Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Hyundai Friendship Tour - (Korea) Days 303 - 305

Me hanging out at Daewangnam Park

I signed up for a trip offered by Hyundai that arrived in my email box about a month ago. Our colonel told us it was a great tour, so of course I signed up right away. I would of even without his endorsement because it was three days off work and all expenses were paid by Hyundai. Not only this, but I love getting out and seeing the country of Korea whenever I get the chance, I doubt I'll ever have the chance to come back here and I want to experience everything I can while I'm here. Our NCOIC was going to go as well, but something came up and she was unable to attend. Surprisingly SPC Mick was the only other person from our office that signed up, but he was not the only person I would know on the trip, the young hawaiian also was able to sign up through his unit.

Day 1: The first day (Wednesday) started off with us having to arrive at Collier Fitness Center at 0700. There was a little confusion about this since different emails and different attachments all said various times from 0700 to 0730, so we played it safe and arrived at 0700. The young hawaiian met with me and SPC Mick outside our barracks and then we went down to the office and had Special K drive us all to Collier since it's on the other side of the base.

Turns out we could have been a lot later as we waited for quite a while before they had everyone go inside and then start the briefing. We were assigned bus numbers according to the units we came from. There were 6 buses all together taking about 160 military personal from all over Korea for this event. Unfortunately the young hawaiian had to ride on another bus. The buses were very nice which I'm grateful because the first leg of the trip was about 4 hours. They only had three seats across and each seat had plenty of room both width and for your legs. We were served boxed subway lunches for breakfast, but I didn't care. By this point I was starving and I scarfed it down.

We stopped and had lunch on the second floor of a Korean restaurant, then boarded the bus again heading for the city of Ulsan where Hyundai is located. We arrived at Hyundai Motor Company and were given a short video presentation and then a tour both outside the factory by bus, then inside where they make the cars. This was pretty impressive seeing just sheets of metal getting eventually turned into fully functional cars. We then headed over to Hyundai Heavy Industries and were also shown a short video before getting a tour of their shipyard on our bus. They are the number one ship builder in the world and build gigantic ships at this place. It was all very impressive.

We then ate dinner at a very nice hotel (Lotte World) complete with ice sculpture and a short hard to understand speech by the CEO of Hyundai. Basically he was thanking us for serving and they wanted to do what they can to help strengthen the alliance. We then headed back to the hotel we would be staying at which of course was The Hyundai Hotel…lol.

I think they purposely had us stay at this place because there is no nightlife whatsoever. The young hawaiian, SPC Mick, and I all headed out to see what we could find. There was absolutely nothing! We ended up at a tiny hole in the wall bar and had a couple drinks and played darts.
It did sprinkle at one point and we were all given blue raincoats.
This was near the Seokguram Grotto at Mt. Tohamsan

When feeding so many people, we took up the entire floor of this Korean restaurant.

The peaceful park that housed Cheonmachong Tomb
Lots of buddhas at the Gyeongju National Museum
Day 2: We had a buffet breakfast in the hotel and headed out to Gyeongju city. We first visited the beautiful Daewangam Park where we could go out and look around at the picturesque view of the ocean, rocks, and lighthouse.  From there we headed to the Bulguksa Temple and Sokguram Grotto. This is a buddhist temple which was built in 751 A.D. We then headed to another Korean lunch, then off to the National Museum of Gyeongju.

After that we headed to Cheonmachong Tomb which were mainly big mounds of earth that kings and noble folks were buried back in the day. We were able to enter one and look at some of the stuff they found in there. The entire park is quite nice and peaceful. The last stop of the day was Anapji Pond which was a man made pond built for an old king from the Silla period in Korea. The interesting thing about this place as we were walking around the pond (which was pretty huge by the way), was that there were students in their little uniforms everywhere. Most of these students were perched upon rocks with pads or books. They looked like they could have been a bunch of artists drawing pictures of the place, but I think they were just there studying.

Back to the hotel we had a buffet dinner and then were free for the rest of the night. The young hawaiian and I headed out in search of something in the opposite direction this time. We didn't find much though, pretty much the same except instead of playing darts in a deserted bar…we played pool.

Day 3: Our last day of the tour. We checked out and returned our keys, then had breakfast at another buffet setup for us at the hotel. We took the long bus ride to pyeongtaek naval base. This is a ROK naval base and it houses their salvaged ship "The Cheonan" which was sunk by a North Korean submarine torpedo. We had lunch right outside of the base and then went in and were able to see the ship.

We then headed to Suwon City and toured the Hwaseong Fortress. Part of this tour included getting to shoot a bow and arrow…lol. It was very similar to the palace in Seoul. We then took off and had dinner at another Korean restaurant and finally headed back to Yongsan.

The tour was pretty awesome. It was packed full of all kinds of modern and historical information all about Korea. I'm very grateful for the experience and I thank Hyundai very much for everything they did for us during the trip. It was great!

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