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Changing of the guards at Gyeongbokgung Royal Palace

People i met here who contributed to, and improved my trip: Maria (Russia), Anton (South Korea), Kevin (South Korea)

So Monday brought an end to my stay on the floor of the hostel laundry room, as Joon the receptionist was moving back in there after his weekend at the bar. It was actually pretty disappointing as 5,000won ($5) had me my own private little space with duvets to sleep on and a nice warm floor, which did my back the World of good! So into a 2 bed dorm i moved on Monday night, which cost 18,000won ($18) and i would have to put up with a bag rustling, noisy and inconsiderate Japanese man. I wanted my floor back hahaha.

After some toast, yoghurt and tea for breakfast, courtesy of the hostel, i made my first priority to find a camera shop to burn a CD of my photos.

Changing of the guards at Gyeongbokgung Royal Palace
The only kodak shop i could find nearby was closed and this meant that i had to go to an internet cafe and waste my morning doing the job myself. After 90 minutes getting the relevant copies burned, i was on my way to Gyeongbokgung Royal Palace to meet some people who Julia had introduced me to.

About 12.45 Maria and her husband Anton turned up to meet me, just in time for the changing of the guards. Maria is an old school friend of Julia's, whilst Anton is a Korean native who studied Russian literature in St Petersburg for 5 years and that is where the two of them had met and fallen in love. Anton is not his real name, but his adopted Russian name, i'm guessing his favourite author is Anton Chekhov? There story is quite funny actually, as they have already been married once at the registry office in Russia, but are currently planning a traditional Korean wedding in Seoul and this will be followed by a traditional Russian wedding in St Petersburg.
Trying my second swing as the guy laughs at me!
So they will actually get married 3 times!

After watching the guards march up and down, accompanied to traditional music, we were met by Anton's friend Kevin, who worked at the Palace. He kindly got us all free admission and within the space of 2 minutes had volunteered his services to take me on a bicycle ride down the Han River the following day! How could i possibly say no to such a kind gesture!?

Kevin went back to work and the 3 of us took a guided English tour around the Palace, which housed several impressive buildings, all of which had been lovingly restored over the years. Whenever i spoke to the pair of them though, i noticed that Maria always seemed to answer and at first i couldn't work out if Anton understood me or not, but he always seemed to acknowledge me as if he did.
Seouls neon lights
As it turns out, Anton understands English perfectly, its just that he hasn't spoken it for many years, so struggles to get his brain into gear to speak it as easily as he understands. We therefore had the system that i spoke English, Anton spoke Russian and Maria worked as our translator!

After a nice tour we moved on to the National Folk Museum, which was informative and well layed out, but as anyone who knows me should have figured out by now, museums aren't really my thing! So after 30 minutes i was ready to be moving on, although i did find the dioramma on Kim-chi to be an insightful guide into Korean eating habits, which i hoped could stand me in good stead for the rest of my stay in the country!

Once we had left the Palace, we walked along some pretty streets until we came to a very nice restaurant, where i was treated to a Bacon Lettuce and Tomato sandwich, which i know isn't very Korean, but it really hit the spot! Next we walked around the library gardens and then down Insadong street, one of Korea's main tourist streets, where i got the chance to swing a mallet around like a lunatic for a short while.
Anton and Maria at our amazing Dinner
Not only did i 'assist' in making some food with my wild swings, but we then got to watch some Korean candies been made and also some guys do a performance whilst making some honey sweets, which was actually very impressive.

Earlier in the day i had mentioned that i would like to try some Korean food and the local drink Soju, so Anton suggested that as it was Dinner time, we should find a nice restaurant to sample 2 of the finer points of Korean culture, their food and drink. A Korean barbeque restaurant was selected and some delicious pork was ordered, which Anton cooked up on the grill above the coals in the centre of our table. I was taught how to eat the food properly, wrapping some meat, rice, sauce and onions into 2 leaves and then eating it all in one go.
Deer Park in 'Seoul Forest'
It tasted really fantastic and the soju washed it down perfectly. So much so that we had to order a second bottle! Soju is a bit like vodka, but much smoother in texture and also half the percentage, so its a drink thats nice to sip straight. I was also taught drinking etiquette, that it is necessary to down the first shot and it is always correct to pour the other persons drink when you see it is empty. If you pour your own drink it means you won't get a beautiful wife and also that you are an egotist.

It had been a fantastic evening, which had perfectly rounded off a great day and they walked me back to my hostel, as i still had no clue as to my bearings within the city, especially at night! Along the way Anton bought us all a Korean Hot Dog, which is actually fish on a stick and he even began to speak some English to me.
Street vendor cooks up some tasty treats
.. now i knew the soju was talking hehehe. I said my farewells and we agreed that it would be great if we could meet up one last time in Seoul before i left for China. I ended up having a Hite (Korean beer) nightcap back at the hostel with a Czech guy, before getting to sleep in preperation for the bike ride that had been scheduled with Kevin!

I was awake before 09.00 on Tuesday and met Kevin around 10.00 and we wandered down to the Han River, where i hired a bicycle (Kevin already had his). For the next couple of hours we cycled along the river and passed lots of old Korean ladies picking miso in the bushes, other cyclists riding by and plenty of joggers getting some exercise. It was nice to chat with Kevin and have him explain that this was really what a normal day for an average Korean was like - when they are not working that is.
Changdeokgung Royal Palace front gate
Koreans are actually work-a-holics from what i can gather! Its always nice to get an insight into how people actually live away from the tourist places and Kevin explained so much to me alon the way.

We stopped off at Seoul Forest for a little walk around and i was surprised to see a park full of deer. It was one of those moments where the contrast was so sharp, from river to motorway to deer park, all within a 100 metres of each other! Back on the bikes and we cycled along the river side and over a bridge with a cycle path, before deciding that we best be heading back. The Han River has several bridges spanning it and makes for a lovely little ride, especially when the weather was as nice as it was for us. The ride finished up on the opposite bank to the Olympic Stadium, where the 1988 Seoul Olympics had been held, which as a sports fanatic was a nice way to finish the ride!

We had both worked up a decent appetite, so Kevin decided that he would take me to lunch at a little traditional restaurant that he knew, which specialised in dumplings and noodles.
Seodaemun Prison
I ate the standard dumplings with meat, whilst Kevin had some filled with Kim-chi, a little too hot for me! The noodles which i had were nothing like i'd sampled before. They were served in a large steel bowl that was filled with water so cold that there was ice in it! The noodles were accompanied by egg and a little bit of meat and also some hot soup. The texture was completely unlike anything i'd tried before, but it was an interesting dish and fun to try.

The two of us moved on for a drink in Starbucks, where we sat and chatted a while before Kevin had to go and pick up his little girl from school. He brought her back to Starbucks to come and meet me and she was a real little sweetheart. She munched on a cookie whilst we continued our conversation, but soon it was time for her to be getting home to watch her cartoons, so i said me goodbyes, to end what had been a really fantastic day.
Seoul fortress wall, with Seoul in the background


I caught the subway then to the USO office to try and book my DMZ tour to the North Korean border, but disappointingly found it fully booked for the next 2 weeks. I therefore headed into the centre to take a look at Myeongdong Catholic Cathedral, which was undergoing some restoration works, so sadly had a huge sheet covering all of the front of the building. From here i walked down into Namdaemun Market and saw the Post Tower, Town Hall and several other interesting buildings. The light was fading as i watched the sun begin to set over Cheonggye Stream and it was time for my second meeting of the day, this time with Mukesh and Polina, who i had spent Sunday evening with.

So my night didn't quite work out as well as my day! Mukesh sadly thought it was Monday and not Tuesday, so i was left stood at the metro station for about 45 minutes before i gave it up as a lost cause.
Seoul skyline
I ate some McDonalds comfort food before wandering home a little gloomily. I spent the rest of the evening relaxing at the hostel, which didn't turn out to be the worst thing in the World, as i had become a little exhausted from the hectic schedule i'd been keeping!

I had a lie in on Wednesday, as i could hear the rain outside and didnt fancy getting wet. When i did wake up i had some breakfast and just hung around the hostel until the weather brightened up, at which stage i went out sightseeing. First stop was Seodaemun Prison, which was a Japanese prison used to supress and torture Korean freedom fighters during their occupation. It was a really sombre place, but i sadly had the misfortune of a group of school girls running around screaming and shouting and basically showing no respect for the environment they were in.
Pretty flowers
When i say screaming and shouting i mean exactly those words too. I have no idea what their school teacher was doing during this time, but i found it quite a sad affair.

My next adventure for the day was to go on what the Lonely Planet described as the 'Inwangsan Shamanist Hillside Walk', which led up a steep hill and offered some wonderful views of the city. A nice Korean lady pointed me in the right direction when i showed her where i wanted to go and i was soon clambering past some ornate little temples, a bronze bell, Zen Rock and a few people praying - im not sure if these were classed as the Shaman, certainly very different from the one i encountered in the Amazon!

Once on top of the hill, i made my way along the path that connected to the Seoul fortress wall and just expected a couple of crumbling bricks, so i was delighted to see a fair expanse of wall that i could walk along.
The sun sets over the Cheonggye Stream and downtown Seoul
I followed the trail firstly up to the peak of a mountain and then all the way back down again into the city. The views were excellent and i had the place almost all to myself. My final descent took me through steep streets with traditional tiled houses and the locals looked at me rather quizically. I was absolutely loving the experience and finished it off by stopping in a little dumpling restaurant to replenish my energy.

My passion for football dictated how my evening was to be spent, with the outcome been that i was back at the World Cup Stadium to watch my newly adopted team FC Seoul, take on local rivals Suwon. I arrived early enough so that i could get a seat right in amongst all the 'hardcore' fans who stood and sang for the whole game! Thats my kind of scene and where i always love to be when i travel away to watch Leeds games.
FC Seoul 0-2 Suwon, watched at the World Cup Stadium


The atmosphere was great, with 2 guys with loud tannoys and 3 drummers at the front of the crowd, instigating all the songs and chants. Fans jumped up and down to certain songs and you could feel the stand literally vibrating beneath you! Large flares were lit sporadically, huge flags were waved and at half time everyone seemed to get sparklers from somewhere and lit them for the start of the second half. I was given one by the guy next to me and another guy gave me a handful of paper to chuck up like confetti when the players ran back onto the pitch! Typical Korean hospitality, i love these people!

The game sadly ended FC Seoul 0-2 Suwon, with both teams having a player sent off at the end. I was impressed though that all the players gather at the end and shake hands and then come to thank the fans for their support.
FC Seoul fans singing their hearts out!
I think the primadonna English players could learn a thing or two from here and show the fans back home who spend their hard earned incomes similar levels of respect - but that will never happen.

Deats says:
Yeah, im such a big fan ;) Just gobble the stuff down daily!
Posted on: Apr 10, 2008
the_bloodsucker says:
you seem to have loved spicy food, buddy! =D
Posted on: Apr 10, 2008
Deats says:
Kim Chi, argh, to hot for me! I'll let you have the whole dish for sure :)

They tasted intersting Portia! I wouldn't say they were my favourite things ever, but i did have another bowl of them 2 days ago, so they cant have been that bad ;)
Posted on: Apr 10, 2008
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Changing of the guards at Gyeongbo…
Changing of the guards at Gyeongb…
Changing of the guards at Gyeongbo…
Changing of the guards at Gyeongb…
Trying my second swing as the guy …
Trying my second swing as the guy…
Seouls neon lights
Seouls neon lights
Anton and Maria at our amazing Din…
Anton and Maria at our amazing Di…
Deer Park in Seoul Forest
Deer Park in 'Seoul Forest'
Street vendor cooks up some tasty …
Street vendor cooks up some tasty…
Changdeokgung Royal Palace front g…
Changdeokgung Royal Palace front …
Seodaemun Prison
Seodaemun Prison
Seoul fortress wall, with Seoul in…
Seoul fortress wall, with Seoul i…
Seoul skyline
Seoul skyline
Pretty flowers
Pretty flowers
The sun sets over the Cheonggye St…
The sun sets over the Cheonggye S…
FC Seoul 0-2 Suwon, watched at the…
FC Seoul 0-2 Suwon, watched at th…
FC Seoul fans singing their heart…
Changing of the guards at Gyeongbo…
Changing of the guards at Gyeongb…
Changing of the guards at Gyeongbo…
Changing of the guards at Gyeongb…
Changing of the guards at Gyeongbo…
Changing of the guards at Gyeongb…
Changing of the guards at Gyeongbo…
Changing of the guards at Gyeongb…
Changing of the guards at Gyeongbo…
Changing of the guards at Gyeongb…
Changing of the guards at Gyeongbo…
Changing of the guards at Gyeongb…
Changing of the guards at Gyeongbo…
Changing of the guards at Gyeongb…
Changing of the guards at Gyeongbo…
Changing of the guards at Gyeongb…
Changing of the guards at Gyeongbo…
Changing of the guards at Gyeongb…
Changing of the guards at Gyeongbo…
Changing of the guards at Gyeongb…
Anton, Maria and I at Gyeongbokgun…
Anton, Maria and I at Gyeongbokgu…
Gyeongbokgung Royal Palace
Gyeongbokgung Royal Palace
Gyeongbokgung Royal Palace
Gyeongbokgung Royal Palace
Kings bedroom at Gyeongbokgung Roy…
Kings bedroom at Gyeongbokgung Ro…
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Dragon symbols on the ceiling of …
Gyeongbokgung Royal Palace
Gyeongbokgung Royal Palace
Gyeongbokgung Royal Palace
Gyeongbokgung Royal Palace
Gyeongbokgung Royal Palace
Gyeongbokgung Royal Palace
Gyeongbokgung Royal Palace
Gyeongbokgung Royal Palace
Intersting lamp and colourful deco…
Intersting lamp and colourful dec…
Gyeongbokgung Royal Palace
Gyeongbokgung Royal Palace
Queens bedroom at Gyeongbokgung Ro…
Queens bedroom at Gyeongbokgung R…
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Ceiling of the Queens bedroom wit…
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A view from the Queens bedroom at…
Gyeongbokgung Royal Palace
Gyeongbokgung Royal Palace
Roof of the National Folk Museum
Roof of the National Folk Museum
Carved spirit figure at the Nation…
Carved spirit figure at the Natio…
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Carriage used to carry royalty in…
I forget if this was used for buri…
I forget if this was used for bur…
Signs of the zodiac at the Nationa…
Signs of the zodiac at the Nation…
Gate at Gyeongbokgung Royal Palace
Gate at Gyeongbokgung Royal Palace
Man hammers this sticky produce wi…
Man hammers this sticky produce w…
Deats attempts to do the same
Deats attempts to do the same
Making Korean candies
Making Korean candies
Maria and Anton getting jiggy with…
Maria and Anton getting jiggy wit…
Main street in Seoul
Main street in Seoul
My introduction to soju...
My introduction to soju...
Anton cooks up our delicious pork …
Anton cooks up our delicious pork…
A view as i cycle alongside the Ha…
A view as i cycle alongside the H…
Deer Park in Seoul Forest
Deer Park in 'Seoul Forest'
Deer Park in Seoul Forest
Deer Park in 'Seoul Forest'
Deer Park in Seoul Forest
Deer Park in 'Seoul Forest'
Deer Park in Seoul Forest
Deer Park in 'Seoul Forest'
A view over the Han River
A view over the Han River
A view over the Han River
A view over the Han River
Kevin, my trusty bicycle guide!
Kevin, my trusty bicycle guide!
Me on a bridge - random i know!
Me on a bridge - random i know!
Geese relax besides the Han River
Geese relax besides the Han River
A view over the Han River
A view over the Han River
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A view of the Olympic Stadium fro…
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A view of the Seoul skyline over …
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Riding along the bike path beside…
Stained glass window inside Myeong…
Stained glass window inside Myeon…
Myeongdong Catholic Cathedral
Myeongdong Catholic Cathedral
Jesus statue outide Myeongdong Cat…
Jesus statue outide Myeongdong Ca…
Jesus statue outide Myeongdong Cat…
Jesus statue outide Myeongdong Ca…
Vibrant street in Seoul
Vibrant street in Seoul
Street food is easily available in…
Street food is easily available i…
Post Tower
Post Tower
Post Tower
Post Tower
Colourful water feature
Colourful water feature
Seodaemun Prison
Seodaemun Prison
Seodaemun Prison
Seodaemun Prison
Seodaemun Prison
Seodaemun Prison
Seodaemun Prison
Seodaemun Prison
Seodaemun Prison
Seodaemun Prison
Seodaemun Prison
Seodaemun Prison
Seodaemun Prison
Seodaemun Prison
Seodaemun Prison
Seodaemun Prison
Seodaemun Prison
Seodaemun Prison
Front gate of Seodaemun Prison
Front gate of Seodaemun Prison
Entrance to Seodaemun Prison
Entrance to Seodaemun Prison
Gate of a Shamanist shrine
Gate of a Shamanist shrine
Bronze bell
Bronze bell
Guksadang Shamanist Shrine
Guksadang Shamanist Shrine
Outside Guksadang Shamanist Shrine
Outside Guksadang Shamanist Shrine
A view of Seoul from the Shamanist…
A view of Seoul from the Shamanis…
Zen Rocks
Zen Rocks
A view of Seoul from the Shamanist…
A view of Seoul from the Shamanis…
Rocky area around the Shamanist te…
Rocky area around the Shamanist t…
A view of Seoul from the Shamanist…
A view of Seoul from the Shamanis…
A view of Seoul from the Shamanist…
A view of Seoul from the Shamanis…
A view of Seoul from the Shamanist…
A view of Seoul from the Shamanis…
A view of Seoul from the Shamanist…
A view of Seoul from the Shamanis…
Seoul fortress wall runs up a moun…
Seoul fortress wall runs up a mou…
Me at the top of the mountain, wit…
Me at the top of the mountain, wi…
Me at the top of the mountain, wit…
Me at the top of the mountain, wi…
A view of Seoul from the Shamanist…
A view of Seoul from the Shamanis…
Seoul fortress wall, with Seoul in…
Seoul fortress wall, with Seoul i…
Seoul fortress wall
Seoul fortress wall
Seoul fortress wall
Seoul fortress wall
Seoul fortress wall
Seoul fortress wall
Seoul fortress wall
Seoul fortress wall
Pretty flowers an the Seoul skyline
Pretty flowers an the Seoul skyline
Seoul fortress wall
Seoul fortress wall
A contrast of old and new, with ti…
A contrast of old and new, with t…
Seoul main intersection
Seoul main intersection
FC Seoul 0-2 Suwon, watched at the…
FC Seoul 0-2 Suwon, watched at th…
FC Seoul 0-2 Suwon, watched at the…
FC Seoul 0-2 Suwon, watched at th…
FC Seoul 0-2 Suwon, watched at the…
FC Seoul 0-2 Suwon, watched at th…
FC Seoul 0-2 Suwon, watched at the…
FC Seoul 0-2 Suwon, watched at th…
FC Seoul 0-2 Suwon, watched at the…
FC Seoul 0-2 Suwon, watched at th…
FC Seoul 0-2 Suwon, watched at the…
FC Seoul 0-2 Suwon, watched at th…
FC Seoul 0-2 Suwon, watched at the…
FC Seoul 0-2 Suwon, watched at th…
FC Seoul 0-2 Suwon, watched at the…
FC Seoul 0-2 Suwon, watched at th…
FC Seoul 0-2 Suwon, watched at the…
FC Seoul 0-2 Suwon, watched at th…
FC Seoul 0-2 Suwon, watched at the…
FC Seoul 0-2 Suwon, watched at th…
FC Seoul 0-2 Suwon, watched at the…
FC Seoul 0-2 Suwon, watched at th…
Me at FC Seoul 0-2 Suwon, watched …
Me at FC Seoul 0-2 Suwon, watched…
FC Seoul 0-2 Suwon, watched at the…
FC Seoul 0-2 Suwon, watched at th…
FC Seoul 0-2 Suwon, watched at the…
FC Seoul 0-2 Suwon, watched at th…
FC Seoul 0-2 Suwon, watched at the…
FC Seoul 0-2 Suwon, watched at th…
FC Seoul 0-2 Suwon, watched at the…
FC Seoul 0-2 Suwon, watched at th…
FC Seoul 0-2 Suwon, watched at the…
FC Seoul 0-2 Suwon, watched at th…
FC Seoul 0-2 Suwon, watched at the…
FC Seoul 0-2 Suwon, watched at th…
FC Seoul 0-2 Suwon, watched at the…
FC Seoul 0-2 Suwon, watched at th…
FC Seoul 0-2 Suwon, watched at the…
FC Seoul 0-2 Suwon, watched at th…
FC Seoul 0-2 Suwon, watched at the…
FC Seoul 0-2 Suwon, watched at th…
FC Seoul 0-2 Suwon, watched at the…
FC Seoul 0-2 Suwon, watched at th…
In amongst the FC Seoul fans, who…
Crazy Korean Fans sing their play…
In amongst the FC Seoul fans
Fans with their sparklers make it…
Seoul
photo by: chiyeh