The Trip There – A Short Stop in Seoul

Hello everyone! This is my first post from abroad, and my second post total. I’ll try to mention something like this at the top of every post to help orient you and future readers. Click here to see my introductory post.

As I mentioned in my previous post, this was my first time traveling abroad alone. I wasn’t sure how it would go – there was a lot of things I’d never done before, and now I would be expected to do these things without fail. Check your luggage here, but it’ll be checked for you there, carry on containers no more than 3.4 oz, and definitely don’t be late! Traveling seemed like a whirlwind, jumping from one place to the next and throwing this, that, and the kitchen sink at you.

The airports definitely seemed to be worse than the airlines, though. My flights took me from Tampa to JFK, in New York, and then to Seoul, South Korea. In Seoul, I had a long layover of about 9 hours. Not only was this one of the cheapest flight paths to take, but it was something I specifically requested, as well. I thought that if I was traveling, I might as well make the most of it!

For the Seoul layover, I went on a tour sponsored by the airport, or the government, I wasn’t really sure. However it was funded, the tour was free, even though it definitely would have cost money if I found it elsewhere. The trip took us a little ways from Seoul, towards some of the more rural areas. One thing that surprised me was the amount of smog in the air. I may have just gotten there on a bad day, but it was something clearly visible in the sky and was a little unexpected.

Those mountains aren’t that far away, but they’re already starting to be obscured by the smog.

Despite the air quality, the trip was quite interesting. We first stopped at a Buddhist temple, one that was reportedly the oldest ever built. Because it was on an island, Mongol invaders (who were adapt in land battles but inexperienced in naval combat) had great trouble getting to it. Because of that, the island became known as a safe haven, and people flocked there in times of uncertainty and war. Even though Mongol invaders never reached the shores of the island, a wall was built around the top of the hill/small mountain that the shrine rested on to protect it. I suppose thinking like that helped keep it safe even after 1,000 years.

Following that, we took another bus ride to an old fort that overlooked a strategic waterway. The waterway allowed access to much of Korea, and was an essential point in several battles. Because of the fortifications that surrounded the passage, Korea was able to defend against Western powers when they attempted to forcibly open the country to trade. Because of this, Korea may have developed slower during that time period than other nations, such as Japan, who instead agreed to open their ports and attempted to learn all they could about Western technology.

I’m bound for Japan soon. I’m not sure what I’ll find there, and how it will be different from what I’ve found so far. But whatever it is, I’m excited to see it. I hope you’re excited too.

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