Monday, January 23, 2017

A Visit From Jeff and Claudia

Unsatisfied with the results of the Lasek eye surgery which I had done in July 2015, my doctor from Dream Eye Center in Gangnam, conceded to perform a complimentary second Lasek procedure on my eyes in November 2016.  Because of my age and need for both near and far vision correction, Dr. Jung had performed the first surgery with the intent to correct my vision only to the extent that I would have somewhat better distance vision, but still be able to read without glasses.  While this may have been good in theory, I was never satisfied with having neither clear distant nor near vision.  Knowing that by correcting my far vision to 20/20 would mean my reading vision would greatly diminish, didn't convince me that I wouldn't be happier in the long run with additional correction.  On November 8, the surgery was again performed.  This time the recovery was much quicker, so when my nephew Jeff and his wife Claudia arrived in Seoul on the 14th, I was ready to show them the town.  And, for the record, yes . . . I am happy to have excellent far vision, even though I am confined to relying upon reading glasses everywhere I go!

Jeff and Claudia arrived Monday afternoon and were ready to go exploring from the time of landing.  They were interested to see what shopping options were available in this sprawling metropolis.  Our first stop was COEX mall, which I had not returned to since I first arrived in Korea.  Shocked by the high prices of goods throughout the mall, and generally unimpressed with it's offerings, we crossed the street to see the Buddhist Bonguensa Temple and get a little exposure to Korean culture before retiring for the evening.

Tuesday, we decided to check out the shopping at Dongdaemun, which also failed to impress.  The toy alley just doesn't compete with the products and prices available in the U.S.  We had fun wondering through the pet and shoe markets, though no tourist dollars were spent.  I think Jeff and Claudia had more fun in the subway station, sampling "Milkis" soft drink, riding the train, having a tasty Korean lunch (including some pungent kimchi - which Jeff and I thought was ok), followed by exotic international milkshakes.

We took a cab to Insadong, where Claudia bought a warm fuzzy scarf before we stopped to visit a "cat cafe".  Much to my allergic relief, we decided we didn't want to pay the cover charge to have "tea" with a bunch of kittens!  What a Korean thing to do!  We walked through Myeongdong on our way home and took a few minutes to see the cathedral there.  Jet lag had set in and an early retirement at home was needed.

Well rested, we headed out on Wednesday with an aggressive agenda.  Our first destination was Olympic Park where we were delighted to see the trees adorned with brilliant autumn foliage.  Riding the pedal cart around the park is always an adventure to be remembered.

 When finished at the park, we had our driver, SW Kim, drop us off at Lotte World Tower and Mall.  We had hoped to ascend to the top of the tower and take in a view of Seoul from the observation deck on the 123rd floor.  This massive structure is the 5th tallest in the world.  Unfortunately, the tower was still under construction and the observation decks are not yet open. Only residents of the apartments were allowed inside.  Nevertheless, we enjoyed visiting the mall, taking photos, and devouring a delicious Mexican lunch at "On the Border", compliments of Jeff. (Sick of Korean food already?)

That afternoon we drove out to the Imperial Tombs of Donggureung.  It was at the museum there that I muddled my way through my first interactive virtual reality experience.


On our way back home, we had Mr. Kim drop us off at Cheonggyecheon Stream so that we could enjoy the lantern festival.  But first, we noticed that the Jogyesa Temple was completely embellished with flowers and decorated beautifully in conjunction with the lantern festival.  After walking through the main gate to the temple, we were greeted by two huge "flower" dragons as we walked toward the main plaza where a beautiful 450-year old tree was ablaze with colorful lights.  The 10-story pagoda was also a lovely colorful sight.


I didn't take photos of the lanterns on the stream, but I have included a couple here from previous festivals.  The lanterns really are a beautiful sight.  If you'd like to see more, click here.

On Thursday, November 17, Jeff, Claudia and I took an hour-long bus transport to Everland Amusement Park.  The only other time I visited there was when Bob and I went with Stephanie, Ben and Emma in 2012.  (You can see that post here.)  I was so excited to ride the awesome T-Express wooden roller coaster once again!  Unfortunately, Jeff came down with a bad case of motion sickness after our first couple of rides, but there was still much to enjoy.  I believe it was the first time any of us had seen a real live panda . . . and who knew there is such a thing as a red panda (which looks nothing like it's relative)?  We sampled "peanut butter roasted squid", and Jeff and I survived our first Korean haunted-house (lame).  A winter festival at the park featured a colorful display of lights and scenery.

Friday arrived before we knew it, and we decided to take in a little more Korean culture.  We walked through Namdaemun Market and took a look at the south gate of Seoul.  From there we walked beside Deoksu Palace and were surprised to find all kinds of outdoor games and activities set up for people to try and enjoy.  I loved the "tree hugger" decorations displayed in front of the Museum of Art.  We met Bob for lunch at our favorite Donkatsu (breaded pork cutlets) restaurant.


After lunch we walked over to Gyeongbokgung - the main palace of the Joseon dynasty.  Originally constructed in 1395, it has been rebuilt upon the original grounds and sits in front of the "Blue House" which houses executive offices and is the residence of the President of Korea.  We watched the changing of the guard ceremony and explored the palace grounds until we could walk no more.

We had to complete Jeff and Claudia's visit with a ride on the cablecar to Namsan Tower.  So, on Saturday, November 18, they added their lock to one of the "Christmas" trees and memorialized their name on a table.  Dressing up in traditional Hanbok and taunting the "guards" completed the fun before returning to our apartment.

We walked to Myeongdong for lunch, where a visit to Dr. Fish Foot Spa provided a bountiful meal for some fish as well.  After some shopping, marveling at tanks of seafood and cute cupcakes, and tasting Korean treats (egg topped muffin), we drove to the LDS Seoul Korea Temple to take some photos of that beautiful sanctuary in the city.


But wait!  Let's take a last look at Seoul (dressed up for the holidays), before completing Jeff and Claudia's trip with some delicious Korean BBQ and a bowl of satisfying yummy mango bingsu (Korean shaved ice dessert).

And finally, with a revitalizing Korean face mask and good night's sleep, we began Sunday with a little "feasting on the word" at Sacrament Meeting on our way to the airport.  I think we successfully wore Jeff and Claudia out enough to guarantee them a restful return flight home!


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