Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Pretend This Title is a Pun on "Seoul" and "Friends"

My good buddy Bov, the one who I visited in Indonesia, had a tremendous layover in Seoul on his way back to Indoland recently, and so naturally I did my best to show him the Seoul of Asia.

His flight got in at 6 pm yesterday evening, while I was still at Sherlock Academy. As soon as my last class finished, I booked it home, threw some stuff in a bag and—since I had just barely missed the last airport "limousine"—put down an ungodly amount of money on a cab to the airport.

We met, hugged, and then got out of the airport as fast as we could to get to Seodaemun. I figured Chris would have enough time in Seoul to eat, see one of the palaces, do one or two other things, and then leave, so that's more or less what we did. By the time we rolled into Seodaemun, it was probably about eleven, eleven-thirty. We grabbed a quick dinner at Gim Bap Heaven and wandered around the area a bit, trying to find a jjimjilbang. None to be found, sadly, and I have no Naver-fu to speak of, so we ended up staying at "Theme Hotel," a tremendously sketchy-looking love motel right across the street from Seodaemun station. God bless you, Seoul, and your abundance of cheap overnight housing.

This morning, we woke up at 7.30, got our stuff together, and headed out to see the city by day. A quick breakfast at Paris Baguette (where we bought some snazzy hats), and we were ready to tackle Gyeonguigung, one of the palaces in Seoul.

It wasn't all that much to speak of, aside from beautiful Joseon-era architecture and beautiful artwork. I was expecting more things; as it was, just one room was "set up" with any sort of historical context or informational bits. But hey, I'm not going to complain: pretty architecture is still pretty architecture.

The front gate to Gyeonghuigung.

Not sure what these guys are, or what they're doing, but they were all over.

Art detail.

Here there be dragons, where "here" = "the ceiling".

After we traipsed about the palace for a while, we went to a nearby history museum, which was easily the cheapest museum ticket I've ever purchased (or will purchase again), minus the free admission to the Chicago Art Institute in February: seven hundred won. Less than one dollar.

Hordes of small Korean children were also there, so we had to step over them, but in our short time (~45 minutes, an hour maybe) we managed to ogle a few neat historical Korean artifacts. A woman there informed us that there was an English audio tour available, which probably would have been tremendously helpful and informative, but alas we didn't have time to do much more than look around. Chris commented on similarities to Japanese culture; I shrugged and joked that Japan cribbed everything they have from China and Korea, they're just better marketers.

Woman's hanbuk

The lighting was too dim to really get any good pictures so hopefully Chris got some that turned out better than mine.

There was a decent art gallery as well, with a lot of old-school calligraphy and pastel water color type stuff, the stereotypical but nonetheless beautiful East Asian nature paintings:

And some very vividly-colored prints on screens, as well.

But soon it was time for me to roll on back to Uijeongbu, and for Chris to get back to the airport so as to make it to Jakarta in a timely manner (having already been delayed by about a day). As a parting gift, I bought him something very typically Korean: street food, to the tune of tteokbokki. A bit pricier than we do here in the 'dong, but still good.

We still didn't get to do everything I would have liked to do—no sam gyeop sal, no jjimjilbang, no soju—but enough that I would consider his time here sufficiently Korean—love motel, palace, Gim Bap Heaven, street food. Certainly a a fair sampling of the Land of the Morning Calm.


  1. "Japan cribbed everything they have from China and Korea, they're just better marketers."

    Oh, so true. There's a really good reason there's so much bad blood between China, Japan and Korea.

    The thing that continues to fascinate me is how, even with all the similarities between the three cultures (and they're all different similarities, have you noticed? There's not really one thing they all have in common!) they're all so unique.

  2. Good point about there really not being more "stuff" at the palaces (besides a whole bunch of pretty buildings which you cannot enter) My parents had the same comment :P

  3. That tree is staggeringly beautiful.

  4. Yah! I was there! And now I'm in the states! Why am I saying yah?