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Scratching the Surface in Seoul

Ever Evolving Primate: Travel, photography, food, cooking, and just about anything else.: Scratching the Surface in Seoul

Monday, April 18, 2011

Scratching the Surface in Seoul

This weekend Carolyn and I went on a really fun excursion with our good Canadian friends from Busan, Pete and Brit. Friday night after work Brit took the KTX from Busan to Dongdaegu Station where we met her and led her back across town to our apartment. We all crashed pretty hard, woke up at about 6:00am and went back to Dongdaegu station to hop on the 8:17am KTX train to Seoul, the largest city in Korea and easily the biggest city I've ever been to in my life. With a population of 10.4 million in the city itself and 20 million when you include the surrounding area, you can only imagine how much the place bustles...but we'll get there in a minute.

The KTX is an amazing train, so far as I'm concerned. I know that there's faster ones in other parts of the world, but moving at 305km/h through very mountainous terrain is absolutely breathtaking, no matter how cool you might already be! The trip to Seoul only took about an hour and 40 minutes total. When we arrived in Seoul it was obvious that we had moved into a major league city, because there were people everywhere, and people FROM everywhere. I had no idea how few foreigners there were in Daegu until we got to Seoul!

At any rate, one really cool thing about Seoul is the amazingly cool architecture. There are many unorthodox looking buildings no matter where you look. I believe the city is even some sort of world heritage site for architecture or something, but I'm not sure why I think that. There are also some very ancient sites, like Gyeongbokgung Palace and others that make an amazing contrast to the ultra modern buildings surrounding them. The architecture was certainly one of my most favorite things about the city.

Carolyn, Brit, and I headed downtown to near Gyeongbokgung Palace to catch the Seoul City Tour bus, as it's a huge city and we had limited time. So we caught the bus and picked up Pete at Seoul Station, then made our way down to Itaewon. Itaewon is the international district, so we had some western food and Turkish ice cream. When approached by a group of American baptist church members who wanted me to go to their church I said "Anio, Anio, Anio, No Englishee." The puzzled looks on their faces were priceless. We also ate at Taco Bell. It was amazing. It was the best taco bell meal you can ever imagine eating. It had the same gastrointestinal effects as a Taco Bell meal in the US, but with a better flavor.

Our next stop was a Traditional Village where we viewed a taekwondo performance and had a traditional Korean medical checkup. I was told that I am a cold body type, completely average for weight and general health, and that I'm too damp on the inside (they could tell by looking at my tongue). They even gave me traditional medicine for free, but I'm going to ask my coteacher what it is before I try it :). I don't really want to sip on tea made from squirrel weiners or seahorse bladder linings or anything. This was a super neat experience, but I'll probably stick with the hospital for now.

The next place to see was Namsan Seoul Tower...a space needle like tower (a bit shorter) strategically placed on the top of a mountain. The view was absolutely amazing, and we were lucky enough to get there in time for the sunset. The city lights of Seoul started to glow as soon as the sun went down, and it became obvious how big the city really is, and how much movement there is around town. Some long exposures that I made from the tower really show off how vibrant and active Seoul is at night. I could have stayed there all night and just watched the city sparkle. What a great viewpoint of one of the world's greatest cities.

We spent most of the next day wandering around Gyeongbokgung Palace. The palace is huge. I found myself wondering if The Forbidden City in Beijing was of a similar size. To think that so long ago this palace was the seat of the Korean government is pretty stunning, because government buildings aren't usually so beautiful. After much walking around the wind started to pick up and the air was filled with cherry blossoms. Somehow I managed to catch a petal, and they say that when you catch a cherry blossom petal as it falls you will be with the one you love forever, so Carolynis securely mine for good :).

After touring the palace for quite a while, we headed back to Seoul station for the long (short) ride back to Daegu. We were sad to bid adieu to Seoul, but happy to return home to our comfortable beds for a good night's rest before going to work this morning. This was a trip to remember, and Seoul is a city that I think we will have to visit many times if we wish to ever dig deeper than the surface. What a great place.

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