Tuesday, January 26, 2016

January 23-24

After traveling to over 3 different  countries and visiting numerous palaces, temples and tech companies, Jan term was nearing its end. We spent our last full day in Asia in Seoul, South Korea where the temperature put Spokane to shame with a bone chilling -4 degrees Fahrenheit. Regardless of wearing multiple layers of pants, socks and jackets, we still froze.

Our day consisted of a tour around the city of Seoul. Our first stop was to go see traditional Korean housing costing on average a whopping $1,000,000 US dollars. We were able to tour one of the old style homes in the middle of the street and noticed the beautiful architectural detail and the unique set up with multiple living spaces for members of the extended family. The center of the house resembles a garden usually and is one of the many cultural differences between houses here and in Asia.

Next we bused to the Emperor's Palace and appeared really similar to China's Forbidden City almost a combination of the Forbidden City with touches of the Summer Palace in China. Yet again the Palace was huge and really spread out and extended far back with multiple courtyard areas similar to the ones in China that contained a house in the center all used for differing purposes. We learned that the Emperor and the Queen weren't allowed to live together due to Confucius teachings and lived in separate houses. Interestingly, the Emperor was allowed to go inside the Queen's house however the Queen was never allowed inside his.

Next we walked further back and were able to get a glimpse of Korea's Blue House which is comparable to the US White House and is home to the Korean President. The house was heavily guarded with no tourist access but we were able to get a few pictures and got to enter the visitor center where we got to see gifts on display from multiple past presidents of different countries around the world. We really enjoyed taking pictures with the props they had set up and got a nice group photo of us all mid air!

After this we walked to the opposite side of the palace where the Korean folk museum was exhibited. After touring that for about 30 minutes we headed to the Korean market where we all split up to have lunch. When lunch was over we explored the market further where the vendors had a bunch of homemade goods and souvenirs. Next on the itinerary was visiting a Buddhist temple where we were able to witness a prayer ceremony. After this we had free time downtown to explore another market and the surrounding stores (which were nice a heated). We ended the day with free time and the opportunity to go to an authentic korean BBQ place for dinner while a few of us stayed back at the hotel and ordered some good ol' pizza.

For our very last day in Seoul, we had another 9 am start and ventured into the 0 degree weather (real feel -16 degrees) and visited the Seoul Tour! From there we headed towards the DMZ but our original tour was unfortunately closed due to tensions with North Korea. We still jumped at the opportunity to go to the South Korean side of the DMZ and could see across the ice to the North Korean side. Our last day ended with a delicious lunch and a bus ride to the airport where we awaited our long, 10 hour flight back to the states.

Overall we had an incredible time here in Asia although many of us are exhausted and ready to be home and are looking forward to hopefully coming back to visit one day!
And that's a wrap folks!!!
-Sydney and Katalina

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