Wander Pi Wednesdays: Smiles & Laughs

Every Wednesday, I’ll be sharing one of my favorite photos from my travels.

As travelers, we often find that people with the least amount of things tend to be the happiest. Last year, I was lucky enough to explore the far reaches of the stunning Palawan Province in the Philippines where I stumbled upon these two happy boys playing in the sand.

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Palaces of Seoul

Seoul is usually known for its urban sprawl, skyscrapers, and neon lights; however, there are numerous historical treasures spread throughout this city of ten million plus people. Seoul was founded in 18 B.C. and has developed a storied history over the past 2,000 years. It was the capital of Korea even during the Joseon Dynasty and the Korean Empire. The city is home to four UNESCO World Heritage Sites; including Changdeokgung, one of Seoul’s Five Grand Palaces, and my personal favorite.

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The Grand Palaces were built by the kings of the Joseon Dynasty who ruled the peninsula for nearly five centuries. Unfortunately, many of the palaces were damaged or destroyed by the Japanese during their invasion of Korea. Some of the original structures however still stand today and many portions have been restored to their former glory.

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My favorites are Changdeokgung and Gyeongbokgung because of their peaceful gardens and city backdrop. Changdeokgung is the smaller of the two, but is identified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is also more secluded and has a tranquil pond and garden which makes you feel as if you’re miles away from the hectic streets of Seoul. Changdeokgung was the most favored palace of the Joseon Kings and it’s easy to see why. The structures blend more naturally with the surrounding landscape and appear to be less contemporary than those at Gyeongbokgung. I thoroughly enjoyed wandering around the palace grounds as I found it to be very peaceful.

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Gyeongbokgung is the largest of the Five Grand Palaces and is probably the most prominent due to the fact that it was the main royal palace of the Joseon Dynasty. The main draw of Gyeongbokgung is The Royal Guard-Changing Ceremony which takes place 6 times a day from 10:00 to 15:00 at every o’clock except Tuesday. The ceremony is a rare treat which allows one to experience a traditional display of Korean culture. You’ll surely love watching the straight faced guards as they march around with their epic beards that would surely put even Brooklyn’s finest hipster to shame. It was a unique cultural experience which I found to be highly entertaining.

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The palaces are a beautiful cultural experience and easily accessible by the Seoul Metro, just hop off at the Gyeongbokgung, Gwanghwamun, or Anguk Stations where both palaces are just a short walk. I highly recommend adding these sights to your itinerary when visiting Seoul.

A Place Called Home

There’s a popular quote that says, “home is where the heart is.” If so, my heart must be scattered about several different places. I tend to agree more with the phrase, “home is where the head lays.” It’s simple and just makes more sense to me. For I have the tendency to fall in love with nearly every place I visit or live.

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As travelers and expats living abroad, we’re constantly seeking the new and unfamiliar. We’re always dreaming of our new next destination and big adventure. Our homes back home (where we’re born and raised) no longer challenge or excite us. Thus, we travel and live abroad to experience something new, to lay our head down in someplace strange and foreign. We travel to seek knowledge and to immerse ourselves in the local culture. To imagine it’s our home even just for a day. The more we wander the more we realize home can be just about anywhere. We realize that most people around the world are genuinely kind and want the same things out of life.

Yet, there are still moments even in our lives when we seek the familiarity and comfort of our own beds, whether it be Hong Kong, South Korea, or the United States. The place where the majority of the things we currently own reside. In reality though, we know these places won’t be home forever and we’re okay with that. As long as we can live, love, laugh, and explore, home is possible anywhere.

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However, we often need to remind ourselves to stay in touch with our family and friends in their homes back home. In the end, we may travel far and wide, but it’s important to stay connected with our loved ones because family and friendship is more than a home. What’s the point of having experiences if you don’t have anyone to share them with. Even though our heads may lay in different places and where we call home is not the same, we must take the time to say hello, exchange our thoughts, share our experiences, and say how much we care.

I’ve been living in Asia for nearly four years now and I’m still loving every minute of it. Hong Kong is currently where I lay my head. It’s the place I call home at this moment in time.

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I started this blog in order to have an avenue to write about the amazing places I’ve been and to share my own thoughts and insights about these incredible places. I hope you enjoy!