Sunday, March 7, 2010

Weekend 1 of 52.

Shabu-Shabu, Hongdae, Gyeongbokgung Palace, The National Folk Museum, Kyobo Book Store, Yongsan Electronics Market, Seoul Tower, Itaewon

We had our first weekend in Seoul, and it was packed full. On Saturday, we were on our feet from 11am til 11pm, and the brunt of that pedestrian time was walking not standing. Our feet were so sore by this evening that we couldn't even bear to go grocery shopping. I really want to try and bake cookies in my toaster oven. Someone online likened it to baking in an Easy Bake oven, so maybe I should scout out some Easy Bake recipes. I never had one of those, so I don't actually know how that works.

Anyhow, I might as well get on with the pictures as they are many and varied. Have we mentioned that we love it here? We do.

Friday night we went out with three of Dan's co-workers: Korrine, Victoria, and Heather. They took us to Shabu-Shabu, a Japanese hot pot restaurant in Hongdae, a college (Hongik University) town.

Sprouts, dumplings and beef. We all ordered and shared beef, chicken and pork.

Before and after. You are provided with two broths. The red is hot broth. The white mild. Wait for the broth to boil and then you get to cook stuff in it. There are a variety of vegetables, and they bring out noodles at the very last. It was tasty, and I would like to go again with my already considerably improved eating soup with chopsticks skills.

Coffee is everywhere here. We got after dinner coffee/dessert at A Twosome Place.

So Saturday was the big day. I suited up for touring in my Koala Fires (Dan's old band in Cincinnati) gear. My shoes have koala laces.

Someone in our building just got a ton of plants.

We were meeting up with Korrine at the Family Mart across the street. While we were waiting, we checked out some fish jerky, Bighead Croaker flavor. I do not mean to imply that we ate this.

We made great use of Seoul's transit system. Seoul Metropolitan Rapid Transit, because it is smrt.

Train. The tracks are behind doors.

Seoul is like Disney World, Evidence Sample 1: Subway graffiti is characterized by happy faces and button down tops.

After you get off your train, it is important to find the Way Out signs.

Making the ascent.

Our first stop was Jongno-gu to visit the Gyeongbokgung Palace, which I just read online is the "Crown Jewel of Old Korea". I think Dan read that the Palace has been burned and rebuilt, and we decided that that colorful mosaic building represents the view of the Palace that used to exist.

This is Dan in front of King Sejong who presides over Gwanghwamun Plaza.

There was a tent renting out royal garb to tourists. Also, there was some grass there, and it was green.

Korean trees.

In front of the mosaic building.

Then we made our way past the National Palace Museum. That guy on the left, we finally deciphered, is a tiger.


Oh yeah, mountains.

Our friend Korrine is always game for a photo, even if that means taking risks to get a good one. Here she's gone beyond the fence around a monument of some sort. I should have taken pictures of all the names. I'll be a better documenter next weekend. I do remember reading that the Japanese stole this for a while.

And here's Gyeonbokgung Palace. It was a sprawling site, of course, and I just found out that there was a whole back section we didn't see with a pond and a smaller residential palace. I think it is being renovated, though.

These guys were standing guard, and we got to see the changing of the guards right as we were leaving.

I don't have smart architectural things to say, but it was really cool.

Korrine is from Australia, so she brought Katie the Koala around and let her see the sites with us. This has inspired us to start bringing our turtle Sosipater around with us. Props make pictures better.

This was the throne room.

Fancy pot and a rabbit. We struggled to identify some of the stone animals, but we faked it pretty well, I think.

Dan surveying the territory.

There was chicken wire covering some of the rafters. Maybe to prevent nesting?

Ancient fire extinguisher.

So this is just a pine tree, but it is much more stylized than any Florida palms.

Katie the Koala and Korrine both took to climbing.

Vegemite, another prop. We tasted it and discovered that it tastes like a beery beef bouillon.

Hidden Mickey!

Tractor for my dad.

The National Folk Museum was right beyond the Palace, so we went on to do it. I suspect this will happen often as we figure out the lay of the land.

Chinese zodiac out front. I'm a pig.

Dan's a rat, but he's not all bad.

Artifacts. The Korean flag on the left.

This is a Vegemite village model.

There were some model processionals. I think the first one is a funeral procession, but I'm not sure.

Edison phonograph representing us US Americans.

A vanity and a button knot.

Dan and me and some Hangul.

Just beyond the museum were some totems and rock piles. Dan read that they were set up outside cities (or was it palaces? I think it was cities) to ward off evil spirits.

There were paper slips tied to ropes. In Shintoism, which is Japanese, visitors to shrines tie bad fortunes at shrines "where the divine spirit can exorcise it". I wonder if that's what this signifies.

Then we hung out with and mimicked some stones.

That tree is crazy.

And this tree is a mummy. There were several bound trees. We don't know why.

After the folk museum, we went back to the subway where we ate lunch, mine a Melody Big Burger (chicken burger) Set, and visited Kyobo Book Store. It is located in the subway, and it is huge. I bought a notebook to take notes on Korean.

We went to the Foreign Books section.

Also in the subway: 7 Eleven and lots of different food and clothing shops. A vendor cooks nuts and waffles and other delicious street foods outside the various convenience stores, and, as a result, Seoul is like Disney World, Evidence Sample 2: the subway smells like doughnuts.

On our way to Yongsan Electronics Market. It's an 8 story mall stuffed with electronics and even some furniture and a couple apparel stores. We got a step-down transformer, so we can charge our toothbrush and I can straighten my hair and Dan can eventually play his XBox.

Cartoon shoes at the shoe store. If they weren't W89,000 (roughly $89), I would have bought these things.

After Yongsan, we made our way to Namsan for Seoul Tower. We were meeting up with another of Dan's coworkers, so we had some time to sit while we waited for her.

This is a gas station. Somehow those come down from the sky to fill your tank. Not my problem.

Hidden Mickey! We were in what seemed like the pet district for a block or two. I got this picture of puppies before an employee gave me the ol' no cameras gesture.

Seoul Tower is located atop Namsan mountain. You can take a bus only so far up the mountain after which you walk the rest of the way to the tower. It was the steepest incline I think I've ever walked (not pictured).

Creepy dude and a gazebo.

There it is. It reaches 777 feet in the air and is 1,574 feet above sea level.

And here is its view. That's the river.

And some buildings. The tower is situated centrally in Seoul, so there's a 360 observation deck with city on every side.

On different windows were different distances to major cities. Chicago and Santiago (for our nephew Abraham Oliver Santiago Schmidt).

Down a level there was a love tunnel. They were selling customizable tiles on which to proclaim your love for all future tourists to peruse.

Don't worry ~ be happy.

Convenience stores are everywhere here. This one was right next to the ticket booth at the bottom of the tower. Korrine found TimTams and had an Aussie reunion.

Then we took the bus back down the mountain. Bus art on the right. On the left, how it feels to ride on a Seoul bus.

The year of the tiger. This was on the side of a building in Namsan. Seoul is like Disney World, Evidence Sample 3: Electric light parades on random buildings.

So we rode the bus over to Itaewon for dinner. Itaewon is near the US Army Base, so it is essentially Little America. We ate really good fish and chips at an Irish pub. Don't be fooled by Itaewon, because it will not always deliver. We went back today to the Foreign Food Mart which was supposed to have some margarine I can eat, but that margarine was nowhere to be found. I don't know that I prefer Itaewon. I don't mind the language barrier elsewhere and the foreigners aren't very polite there. I feel like "Only in Itaewon" should probably be a famous phrase. I guess I'm going to start saying it from now on.


  1. "Ha young" Jamie and I just caught up with your journey. It was fun. Looking forward to 51 more weeks. Also, the new album has been playing in our car non-stop.

  2. "Ha young" is my American way of saying "hello" in Korean..... I'm a little rusty, I meant anyang.

  3. Haha, okay. I was wondering, but I get it now. Thanks for reading, and thanks for listening. I'll tell Dan you commented.

  4. I love the stubby lil' fire extinguisher :)