Saturday, December 12, 2015

Korea in Winter Day 5: The War Memorial of Korea

Slow and easy was the name of the game as we recover in preparation for our trip to the ski resort. We decided on going out of Lotte complex to visit the War Memorial of Korea, highly recommended on Trip Advisor, and not too far away so that we could make it back by 4.30pm to meet up with friends for dinner.

Mummy strongly recommended buns from this bakery at Sadang subway station. This small bakery always sees long queues especially during the morning and evening peak hours.

The original and cheese buns are apparently very popular here. Few things perk us up better than warm, freshly baked bread on a cold winter morning. Helps that these two buns were only 1000 won each. 

Child subway passes were no longer available for young foreigners, so we had to settle for single trip tickets instead, slowing us down a lot. When we alighted at Samgakji, we couldn't resist a warm breakfast of traditionally baked sweet potatoes and chestnuts. We took an elevator as we had a stroller with us but when we got to street level we were somewhat disorientated. It did not help that the locals also gave conflicting directions when we approached them. Despite the slight detractors we made it to the memorial and agreed to regroup two plus hours later. So the best way to get to the museum is from exit 12, and walk straight for 3 minutes and you would see the big museum compound on your left. Admission is free and is opened from 9am to 6pm. Closed on Monday and if the Monday is a public holiday, the museum will be closed the following day. 

A bag of peeled chestnuts for 5000 won.

A whole bag of baked sweet potato for 5000 won.

The large open space of the Peace Plaza reflecting the warmth of the afternoon sun.

Our visit begins in the Memorial Hall. Busts of prominent Korean warriors and descriptions of their heroic deeds.

The Stars of National Defense hallway remembers war heroes who protected Korea and sacrificed their lives for the national security of the nation.

The final chamber of the memorial hall is a solemn fountain receiving a beam of sunlight from a skylight in the ceiling. The hall is called the 'Creation', and represents the creation of an everlasting Korea.

Taking the stairs up into the the Korean War Room III, the first gallery we stumbled into took us through the UN's intervention in the Korean wars, recounting the events that led to their involvement and celebrating the sacrifices made by the youth from various countries who gave their lives to fight for the greater cause. In addition to the memorabilia and informative exhibits, there were some art installations that exuded a solemn atmosphere appropriate for the remembrance of fallen soldiers.

Mummy explains the significance of the plot of land dedicated to be a final resting place for allied soldiers who fought during the Korean War.

An artistic impression remembering the soldiers from various countries who gave their lives during the Korean War.

Recounting the order of events that led to UN intervention in the Korean Peninsula.

Stories of Korean War veterans and photographs, articles and videos. Some of the accounts were particularly touching, and these added a personal touch to the otherwise violent face of war.

The artifacts show the kind of support provided by the various allied member countries during the Korean War.

The gallery also highlighted the effort of the UN to rebuild a post-war Korea through education and infrastructure.

A screening of the UN and allied efforts in the Korean war.

The 'Drops of Tears' installation is made from identification tags worn by allied troops killed during the Korean War, assembled into an audio visual piece of artwork.

The next gallery was Korea's involvement in the Vietnam war. This gallery bore resemblance to the one we visited in Hanoi years back, but with a different perspective and less memorabilia.

A model of the kind of 'tunnel warfare' typical of the Vietnam War.

Replicas of the booby traps encountered in while pursuing the enemy in the Vietnam campaign.

A reconstruction of the heli-insertion used in the Vietnam campaign.

It was quickly approaching our cut off timing and we had time for a final gallery walk. This time, the exhibit covered the capabilities of the ROK defence forces, such as the role of technology,  a display of hardware and the readiness of the force to counter threats of the modern era.

Checking out the living quarters of officers on board a ship.

Control room of a ship.

Screening about the integrated operations of the ROK Army, Air Force and Navy.

The highlight were the interactive exhibits such as the shooting simulation and the F-15K Slam Eagle 3D experience. Although we made it on time for the earlier sessions, we were disappointed to find that the exhibits were not ready and we were told to wait half an hour later.

Trying out the K-2 rifle.

We were now later than expected and had little time to explore the collection of hardware outside the building. The 'junkyard' as I call it turned out to be my favourite part, and the kids also had fun checking out the tanks, aircraft and even ships! There is a children's museum beside the open field of treasures but we were unable to check it out due to the lack of time.

A panoramic view of the hardware at the Outdoor Exhibition Area that houses about 160 pieces of equipment, aircraft and armored vehicles that were used during the Korean War.

Crawling in and out of armored personnel carriers.

An attack helicopter.

The PKM-class Chamsuri Warship is a life-size replica of the actual vessel.

The Korean War Monument.

'The Statue of Brothers' depicts a real-life story of two brothers who fought on opposite sides during the Korean War and were accidentally reunited on the battle field. A symbol of reconciliation and national peace.

On hindsight, it was incorrect for us to think we could browse the museum in a couple of hours. Leaving without the full experience did not do justice to the museum and its' exhibits. We strongly recommend  an entire day there to appreciate the memorabilia and spirit of the men and women who laid down their lives so that others could live.

By the time we got back to the hotel,  we had less than an hour before we headed out with friends. It was unfortunate that our little girl had a stomachache and Daddy stayed with her in the room while Mummy and the older girl went out for dinner.

Located just a short drive away from Lotte World Hotel, the restaurant is located on the second floor and was already crowded when we got to there.  The restaurant is also called Gyeongbokgung, after Seoul's famous Gyeongbokgung Palace. 

Pumpkin soup and cold soup as starters.

Sashimi as starters?

Fried pumpkins and fried tofu with Korean chili paste. 

Octopus salad

Finally, the star of the show. Korean's premier beef. Even without any marination, it was very tender and juicy. 

Tofu stew
It was a very fulfilling meal. The side dishes kept coming and I wondered if I would even be able to stomach the main dish but when the trays of meat came, I was suddenly hungry again. The restaurant was apparently very popular as it was very crowded when we got there and even when we were leaving, it was still crowded. My friends planned to bring us for desserts after dinner but as my girl was already tired from the long day, my friends ordered takeaway instead.

Bingsu for the cold. You can check out the various locations on their website,

Friends ordered their traditional injeolmi rice cake bingsu, sprinkled with bean powder. They bought two and a traditional injeolmi rice cake toast and by the time we returned to the hotel, they were finished in a jiffy. The bingsu was not overwhelmingly sweet and the ice shavings were so fine that it melted in the mouth easily. Having tried the Korean bingsu cafes in Singapore, I dare say the ones in Korea are better. Maybe it is because we are having it in winter and they don't melt!

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