Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Students really got around; Some get wet

In addition to activities arranged by the Kelley School, students had ample opportunities for free time in Seoul.

They explored the extensive subway system, which operates using a T-money card. The plastic card resembles most ATM cards, except that it is easier to load money onto it for use in the subway, on buses and in taxis and even to make phone cards.

T-money can could be bought for 3,000 won (or $2.18 U.S.) and then any amount can be loaded on the card. Fares are deducted from it when you pass through the turnstiles.

Most of us got around for the week for less than $15. The efficient system is being looked at as a model for other countries’ transit systems.

Speaking of money, the exchange rate between the two nations’ currencies heavily favored the American college students. Throughout the week, the exchange rate between the U.S. Dollar and the Korean Won was as high as $1 to 1,475 won.

A good dinner out cost as little as $4.35 (6000 won) to about $11 (15,000 won).

Tuesday night, most of the students headed to Seoul World Cup Stadium to see the FC Seoul soccer team lose to Kwanglu.

The mixer at Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU), also on Tuesday, was only the beginning for students at the two business schools. Many of them remained in touch with each other throughout the week and on Friday got together for a day of basketball, soccer and lunch in the Han River Park.

According to students, the friendly competition was spirited, as evidenced by a few minor scrapes. No one knows what the final score was. Everyone went home with the gift of a gold bookmark from the SKKU students.

On Saturday afternoon, some of the guys did something that had deep meaning for themselves. With input from Professor Kang, they visited a public bath and sauna near the hotel.

They took the advice in the Lonely Planet guide to Seoul to heart, “Don’t leave Seoul with experiencing an 'oncheon' (public bath) and a sauna where you can simmer or steam yourself like a dumpling.”

It included communal baths (men and women bathe separately) of varying temperatures, a rubdown and more relaxation than they’d felt in their first two decades.

According to Deepak, the five-hour experience was “better than the day I was born.”

"Our aimless wondering around Seoul got us to the most amazing spa and massage resort. The five hours that we spent there are indescribable," Nikhil added. "The satisfaction of sitting in a hot tub, staring at the blue skies, in a foreign country cannot be put into words. No one should leave Seoul without experiencing the tradition Korean massage and spa."

"Hands down, the highlight of my trip was spending almost five and a half hours in the Dragon Hill Spa," Andrew said. "With seven floors of pure relaxation, there wasn't enough time to see everything. I didn't want to leave! The salt treatments, back massages, skin scrubs, energy baths and hygiene stations left me with the smooth skin of a 2 month old baby. What more could you want in life?"


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  2. Wonderful post George. If you ever make it back to Korea head up to one of the mountain monasteries during Buddhas birthday. If you do, plan on spending the day helping out with the lighting of the lanterns and hanging of the prayers. It is a very humbling experience and often you have the chance to get a free dinner form the local monks. Plan on a vegetarian meal though since they have a very strict diet.