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Korea, the First

I’m going to base this blog around my pictures, instead of the other way around for once.

We arrived at Fukuoka airport at around 7:30pm. Apparently no one flies at 7:30pm on a Friday because the airport was deserted.

Our flight had two flight numbers, I’m guessing because it was a connecting flight from somewhere else.

I knew I had gotten out of Nakatsu and into a big city when the first thing I saw at the Incheon airport in Seoul was Dunkin’ Donuts. We only have Mr. Donut in Nakatsu…

My first real experience with Hangul, the Korean written language, occurred as we came out through immigration and I looked back to see the arrival board

One of the first things we did when we arrived at the airport was change out money. I changed 30,000 yen, which is approximately $300 dollars. In Korean wan that comes to 387,000. Big money!

We arrived at our hotel at around midnight, so there was not much else to do but sleep. In the morning entirely intimidated by being in a foreign country without knowing any of the language, I ordered the American breakfast. They got the main ideas right, though the execution could have used some more practice.

After breakfast we set off to meet the bus which would begin our half day tour around the city. I then realized it had been nearly six months since I had been in a major city with tall buildings.

We boarded our bus, which was extremely flamboyantly decorated. There were six other passengers besides our group of 10.

When I saw this huge poster I knew I had arrived in Korea. Korea is notoreous for having serious issues with video game addiction, mostly owing to the game Starcraft. It’s so serious a few months ago the government placed limits on the amount of video games young adults were allowed to play, specifically naming a few games, one of which was starcraft. I believe World of Warcraft also made the list.

Our tour bus took us about a kilometer away to the ancient Royal palace of Korea’s king. It had shades of Japanese architecture (or I should really say Japanese architecture has shades of Korean since most of Japan’s culture comes either directly or indirectly from Korea) but the differences were also quite noticeable.

The Royal Palace is located right in the middle of Seoul, meaning views like this, with 600 year old buildings backed by 10 year old skyscrapers are not uncommon.

Korea has its roots in China like most other Asian countries, meaning they too use Chinese characters. They actually removed Chinese characters from their language for a while and used only their own script, but have begun to bring it back recently because it was becoming an issue when young Koreans could not read any documents older than 20 years.

Guards stood outside the gates doing what they do best: standing and guarding.

I didn’t catch from the our Japanese guide what this building was, but it’s so big it has to be important.

There were lots of different kinds of stone sculptures all around the palace grounds.

As well as some interesting woodwork.

What struck me even more was their use of bricks along with their wooden structures.

There were numerous interesting brick patterns scattered about.

The palace grounds were massive.

After our tour of the palace grounds we had a half our break and we stepped into a traditional Korean coffee shop. There’s Furukado sensei and Miyagaki sensei, our Korea expert.

Following our coffee we boarded the bus again and on the way I played peekaboo with the Nana, the five year old daughter of one of my teachers.

We then had the choice of going shopping or drinking some real traditional Korean tea. We chose the tea option. Here we are enjoying a summer specialty tea, infused with summer fruits.

Following our tea our tour was finished and we headed back to the hotel to rest up for the second part of our day.

We gathered again after a quick break and headed back into Seoul for lunch. We had delicious kimchi nabe and some Korean beer (which is barely water.)

After lunch we explored some of Seoul’s busier streets.

And we checked out Seoul’s Woman’s college, which also has an elementary, junior high, and high school. You could technically spend your entire life as a student at this place. To top it off, it’s one of the most prestigious in Korea.

At 8PM we went to see a traditional Korean musical. Outside the theater was a very interesting and well done sculpture I had to take a picture of. I was not allowed to take pictures of the musical, unfortunately. The production value was excellent.

There ends my first day in Korea! It was an unbelievably long day, and we were on our feet basically from 8am to 12am. You may have noticed this as this is the longest blog post I have ever written. I took so many pictures, but I think this really captures what I experienced there! Stay tuned for part two, where I will round up my experience and leave some final thoughts!


Categories: Pre-Japan
  1. Stu
    July 28, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    Sweet pics!

  2. Peri Bearman
    July 28, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    I prefer a tour like this, without the bus! Great job. Looking forward to part two.

    August 14, 2010 at 3:45 pm

    just wonderful to have this tour of your experience in Seoul.
    the crowded main street and a few outdoor markets are part of my memory bank as well as an historical Museum with ancient styles of clothing.
    re your relationship with Mal and his family… Mal’s mom, Rose was my aunt and mal was my first cousin…your 3rd cousin…peri being the 2nd…..got it?

    keep navigating us with your exciting tours…love

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