If you look up “top 20 things to do in Korea”, going to Cheonan is not one of them. We went here to see Ho Ja Kim, Ann’s best friend growing up. Cheonan is an industrial city whose existence owes to sitting geographically at the intersection of three valleys, and therefore it became a key communication hub in ancient times and was part of the early mail system in this country. It also featured prominently in the Korean resistance to the Japanese occupation, which spanned from 1914 to 1945.
We arrived Sunday evening (Day 8) after a one hour train ride from Seoul. Ho has a very small apartment so Ann stayed there and we stayed in a hotel in a nondescript part of town. It was our first hotel of the trip and we had three rooms, thinking Ann was going to stay with us. I think everyone enjoyed having their own room for a night.
The next day we all piled into a van and drove to the Independence Hall of Korea, a massive complex with six museums that recognized the struggle for independence during the Japanese occupation, as well as the history of Korea overall. While not a top attraction for international visitors, we really enjoyed the monument and museums. You can read more about it here: http://global.i815.or.kr/en/introduction/history.
After spending two hours at the site we piled back into the van and drove to a nearby restaurant where we had a traditional lunch (more eating!). We then drove a short distance and visited Yu Gwan-Sun Hall, which honors the life of an 18 year old independence leader who was killed while imprisoned by Japanese occupiers.
While the history was impactful, it was also the first time on the trip (first time overall actually) that we were able to get out and fly the drone. Here’s a video summary from our day’s adventure complete with patriotic music appropriate for the sites.
It was great to have Ho Ja and Ann spend time together. Like true friends, they picked up where they last left off, which was four years ago. They met in middle school and were best friends for six years through high school, and remained close friends after. Even though they are both now in their mid-70’s they looked and acted like the school girls they were many years ago. Here’s a video of their conversation:
At the end of the day we took a local train and rattled south for 4.5 hours. We waited until the last minute to buy tickets and all of the faster trains were full. This is one of the drawbacks of our “fly by the seat of your pants” approach, but it allowed us to interact with the locals in unexpected ways.