S: Korea Trip 2009
BC: Views of Seoul
FC: Our Trip to Korea | June 2009
1: We took our trip with an adoption agency out of Minnesota. First, we flew from Detroit to Minneapolis. We met the group in Minneapolis. Then flew to Oregon then Japan. The flight to Japan was longer than anticipated because of a volcano eruption in Russia that we had to fly around. By the time we got to Japan, we missed our connection to Korea. So we ended up spending the night there. The next afternoon we made our way over to Korea. The plane was very nice; it had good food and a tv screen on every seat. You could watch whatever you wanted. We could have stayed on that flight longer!
2: The Korean airport looks very modern from the outside. It was then a bit of a shock to go into a bus that looked like it came from the 70's with fringe and all! | It was night by the time we got into Seoul. We checked into the hotel and then went to see the bustling shopping district of Myeong-dong. There were more people there than Times Square!
3: The next day we had the option of going to a cooking class or going to see the Demilitarized Zone(DMZ). So we, of course, decided to split up! | Jay saw the DMZ museum which told the story of the Korean war and the history behind the split of Korea. It was surprising to find out that Korea is still technically at war.
4: After walking into one of the underground tunnels in the DMZ, Jay saw a train station that was the closest point to North Korea and a military outpost that has a view of North Korea.
5: That night we opted for an overnight stay with a host family. There was a girl about our age that spoke English, so that made it easier to communicate. They made a huge meal for us that was very good. | Then they took us to a traditional sauna where people go to relax. It was very different than the spas we are used to seeing. We found it funny later to see the 2 boys playing soccer on Playstation 3 just like Jay has at home.
6: The next morning the family took us to a local temple that was up in the mountains.
7: There was also some interesting architecture. The bathroom was built to resemble a piano. When you walked up the stairs, different notes sounded. | We also went to see a park that had Korea's tallest waterfall!
8: That afternoon we went with the tour group to Insa-dong market. It is basically one long narrow street with lots of shops. There were art galleries, tea shops, and or course tourist trinkets. | We had dinner at a nice restaurant where each table made their own soup and bulgogi. The restaurant supplied lots of side dishes for us. | After that we went to see a traditional Korean music and dance performance. It was very interesting for us to watch the instrumentalists in action as well as the dancers in costume.
9: The next morning we went to visit the Eastern Social Welfare Society, the adoption agency that Jay's parents worked with to adopt him. | This picture shows all of the adopted Koreans in our group along with the adoption agency workers who welcomed us back to Korea.
10: We saw the room where all of the adoption files were kept. There were also multiple rooms with babies waiting to be adopted. They provided us with a huge buffet lunch. We were even able to talk with the president of the agency a bit.
11: We had some free time in the afternoon, so we met up with Do-Yeon, a girl Jay knew from CMU. She took us to see the Korean Folk Village in Seoul.
12: The Korean Folk village was a replica of how the homes used to look. They were built in a rectangle with a center courtyard. They were designed to hold up against intruders as well as to help with natural airflow.
13: Below is an example of what the kitchen looked like. | They tended to keep the furniture clustered against the wall and would move it around as needed. The rooms served several different functions.
14: Then we went to a restaurant that specialized in one of our favorite dishes, bimbimbop! It was located in Myeong-dong, where we went the first night in Korea. It is busy no matter what time of day.
15: In the evening we went to see the Seoul Tower. There is a revolving restaurant at the top. We didn't go up to the top, but we took some good pictures from the tower's base.
16: The next day we went to visit the main palace in Seoul. To the right is the gate to get into the complex. It is very strange to see this gate amongst lots of people, cars and tall buildings. | Above is the throne room and beautiful gardens and ponds. To the right is the main palace. It looks like it is 2 stories, but it just has a tall ceiling.
17: That afternoon we took the high speed train to Taegu. Then buses to Haeinsa. The buses had to go up into the mountains on very narrow roads. We had a lot of respect for the drivers after that nervous trip. At our hotel we could choose western or traditional style rooms. We choose the traditional and found a big, almost empty room. We wondered where the bed was and then found it stacked in the corner! We were pretty sore in the morning without our usual sleeping support.
18: In the morning we went to visit the temple there in Haeinsa. We saw many pagodas that commemorated important monks.
19: This temple is home to the Tripitaka Koreana, which are Buddhist scriptures that were carved into wood blocks for printing. This important Buddhist relic was given the UNESCO world heritage rank status. It was very impressive to hear how they keep them safe from the elements without any modern technology. There are more than 500 monks that live there. We also got to see a traditional drumming ceremony.
20: That afternoon we went to a local elementary school where we tried making pottery. We also really enjoyed learning how to play the Kaiyagum. It is a traditional string instrument that is plucked.
21: The next day we took the buses back to Taegu. The bus drivers were kind enough to stop at a lookout where we could get a good view of what the farms and rice paddies looked like.
22: This is the place that Jay was cared for before heading to Seoul as a future adoptee. To the left was a Mary statue donated by the American Military. It is now a Montessori type school with multiple buildings. Much larger than we had expected from the picture we had. Below is the school/convent's historical museum.
23: We were given a school tour of some of the classrooms that were possibly where Jay was as a baby. They were all very friendly. Then later, we rejoined the group to visit a birth mother's home and had a Q/A session with expectant mothers. It was a very emotional and revealing time of sharing for both sides.
24: The next morning, after driving to Gyeongju, we went to visit the Pulkukasa Temple | The paint was not kept up as nice as some of the other temples we saw, but it was still impressive.
25: We also saw the Royal Burial Mounds. They were a lot like Egyptian tombs because they buried their treasures with them. They had excavated one of the mounds so that we could see what it contained. We felt bad thinking of the people that had to mow the mounds!
26: In the afternoon we went to the Golgul Temple, Korea's only cave temple. It was carved in the 6th century! Only the young people from our group went up to see it because you had to climb up the mountain with only a couple of ropes for railings!
27: The monks there specialize in a form of zen martial arts called Sunmudo. They gave us an impressive demonstration and taught us a few moves too. Then we participated in a traditional tea ceremony.
28: After a long hike from the bus, we came to the Seokguram Grotto. It is a building that holds a statue of Buddha that was sculpted in the 8th century. It is also on the UNESCO world heritage list.
29: These are some pictures from the National Museum with many artifacts from the area. Above is a ancient petroglyph of a hunter and animals from the Silla period.
30: In the afternoon we went to go visit the village of Kamp'o on the Eastern Sea. The shore line was beautiful. There were also lots of people selling fresh fish. One vendor sold alcohol so our tour guide and at least half our bus was "tipsy". So, on the bus ride back, it was time to break out the karaoke. Jay even started off the singing!
31: The next day we traveled back to Seoul on the bus. That evening we walked around the city by ourselves. The next morning we went to the Namdaemun market where there were tons of street vendors crammed into very narrow streets. It was easy to get lost there! Later we met up with Do-Yeon again. She took us to visit her home.
32: There was a clear view of the Han river from their apartment. Her mom made us a very nice lunch. It was great to be able to visit with someone we knew while we were there.
33: Then we had a farewell dinner at our hotel. Jane was the group leader and she led the thank yous for our tour guides and bus drivers. | Here was a final group shot after dinner. It was an unforgettable trip for us and we hope to go back again soon.