By Makarand Gawade, Staff Writer
My work and leisure trips have taken me to some of the most beautiful places in the world, but I must admit that Seoul, Korea tops the chart for me. I had the pleasure to visit Seoul in October 2015 for the global business review case competition, held at one of the most prestigious universities in South Korea. Seoul made an instant good impression on us (me and Christian Rogers, ’15 US) right from the Incheon international airport. This airport has been rated as the best international airport worldwide by Airports Council International every year since 2005. Seoul is a humongous city with over 25 million people, making it the world’s second largest metropolitan area.
We booked our apartment through Airbnb and I was amused by the way everything related to accommodation was so seamless. Our host was super nice to us, and the place was great and very economical. Our stay in Seoul was very pleasant and the fall weather was the icing on the cake! Apart from the case competition day, we had three full days in Seoul and we wanted to make best of it. We were determined to make this experience one of a kind, and we did so by visiting popular landmarks, eating authentic Korean food, and learning about the culture and history of Korea. We had our research done before we packed our bags for the travel and as they say, “well begun is half done,” we indeed made some unforgettable memories in Seoul.
We started our expedition in Seoul by visiting Gyeongbokgung Palace, which is located in the heart of the Korean capital and a few blocks away from the ever-bustling Seoul downtown. Well, it was built in the heart of the city since it was deemed auspicious according to the traditional practice of geomancy. The Palace was named Gyeongbokgung Palace, which means “Palace Greatly Blessed by Heaven.” With Mount Bugaksan to its rear and Mount Namsan in the front, this is indeed a fascinating place to visit. One can spend almost entire day going around this magnanimous palace and also experience changing of the guards ceremony and sword exhibitions in the morning and afternoon.
Our next stop of the expedition was the Korean War Memorial. The memorial includes indoor and outdoor exhibitions. I personally liked the outdoor exhibitions, which include award-winning statues, real military planes, tanks, and missiles. A huge memorial statue of soldiers in front of the museum is amazing and worth seeing! This Statue of the Brothers represents love and reconciliation. The War Memorial was established to remember the Korean War and to symbolize the desire for peaceful reunification of Korea. The memorial is a great way to learn about Korean War history in an engaging way. After visiting the memorial I was not surprised as to why it has been rated as the number one attraction in places to visit in Seoul.
Our next destination was really an interesting one! The Myeongdong Shopping Street is also known as the hyper market or the flea market. This place is tourists’ and shoppers’ heaven, and is surrounded by shops, street food, and local Korean restaurants with an easy access to metro, airport bus, and taxi. At first, we were scared to be in this place, but as time passed, we adapted and enjoyed our three hours there. The street food we had at this market was stupendous and really gave us a glimpse of how much Korean people love their Kimchi! To be frank, Chris and I loved Kimchi, and for six bucks we almost had a kimchi buffet. The number of options to eat and shop is overwhelming. The bright neon signs, welcoming shop keepers, and streets packed with tourists are quite a sight in this vibrant place.
We also spent an evening at the Seoul Tower. The Seoul Tower opened to the public in the year 1980, and since then has become a major tourist attraction. The 237 meter tower is located at the top of Namsan Mountain and offers panoramic views of Seoul and the surrounding areas. Post a recent remodeling project, the Seoul Tower is now equipped with a new lighting system which decorates the tower at night in line with special events or even seasons. We were blessed to visit this place while it was decorated with a fall theme; the tower looked miraculous on the cold fall night. The revolving restaurant at the top of the Seoul Tower is something worth visiting at night. I was really amazed to find out they have a Cold Stone Creamery outlet at the Seoul tower. Cold Stone Creamery is an American ice cream parlor chain headquartered in Scottsdale, AZ, just about 20 miles from Thunderbird.
Korean food is famous for its spicy stews, bright pickled vegetables, addictive barbecue, and mouthwatering dumplings. The numerous restaurants we visited and the food we ate were absolutely astounding. We were amazed by the variety and creativity of the Korean food served to us. During our stay we feasted on Korean curries, hot pots, kimchi, dumplings, Korean BBQ, and much more.
To sum, I would reinforce the importance of getting an MBA from Thunderbird since you get such amazing opportunities to visit places on the other side of the planet, network with numerous people, and comprehend new cultures. This is the Thunder-Mystique!