Friday, June 15, 2007

Last Sunday in Seoul, Post Ex Facto

Blogger's Note: The posts about our recent trip to Korea for Number One Son's wedding, appear with the most recent ones first. To read them chronologically, scroll down to "Korea Report: We're Off." They really do make more sense that way. This one is out of order because I got behind in my blogging while in Korea and jumped to the end.
In the top photo, the Humble Philosopher/Carpenter and EIEIO try to figure out the subway route while The Sensible One (left) and Baby Milton (right) watch them struggle. On Sunday, the day after the wedding, we took the opportunity to explore an ancient palace and do some shopping. With the aid of a couple of maps, we made our way around Seoul using the subway system and our feet.
The city has an excellent subway system (although I couldn't get Humble Philosopher/Carpenter, who thinks everything Japanese is superior, to admit that Korea has the best subway system, he did allow as to how it was very good.) The trains are very clean, very quiet and graffiti free. Electronic maps in each car show the stops and where you are located. The cost, in the central city area is 1,000 won, about $1 U.S.
Our first destination was Changdeokgung, the "Palace of Illustrious Virtue." It was built in 1405 and used as the seat of government until 1910 when Japan took over Korea for the umpteenth time. We are trying to make it in time for the palace tour at 10:00 a.m. After getting off the efficient, clean, modern subway, we go the rest of the way the old-fashioned way, by walking. That is one big difference about living in a big city; you walk a lot. In small towns, and farms, at least in the United States, no one walks. We walked a lot in Seoul. When we got to the palace, we discovered the tour wasn't until 11:00, and since we had passed the famous shopping area, Insadong, a place to go with lots of restaurants, antique shops and trinket shops. So, we walked some more, back to Insadong for a short period of shopping. I have a very low tolerance for shopping, even for only an hour. After looking at some ties, which were three for 10,000 won (about $10) and almost buying them, I thought to look at the tag and saw they were 100 percent polyester, not silk. That did it for me, I hoofed it back to the palace to wait for the shoppers. The Wife came back with several pots (both of which were broken by the time we got them home) and some other things -- I don't even want to know what. Korean palaces are quite unlike European palaces of the same era. They are mostly made of wood, instead of stone and granite, and are mostly low-slung, narrow buildings, with most or all of the rooms opening to the outside. They are more colorful on the outside, but the insides are comparatively plain. The long hallways common to European palaces are mostly on the outside in Korean palaces. Although Korea hasn't had a king since 1910, when the Japanese took over the country, members of the royal family lived in the palace up into the late 1980s. The big attraction for this particular palace is the secret garden, which is hidden in the back of the palace grounds. The garden is equipped with a library, so the king could read in the comfort of hidden nature. In the picture on the left, you can see the pond in the secret garden, covered with lily pads.
Some of the crockheads are gluttons for punishment and headed back to Insadong for more shopping after we were done at the palace, while Baby Milton, EIEIO and I went back to the hotel for a little rest before meeting NOS, The Bride and The Bride's family for some ginger chicken soup that NOS has been raving about.
Sorry, I don't have any pictures of the feast. We were seated on the floor again (as we were every time we ate at a Korean restaurant in Korea.) The advantage of floor seating is that it is easier to spot dropped food and pick it up unobstrusively. The disadvantage for Westerners is that our feet go to sleep about five minutes into the meal, and then it is a matter of trying to shift position unobstrusively to try to get some feeling back before we have to stand up. What we got were whole chickens stuffed with rice and ginger root in a big bowl of soup. It was accompanied by the usual panoply of side dishes, including kimchee. The chicken was so tender that even a clumsy user of chopsticks had no trouble pinching off chunks of flesh and getting them into his mouth.
When we were done, several hours later, we headed back to the hotel, but made a stop on the way at the Baskin-Robbins for some regular American ice cream to be eaten sitting in regular booth with regular spoons, just to remind ourselves that the whole world hasn't been turned upside down.
Tomorrow: Our overnight stay at an ancient Buddhist temple.


Anonymous said...

And do I spot, in both photos, number two son? It must have been a slip not to mention him. I'm sure that his fans recognized him

Amishlaw said...

You have sharp eyes, anonymous, Number Two Son is lurking about in several of the photos.

Trucking Fiddler said...

all of our years in Seoul, we never saw the secret garden, though we were close to it many times - shopping in Insadong. Boy can I relate to those meals seated on the floor and loosing circulation almost immediately - 100 times in 5 years. OK, let's hear more. (I blogged about the reception weekend this morning.)