Transitions commence new adventures. Make 'em last…
It was 2pm, and after I sent a text message to H. Lee letting her know I was about five metro stops from Suwon, she responded a few minutes later with the question, “What’s your train compartment number?”
I was a little unsure what she meant at the time, but at the next stop I veered outside when the metro doors automatically opened and took a mental note of the designated numbers that are on metal sign cemented into the ground outside each door at every stop. “4-3,” I responded. Within 3o seconds I looked up and was surprised to see H. Lee walking in my direction.
Some of you may be thinking, who is H. Lee? H. Lee is a very friendly and pleasant girl that I met during my stay at Chan’s Guesthouse hostel in Busan last January.
Our friendship has hit it off well and we have since met up for a few fun outings attending two SK Wyverns baseball games in Incheon. In spite of her busy schedule with it being her last year of college, during the most recent baseball game we attended plans were made for me to come down and visit her hometown of Suwon for a quick venture during the Cherry Blossom Festival which is held every year.
Upon reaching Suwon, I expressed the need to grab a cappuccino and a small bite to eat somewhere before we started our trek. She concurred with the same desire and escorted us to her favorite cafe in town: Café Soho.
A cappuccino and waffle was all I wanted, and I soon ascertained that this cafe specialized in making specialty waffles, so I was certainly very well pleased. H. Lee and I entertained ourselves with a subtle conversation amid the chill café while we shared a waffle with cream & strawberries, and once we felt the espresso jump start our systems, we were on our way to Cherry Blossom Festival up the road.
We then listened to some Korean folk music from some very interesting instruments I had never seen before. Can anyone tell me what this instrument is below?
Once we received an ear-full of music, we headed up the hill to catch a wonderful view of Suwon while the weather was still in our favor.
We then headed down the mountain to the other side from where we started and breezed through other festival grounds before we entered the Hwaseong Haenggung Korean Palace. However, on our way from the festival to the palace, I spotted someone drinking from a real coconut and my mouth began to salivate heavily. H. Lee and I then frantically searched through the festival grounds and after tracking down several people holding coconuts and asking them where they purchased them, we finally located the coconut stand. My yearning was immediately relieved in elation while taking my first few sips recalling that it hadn’t been since my vacation to Mazatlan, Mexico in 2002 that I had real coconut juice. H. Lee, on the other hand, expressed that it was her first time drinking from a coconut and wasn’t too enthused at its rather “weird” flavor, but she was a trooper and drank it all with ease. I explained that I didn’t like it very much the first time either, but that the second time was magnificent. Thus, I encouraged her to try it again if she ever encounters coconuts at another festival. If nothing else, it made for some good photos.
As with every palace and temple I’ve visited in Korea, I’ve always been astounded and fascinated with the detailed aesthetic work put in to make them beautiful, fully recognizing the skilled craftsmanship and extended amount of time to ensure their creation. At the Hwaseong Haenggung Korean Palace, I encountered some of the same aesthetic patterns and tapestries I’ve seen at other palaces and temple, but some I did not.
After walking through the rather large palace grounds and then through Suwon’s “north-gate” on our way to grab dinner, I then asked H. Lee “Do you know of a cool, chill bar where we can grab one drink after dinner before I have to head back to Gimpo?”
“Sure,” she responded. We then grabbed a quick dinner and were on our way to a “chill” bar of her choosing.
I didn’t catch the name of the joint upon entering or exiting (“Red Rooster”), but I was surely in for a surprise after I walked up the narrow, furtive stairway and saw what I saw.
It was as if I entered a time-warp and was back in Granada, Spain. This hookah lounge was almost an exact replica of the many hookah lounges I used to frequent quite regularly during my super long stay in Granada. Wow! I’m still in amazement now and cannot get over the fact that this place was so similar. To top it off, Spanish flamenco music was even playing in the background our entire time there. It was so surreal and I couldn’t help but feel a little nostalgic; however, I was having a great time with my new friend H. Lee and it was going to be her first time trying hookah.
She showed a little apprehension at first, but once I explained how it worked and that it’s rather clean and not harmful, in addition to showing her my “disappearing act,” she took a chance and became an instant natural.
After relishing the great tasting tobacco and talking for a few, very enjoyable hours, it was time for me head back to Gimpo even though I didn’t wish to at the time. It was such a relaxing evening and I didn’t want it to end, but I knew that it wouldn’t be the last time we’d meet up together and have a good time.
Upon exiting from the hookah lounge more interesting things caught my eye and I couldn’t resist taking a few more shots.
I hope to visit Suwon again soon…