Monday, April 1, 2013

Korea Trip

 My day began with waking up at 3am in order to make it in time for my early morning flight to DFW.  After a few hours at DFW, I excitedly boarded my plane for a non-stop flight to Seoul-Incheon airport. My excitement didn't last long. Have you ever been on a 15 hour flight? Let's just say the time on the aircraft was not the highlight of the trip. Korean Air is super nice. The food is decent. I had my own personal tv screen(I watched 6 movies in all round-trip). You get a nice little care package complete with slippers and a toothbrush. But it is 15 hours. On a plane. Enough said. Oh, and I only slept for about 1 hour, and if you recall, I had awaken at 3am central time. Awesome.  So after an eternity plus infinity, the plane landed in Seoul at 4:30pm local time.
   I decided to stop in the first bathroom I saw in order to "freshen up". Not much I could do with my greasy hair and blood-red eyes, so I settled for brushing my teeth and washing my face. Luckily, my husband wasn't too particular considering he hadn't seen me for months.  Next, I got to do all the fun stuff like immigration and customs(this went pretty quickly), and then I waited for my checked bag for like 10 years.  Finally, I got to see my hubby. He greeted me with a rose and thought I was beautiful even though I looked like I had been hit by a semi. 
Since I was exhausted to the point of collapse, we decided to just head to our hotel so we could start the next day refreshed. We stayed at the Dragon Hill Lodge which is located on an army base inside the city.
Thanks to the radical time change, I awoke to start Monday at 3:30am(and the next two days as well, grrr).  Guided tours were included in our hotel package. We decided to tour Gyeongbokgung Palace, where we watched a formal guard change ceremony.
The tour ended by mid-day and dropped us off in Itaewon, a popular shopping and tourist area within a short walking distance from the base. We ate some beef bulgogi(Korean marinated beef), kimchi(fermented cabbage), and other yummy items for lunch. Delish!

Later that day, we took a cab to the Gangnam district to see the Coex Mall. Yep, I said "Gangnam", like the song. The Gangnam district is actually the wealthy area of Seoul, where many people focus on keeping up with the latest and greatest styles. The song "Gangnam Style" is actually a satire commenting on the materialistic lifestyle that the people of that district pursue. Anyway, the Coex Mall is a huge underground shopping mall, complete with a full aquarium. The Coex Aquarium is actually the best aquarium I have ever visited.

Cabs were getting pricey so we decided to use the Seoul Metro, the city's subway system, to get back. Overall this wasn't a bad idea as the Metro system is extremely easy to navigate. However, we neglected to take into consideration that it was evening rush hour in a city of approximately 10 million people. Yeah. At many stops, more people were getting on but no one was getting out. I am extremely claustrophobic and felt super panicky as people crowded in and I was crushed into my husband, who was crushed against the subway wall. It was a horrible feeling. I wish I could have taken a photo to show the sheer insanity of it all, but I could not even move my arms in order to get my camera--that is how tight and suffocating it was in there.  We rode the Metro several times after this, but avoided rush hour. It was still crowded, but not traumatically so.

Tuesday we took a tour of several key locations in the DMZ, or Demilitarized Zone. Unfortunately, this did not include the Joint Services area. However, we did get to check out some other interesting places. On our bus ride to the DMZ, you can actually see North Korea's propaganda village. We visited one of the tunnels dug by the North in an attempt to invade the South. I'm glad I am in shape because there is a vicious slope to climb back up to the top after you reach the bottom. We were not allowed to bring cameras in the tunnel.  Many sites have strict rules and/or forbid photography, but there were a few places we were allowed to snap photos. Here is a view of North Korea as seen from the Dora Observatory.

We also visited the Dorasan Station, a railway station which once connected the North and the South.

Wednesday we went on a guided tour of a Korean Folk Village. My favorite thing about the folk village was the performers.
After our tour, we went to Namdaemun Market. This traditional market has everything from clothing to live eel. I'm told that up to 1 million people can congest this market at once on busy days.

Thursday morning we went to the Korean War Memorial, which was only a short walk away from base. I did not know much about the Korean War, and I'm glad I was able to learn more about this time in history.

After the War Memorial, we took the Metro to Insadong. This artsy district is full of artisan shops, traditional tea houses, and art studios. I think Insadong was one of my favorite places. I bought some hand painted pottery, and we stopped at a tea house for some tea and a snack.

Thursday night we had to take a bus about an hour south to Jeff's base because he had a PT test Friday morning. After Jeff's test, we stuck around for a bit so I could meet some members of his flight. Upon traveling back to Seoul on Friday afternoon, we both were pretty wiped out. We decided to just order a pizza and watch movies in our hotel room. It was bittersweet to be snuggled up to my hubby knowing that I would be leaving in the morning. However, I was really looking forward to seeing Lynsey and Jackson again. This was the longest I had ever been away from them.
 Saturday morning, I boarded another plane to make the long journey back to the States. It gave me such a warm feeling when the man at U.S. immigration at DFW checked my passport and said to me, "Welcome home".  It took forever to get my bags and get through customs and security. It was much more rigorous to enter back into the U.S. than it was to enter South Korea. My flight from DFW to San Angelo was in a completely different terminal. I caught the Skylink and ran like heck, but I missed my flight by 2 minutes. I don't know if it was the exhaustion of flying or the fact that I missed my kids and wanted to see them so much, but I cried. I was booked on the next flight out, and I was soon reunited with my babies. In about 80-something days, they will be reunited with their Daddy. Our family will once again be complete, and we will all board a plane together to start a new chapter of our life in Germany.


  1. I loved reading about your trip jessica!!! 80 days will fly by ;) ellie

  2. Wow! Looks like a jam packed, full of fun trip. =)