surprisingly awake

Seoul Travel Blog

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Changdeokgung Palace, Injeongjeon Hall, constructed in 1405, was used for official ceremonies

A couple of thoughts before I get to today's siteseeing in Seoul.  You know how you hear people joke about seeing someone, usually a woman, walking along with toilet paper hanging out from her skirt like some sort of tail?  (In fairness, a guy usually has it stuck to his shoe)  I always assumed it was like an urban legend or something, I mean really, have you ever actually seen it?  Well Alan and I are walking down the B Concourse in Hopkins and lo and behold, there's a woman right in front of us with a piece of toilet paper trailing behind her like a kite.  I swear it was close to 3 ft long.  I stared in disbelief, then looked at Alan like, do you see that?  So I'm thinking, I can't let this poor woman walk through the airport like this.

Jongno Tower in downtown Seoul
.....of course at the same time I had to fight the urge to take a picture of it.  So I went up to her and quietly told her what she had brought out of the restroom with her, and she looked at me with this dumbstruck look like, oh...my...god, please tell me you're kidding, as her hand reached around back confirming her worst fear.   Afterward, Alan said he'd have been way too embarrassed to tell her that.  I wasn't that embarrassed and even if I were it would be nothing compared to what she would've felt knowing she'd been walking around for the last 30 minutes with who knows how many people snickering at her. 

I was going to write more tonight but I've been up for 30 hours now, including a good 9 hours of on-the-hoof siteseeing and I'm starting to crash pretty fast.  I'll post some pics tomorrow to go along with the posting.  Good nigh.......

 

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I was pretending to take a picture of a building to the right of these guys but really wanted them. I guess they knew that

I’ve tried posting this twice now and each time I hit “publish” unbeknownst to me I lost the internet connection and the posting that took me a good 30 minutes to prepare.  God is that annoying.  Each day you have to put $20 into the kitty to get a day’s worth of internet access at the hotel and if you don’t keep an eye on it your time will have expired while you’re working.  So I’ll try this one last time.

 

Before I tell you about yesterday though let me share a little incident that seems to typify the Asian culture of modesty and deference.  It’s now early Monday morning, about 6:00, and I just came back to my room from getting a coffee from the restaurant.  One of the restaurant guys, dressed in a suit and carrying a tray of cream pitchers saw me from about 50 yards across the restaurant, practically ran over to me while still carrying the tray, apologized, apparently for not standing there anticipating my arrival, and greeted me good morning.

isn't this the cutest little girl you've ever seen?
  I asked for a cup of coffee to take back to my room and he said he would get it right away and offered me a seat.  He was back in less than a minute with the coffee, at no charge, and wished me a fine day.  Can you imagine that ever happening in the US? 

 

Back to yesterday.  Sunday was similar in that I was up at 4:00AM after going to bed at about 9:00 and really had my heart set on an espresso.  I asked the concierge if there was a Starbucks close by and she said there wasn’t and that even if there were it wouldn’t open until 9:00 anyway.  I found it really hard to believe that there wouldn’t be a Starbucks, or something similar, close to a hotel like the Shilla much less that it wouldn’t open until 9:00.

one of the several shopping districts in Seoul
 

 

So I left the hotel and after walking for about a mile or so I was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt.  No Starbucks, or anything else for that matter.  Furthermore, I very quickly realized that unless Alan was going to carry me on his back, it was going to be a very long day.  My feet and calf muscles were absolutely killing me from Saturdays sightseeing.  When I got back to the hotel I looked away from the concierge as I walked through the lobby knowing she’d be shaking her head over my total lack of trust.  Yes, I know this is typical ‘me’.

 

I headed over to the restaurant and noticed on the menu that an espresso was $9.

same shopping district
  It’s $2.50 at Starbucks and even that’s ridiculous.  I could buy a pound of Starbucks coffee for $9.  I decided to wait until breakfast instead, but I found myself making comparisons like this all over the place.  A small bottle of Pellegrino was $6 versus a case of twelve big bottles at Costco for $12.  You need something laundered?  One pair of socks costs $6.  A pair of underwear, $12, though frankly you’d have to pay me a lot more than $12 to wash someone else’s underwear, and they better not be men’s either, but you get my point. 

 

At breakfast Alan and I talked about what we should do that day.  We considered a tour to the DMZ, as in, the demilitarized zone that divides North and South Korea but we forgot to make reservations and the bus had already left by the time we finished breakfast.

somewhat typical street vendor selling octopus, cuttlefish, squid, and corn
  It kind of seemed like an odd tour anyway.  Instead we decided to go to the National Museum of Korea, which is like a natural history museum without the dinosaurs.  Anything related to Korean history and culture is on display there.  Trust me, if you’re into Buddha’s, this is the place for you.  Buddhas of every size, from an inch to ten feet tall, made of iron, bronze, or porcelain, there was even a thin Buddha, called a 'pensive Buddha'.  Too much thinking, not enough eating.

 

So we map out the subway routes we need to take to get there and head off.  The subway picture I took in this set was at a station where we had to change trains to get to the museum.  By the way, Alan is truly a museum guy.  And a train guy, too.

  He’s an engineer so he’s very into how things work from every possible angle.  In business this can be a real asset, going with him to a museum, not so much.  I can only imagine what he’d be like in a train museum.  It'd be like bordom's perfect storm.  I like museums too but for me a little bit goes a long way.  Like the other day at the something-or-other Palace.  After about 15 minutes I thought, ok, it’s big, it's old, it's a palace, I get it.  And every other one we saw was pretty much the same.  Don’t get me wrong, I do have a genuine appreciation of history, but still.  It reminded me of what my Dad said after he and my Mom had gotten back from Europe where they saw a lot of cathedrals.  You see one, you’ve seen them all.  Kind of the same thing with palaces.
  I knew I was in trouble when I had walked through almost an entire section of Korean history and Alan was still examining the first exhibit in the first room. 

 

The next thing on the agenda was…the Korean War Museum.  Actually I was fine with this.  I had seen the Korean War Memorial in Washington DC and was interested in comparing cultural perspectives.  A couple more subway rides later we were faced with another long walk to the War Museum.  Considering where we were going and how much my feet hurt I started to imagine what it was like on the Bataan Death March.  I mean, you know, aside from this being Korea not the Philippines.

just had to have a few shots of espresso
  And a different war entirely.  But besides that, my feet realllllly hurt so I’m sure it was exactly the same experience. 

 

As you can see from the pictures the museum has a lot of airplanes, helicopters, tanks, artillery and rockets on display outside along a wide causeway.   It wasn’t unusual to see men posing in kind of jaunty way in front of the airplanes or tanks while their wives or girlfriends took their pictures.  It was reminiscent of photographs from WWII where Army Aircorpmen posed next to their planes.  Kids were playing on tanks, adults were laughing and posing for pictures.  It was kind of strange.  I mean, these guys weren’t in their 70’s, they were in their 30’s and 40’s.  I doubt any man who actually fought in Korea would consider having a picture taken like that.

  Maybe I was expecting people to be a little more solemn, or at least respectful of what all this represented instead of treating it like rides at an amusement park.  I took a few pictures too but more as a bookmark to the day than anything else.  I love the one with the little Korean girl on the artillery unit. Maybe it’s not so different after all. 

 

It wasn’t until we got to the end of the memorial that I saw something that seemed to more accurately portray the reality of war.  It was a very large bronze sculpture of people, military and civilian, who were touched by the war.  But even then I had to wait to take some pictures until a father finished posing his very young son on one of the figures for a photograph.  Like I said, weird. 

merk says:
Christine makes a good point, why in the world would you travel all the way to Korea and seek out a Starbucks? You should be drinking tea...perhaps something make from ginsing. Philistine!
Posted on: Oct 24, 2007
kt_christine says:
whoa $9 for an espresso? thats nuts. why are you going to starbucks anyway? dad, globalisation is creepy, you know that.
Posted on: Oct 11, 2007
Changdeokgung Palace, Injeongjeon …
Changdeokgung Palace, Injeongjeon…
Jongno Tower in downtown Seoul
Jongno Tower in downtown Seoul
I was pretending to take a picture…
I was pretending to take a pictur…
isnt this the cutest little girl …
isn't this the cutest little girl…
one of the several shopping distri…
one of the several shopping distr…
same shopping district
same shopping district
somewhat typical street vendor sel…
somewhat typical street vendor se…
just had to have a few shots of es…
just had to have a few shots of e…
Donhwamun Gate of the Changdeokgun…
Donhwamun Gate of the Changdeokgu…
Inside Injeongjeon Hall which was …
Inside Injeongjeon Hall which was…
This is the Shilla Hotel viewed fr…
This is the Shilla Hotel viewed f…
View of Seoul from the Seoul Tower
View of Seoul from the Seoul Tower
we took the subway all over and fr…
we took the subway all over and f…
motorcycles and scooters are all o…
motorcycles and scooters are all …
Hey!  Its the Seoul Cartoon Museu…
Hey! It's the Seoul Cartoon Muse…
Seoul Tower
Seoul Tower
Taking a tram up to the base of th…
Taking a tram up to the base of t…
view of Seoul from the Tower
view of Seoul from the Tower
Alan studying the subway map
Alan studying the subway map
Some guy who got his fat head in t…
Some guy who got his fat head in …
Seoul from the Tower
Seoul from the Tower
Seoul from...well, you get it
Seoul from...well, you get it
the subway station where we waited…
the subway station where we waite…
The Korean War Museum
The Korean War Museum
The Korean War Museum
The Korean War Museum
Still the war museum
Still the war museum
This is the bronze sculpture I men…
This is the bronze sculpture I me…
speaks for itself
speaks for itself
Seoul
photo by: chiyeh