Monday, October 01, 2012

Gyeongbokgung Palace, Insa-dong, Seoul Tower & DMZ

From America to Korea: A series detailing the adventure of traveling around Korea with Husband and my mother- and father-in-law!  Click here for part two.

When I said I was going to compose eight more posts about my in-laws' trip to Korea, I was speaking crazy.  While I very well could share that kind of detail about the trip with you, I doubt you really have time for 800 pictures of palaces, coastal rocks and fish markets.  Instead, I am attempting to pick some favorite photos and give you the highlights.

Gyeogbokgung Palace is one of several palaces on the north side of Seoul.  The juxtaposition of old and new is awesome:  restored home of dynasties past inside, ultra modern super city outside.

Impressive kimchi pot room.  There were several rooms like this.  I think these pots may be just display.  Usually we see kimchi pots all clustered together.  When this room was in use, I bet there were one hundred pots per room.

 I love the elaborate and colorful paintings that adorn the palaces and temples.


The palace area was a complex of large and small buildings within a walled city patrolled by the guards pictured above.  Some buildings we walked by were hanok (traditional homes); others served as kitchens, dining areas, worship areas, and more.  We didn't always know what we were looking at, but the colors and textures were intriguing and fascinating.

After the palace, we took the subway a few stops south to Insa-dong.  This is a historic district of Seoul.  It reminded me of Old Town Fort Collins with its variety of shops, restaurants, bars and plenty of people enjoying strolling on a Saturday afternoon.

We took a time out from the crowds and street vendors for cold beer and some kind of cereal snack freebie at a second story bar.

Late in the afternoon, we made our way over and up to Seoul Tower on Namsan mountain.  There are locks attached all over the fence where you look out over the city.  They are meant to symbolize couples locked in love forever.  The night view from the tower is incredible.  

On a separate day we went to the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) which spans the border between North and South Korea.  I wish everyone could see this, but at the same time, it's hard to believe so much tourism exists in the midst of a cease fire.  Pictured here is the Joint Security Area.  The gray building in the back belongs to the North.  The blue buildings in the front are centered over the DMZ (marked by a raised strip of concrete in the middle), and are where meetings between the North and the UN take place.  It is an area of intense hostility and many uprisings throughout the past 60 years.  It must be patrolled diligently at all times.  

The situation between North and South Korea is a complicated one, very complicated.  It is impossible for me to explain thoroughly here.  The gist of it is there is one Korea, temporarily divided by miles of razor wire fences and a communist regime known as North Korea.  The leaders of the North are relentless -I don't even know what else to say- just relentless in every way.  The leaders and people of the South know the beauty of the modern age, democracy, free enterprise, freedom; and their hearts ache for their friends, family, and countrymen of the North to see this great light.

South Korea has not given up hope that the North will one day change, and that the two Koreas will unite back into one.  The South, for example, has an extensive and incredible rail system, which they have built up to their very northernmost border at Dorsan Station.  It is a deep symbol for the whole country of their hope to connect to the rest of Asia and Europe by railway.  North Korea is literally the missing link in making this dream reality.

It is helpful to know most South Koreans really appreciate U.S. military presence here, as well as that of the other nations' militaries that help to patrol the DMZ.  Having seen the DMZ for myself, listened to the stories of the shameful character of the leaders in the North, all the surprise incidents and attacks of the past 60 years since the cease fire, the magnitude of the brainwashing, and the absolutely relentless struggle for the appearance of the upper hand, I too am glad for our presence here.  No nation should have to fight a monster like this alone.

And, to end on a lighter note, this picture of Mike and Cindy -Husband's favorite picture of his parents ever!  We laughed hard about the get-me-outta-here, where-can't-I-look-again, wait-are-we-allowed-to-take-pictures-here-? looks on their faces and how much they look photo shopped into this picture.  

Next up:  Our Trip to Busan!

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