Saturday, November 23, 2013

Meeting with King Jeongjo: Part 1 - Getting there

[As a part of National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo), I'm posting here once a day during November.  Today is Day 23.  Our phones were locked up during the temple stay this weekend, so yes I'm backdating.]

If you missed yesterday's post, I received a last-minute invitation by the Korean Culture and Information Service to attend a trip this weekend called Meeting with King Jeongjo of the Joseon Dynasty.  The itinerary includes a visit to the Suwon Hwaseong Museum, the Hwaseong Fortress, a temple stay at Yongju Temple, and a visit to Yungneung & Geolleung (tombs).

I successfully woke up to my alarm early this morning, got dressed, ate a small breakfast, finished packing my backpack and was out the door by 6:45am.  It was incredibly foggy out when I left my apartment:


It was kind of neat to be up when most others weren't, but there were still some cars and buses driving around, and others waiting at the bus stop.


I wasn't sure what my stop would look like, since I'd never taken this particular bus as far as I needed to go, but using my good instincts (and double checking by asking a nearby passenger), I got off at the right stop.  After that it was one stop on the train to our designated meeting place.

I bought a breakfast sandwich (ham and egg) from a bread shop in the metro, since I was ahead of schedule.  Second breakfast?  Why not -- it was going to be a long day.  When I got to our meeting place I saw three other foreigners (non-Koreans) waiting around.  I joined them, yes they were going on the same trip as me.

A few minutes later, I noticed a table being set up with this banner posted behind it.

Meeting with King Jeongjo of the Joseon period

There were name tags on the table and a man sitting behind it, but he hadn't said anything to us.  So a bit later I walked over to the table and found my name tag, then told the man who I was so that he could check me off of a list.

A few more minutes pass, and then a different man gave us each a Paris Baguette bag but he didn't say anything to us.  I peeked inside: there was a CapriSun orange juice, a ziplock bag of candy, and a sandwich from Paris Baguette:


We wondered aloud if this was supposed to be our lunch or breakfast.  It looked like it could have been a lunch, but they should have told us if that was the purpose.  I was leaning towards it being a breakfast.  Some of the guys correctly assumed it was breakfast and started eating their sandwiches while we waited.  I then wished I hadn't had my second breakfast, as I did not want this sandwich to go to waste! But I had just finished eating the breakfast sandwich...

More of us were there waiting in a clump.  All of a sudden some lady came over and motioned for us to follow her.  I looked ahead and saw a coach bus pulled over on the side of the street.  We got on and sat down; the bus was already half full of people who must have gotten picked up at the first designated pick-up location (in Seoul).

Looking back, it's kind of strange that there was no real introduction or trip orientation when we got on the bus.  I'm not familiar with the organization that put on this trip (Korean Culture and Information Service), nor do I know the names of any of the staff.  We just got on the bus and we were off.  They passed out two information booklets with a long detailed history about some of the places we would be visiting.  Then they put a DVD in and told us to watch this short history film while we drove to our first stop: the Suwon Hwaseong Museum.


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