Korea Seoul

Sept 8 2008 – Seoul


We have become regulars with the ‘sandwich lady’. Today we didn’t even need to order – as soon as we got to her truck she started cooking our breakfast. It’s so convienent. She is located just at the entrance to the subway. She seems to do a pretty brisk business.

The plan for today was to go to Changdeokgung, a UNESCO World Heritage site. On the way there we picked up cold canned coffee to go from a 7-11 type store. Our side the store was a woman with a cart making fresh donuts. We both got one -mine was stuffed with Red Bean curd. It was good!

Changdeokgung is the palace of Illustrious Virtue. One thing we learned is that Korean cultural attractions do something that ours do in Ottawa. They close on Monday. We got there and there were others, Koreans and Foreigners all discovering the same thing.

Plan B. After sitting and having some water we consulted the guide book and there is a Buddhist temple close by. So we were off in that direction. Yogyesa was established in 1910, it was moved in 1937 and is very beautiful. We arrived and the monks were conducting a prayer ceremony. We toured around the Great Hero Hall and were granted permission from the tourist office to enter the Brahma Bell Tour. Normally I think you must go with a tour – they saw us looking at the tour of two people who went up and felt sorry for us. At the entrance to the temple and in the Great Hero Hall there are lanterns that are lit once a year for Budda’s birthday to pray for health and happiness for your family.

There appeared to be a protest behind the temple. An area with the tent erected and people appeared to be living there. I inquired at the visitor office about this and asked if it was a protest and the volunteer said it was a protest. I asked about what – but she smiled clearly uncomfortable so I thanked knowing that no information would be forthcoming. I think the answer is here: but i’m not sure. The other clue is that the laterns when seen from above spell the word OUT.

We wandered by to Insadong, we were then on Saturday but it was very crowded. This time Darlene had time to shop! The other thing we learned is that Korea is a city where something is always happening. While in Insadong we came accross the filming of a Korean drummers. This was a real filming for a movie or TV show, so not only have we been caught on film kneading bread, now our hands are clapping in the soundtrack of a drum sequence. Carrying one down the street we came across the filming of a comedy TV show. I don’t get the shows here. Alot seem to have to do with food.

After Insadong we headed to the island of Yeouido. This is the financial and polictical centre and has the tallest building in Korea. So we went up it. On the 60th floor they have the highest art gallery in the world . The exhibit that was on display was a Hello Kitty exhibit. The funny thing is Stevie Harper and George Bush are in the exhibit holding Hello Kitty Balloons! I think the balloons were added to the art work. From the gallery we have a great view of the haze over Seoul and some fo the apartment blocks that people live in. There are also alot of helipads, though we have seen very few helicopters.

Off to the fish market. The Noryangin Fish Market is huge – several football fields of seafood. We were there about 5:30 and while some booths were closed, many where open. You have to get there before dawn to see all the action of selling bulk fish. This was all people buying fish and seafood for dinner. While we recognized most things – others were not anything we recognized.

Korea Seoul

Sept 7 2008 – Seoul


Took it easy this morning as we have had 2-12 hour long tiring days. The sandwich lady is off today – Darlene wandered around and found some huge and yummy muffins, chocolate and coffee milk, and Starbucks cold coffee products at a Crown bakery for breakfast. We have seen Crown Bakery often in
Seoul. We also got our laundry done and get some more pictures captioned so we would remember where the pictures were taken.

After laundry was done it was off to Namsam Park and the North Seoul Tower. This is Korea’s answer to the CN Tower, no where near as tall. It is located on a hill in the park or probably more accurately the hill is the park. There is a cable car that goes most of the way up the hill but that would be too easy. We walked. There are stairs going up the the base of the tower. Lots of Stairs. Lots and Lots of Stairs. It’s about 30 degrees Celsuis today. I’m not sure how long it took to get up, but we were pretty drenched at the top.

We decided not to actually go up the tower. After being up the CN Tower we didn’t think it was that worth it. What was weird was along the safety rails by the tower there were padlocks. Pairs of padlocks locked to each other then to the rails. In front of the rails was a sign asking people not to lock locks to the rails basically so the rails wouldn’t fall. Afixed to the rail was another sign – “Please do not lose your key”. All of the locks had dates on them so we figure it is a sign of love.

At the tower was a demonstration of 8 martial arts from the 24 martial arts that are described in Muye Dobo Tongji (The Comprehensive Illustrated Manual of the Martial Arts of Ancient Korea) that was published in 1870. (Gotta love google for filling in the information). It was quite an impressive demostration.

After that we decided to go back down to the city. We checked on the cable car, but is was almost as expensive to go down and it is to take it round trip. We walked down. Our legs were trembling at the end of the trip down.

We arrived in the very commercial shopping district of Myeongdong. This area is full of stores, like the Gap, Club Monoco, Roots, Body Shop. It was absolutely packed. I had a ‘pogo’ that was in some kind of seafood batter, it was pretty good. I’m going to have to try a bacon wrapped hot dog before I come home.

From there was took a subway over to Itaewon. This is area was our least favourite area of Seoul at this point. It felt cheap and trashy. This is also the closest area to a large US Military base (sorry Casey – but I think there is a connection). In this area we saw more non Koreans than we have at any other point in our trip so far. We felt somewhat out of place. We did overhear on person talking about how much she enjoys Shwarma’s in Ottawa!

After that we decided it was time for dinner – we came back close to the hotel and ended up trying a place called Two Two Fried Chicken. It seems to be a westernized Korean restaurant that has lots of fried chicken. It was the first meal we had where there was no Kimchi – it didn’t come with pickled radish or daikon.

Korea Seoul

Sept 6, 2008 – Seoul


Stopped at the sandwich lady to get breakfast – grilled westerns and then a coffee downtown.

We saw a building with an interesting sign: Maple Bear which had the name of the institution Maple Bear and a teddy bear holding a Canadian Flag. The director was outside and spoke with us – he was from Windsor and explained that Maple Bear was where children attended school to learn English and get exposed to Canada – basically immersion. We went up to see the 3 classrooms that were in progress and noticed that 1 of the teachers was white – possibly someone in Korea to teach English?

Deoksugung: Palace of virtuous longevity across from the Seoul city plaza. We saw the changing of the guards there and had our picture taken with one of the guards. We also had some conversation with a bunch of girls that were probably around 12 years old. They were very excited to be practicing their English and giggled alot. One told me I was pretty and had a small face. They also asked if they were pretty – I told them they were very pretty. We also had a chat with 2 girls in middle school who twirled their hair when they spoke with us – they were also happy to practice their English.

Palace of shining happiness (Gyeongbokgung)– after passing the US embassy which had an unbelievable amount of police protection. Here we got to try on traditional Korean outfits. Bruce was dressed as a high level general. This is very large palace, another changing of the guards show. The throne hall Geunjeongjeon was rebuilt in 1867.

After Gyeongbokgung we walked through the Insadong district which is a shopping area of art and antiques. We saw a group of street dancers performers in traditional costumes who were performing down the street. Following that we saw most of a traditional Korean wedding. We were late so just saw the end of the wedding ceremony, then traditional dancers and then drummers with ribbons that were attached to a wire (??) on their hats that they made flow and dance around with movements of their heads, and then the wedding parade – the husband was on a horse and the wife was carried in a seat held up by 4 men.

We wandered down to the Lotte hotel to book our trip to the Demilitarized Zone. Then took a train to Lotte World (Jamsil Station). Lotte World is a ‘disney world’ type area. Seouls version of West Edmonton mall. The mall has an ice rink, shooting range, swimming pool. On the third floor which we couldn’t go to without paying an admission, we could see a ‘mountie’ costume.

We traveled back to Dongdaemun market area to see a sound and light show. We are never exactly sure where the shows are on (or when) but we found it. It was a music performance that was on Cheonggyecheon stream and area that has been cleaned up and turned into a stream and walkway. Rafts were floated into the stream and the performance was in the center of the stream. We sat on the edge and soaked our feet in the cool water to help cool them down after a long day of walking. From there we grabbed some dinner in what turned out to be a Japanese restaurant. Our first clue should have been the plastic replicas of food displayed outside the restaurant

Korea Seoul

Sept 5, 2008 – Seoul


This morning we went down to the transit station and on the way had breakfast: a woman had a sandwich cart which she made breakfast sandwiches – we had a grilled western sandwich with ham and cheese and sliced cabbage (I think) – Bruce had the all dressed with mustard, ketchup and a grainy substance that looked like sugar or salt – but we don’t know what it was.

We headed downtown and walked through a market. There is food at small stalls everywhere – we noticed that groups of stalls located beside each other all sold the same items – strange – would have thought that different items would be better for business. We stopped to see a display where a woman was kneading a big mound of dough on a wooden board. There were 2 men with large wooden mallets dipped in water that were pounding on the dough in between kneading. Once one of the men saw us stopped and looking he got us set up with the mallets and had us pounding the dough – all of a sudden there were people taking pictures of us – a couple of them looked like photographers.

There is a lot of traffic and mopeds and motorcycles seem to drive both on the sidewalks and the roads on existent or non-existent lanes. The travel books advice for tourists not to drive is a very good one – the traffic is a it crazy.

We had lunch at a small restaurant (see picture) and then walked around in a few markets and through the streets for the afternoon. We had dinner at an outdoor spot in a market. The food here is very good and there is a lot of seafood -esp. octopus, shellfish, etc.

In the evening we went to a free outdoor show that consisted of drumming, dancing, acrobatics/tumblers, and a short opera (I think).


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