Every summer for several summers we headed across S. Korea from Seoul to what the Koreans call the East Sea, but the rest of the world calls the Japan Sea because they have some of the most beautiful beaches in the world and beautiful mountains side by side. We love to go over there because we get the best of both worlds in one trip. However, this year was different. Last year, we spent a week at Sokcho Beach unable to go outside and really enjoy the beach because it rained all week. This year, we worried about rain too. On top of that, my daughter’s university decided to schedule a major exam for her right in the middle of her vacation from her job. Last year’s vacation got messed up because of the rain, and we were scared this year would be messed up too. However, we were able to overcome. I suggested to them for us not to go as far as the east coast and to find a hotel with a pool, then come back soon for her to take her exam. From this suggestion, grew a great idea. My son in law knew about places called pool villas, and he wanted to stay in a pool villa, so we did. There were so many reservations that we could only get one night, but it was worth it.
We had lots of space, even a kitchen which we have learned is normal in Korean hotels.
The big free standing air conditioner stood in the living room, and they had another one on the wall in the bedroom. These things are expensive to run in Korea, but the whole suite was cooled.
We drove into the mountains in Gyeonggi Province on winding roads that wound around and around up into the mountains far away from where anyone lived. Gyeonggi Province is so big that it completely surrounds Seoul. Anywhere you leave Seoul, you end up in Gyeonggi Province, but we went south of Seoul. We came to an area called Gapyeong, not a town, but an area of land. We followed the narrow winding road all the way to the end, and at the end, there was a place called Stone Dog Village. Stone Dog Village is a pool villa. It is like a nice hotel in the mountains with suites of rooms.
Even though the suites were small, the rooms were spacious. As we went in, the air conditioning was off and it seemed sweltering, but we found an air conditioner both in the living room and the bedroom. We turned them on, and soon got cool. We began looking for the pool. We were told there was a pool outside, and there should be something in our room. There were two places you could go outside in the living room. One door led to a balcony, and the other led to a small glass room with what my son in law called a hinoki in it.
I wasn’t sure what he was talking about, so I looked it up on the computer. Hinoki is a kind of tree only grown in Japan. There was a huge rectangular hot tub made of Hinoki wood. The wood was fragrant. There was a lovely smell in the room, and we left the door open to the living room to let the smell come into the living room too. I had smelled it before and began trying to remember where I had smell it because it was a beautiful smell, and then I remembered I had smelled it when I was in Japan, but back then, I didn’t know it was the wood that was smelling so good. My son in law said the Koreans called this kind of hot tub a hinoki. There was a faucet on the side of it, so I suggested early on that we go ahead and turn it on because it was going to take time to fill that thing up. It took several hours to fill it up.
We decided that while it was filling up we should look for the outdoor pool because the website had shown a picture of an outdoor pool too, but it started raining, so we didn’t go looking for the pool. There was a large flat screened TV in the living room with a kind of Korean thing like Net Flix, but not Net Flix on it, so we decided to see if they had any good movies while we waited on the hinoki to fill and the rain to stop. We found a good movie and relaxed. My daughter put on her bathing suit, got her philosophy book, and went to sit in the hinoki to read while it filled. I looked at her book. She was reading things like Plato, Nietzsche, etc., and it was all pleasure reading for her. She is a computer major at the university, not a philosophy major.
My son in law ate and ate and ate, then he ate some more and complained that we didn’t bring enough food. He ate donuts, cupcakes, chips, guacamole, candy, cherry tomatoes, etc. etc. He was indiscriminate. He ate everything continually. I would get sick if I tried to eat as much as he eats.
Finally, the hinoki was filled. We put on our bathing suits and joined my daughter in the hinoki. I am naturally buoyant and always have been, and I had trouble just sitting on the bottom. The minute I relaxed, I began floating up. My daughter decided to turn music on with her cell phone. She began with Elvis Presley’s “G.I. Blues” because it is one of my son in law’s favorites. She played it again and again, then she decided to change the song to “La Bamba!”, a Spanish song that I sing with the microphone at the singing room, so everyone else has learned it from me and love it. After playing that several times, she began playing Abba songs. We recently saw Mama Mia 2, and we loved it! We were enjoying singing along to the songs as we soaked in the hot tub.
After a bit, they decided to get out and give me space because they could see I had trouble staying on the bottom. They made a comment that they didn’t think I would ever drown, and I know they are right. I volunteered to get out, and they told me no. They wanted me to completely enjoy myself because they were. They sat on the side with their legs dangling in the hinoki singing, and I relaxed and floated in the hinoki. It was wide and long enough to be completely comfortable. After at bit, I got out and insisted they get back in, and they did, and then I took pictures of them playing in the hinoki.
After we played several hours in the hinoki, we decided to get out. My daughter and son in law went out for a romantic walk in the mountains in the moonlight since the rain had stopped. I was tired, and I stayed in the room watching Star Trek on my phone because I was having trouble getting the TV to work. When they got back, my son in law got the TV figured out again and put another movie on. We watched until it was time to sleep.
We had to check out the next day. It was a short trip, but a nice one. Something very unique about Korea, is no matter where you are, they expect you to recycle. In hotels in America, you just make sure you pack all your stuff up and leave. but not so in Korea. You have to recycle before you leave. We left the pool villa and headed back down out of the mountains and back to Seoul. We are going to make better plans next time so we can stay longer the next time we stay in a pool villa. We decided to eat lunch on the way home, and my next blog is about where we ate lunch.