This is probably the one time I truly wished I brought my DSLR with me. Even on the night setting of my little point-and-shoot, the majority of my photos had some blur. Needed a faster shutter speed due to the … Continue reading
Seoul was rainy again today. Which was unfortunate, as we were headed to Caribbean Bay, an outdoor water park, or as one boy put it, water adventure-land. Luckily, by the time we got there, the rain had stopped, although it … Continue reading
Jongmyo Shrine is the oldest preserved Confucian shrine, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The architecture is splendid, as are the grounds surrounding it. At the entrance, you’ll find a stone pathway, which is designated for spirits only and forbidden … Continue reading
You’ll have to forgive me as posts will now be slightly out of order. I’ll have the rest of my pictures up pretty sporadically, and today you’ll have to suffice with my last day staying at the hostel in Myeongdong. That, and pictures of food.
|Last day here so Jiyeon took me out for lunch.|
|Tall icecream in Myeongdong. Well, technically we got strawberry and yogurt.|
|I don’t know what this is, but apparently it’s famous in Myeongdong. It’s like hotpot… but with salami and hot dogs… and I think spam…|
|Add noodles, kimchi, and canned beans.|
|Mix! Surprisingly, I actually liked it.|
|Red bean paste bun from Namdaemun.|
|Black bean noodles and jiggae. I forgot to take a picture it was so good!|
|Watermelon popsicle/ice cream. So cute!|
|Oh look who I found. But I still can’t find TOP.|
I think I can officially say I am not a fan of museums. Or at least not historic ones. I much prefer art gallery type museums like the Louvre.
The National Museum of Korea is situated at the top of hill, and is quite an impressive piece of modern architecture. The museum in its entirety is huge, consisting of the main building, one for featured exhibitions, numerous restaurants and cafes, as well as a garden. Admission to the main building and garden is free, however you can expect to pay 10,000 to 15,000 won if you want to see the special exhibition.
The National Museum is three floors, each of which focus on a specific period of time or art form within Korean history. The first floor focused on prehistoric and ancient society, while the second focused on calligraphy. The third floor featured Buddhist sculptures and white porcelain.
Most of what I noticed was the vast amount of pottery on each floor. Most of the displays in the prehistoric section featured earthenware, as well a weapons from the Bronze and Iron Ages. The calligraphy section seemed to consist mostly of scrolls, or brush holders and water droppers, and of course the third floor was dedicated to porcelain.
There were a few exhibits I found interesting though. I enjoyed the large Buddhist sculptures, as well as a mural of the four guardians of the four compass directions. For those of you who don’t know what they are: black tortoise, blue dragon, red phoenix, and white tiger. The mural was found in a tomb with the four guardians meant to protect the tomb and its inhabitant.
During my little museum run, I actually ran into one of the girls from the hostel, so we finished the second and third floors together, then went out to grab lunch. The restaurant and cafes in the museum were a bit expensive, but there was another cafe by the gardens that was reasonably priced.
|The National Museum|
|A painting of what an ancient village would have looked like.|
|A rubbing of the inscription on the sacred bell of King Seongdeok|
|A painting from the Joseon Dynasty.|
|A statue of a lion.|
|I couldn’t help taking a photo of this due to my slight obsession with tea.|
|A Buddhist statue|
|Another Buddhist statue|
|Figures with paper arms|
|A sacred bell|
|Traditional hair pins|
|The ten story pagoda|
|Lunch at one of the museum cafes!|
The next few days are going to be Korean history days. You’ll see what I mean in the coming posts. My first stop: visit the “gung” (or as some of you are more familiar with, “goong”), or at least one of them. There’s plenty of palaces in Seoul, so my deciding factor in choosing the first I would visit was proximity to the hostel.
It was a quick walk from the hostel (almost everything is), just a bit past City Hall. No more than half an hour. I wanted to take a few photos of City Hall, but there was a very large protest happening at Seoul Plaza blocking my view. According to the news, taxi drivers were gathered in a nationwide strike to protest the rise in fuel prices and asking the government to raise the price of taxi fares.
The turnout was impressive and reached all the way to the palace. It was nearly impossible to make my way through the crowd and to the palace gates. I think I was lucky to even get in, considering security closed the gates soon after I entered. I was also allowed to enter for free, as many people watching the strike were entering to rest in the shaded areas of the palace. Or at least that’s why I think they just waved me through without taking my 1000 won note. Or perhaps my guidebook is simply outdated.
Despite being one the smaller palaces, the grounds of Deoksugung are still quite large, with many buildings having been restored. After the Japanese invasion of 1592, which left the main palaces destroyed, it was used as a temporary palace, and later became only a residence for the royal family, with the palace’s administrative complex being removed.
Deoksugung is also the only palace to have modern buildings mixed within the traditional architecture. One, Jeonggwanheon, mixes both western and eastern architecture, while Seokjojeon, and entirely western looking stone building, was used as King Gojong’s sleeping quarters and audience halls.
Along with Seokjojeon is the National Museum of Contemporary Art. The museum was free to visit, although I here it depends of the specific exhibition featured. While I was there, “The Centennial Celebration of Lee In-Sung’s Birth) was the main exhibit.
Leaving the palace was a tad confusing. The gates had closed, and I originally thought that no one would be allowed either in or out. At least there were plenty of shaded areas around the grounds. After continuing to wander around aimlessly for a few minutes, I timidly walked up to security by the gate, asking if I would be able to leave. He pointed to the side, which led to a small enclave housing a side door to the plaza. Upon opening the door, I realized why the gates were closed. Protesters were sitting and standing, backs pressed against the gates. It was a pain to try and make my way through them all.
In an attempt to avoid the strike, I decided to risk getting lost and try and make my way around the plaza and the crowds. My trip brought me past the Canadian Embassy, as well as a few others. About a block ahead is Seodaemun District, which I like to call the museum district as there are nearly ten on one street. I also walked by Geobukgung, the main palace as I looked for the statue of Admiral Yi Sun-Sin. Turns out the statue is situated right in front of the palace. I believe the university is planning a field trip there sometime. Or at least I hope so, or else I probably won’t get a chance to visit. (I’m just waiting for this supposed field trip as I don’t want to visit twice.)
|Look what I found!|
Dongdaemun was the last shopping district I needed to visit (simply because COEX Mall and the Gangnam area are both wickedly expensive), and who better to spend the day with than my lovely friend from Calgary!
Again, I walked, although only for about 45 minutes this time. It was also ridiculously hot outside today, and there was hardly a breeze.
I also managed to get ever so slightly lost inside the station by Dongdaemun Stadium, one stop before Dongdaemun Station, where I was supposed to be meeting my friend. I was 15 minutes late, but as a result, I think it made our meeting that much sweeter. I mean, we ran to each other from half a block away just to hug! Oh the stares we probably got (although we didn’t notice any, not that we were paying attention).
The first thing we did was grab lunch from a cheap little place by the station. There weren’t any pictures or English on the menu, so thankfully my friend was there. My only requirements were that whatever she ordered for me be cold. I think I got bibimguksu again, but this time made with potato starch noodles, unlike Jenny’s homemade version, which I think used a wheat noodle as they were a lot easier to bite through. The potato starch noodles are very, very chewy, and you actually need to take a pair of scissors to them in order to make them somewhat managable. It was very good, and I don’t know why everyone is telling me they’ll be spicy. Neither the homemade version nor the resaurant’s were very spicy at all, or at least not for me.
After we finished our meal, we were served iced plum green tea, which I thought tasted very similar to the plum sake I’m able to buy at home. It wasn’t as sweet though, and of course it didn’t have the alcohol taste, so needless to say, it was very good. We also ordered a bowl of patbingsu to share between the two of us. Unlike the one I saw for takeout in Ewha the other day, this was a giant bowl filled with shaved ice, red beans, canned fruit, corn flakes, and condensed milk. Normally, patbingsu costs anywhere from 6000 to 12,000 won, but this was only about 5000, and could have probably been a meal in itself.
Next we shopped! Dongdaemun is home to four malls: Lotte, APm, Doota, and Migliore.We only went to Doota and Migliore as APm was closed, and Lotte tends to be out of our price range. There were also plenty of street stalls around the area selling clothes, accessories, and souvenirs. I spent $20 on a pair of mint green jeans since I’ve wanted a pair for awhile, and they were a lot cheaper than those you can find in Calgary. Besides, for $20 I don’t care if they aren’t in season next year.
Dongdaemun only took us a few hours to shop through, so we parted ways around 3:30 and I walked back towards my hostel. As always, I browsed through a bit of Myeongdong as I passed through, and ended up buying a few gifts for friends. I can’t help it, I need to at least look through the SSFW shops to decide if I want a new purse or not. Why am I not rich?
|On my way to Dongdaemun.|
|Heunginjimun, also known as the “Gate of Rising Benevolence,” or Dongdaemun.|
|One of the side streets was lined with pet shops selling anything from cats to frogs to chickens.|
I am a really cheap person. Sort of.
I could say that I just like to walk, which I do, but that becomes a lie once it’s 30 degrees out. No, instead I walked for two hours to get to Ewha Womans University, because, simply put, I’d rather have an extra two dollars to spend on clothes than a subway ticket. On a side note, I suppose it is good exercise, minus the whole my calf muscles might end up too big from all the walking that I’ve been doing since I’ve arrived.
The first thing I did once I left the hostel was get lost. I knew I would need to head north from Seoul Station, and I made it there perfectly fine. Unfortunately, with all the weird diagonal streets Seoul seems to consist of, I managed to head northeast, and found myself back in Namdaemun, about halfway back from where I originally came from. I changed route and decided to head towards City Hall, as there were signs everywhere pointing towards it, and from there, I could just follow one road towards Sinchon Rotary, which again had signs everywhere pointing in the direction.
After my lovely hike (I didn’t get lost again, thankfully), I finally made it to the university, and thusly the shopping district. Ewha, or Edae, is geared towards young women, selling many trendy clothes and accessories for reasonable prices. For less than $25 I managed to buy a new dress, a pair of flats, and a shirt. Ewha is also the place to go for a new haircut it seems, as there was at least one hair salon on every street.
The Ewha and Sinchon areas also happen to be a haven for both privaately owned cafes, as well as those run by larger businesses. If you’re ever thirsty, you’ll have plenty to choose from here. Not to mention these cafes were selling some of the cheapest desserts I’ve seen so far. If you were to order “patbingsu” as takeout, it would only cost 2500 won for about a Starbucks’ tall sized cup filled with shaved ice, sweet red beans, and ice cream. Yumm. (Disclaimer: This is assuming I managed to read everything correctly, so if you’re in the area and don’t find it, it’s not my fault!)
Finding my way back to the hostel was much easier. There was only one corner where I didn’t know exactly which way to turn, but again, following the road signs helped. I also managed to take the route I originally planned to use to get to Ewha (via Seoul Station), which helped shave some time off the walk and let me explore a little. And, waiting for me at the hostel when I got back was a very late lunch, made by Jenny! Such lovely hosts I have. =]
|Ewha Womans University|
|There are a ton of cafes in Ewha and Sinchon.|
|On the way to and from Ewha, you pass by a street lined with wedding shops.|
|Mixed in with the wedding dresses are hanbok.|
|A few blocks after the wedding shops is a street lined with furniture shops.|
|The French Embassy|
|Seoul Station’s underground mall|
|Lunch! Bibimguksu made by Jenny. Delicious!|
|And look what I saw when I was trying to decide to go back via City Hall or Seoul Station. Sorry for my lack of paparazzi skills and the subsequent slightly blurry picture. Just trust me when I say he had a cute smile.|
|Oh my, guess which other pretty boys I found on my way back…|
Namdaemun Market is across the street from my hostel, so I go there to grab food a lot, or sometimes just to kill time. Walking through it is a lot cooler since the walkways are close together and the numerous stalls provide plenty of shade.
|You can see Seoul Tower from Namdaemun Market|
|Mandu of all sorts! I come here way too often since the wang mandu is only 1000 won.|
|In the evening, the streets are lined not only with stalls selling anything from clothes to ginseng, but also plenty of food.|
|This is the easiest way to get fruit in Seoul. You can usually find a vendor selling slices of pineapple or melon on a stick for 1000 won.|
|There’s also plenty of vendors selling bulgogi. Just choose what you want them to barbecue for you!|
|You can find souvenirs of all sorts in Namdaemun, including traditional goods, or random k-pop paraphernalia.|
|The infamous padded underwear. I wonder if anyone actually wears these?|
|Namdaemun Market has an entire section dedicated to selling ginseng.|
|Displayed at a restaurant. I immediately though of “Spirited Away” when I saw it. Remind me not to eat here.|
|Dinner was mukguksu, or noodles made from buckwheat and acorn starch served in an icy broth. After walking around in 30 degree weather, it was very refreshing.|
|My hostel is right across the street from Namdaemun Market, and up a giant hill.|
|And here’s looking down from the top of the first hill.|
|The view from about halfway up.|
|Second hill. The hostel is past those buildings.|
Myeongdong was far busier Sunday than any of the previous days I walked through. With the crowds also came plenty of food stalls and more street vendors selling clothes and accessories.
|Bean Pole is a famous fashion brand which G-Dragon endorses.|
|I saw them setting up and thought the display was actually a set of chairs for B2ST to do a signing. Unfortunately, not the case, nor was I staying in the area to see!|
|Dried squid is a common snack you can find in any of the outdoor shopping areas.|
|Spiraled potatoes wrapped around sausage and fried. This just reminds of Stampede food.|
|All of these cosmetic stores are right beside each other on both sides of the street. There’s plenty more throughout Myeongdong as well.|
|The Myeongdong Theatre|