It seems like there is no drowsy awake-but-still-asleep state in the morning with jet lag. Instead – there is either asleep, or drowsy-yet-wide-awake. This morning I was drowsy-yet-wide-awake by 8 am. I missed being able to roll out of bed and mosey on downstairs for a cup of coffee and a read of the morning comics with dad. Instead, I thought of the Americano that was waiting for me across the street – and pointed my compass that way.
Before I headed out for the day I opted for breakfast in my hotel room – more specifically, my hotel bathroom. I haven’t experienced “Korean breakfast” yet, since yesterday was my first morning here…and I ate after 11 am. I knew I wasn’t feeling rice and kimchi, so I was grateful for my Lotte shopping trip yesterday. With my new paring knife and the hotel supplied plate the glasses usually rest on, I sliced up the rest of my dragon fruit. I used a few pieces of lettuce as a shovel – I mean spoon – and ate them with half the avocado. Tres bueno. I mean, it was okay…it did the job anyway.
After my…innovative…breakfast in the hotel bathroom, I was ready to venture my way to Gyeongbokgung Palace. After a brief conversation with the lovely girl at the front desk, I made my way to Seoul Station to take on the subway.
It’s Saturday today; the sun was shining bright this morning and the streets were bustling. I’ve got my bearings now, and can make it to Seoul Station with no trouble. I got a few photos on the way back home from the pedestrian walkway above the station, that will show you how crazy these intersections are!!!
It was easy to find the subway tracks, just go to the basement! There are computer terminals where you buy tickets that have an English option to navigate the menus. this made it really easy to buy my ticket to and from the stop for Gyeongbokgung Palace. The kind girl at the hotel told me which line to get on, then I was supposed to wait for 3 stops. After that I had to transfer to another line and get off at the stop closest to Gyeongbokgung Palace. The subway announced stops in Korean and English, so it was easy to tell which stop I needed to get off at. I’ve really embraced the, “go when the Koreans go” philosophy. They all move in a flock, and it’s easy to get swept into it – often I end up were I want to go, too!
I ended up getting off a stop early because it got circled on my map during conversation at the hotel earlier this morning. The stop was across the street from Unhyeongung Palace, so I wandered over there and looked around. When I got inside there was a table where people were signing in on some books and they were all dressed in traditional Korean clothes. I thought I’d stumbled upon a wedding, and I didn’t go in that section so as not to intrude.
The grounds didn’t seem very big, so I wandered back out to the street pretty quickly. There were more people wandering around in traditional Korean clothes through the streets. I kept trying to get pictures in case they were all going to the wedding around the block and I wouldn’t see more.
A block away I found a tourist information spot – I love those! One of the girls inside gave me a smaller map of the area, and showed me which route to take so I could see Bukchon Hanok Village. On my way there, I stopped in to view Baek In-je’s House in Gahoe-dong.
It was pretty easy to find the Hanok Village from here, just up the street I started to see the traditional style of houses. As I got closer to the main part of the village walkway, I started to see signs for hanbok rentals – stores were filled with the traditional garb! There were so many Koreans roaming the streets with hanbok’s on. The material is so vibrant, and every pattern is different. Everything I saw today was so beautiful, especially the people!
As I traveled out of Bukchon Village, there were a pile of souvenir shops that were a lot of fun to walk through. The things they were selling were different than the usual key chains and t-shirts, they were all unique to Korea! The first place I happened upon was this gentleman selling “sotdae”. He spoke only enough English to sell me his product, but he had a kindness in his eyes and his spirit was so gentle, I’m so glad we met.
I had lunch at “Miss Lee’s” – amidst the souvenir shops. It was rice, stewed kimchi topped with egg, seaweed, and some kind of sausage. On the side was more of the fishy miso-type soup. I didn’t like the meal very much, but the kimchi flavour did make the fish broth more palatable, they mixed together quite well. I took one bite of “sausage”, it was very gross and I won’t order it again. Miss Lee’s had a lot of character, and I was very grateful that I chose to eat there – I had much to look at as I ate my lunch.
I took an obnoxious amount of pictures today, I felt like the paparazzi. At the beginning of the day I was trying to discretely take photos of Koreans dressed in hanboks, but as the day progressed, I got more brazen. By the time I finally made it to Gyeongbokgung Palace, I was taking pictures of people’s children. Uninhibited. Nearly everyone on the palace grounds was wearing traditional clothing, so my best photos of hanboks were from that part of the day.
I asked this little girl’s grandma for permission to take a couple of pictures. I meant to get her and her two grand-daughters all together, but this little girl was so happy to oblige as soon as I asked that I took my chance to get her picture while she was standing still!
I had tried getting pictures of her and her sister earlier, but they were running around giggling and playing, it was hard to catch them. This is the best shot I have of them both.
After I left the palace, I wandered across the street where there was loud music playing and a bunch of tents. That keeps happening, there seems to always be something going on to drop in and see. When I got halfway across the line of crosswalks, there was a pack of policemen that were running in single file across the road. There are so many police here, I’m not sure where they were running in a big pack to what seemed like no commotion – it was very different to see.
The tents turned out to be UnivExpo where universities had put together a little festival with many different events. I watched a group of girls perform a dance routine – to an English song – haha! Then, I gratefully stumbled upon a tent with a kind student who gave me a paddleboard sign to put my name on. At his point I hadn’t had much water through the long day in the sun and was getting anxious about what it would look like to treat heat stroke in Korea, so I asked him where I could buy water. He reached behind the table and gave me a spare bottle of his!!! Praise God – I was so pleased.
A few tables down I met another student who spoke English. She told me if I added the expo on Instragam she could give me a goody bag with some foaming face wash, so of course I did! I wandered around some more through the expo, and then a very loud protest caught my attention. The guy was leading a group of people in a truck, yelling in Korean what he had to say. I’m not sure what that was about, so I left soon after and found an underground shopping area.
I attempted to find the subway line underground, but then decided to just walk since it wasn’t that far away. More protesters were lining the streets on my walk back to Seoul Station. When they saw me taking pictures, a few of them posed for me.
After the protesters I made my way back to the hotel for a little break before venturing to a new cafe. I found a coffee there for less than 3 won which felt like the biggest victory of my day. After sorting through my pictures from the day, I headed for dinner at a restaurant in the building across the walkway from my hotel.
And that’s a wrap! Today was jam-packed. I am so grateful for the beautiful weather, and for the time I got to spend outside amidst the unique scenery. It was a lot of fun to see different hanbok styles, and to grow more confident in my photography skills – including how to ask permission to take photos. People here are so willing to help/engage with me, that it’s making it easier to ask more often!
I expect I’ll be sore tomorrow from all of the walking. Maybe I will take on a Korean sauna – that will certainly be an experience!