**Below is the first in a series of posts highlighting my personal travel adventures to the Far East.
ROK, a Destination Deserving of Accolades
Written by: Anne Valgoi
You might consider putting S. Korea on your travel itinerary. I recently experienced a trip of a lifetime to S. Korea as my oldest daughter, son-in-law, and my sweet grandson are stationed at Osan Air Force Base. I jumped at the opportunity to visit my deployed family and to explore a new continent and culture, and it did not disappoint.
Here are a few introductory details: South Korea, officially known as the Republic of Korea (ROK) is a country in East Asia. It has a notable land border with North Korea and the country also shares sea borders with China and Japan.
To give you a reference, S. Korea has a population of almost fifty-two million and about half live in the Seoul capital area which is the “fourth most populous metropolitan area in the world”. Besides Seoul, other major cities include Incheon, Busan (a favorite), and Daegu.
The official language is Korean (some speak English but not everyone) and the alphabet is Hangul which is usually written horizontally from left to right; however, it can also be written vertically, from top to bottom and from right to left. I found the Korean language fascinating and the script exceptionally artful. My five-year-old grandson and I enjoyed learning the various letters in the alphabet and then trying to locate them on billboards and street signs! I must say that it was a quicker learn for him than for myself and as a result, he was often rewarded with not ice-cream but Bingsu (shaved ice), a typical treat in Korea.
Equally as important is the colorful currency; it is called the Korean Republic Won or KRW. Today one won equals 0.0081 US dollars. Another way to think about it is 10,000 won equals approximately $10 US dollars. When I was shopping or dining out, I would simply move the decimal point over three places to the left to obtain an approximation of what it would cost in the United States. The fashion (and shopping) in Seoul was remarkable and the food was delicious. As you can imagine, I used the above money conversion quite often.
I was asked what my favorite experience was in S. Korea as each city/ area holds a special memory for me. Osan Air Force Base was meaningful as it touched my heart to see my son-in-law serving our country as Colonel and his family happily adapting to a new environment. I also had the honor and privilege of attending the 75th Anniversary Air Force Ball and I wish to personally thank the many wonderful men and women serving our great country. It was also a delight to see the popular K-Pop Dancers perform at the event.
As you know, I am a lover of flowers, gardens and peaceful landscapes and I was significantly impressed by the absolute beauty of S. Korea. We visited the stunning “Garden of Morning Calm” located north of Seoul. Here, we reveled in the beautiful autumn foliage (as pretty as Vermont’s in my opinion). This world-class garden “embraces the natural beauty of Korea, oriental mystique and the spirit of the Korean people”.
In the garden we made some new friends, posed in the dreamy, pink muhly grass which is vibrant in the autumn months and witnessed the magnificent Juniper tree, estimated to be one thousand years old.
This visit I will forever cherish as it was an opportunity to take part in the calm of nature and its loveliness.
Next post I will share with you some traditions of S. Korea, a visit to the authentic Jeonju Hanok Village, and our adventure with hanbok apparel. Also, I can’t wait to divulge my experiences with the delicious Korean food.
Until next time (da-eum sigankkaji)…