Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Seoul and the Family

Sorry it's been so long since our last post. We had had a busy past month! We are so blessed that Alaina's father, mother, and grandmother came from Texas to visit us in Korea! It was a wonderful, fun-filled trip. We met them in Seoul for the weekend, then headed to the city of Gyeongju, then finally home to Busan. Everyday was action-packed: We began our tour at the Korean War Museum in Seoul. There were tons of exhibits on the history of Korea and the wars in its past. Alaina's grandfather (Mueller) was a medical doctor in Korea during the Korean War, so it was extremely interesting to see the different exhibits and read about his role during the war.

The Cherry Blossoms were in full bloom in Seoul mid-April, so it was great timing to see these beautiful trees.

The Han River separates the northern part of Seoul with the southern (newer) part of the city. We took a river boat cruise in the afternoon down the Han River. It was interesting to see the perspective from the river, but it was cold and windy, so we were ready to get off the boat after the hour cruise. You can see the Han River in the background.

On Sunday, we visited Myeong-dong Cathedral and attended one of their Korean masses.

We did a lot of shopping in Seoul! Every area we toured had a market of some kind. Here we are at Insadong. It is famous for its quaint tea shops and cobblestone streets. The area was dotted with food vendors and jewelry sellers.

This area is called Bukchon Hanok Village. Many of the traditional style of houses are preserved here with residents still living in them.

There is a stream that flows through Seoul. Cheonggye runs for 10km long and has nice sidewalks on each side of the stream (much like the Riverwalk in San Antonio). One night, we caught an interesting light show created by lasers projected off mist.

There are many different religions in Korea. It is easily divide in to 3 parts--Buddhist, Christian and other. There are Buddhist temples throughout the city and tucked into the mountains. We visited Jogyesa Temple in the middle of the city. No, we did not bow down or worship the fat, gold buddha.

Seoul Tower stands tall on a mountain in the city. It is visible from most parts of the city. We took a cable car up the mountain at night to catch beautiful views of the city. You could see lights for miles in every direction!

Here mom stands on a bench at the top of the mountain near the tower. Behind her are thousands of locks on a fence. Each lock has names or phrases on it. You write your name or wish on the lock and hook it on the fence (for luck or "lovers").
There are many palaces in Seoul. Here we are at Gyeongbokgung Palace. First constructed in 1394 and reconstructed in 1867, it was the main and largest palace of the Five Grand Palaces built by the Joseon Dynasty. The name of the palace, Gyeongbokgung, translates in English as "Palace Greatly Blessed by Heaven." It was almost destroyed by the Japanese government in the early 20th century. Today, about 40 percent of the original number of palace buildings still stand or are being reconstructed.

Our final day in Seoul we went on a tour of Cheong Wa Dae ("The Blue House"). It is the equivalent of America's White House. The Blue House consists of the Main Office Hall, the Presidential Residence, the State Reception House, Press Hall, and the Secretariat Buildings. The entire complex covers approximately 250,000 . (About 62 acres) Since the tour was in Korean, they provided us with an audio tour in English as we walked around the extremely secure grounds with guards.
After our tour of the Blue House, we hoped on a train and left Seoul for the ancient city of Gyeongju. It was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Silla (57 BC – 935 AD) which ruled most of the Korean Peninsula between the 7th and 9th centuries. Many archaeological sites and cultural properties from this period remain in the city. Gyeongju is often referred to as "the museum without walls". The tombs of the kings from the Silla Dynasty were built here (the grassy hills in the background).
Some of the tombs allow visitors to enter. Here is the entrance of one of the tombs.
This is another palace in Gyeongju. Behind us in Anapji Pond, where it is said that the king did much of his meditation and relaxation. Gyeongju was a very peaceful city, aside from the hundreds of school children we ran in to on field trips!
We headed back to Busan after a couple days in Gyeongju. Our first stop was at an ammunition plant. This company makes all of the ammunition for the Korean military, as well as many of the bullets we buy for sport hunting. Cool!

Here we are enjoying a popular Korean meal called "Samgupsal". They provide each table with huge pieces of bacon-like meat like you cook on the grill in the middle of your table. You have many different sauces and extras you can add to your meat before wrapping it in a lettuce leaf. Yum!
Busan is a coastal city, so we are surrounded by beaches. We spent the afternoon at a popular beach, Gwangalli. God gave us a beautiful weekend to enjoy strolling the beach!

We took our family to the famous Jalgalchi Fish Market (for more photos of this, see the earlier post). The bottom level of the fish market is all live, fresh catches of any fish or sea creature you can imagine! We picked out our lunch and watched as they took our choices up to the second level which is full of small restaurants that will cook your meal right there. Our selection included flounder, crab and prawns. Talk about fresh food!
One of Alaina's co-teachers joined us for a day at the market. He brought his beautiful daughter, Hana, along. Nana and Hana enjoyed some bonding time together :)
Hana really loves yogurt!

Busan has it's own tower, yet it is not at the stature of Seoul's tower. Busan Tower soars up 120 meters high standing on a 69-meter high hilltop. This observation tower gives an awesome bird's-eye view of the entire city of Busan including islands and ships dotted in the distant seas.

We had a great time with our family here and feel so blessed that they made this long journey to see us. If anyone is interested in coming to Korea, please let us know. We love having visitors!!