Korea

DMZ Visit and Leaving Korea

Our time in Korea has come to an end, as has our time in Southeast Asia altogether. It’s been absolutely amazing and incredibly diverse as we’ve explored this area of the world, and I hope to return someday to see more and spend more time here!

For our last couple of days in Korea, we tried a bunch of new foods and went to the DMZ. While we were bit apprehensive about an area that is still actively contested by North Korea, the tour was fine and actually a bit unexciting. We visited a tunnel that North Korean had attempted to sneak through the DMZ unnoticed, watched some more propaganda that was a blend of history, fear-mongering, and optimism about the future, and finally went to an overlook with telescopes through which we could see into North Korea. It was definitely as close as I ever want to find myself to North Korea, and looking through the smog and haze into the country was a bit eerie, just knowing that a place like that really exists and there I was looking at it.

After our DMZ tour, we went out with one of Lexi’s friends from college and tried some new local foods. Everything was delicious and a bit spicy, but I’m glad I tried it all and I’ll definitely miss the food in Korea! The whole country has been a ton of fun. It’s both familiar and foreign, and I would love to return someday to see more of it!

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Korea

Starcraft and More in Seoul!

The past couple of days have been full of fun new experiences in Seoul, and I’m really enjoying this country! I’ve been to a Starcraft competition, a few museums, and walked around various districts of Seoul, and everything has been either interesting, fun, or both!

In the last two days I’ve been to the National History Museum, the War Memorial and Museum, and a “Trick Eye and Ice Museum” (which was more of a playful exhibit than anything else). The National History Museum was pretty great, it helped to fill me in on the history of Korea and the various emperors and kingdoms that have ruled the peninsula from some 2500 years ago up to now. It was interesting to see all of the history, and follow it up to modern day Seoul.

The War Memorial was decidedly different. It was focused on various wars that Korea has been involved in for the past 2000 years, from early civil wars through the Mongol conquests and up to the Korean War. The last two thirds of the museum (give or take) was dedicated to the Korean War, and the exhibits began to change from objective to propaganda against the North and its supporters. It was interesting to see propaganda in favor of the US (as opposed to what we saw in Hanoi about the Vietnam war), and the museum was still well done even if it had a clear stance on more recent wars.

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The most fun event of the past couple of days was definitely going to a Starcraft match. After getting a bit lost, we found our way to the small studio on the second floor of an office building, and sat down in the crowd of 40-50 to watch Starcraft for the next four hours. I don’t really watch Starcraft and I certainly don’t play (I’m way too bad at that game), but it was a ton of fun being surrounded by people shouting and getting excited by the events on the screen, and to follow all of the action as it unfolded with the competitors and crowd all in one room.

Finally, we went to the Ice Museum and Trick-Eye Museum. The Ice Museum was pretty awful, it was a freezer full of ice sculptures! I guess, that’s what you’d expect, but it was just so cold! The Trick Eye museum was built up by TripAdvisor and other people we’ve come across, and it was also pretty disappointing. We just walked through a few rooms of perspective tricks that only work on a camera (not on a human, which has depth perception) and that was it. While the museums weren’t worth it, they brought us to a university district that was packed with shops, restaurants, and random groups of dancers along the street. The area was a ton of fun to walk around and explore, and helped to make the museum worth the trip.

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Korea

A Visit to Seoul!

Sadly leaving Japan behind, I am now enjoying a week in Seoul, Korea! The city is incredible, with everything from ancient (and remade after war) palaces to museums and parks, to lively night districts, and the world’s biggest e-sports scene. There is plenty to see here, so we’ve been walking all over and sort of picking things at random to go and see. And so far it’s been great!

Our first day we went over to Yongsan station to see the OGN E-Sports Stadium, where one of the world’s most popular video games, League of Legends, is played three nights every week to sell-out crowds of some hundreds. We managed to get fantastically lost, but had fun walking through a massive mall, and Lexi got to visit an H&M (which she’s always happy to do).

The next day, we set out walking to see renovated imperial palaces. We managed to find a free guided tour through the Gyeongbokgung Palace, and got to see the currently restored 30% of the original palace. It must have been massive to still be three times the size of what we saw, because the palace we saw was gorgeous and quite massive. Sitting in the shadow of two nearby mountains, the backdrop for the palace is also something to behold. This is the first city we’ve been in with mountains on the border, and it’s pretty awesome to see everyday.

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In the evening we went back to the OGN Stadium in Yongsan to try to find some spare tickets to see a League of Legends game. Sadly we were unsuccessful in getting tickets, but we did get to peak inside the studio and see/hear the crowds. It seemed to be some 80% female spectators, and the screams of the audience when a player scored a kill confirmed that there were quite a few women there. It was weird to see so many women attending a video game competition, when usually you think of video game crowds as being male. But it was cool to see that many people out watching a League of Legends competition!

Fortunately, there are also cherry blossoms in bloom here in Seoul! As it’s been a couple of weeks since they first bloomed, many are starting to fall off. Even so, they are beautiful and it’s nice to have them in all of the cities we’ve been to in the past few weeks.

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