Cultural Trip to Seoul

Trip Start Aug 25, 2012
Trip End Feb 25, 2013

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Saturday, October 27, 2012

Chungnam Province organized a Cultural Trip through Seoul to show the Native English Teachers some of the more famous cultural sites. I woke up early on Saturday morning to catch the bus to Cheonan where we would be picked up to go to Seoul. I got on the bus and watched the rainy scenery pass me by for the hour that it took to get to my destination. It was easy to find our group and soon we were all packed onto chartered buses headed to Seoul. I was lucky enough to be assigned to the same bus as my bus buddy, Nicola, from the Jinju Lantern Festival trip. We cuddled into our seats, chatting with the other people on the bus as we wove through thick traffic.
We stopped for lunch once we were in Seoul, all of us clambering out into the rain and flooding a small chicken restaurant. We were served a lovely dish that consisted of a chicken (or maybe more like a Cornish hen) that was stuffed full of rice, dates, and ginseng root and cooked in broth. It was delicious, warm, and incredibly filling.
Out into the street we went and off to the Gyongbokgun Palace. At this point it was pouring and we huddled under our umbrellas and donned our cheap, plastic rain coats. We were at the palace for a surprisingly long time, barely hearing our tour guide over the patter of rain on our umbrellas. We slopped through puddles, trying to admire the lovely buildings through the sheets of rain. Occasionally we would take shelter under the overhang of a palace building, but most of our time was spent in the rain. 
Eventually it was time to go and we were all more than happy to get onto the warm dry bus. My shoes had soaked through completely and I peeled off my socks to try to work the circulation back into my toes. A short bus ride later and we were out into the rain again (shoes back on) and into the streets. 
This time we were headed to a dance performance, but none of us really understood what it would be about. After seeing it I'm still not exactly sure what it was about. Basically it was Koreans doing hip hop dance, but with a sort of plot line that ran through it. The idea was that there was a guy who was trying to woo a girl by dancing for her... but he can't dance. Finally he learns to dance from a dream and then wins the girl's heart with his mad awesome moves. It was interesting, strange, and really pretty hilarious. 
 Back onto the bus we went and into the cold, rainy night. We were all hungry and eager to get to dinner. We were brought to what we were assured was a super fancy restaurant and seated at our tables. We listened, slightly impatiently, to a couple of lectures about being teachers, before the food was served. Course after course came out and each one was more delicious than the last. Soups and sea food and meat came in a constant stream to our table and we gorged ourselves on all of it. At the end of the meal we were treated with a traditional music performance which slowly turned into not so traditional music. We giggled as we heard them planing classics like Ob-la-di Ob-la-da.
But, we were not done yet, we had more things left to do. So, we got on the bus as it wove our way through the night time streets up to Seoul Tower. In the basement of Seoul Tower there is, apparently, a Teddy Bear Museum. Now, you might think that this is a museum about teddy bears... but, in fact, it is a Museum about the history of Korea that is enacted by teddy bears. Yep, you heard that right, enacted by teddy bears. This means teddy bear kings ruling from teddy bear thrones and teddy bear soldiers defending teddy bear temples. It. Was. Hilarious.
Once we had exhausted the Teddy Bear Museum we took the elevator up to the top of Seoul Tower. We wandered around, looking down at the view of the glowing city. 
We were hurried on to the bus and brought to the Best Western in downtown Seoul. Due to a little confusion, I ended up getting a room all to myself (Johan isn't a girl's name... whoops!). I showered and changed and got myself ready for a night on the town. I'm not going to stay in during Halloween weekend.
Although Korea doesn't really celebrate Halloween, Seoul is an international city and there would be plenty of partying to do. I got into a cab with Collins, William, and Ben and we cruised over to Hongdae Park where the party was already underway. We wandered through the crowded park, admiring costumes on Koreans and foreigners alike. Ben and I got separated from the group, but we weren't terribly worried about it.  I spotted a group of foreigners in costumes taking a picture and I casually slid in behind them, grinning at the camera as the shutter clicked. I told Ben what I had just done and we suddenly had our mission for the night: Photo Bomb! We walked through the park, sliding into the backgrounds of as many pictures as we could. With everyone in costume, people were clicking pictures all night long and we were having a blast trying to get into the group shots without getting caught. It was seriously some of the most fun I have had. 
Eventually William found us in the crowd and told us that we were moving on. We walked a few blocks and then found a club that looked like fun. We went down the stairs into the hot, foggy basement club and were immediately struck by the loud, pulsing music. Drinks were ordered from costumed bar tenders and we set to dancing. The place was more than packed and it was impossible not collide with the other patrons in the bar. But it didn't matter, everyone was there for the same reason and every single person in the place was dancing. Tequila shots, fog machine, strobe lights, new friends. Everyone was dancing with everyone and the place was a crush of sweating bodies. 
Finally Ben turned to me and shouted about the thud of bass that it was after 3. Korea doesn't have bar time. Oops! We had to be awake in just a few hours to continue on with our tour of Seoul. We hurried out of the club and into a cab to get back to our hotel.  I left Ben smoking on the sidewalk and got onto the elevator with an exhausted looking guy who I recognized as someone from our tour group. He looked at me with bleary eyes and asked me if I knew where John was sleeping. Um... I don't even know who John is. He told me his sob story of how his room mate was snoring so loud that he couldn't sleep through it and that he was looking for somewhere to crash. I hesitated for a moment, but I knew that I have been in situations like that and it sucks. I informed him of my lack of room mate and told him he could sleep in my room (separate beds) and he gladly took me up on my offer. We were both fast asleep as soon as we hit our respective pillows.

 I woke, bleary eyed, on Sunday morning and quickly got ready to go. A brief continental breakfast (no waffles?!) and then on to the bus. We were brought to the National Museum of Korea and attached to a tour guide who would explain the historical artifacts to us. The Museum is beautiful and filled with a whole lot of amazing things. Unfortunately we were rushed through to meet our schedule so I will have to go back sometime in order to truly take in everything that it has to offer. We cruised through pottery and calligraphy, through furniture and paintings. All of it was beautiful and fascinating, but it went by in a blur
 After our brief tour we were brought to an adjacent building for a pottery class. We were supposed to be making dragon bowls, but because I don't follow directions very well I made a flower instead. We giggled as we goofed around with our clay, trying hard not to get our clothes dirty like school children. I have to say that I was pretty impressed with what my peers made, we are a pretty talented bunch. 
After we ate lunch, most of the Dangjin group decided to head home early, leaving the tour group behind at the Museum. If we stayed with the tour group we would be arriving back in Dangjin late Sunday evening and most of us were pretty exhausted. We took the subway to the bus terminal and the bus back to Dangjin. I was glad to get back at a reasonable time to get some rest before my next big adventure.
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Mom on

Wow, you really pack a lot into a weekend! You know me - one of my favorite photos is the broken pottery. I'm glad you're enjoying so much of the culture of Korea - these are memories you'll never forget. Keep it up and please continue to share your experiences with us.

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