~My Parents' Visit to Korea: March 28th-April 1st 2008 ~
Friday early morning, around 5:30am, Fr. Manuel and I drove to Incheon International Airport to meet my parents who had a few days lay-over in Korea on their way to India. Our first stop for the morning was the CMF (Claretian Missionaries) House where they would stay for the majority of their time over the course of their South Korea trip. Then I gave my parents a mini tour of Korea University's campus, stopping at one of the restaurants on Changsari Hill to introduce them to bibimbap, a dish they particularly enjoyed (probably because it is a spicy rice & vegetable based dish~somewhat similar to Indian food). First tourist attraction: a Korean traditional village in the midst of the city. Here we looked at traditional replica houses with olden day type cookware and such. Next we took the subway to Yongsan Station to check out the Electrics Market (about 8 floors of electronic goods next door to a huge train station) to waste some time as we waited to meet up with Savy Chettan's study abroad friend Jin for dinner. After a few hours we left to Insa-dong and checked out the famous street full of Korean traditional items and souvenirs. Around 6:30pm, we met up with Jin who treated us to a traditional Korean dinner consisting of bulgogi (sweet, marinated beef), kimchi (cold, spicy, fermented cabbage), and other side dishes. My parents got to experience sitting on little square pillows as we ate dinner on a table that was really low to the ground, traditional-style.
Fr. Manuel took us on a Incheon City tour where we visited the Catholic Church there that was started by the CMF Missionaries. We drove by the Carmelite and Notre Dame sisters convents. We went near the sea when it was low-tide and you could see the ocean's clay-ish looking ground. We also visited the Sea & Sports Complex nearby that was recently built as an attraction in their attempts to make the area more popular. Then we stopped by the ever-so-popular, Home Plus, where you can buy just about anything you can think of, from a cell phone to cookies to clothes to a vacuum. My Mom really wanted to buy "just add water coffee (cream included)" because its not available in America. Fr. Manuel's friend Theresa treated us to dinner. The meals we ate this day included: bone soup, a variety of kimchi, and kimchi jigae (soup).
Today started off with English Mass at 9am at Myeung-dong Cathedral. Afterwards, we stopped by the Holy Spirit Convent in Hyewha where Sr. Winnie lives. We know SO many Holy Spirit Sisters around the world, it is really interesting to see how small this world really is and how connected we all are! The women's university nearby has a nice area to go shopping for little things, so we stopped by there for a little. We then walked around Namdaemun Market, which has a million shops and is usually pretty crowded, even on Sundays. We grabbed lunch at a Western fusion bar, spaghetti and chopped steak. Namdaemun Market also has a few spots that sell the really yummy traditional Dragon Cake, walnut (or other kinds of nuts) wrapped in stringy, powdery rice-flour. Since Lotte Plaza is also in this area so we had to make a stop there since Lotte is a huge Korean company. We also toured the Cheongyecheon Stream, one of my favorite spots because its so pretty, although I'm sad my parents only got to see it during the day without the lights. The last tourist stop of the day was Namsan (North) Tower located on one of Seoul's mountain tops where you can get a good view of Seoul. Here my Dad was fluent enough in Korea to order himself a coffee!! For dinner, Fr. Manuel made us ramyun. We Indian-ized it by adding Indian pickle to give it that extra tangy flavor. Finishing the day with a visit to my Oppa at Yomojom, my parents had the opportunity to meet some of my international friends as well as one of my local Korean friends. They also got to try yogurt cocktail soju (since soju is the famous Korean alcohol). Even my Mom tried a sip!! My Dad also tried Hite Beer so that he could have the full experience!
-My parents participated in Mass at the CMF House in the morning before we went to Seoul Station for a one-day trip to Busan with Fr. Manuel. We took the KTX fast train which took about 3 hours, however there wasn't as much sight-seeing to do on the train journey as we had thought. My parents have always had an interest in train journeys so we had hoped this one would be interesting. For lunch we had spicy beef & leek soup as well as ddongkatsu (Japanese pork cutlet). In Busan, we sat by the water as we watched lots of working boats near a large bridge. We walked through the ginseng/herb market as well as the famous fish market. The fish market had a large variety of fresh/live, raw, cooked, steamed, etc. fish. You can buy some of the live, raw fish and have it cooked upstairs at the restaurant or just eat it raw. We caught an evening train back and slept at the Astoria Hotel by Myeong-dong/Chungmuro since it would be the most convenient location for my parents' last night in Seoul. Dinner consisted of TuttorOK sandwiches (sweet potato, ham&egg, turkey).
We were so happy to make it on a half-day trip to the northern border of South Korea to check out the Demilitarized Zone. Although we couldn't see all the areas included in the tour, we got to learn about the history and growing tensions between North & South Korea, seeing sights in the distance such as the so-called "propganda village" North Korea built up to falsely show how prosperous their country was. First stop on the Tour was Imjingak (Freedom Bridge) where the POW's crossed after the Korean War. Next, we toured the 3rd Infiltration Tunnel, one of the tunnels North Korea was digging in an attempt to attack Seoul. However, they denied that it was for a sneak attack and even painted the inside of the tunnels a blackish-gray color, saying they had been digging the tunnel looking for coal. Afterwards, we went to Dora Observatory where you can see North Korean civilian life at a distance, although you are not allowed to take pictures after a certain point or facing toward the north. We also got to see Dorsan Station, the northern most station of the Korail (Korean railway) in South Korea. President Bush visited this site in 2002.
By the time we reached back to Seoul, it was time to hop on the limo bus to the airport. We were very thankful to be able to see all the major hot spots of South Korea, from the southern city of Busan to Seoul to the northern area of the DMZ. I had a wonderful time showing my parents around and giving them a glimpse into the study abroad life I am experiencing here in Korea. They also visited me for a couple hours on the one day lay-over on their way back to Chicago on April 30th. It was definitely nice to see family again after being away for so long