korean





Classic Korean highway rest area’s food you must not miss!

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highway food

Driving or taking a bus on the highway is the cheapest way to travel Korea. However, it takes pretty long time to drive, making drivers tired and hungry. So let us introduce Korean highway rest area’s food you must eat in order to lighten up your driving! The number of menu being served in many Korean highway rest areas is increasing, yet there are steady-selling menus that highway visitors enjoy a lot. These are the menu you must try!

Grilled Food

Before you enter the inside of a highway rest area building, you can see many vendors selling grilled food. These are the menus that people imagine with when they think about the highway rest area’s snack. Most of people bring them to their cars and eat them while they are driving. They are around 2,000 to 5,000 won. If you have companies, why don’t you guys buy different snacks and share them?

Grilled butter potato is the most popular menu of all.
It is the smell of the grilled squid that makes people go crazy when they visit highway rest areas.
Butter corns are kids’ favorite items

Skewer food

As much as the grilled items, skewer snacks are beloved, especially by children. When you order a skewer snack, the person at the vendor starts frying or making the skewer snack in front of you. You would probably not be able to describe the joy of biting freshly fried skewer snack. There are many kinds of skewer snacks from a fish skewer to a chicken skewer. I bet you are tempted to spend all of your money to taste every skewer in the vendors.

This chicken skewer is usually covered with sweet red pepper sauce.
You can taste shrimp, squid, and fish in a seafood skewer.
This is a Korean style hot dog. Instead of soft bread, a Korean hot dog is fried with crispy dough wrapping a piece sausage.


If you have time to sit and have a somewhat proper meal, go inside the highway rest area. You can find a food court serving numerous menus that probably makes you confusing. Try our recommended menus first, if you haven’t. Unlike the food we introduced above, the menus below cost around 7,000 ~ 8,000 won. Due to the crowd, it may take some time to get your food after ordering, so check how much time you can spend at the highway rest area.

pork curtlet
Usually, pork cutlet in highway rest area restaurants are big enough for 2 people.
Ramyeon is one of the menus you can get the fastest after ordering.
tofu soup
You also can have a full meal like tofu soup with side dishes.

Food is an important part of traveling. We bet you will find something at a highway rest area that could maximize your travel fun.

As a bonus, these are highway rest areas with unique characteristics that you may find interesting to visit.

Donghae (meaning East Sea) highway rest area in Donghae highway (East Sea direction) is a well-known place to enjoy the panorama of the vast East Sea. You can take pictures with the background of breathtaking East Sea and send a post card for free to those whom you want to share your feeling of travel.

donghae highway stop
Donghae highway rest area is right next to the East Sea.

Bosung green tea highway rest area in Namhae (meaning South Sea) highway (Gwangyang direction) utilizes a green tea concept from Bosung area, the biggest green tea farm in Korea. Photo zones with green tea farm background are available. Trees with many light bulbs are installed in the highway rest area, which makes a night visit more memorable. Also, you can enjoy many menus based on Green tea.

bosung highway stop
You can find many green tea products in Bosung green tea highway rest area.

a service for travelers to easily share and discover the latest hip & hot travel spots from all over the world. 
We are currently focusing on Korea as our destination and plan to expand to other countries gradually. 

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