November 29, 2014

Gyeongbokgung Palace, Seoul- (and the Chinese papparazzi)

Our last day in Seoul, began with a visit to Gyeongbokgung Palace, in the heart of the city. The palace was originally built in 1395 for the Joseon Dynasty, but has been largely rebuilt and restored over the years due to fire and war.

Such intricate details!

This is the interior ceiling of one of the buildings. Such a gorgeous use of color.

A beautiful tea room.

Again, the grounds were a disappointment. (Yes, I am still biased to the beauty of Japanese gardens, they are unrivaled.)

Eva is my animal lover. Even strange looking ones!

Chinese tourists bring the paparazzi to a whole new level! There were times we were stuck in a spot for several minutes with people wanting pictures.

I laugh out loud every time I see this one! The girls were only in this picture by default. This man wanted a picture with MATT! Haha!

And last but not least, here we are being mobbed. I was also asked to be in some pictures, but mostly, I enjoyed being behind the scenes!

There was a special demonstration taking place on the day we visited. A military reenactment of sorts.

I always love period costumes!

This group of school kids watched the entire performance through the screen of their phones. Kind of sad, actually.

The girls found some new friends!

Next up, we met my friend Jennifer and her husband, for lunch. Jennifer and I met while stationed at F.E. Warren AFB in Cheyenne, WY. Military life has it's challenges, but having lunch with a friend, on the other side of the world, is definitely a perk!

We went to an awesome Korean barbeque place for lunch. The restaurant was tucked away in a small alley, and the food was incredible!

This is the "beef 'n leaf". They put strips of beef on a tableside grill and you cook the meat to your liking.

Then they brought out dozens of condiments to have with your beef. You choose what you want and wrap it all up together in a lettuce leaf. My mouth is watering just looking at it!

On the other end of the table was the beef bulgogi , in the large wok. It was thin slices of beef, mushrooms and onion that was also cooked right at the table. Mmmm, my favorite!

This was an amazing feast!

After lunch we wandered around a very hip, fashionable area called, Insadong.

And we saved room for a hotteok, for dessert. This is a popular Korean street food that consists of  fried dough, traditionally stuffed with brown sugar and nuts (they can have other fillings too, though). I'm still dreaming about this.....

As we were wandering, a group of school kids came up to Matt and wanted to ask questions. They were practicing their English, and recording his answers. Darling!

We bid farewell to Jennifer, and headed back to an area just outside the palace. There was some sort of festival going on, with music, art, and lots of street food.

There was a HUGE vat of some sort of stir fry. People were lining up for this, not sure if it was some sort of record breaking event, or not, but it was fun to watch!

And alas, our time came to an end. It was a great trip with lots of memories made!

November 27, 2014

Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), South Korea

Our second day in Seoul started with a tour to the demilitarized zone (DMZ), that lies between North Korea and South Korea. Our first stop was Imjingak, the town furthest north that is freely accessible to South Koreans.  

The ribbons were in remembrance of lost family members and also for the hope of reunification of the country. (There is even more barbed wire in this country than there is living on a military base!)

This train once traveled the entire country, before the Korean war. Now, mostly destroyed, it is known as "the train that wishes to travel," in hopes of a reunified Korea. 

Very close to the North Korean border. 

The red line on this map illustrates the demilitarized zone. It is a strip of land roughly 2.5 miles wide that separates North and South Korea.  

This is a photograph I saw of the actual area, a beautiful untouched wetland.

Keeping watch.

Many families were split after the war, some still trapped in North Korea to this day. 

After visiting the memorial park, we drove to through the secure checkpoint to the site of an underground tunnel. (Matt felt like he was in a scene of some type of apocalypse movie here. It was kind of eerie!)

Four different underground tunnels from North Korea to Seoul, have been uncovered since the war. We were able to walk down into the third tunnel, 240 feet underground! There are believed to be up to twenty more tunnels that have yet to be discovered. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take pictures.

Our next stop was a lookout point. The hill in the distance is North Korea. We were not able to go to the actual joint security area (JSA), because the girls are under 11. This area is an actual town where North and South Koreans can work together. I hear it is awesome to tour, so maybe someday! 

Eva spying on north Korea. 

There were quite a few young cops there, sightseeing. Our tour guide said that in South Korea, two years of military or police work is mandatory for young men.

Such an interesting tour! We changed hotels that afternoon and had a fabulous view of the city and Han River. 

The girls felt very cosmopolitan! 

In the evening we wandered the Yeouido Park, adjacent to the hotel.

Sisters in Seoul!

A picture perfect fall day.

Across the street from the park was a great observation point for the river and skyline. 

A great end to a wonderful day! 

Now, on to our last day....