Joe and I went on a Cultural Tour of Gyeonggi-do last weekend. Just some background info, Gyeonggi-do, sometimes referred to as Kyeongi-do because Gs and Ks are interchangeable in Hangul, is the province we live in. Over 20% of Korea’s population, live in Gyeonggi-do and it encompasses Seoul and Suwon, two large cities in Korea.
Only 28 American military personnel and their family members were chosen for this trip and our itinerary included lunch with the Governor of Gyeonggi-do. I even bought a new outfit for the occasion.
After a 2-hour bus ride north to Dongducheon, our first stop was the Freedom Peace Protection Museum – otherwise known as the smallest musuem I have ever encountered. It looks enormous, towering on the side of Mt. Soyosan, but I think we perused this museum in about 10 minutes. This museum was built to promote understanding and honor the UN participants in the Korean War. There are numerous artifacts and data displayed from the 21 countries who helped Korea during the war.
Apparently, by the looks of this honorary statue, Belgium had something to do with building the porta-potties!
Korea is very different from the U.S. and since there is no real threat to massive law suits everywhere you can climb on all the old rusty weapons – it was awesome!
Joe wanted to check out the Thai Army’s exhibit at the Museum. It was very interesting to see all the old weapons and read how each country helped the Koreans.
Our next stop was a traditional Korean restaurant for lunch. We were very excited to meet the Governor and were eagerly awaiting his arrival when our tour guide told us that the Governor would not actually be joining us. Lunch was merely provided by the Governor, meaning the office that funded the tour is under the Governor’s jurisdiction. Oh man, how disappointing. Lunch was good anyway except that to give us the real Korean experience we ate at tables on the floor as most Koreans do. Let me tell you how humorous it is to see large American men sit cross-legged on the floor for over an hour.
At a traditional Korean meal the guests at the table share everything and you use your chopsticks and spoon to try the many dishes on your table. Koreans do not care, one bit, about double dipping or sharing cups.
In this picture is a big boiling pot of Beef Bulgogi with tofu, veggies, and noodles. Everyone just grabs some of the soup for their own bowls and some even take bites right from the communal pot.
This is a huge Korean pancake, almost like a potato pancake but with veggies in it. It’s about the size of a car tire.
After lunch we were driven another 30 minutes to the Daejanggeum Theme Park. What images does an American conjure up when the term “theme park” is mentioned? I think of rides, Mickey Mouse and snow cones. Well, after getting off the bus in what seemed to be the middle of nowhere and handed a baggie with a Korean arts and crafts project we were shuffled over to a pavilion where we were instructed to assemble said project.
Picture this – 28 Americans, many with no prior arts and crafts experience, tearing out perforated pieces of cardboard and adhering stickers in random places. Our 2 Korean guides were of no help and were mostly laughing at all of us pathetically trying to assemble what were supposed to be traditional Korean wedding hats. When the hats were finished we realized they were for Cabbage Patch Doll-sized people and were quite disappointed that we couldn’t even wear our hard labored attire.
Does he look like Mickey Mouse? I guess it is a Theme Park after all.
Here I am modeling my Korean wedding hat. What, you can’t see it? It’s that tiny black thing on my head. Joe offered his to a nearby Korean child who refused it, probably due to Joe’s shoddy workmanship but I kept mine. I wasn’t about to throw away 20 minutes of assembly work. *On a side note, I threw it away as soon as I got home.* Our only theory behind this arts and crafts time was that we had arrived at the Theme Park before our specified tour time. This theory turned out to be null and void when we realized that this Theme Park did not require reservations. The only possible explanation was this was some kind of Korean torture process and all the while we’re assembling these teensy hats there are Koreans watching us from some observation tower laughing their asses off.
A little background info on Daejanggeum – This was a TV miniseries which aired in Korea in 2003 and 2004. It was based on the story of a real historical figure, Janggeum, who was the first and only woman to serve as head Physician to the King during the Joseon Dynasty. This Theme Park was the set of, supposedly, 200 rooms of the palace used in the show. Close your eyes for a moment and imagine being taken on a tour of the Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman’s TV set where you are expected to wander, interested, for over an hour. Could you wander around a cancelled TV miniseries set for over an hour? I think your answer would have to be, hands down, NO! There were some interesting representations of this time period to be seen but the 200 rooms in the fake palace all looked the same.
This little chariot held my attention for all of 12 seconds.
The palace kitchen, complete with fake Korean food.
Joe and I spent most of our time with the wooden cutout photo opportunities. It was a good time!
Our last stop on the tour was Byeolsandaenori, a type of traditional Korean dance.
The heat and humidity coupled with the fact that we couldn’t understand the Korean narrator’s story and the fact that I am completely freaked out by anything that resembles a clown cut our viewing of this pretty short. It was interesting but rather confusing. And you know what they say, once you’ve seen one Byeolsandaenori, you’ve seen them all!
All in all this was a fun day because Joe and I can have fun staring at paint chips but if I had to recommend this tour to someone I would give it a 3 out of 10.