Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Seoul Searching

Well, we're well over a week into our latest visit to Seoul. I continue to be entranced by how much has changed in the last twelve years, and how much has stayed the same.  

And how much I really don't remember. 

POINTER TO NEW TRAVELERS: Take lots of pictures. LOTS. Someday these will be the only point of reference you might have. I would love to have photos to compare the changes in this city, but alas, as a newbie, green pea traveler I took very few photos. And as an old lady, I remember too little! 

If a picture's worth 1,000 words, here's 45,000 words about Seoul. 

On our corner. Twin Tree Towers in the background.

Near the gate of Gyeungbokgung Palace 

Peeking through. I'll go in another day. I promise

Another view with the mountains. Buried in smog. Apparently things have changed with the Korean jet stream and Seoul is much smoggier and hazier than before. 

Insadong main street. Famous area for arts, antiques, cafes and street food. Also a lot of crap souvenirs. This was taken pretty early in the morning, these streets are typically packed with locals and tourists alike. Especially on Sunday mornings.

Cute cafe in Insadong.

One of the stages. Don't remember the name. As if you care. . . 

Meeting of the minds in Tapgol Park. 

Tapgol Park was the site of an old Buddhist Temple. This is a 10 foot pagoda that remains. And is encased in glass. And impossible to get a shot of. I tried!

Meanwhile, back down at City Hall, there was some kind of fish product/cultural display going on. Here's some dead, dried fish hanging up. . .

And some turned into a tepee. Because why not?

And then there was a short, small parade I kept running into. I know nothing about anything. 

Leeum Samsung Museum outside. On our walk to Itaewon from one station over.

This is the sculpture I CAME to see. But it is now inside the museum and we didn't feel like spending $30 to see it. So I took a picture of a picture of it. I'm nice like that. This is Louise Bourgeois's metal sculpture "Maman". Itaewon is our "normal" party spot, a Little America if you will. It has changed dramatically in the last 12 years, but three of our faves, Seoul Pub, Gecko's and Three Alley's are virtually the same.

Sunday Mike and I hit the Gangnam. No dancing. The Gangnam refers to all of Seoul south of the Han River, really. But there is a Gangnam Station, so we started there.

Looking toward the river

Lots of interesting and modern architecture. 

Interspersed with tiny alleys full of strange sights. Like this tiny Miller Bar. It was too early to lose FM!

Not much English here. . . Not that there should be. . . 

But, if this was English I would die laughing. Meet you at the HO Bar! 

You know it!

More buildings.

Air quality a bit to be desired today. From Hangang Park on the river looking at Olympic Park 

Down river 

Across the river 

Taking a break on the banks of the river

View of Gyeongbokgung Palace from my roof this morning. After all day of rain yesterday. More visibility, but looking pretty dour.

Namsam Hill and Tower in the background of more of Seoul

Rain was continuing, so I headed down to the largest indoor mall in Asia, The COEX mall. Which is partly underneath the World Trade Center of Seoul

More buildings. Of course

HDC Building behind a COEX art park sculpture 

Entrance to the mall 

I was bored with the mall within an hour, but the Bonguesa Buddhist Temple is right across the street. It wasn't raining for A MINUTE, so I decided to walk over.

Elephant and Lotus at the gate. 

Not sure. . . but liked the turtle.

And, it's raining again. Can you see Buddha through the drops? LOL 

If it WASN'T raining, I would have taken the walk behind the Buddha and made the very iconic shot (that everyone does) of his back and the skyline of the Gangnam. However, you will have to settle for this for now, as it was all muddy.

For whatever reason, this looks like a theme park to me. . .

Buddha again! 

Cool Trees!

Lanterns hanging inside one of the pavilions

More things I know nothing about. . . 

Buddha sitting at the gate. 

View of the main road from our window
Rain continues on today. Thinking I'll just curl up with my book.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Welcome to Korea!

Twelve years ago, FM and I lived in Seoul for four months. I have exactly 78 pictures from that trip. And twelve of them are of our apartment.

Obviously, my travel style and picture taking skills have changed a lot since 2001.

And so has Seoul. I think. Although I have no pictures to prove it, every old familiar corner sure looks different today. 

Seoul holds a special place in my heart. Korea was my first introduction to Asia, and by far the largest city I'd ever seen. Today, it's population stands at over 10 million people.

And every one of them is super polite. I do remember that for sure.

In addition, I've been here for over 36 hours already and haven't heard the song "Gangnam Style" once. Thank GOD! Of course, I haven't BEEN to the Gangnam yet, either. Jet lag is still keeping us close to home, early to bed and WAY early to rise.

So, here's a quick tour around the Jongno area of downtown Seoul. 

We are currently at the Seoul Plaza Hotel, located directly across from City Hall (pictured). We are moving to Insa-Dong today. I still can't read the word dong all over everything without a giggle. So immature. . .

Continuing down Sejong-ro we end up at Gwanghwamun Plaza and Gyeongbokgung Palace. There used to be a HUGE, very old tree at this corner. I miss it. The blue roof in the background is the President's House and very close to where we used to live in 2001. And yes, that is a mountain in the background. There are several mountains that feel like they are right in the city proper.
Dong Dong (giggle giggle)

Twelve years ago, coffee was very difficult to find. VERY. Now there's a Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts or some local outlet on almost every corner. One of my favorite new additions to the coffee culture. Nothing kinky here!
I honestly do not remember what used to be here, I'm guessing a road. But now we have a sub-street level canal with a wonderful walking path. The town feels very green.
There also seems to be a lot more sculptures around town. Like EVERYWHERE. I like this one, plus there were about 20 Korean dudes standing around it having a smoke break.

 Entrance to Namdaemun Market. There is NOTHING you can't buy here. However, 10,000 won (about $9) doesn't go as far as it used to. Looked at a leather toiletry bag for FM here, cost was about $100. Obviously, he did not get the bag.

Directly across from the market is Sungnyemun Gate, part of the Fortress Walk that we are inadvertently on.
The Bank of Korea Museum. An interesting piece of architecture.

Dinner! Hot and Spicy chicken stir-fry, accompanied by many Cass beers. Yum. 

Had to take a picture of this. Need to find out the meaning behind it.
Okay. Time to throw our bags in a taxi and head to our new digs in Insa-dong (giggle). I really need to grow up.