Saturday, October 30, 2010

First Full Day in Korea

Day one in Korea was also an adventure. Matt and Dawon met us for breakfast at our hotel and after that we walked around our neighborhood a little. I hadn't been able to make my credit card work to get some cash at the airport, but perhaps the local bank's ATM would be more cooperative. Nope. So with no money but a very helpful James, Matt and Dawon, we set off to see the Palace.

That would be the Gyeongbok Palace. As we entered through the gate, Dawon said, "Welcome to my house." As it turns out, Dawon has royal blood. We do too, but ours is the result of royal dalliance, a bastardized line. No diplomatic advantage by marrying two houses - this marrige is purely for love.

The palace is amazing in it's decoration. The eaves, the walls, the ceilings... all elaborately painted in bright colors.

And like the rest of Seoul, amazingly quiet for a place that held so many people. There were many, many sets of school children - talking and laughing but quietly so as not to disturb the peace.

The large courtyard is paved with big, flat rocks. In a way, it looks a little like choppy water and is apparently bumpy to ride over. I saw a woman pushing a wheelchair as the chair's occupant struggled along beside her. Easier to walk than ride!

The palace guard was quite impressive. James and I both took pictures with them and like Buckingham Palace in England, everyone tried to make them smile.
We explored a bit and came back in time to see the changing of the guard - a surprisingly musical spectacle which started with a large, resonant drum beat and accompaniament by various stringed and blown instruments. (I'll have to load those pictures later... Blogger is not cooperting at the moment.)

There is a part of the place that allows you to try on guard costumes and take pictures, but they were on their lunch break, so we had to make do with this:
One of the really interesting things about this was the contrast between 12th Century stone wall and 21st Century highrises beyond. We were calling these the Scrunchy Buildings because they look like a giant grabbed their middles and squeezed.

After the palace, we walked the streets nearby, passing the American Embassy where Matt and Dawon had their official marriage. Along the walkway was running water, with the history of Korea inscribed into to the sidewalk next to it. VERY cool way to present a timeline!

Matt had to go to work, so after he left, Dawon took us to Hanok - the traditional Korean house where the wedding would take place. We walked around and got our bearings before walking the few blocks back to our hotel. Dawon left us there and we went upstairs to put our feet up before heading out to explore again. That's when we found the little coffee cafe where we've been going to drink coffee and commune with the internet. It's funny how quickly you can change your life habits. It feels odd to be out of cyber-touch now with only limited windows of online opportunity, so after breakfast and usually at the end of the day, James and I make a beeline to the Coffee Bene for our fix of "chatting" and blogging. So here we are at the end of our first full day.

Tonight, I will write about Wedding Day!
I'm hoping I can upload more pictures for this post and subsequent posts. Blogger has suddenly gotten very cranky about pictures...

1 comment:

malcolm said...

I looked at the vids. I know you enjoyed the trip. Now you have an excuse to go there. I am going back to VN for Lunar New Year's. For me the hard part is coming back here