National Holiday in Seoul

Friday, October 9th, 2009
Seoul

Seoul

For the Chinese National Holiday, Nik and I both had a week off of work, so we skipped town and headed to Seoul, South Korea. I know, I just went there two months ago….but I loved it and couldn’t wait for Nik to see it too. Plus, flights to Seoul are cheaper than any other east-Asian destination outside of China, and I am still on a 90-day visa so I had to leave. Also, neither of us had the time or energy to research a new country enough to make our visit worthwhile and relaxing, so Seoul it was.

I have already written about my view of Seoul in 5 previous posts, so I won’t bore you again. I do want to link to the new blog posts Nik has written and share a few of his photos (my camera is broken) of parts of Seoul that we experienced for the first time together. As I expected, every part of the city was better with him holding my hand.

Day 1: Walking Around Bukchon

Little Door

Her Little Door

His Little Door

His Little Door

Day 2: Namsan Tower and Cheong Gye Cheon

Garden Spider

Garden Spider

Our Lock of Love just two months later

Our Lock of Love just two months later

Us

Us

Cheong Gye Cheon

Cheong Gye Cheon

Day 3: Climbing Mt. Bukhansan

Trail of Hikers

Trail of Hikers

Picnic Area

Picnic Area

Dinner and Beer

Dinner and Beer

Day 4: Ferry Ride

Butterfly

Butterfly

Nik

Nik

Lotte Worlds Magic Island

Lotte World's Magic Island

Day 5: A Day of Rest

Jewelry Shopping

Jewelry Shopping

A Kimchi stew restaurant near a Bus 171 stop

A Kimchi stew restaurant near a Bus 171 stop

Day 6: Metal and Ginseng

Metal Shops near Mullae Station

Metal Shops near Mullae Station

Man working with wires

Man working with wires

Herbs and Spices at Gyeongdong Market

Herbs and Spices at Gyeongdong Market

Roasted Chestnuts

Roasted Chestnuts

Seoul Day 5: Kwangjang Shijang & Namsan Tower

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009
View of Seoul from the base of Namsan Tower

View of Seoul in front of our Lock

On my final day in Seoul I wanted to have at least one more unique meal and I wanted to stand at the top of the Namsan Tower with the best possible view of the city. To find my meal I headed to Kwangjang Shijang just before lunch time expecting to find a bustling marketplace filled with food, clothing, electronics, and who knows what else.

Kwangjang Shijang on Sunday

Kwangjang Shijang on Sunday

Traditional Korean Dress

Hanbok (literally, Korean Clothing)

Unfortunately, it was Sunday, and the market was anything but bustling. There were a few shops open and several of the food stalls were doing great business, so I chose to feast on a Korean pancake made with a corn batter mixed with onions and peppers and then deep fried to crispy perfection.

Various ingredients prepared to serve

Various deep fried snacks

My pancake

My pancake

Ladies making deep-fried goodness

Ladies making deep-fried goodness

After eating only half of my lunch, I was stuffed and had to move around. I wasn’t in a wandering mood, so I took the subway directly to my next destination, Namsan Park and ultimately the Namsan Tower (or N Seoul Tower).

The Namsan Tower Cable Car

The Namsan Tower Cable Car

If I had to do it again, I would not take the cable car up the hill. The line was long, the ticket cost as much as the tower admission itself (7,000₩), we were packed in like sardines, there was no fan or air conditioning in the cabin, and the view wasn’t any better or different than the view at the top. Instead, I would take a bus, walk up the stairs or take a taxi.

As the crowd of people filed out of the cable car and towards the tower, we walked into a sword fighting performance mid stream. The performance was pretty neat and I sat and watched the choreographed moves for a while. It was my one touristy day of the trip, and I wasn’t going to miss a thing!!!

Sword fighters

An impressive backbend while sword fighting

The movement of traditional dress

The movement of traditional dress

Waiting for his turn to perform

Waiting for his turn to perform

As the crowd dispersed after the performance I scoped out the best spot to hang Nik and I’s “lock of love”. I wanted it to be in the spot with the best view of the city, but it was so foggy and cloudy that I could hardly tell what was a good view. I finally decided on the right hand side of the ramped deck looking to the left of the radio tower (the photo at the top is the view standing right in front of our lock, the one below is not). On one side, our lock has a red and white Ox signifying 2009, the Chinese Year of the Ox because we are spending most of this year in China. On the under side, it simply has our names and date. I have attempted to weatherproof it by wrapping it in clear tape, but I doubt that it will work!!!

Locks for love

Locks for love

2009 - The year of the Ox

2009 - The year of the Ox

Nik + Jamie, America, 2009AD

Nik + Jamie, America, 2009AD

Then I hung around and waited for the monsoon rain to come and take the clouds away so that I could have an amazing view of the city. As entertainment, a man named Rafeal sang Spanish songs and played several wooden flutes. I enjoyed the music, and from what I could tell, so did everyone else!

The crowd surrounding Rafael

The crowd surrounding Rafael

Father and Daughter

Father and Daughter

4 kids + Popcorn

4 kids + Popcorn

I think he was bored

I think he was bored

The Cold Stone Greeter

The Cold Stone Greeter

Couple #1

Couple #1

Couple #2

Couple #2

Couple #3

Couple #3

Ultimately, the monsoon rain never came to sweep the clouds away and I started getting bored around 5pm. I was tempted to stay until nightfall to see the city lights, but that would take at least two more hours and I didn’t think I had the patience.

And seeing all of these couples was making me homesick, so I knew it was time to turn in for the night!

Couple #4....watching broadcast TV on the subway??

Couple #4....watching broadcast TV on the subway??

Seoul Day 4: Bukchon & Samcheongdong

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009
Traditional Hanok style house

Traditional Hanok style house

Day 4 began with rain and ended with me being completely smitten with this town. I spent the entire afternoon wandering up and down the lanes of Bukchon between eating meals, drinking coffee and indulging in desert in Samcheongdong. These neighborhoods contain several clusters of traditional “hanoks” in the midst of more modern concrete structures. A hanok is a traditional Korean style courtyard house whose design is based on the Korean equivalent to “feng shui”. Materials, proportions, orientation and function are all considered and utilized to create the most pleasant living environment possible.

My starting point was the Bukchon Traditional Culture Center on Gyedong-gil alleyway where I picked up a beautiful map of the area illustrating all of the cultural sites and each individual hanok. From there I simply wandered around until I got hungry. I took a lot more photos than the ones here, but the sky was so bright that most of them were blasted out. Also, these streets are extremely narrow and I don’t have a wide-angle lens, so it was hard to capture the feeling of the place.

Lane filled with potted plants

Lane filled with potted plants

Red Poppies

Red Poppies

Mrs. Kilburne at her house

Mrs. Kilburne at her house

Old and New

Old and New

Hanok

Hanok

Brick Detail

Brick Detail

Gutter

Gutter

Then I went over to Samcheongdong which is a small district to the west of Bukchon that reminded me very much of NW 23rd Avenue in Portland. It was filled with clothing boutiques, restaurants, and fashionable people. Luckily, I had combed Anna’s favorite restaurants flickr photos (of the blog Annamatic) and learned of a couple restaurants to try. One that peaked my interest was a shop serving the traditional Korean porridge called patjuk. Patjuk is a red bean soup made with azuki beans and is often eaten during the winter, but I thought it was quite delicious in late July as well! My bowl contained the soup along with a glutenous rice ball, roasted chestnuts, cinnamon, a green bean of some sort and another black bean of some sort.

My lunch stop

The best Patjuk in town!

Patjuk - Red Bean Porridge

Patjuk - Red Bean Porridge

As I walked down the main street of Samcheongdong, I was blown away with the number of places touting coffee! There were “coffee & waffle” or “cofee & ice cream” or “coffee & wine” or “coffee & bread” or even “coffee & beer” shops on every single corner. I found it a bit ridiculous, but I did have to indulge in the atmosphere a little bit. It is shallow of me to admit this, but I chose my coffee and dessert stops based solely on the decor.

Coffee | Waffle

Coffee & Waffle

After lunch, Chong Lee drew me in. I fell for it when I saw their “bar stools”. I thought it was clever, so I had a siphoned ice coffee.

Bar Stools at Cafe Chen

Bar Stools at Chong Lee

Syphened Iced Coffee

Siphoned Iced Coffee

Coffee Syphens

Coffee Siphons

Then after dinner, I stopped by Lamb, an adorable little desert shop with a second floor seating area that has huge hinged windows. The interior was done in all white and dark wood and has just the right amount of softness without seeming girly. And they had an ice cream sundae on their menu, so I was sold. Unfortunately, I didn’t look at the price tag. It ended up being 13,000₩ ($10.80), which is pretty steep but was worth every penny. It was the best ice cream sundae I’ve ever tasted.

Lamb Storefront

Lamb Storefront

The Best Ice Cream Sundae EVER

The Best Ice Cream Sundae EVER

Lamb Coffee & Dessert Shop

Lamb Coffee & Dessert Shop

To walk off the extra calories, I meandered through Bukchon a little bit more after dessert. I enjoyed seeing the little alleyways lit only by the occasional street lamp. The textures popped even more than they did during the day.

Street Light

Street Light

Street at night

Street at night

Street landscape

Street landscape

Finally, I made it back to room #306 and was really missing Nik. This is the longest solo trip I have ever taken and while I enjoyed every second of it, there were plenty of times where it would have been more fun if he had been there.

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