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Korea: Seoul, soul city tour (#2).

I have a lot to say about Seoul. Considering a short five day stay, I have relatively more to say compared to most countries I’ve been to. Much of this I must thank to:

  • Rolly, business contact turned friend.
  • Stephanie, fellow Cal student who is studying abroad at Yonsei University.
  • Andrew, friend since 7th grade! He’s just finished his masters in finance at Yonsei University.

On Saturday, April 19, Rolly took me on a full day city tour around the Seoul City Hall. We went to three palaces, beginning with Deoksugung Palace.

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We then walked towards the main boulevard that leads to the largest palace Gyeongbokgung Palace, as well as the president’s living quarters (equivalent of the White House). This boulevard was ripe with statues of significant Korean persons throughout history. These statues fell on the center divider, and below the road is an extensive underground network of shops, stalls, and walkways.

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This man founded the Korean writing system.

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This boulevard contained a small and constantly flowing waterway, symbolic of the Han River. Where there’s water, there’s life, and the Korean people have flourished around this river for centuries. Each tile represents one calendar year, which you can faintly see.

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Entrance of Gyeongbokgung Palace. This view resonated strongly with me. At first, I wished the vehicles and tourists would get out of the way. But, I then thought of Beijing and the vehicles and people that stood in Tiananmen Square, or in front of the Forbidden City. We’re lucky that such historic sites still exist today. We’ve preserved a lot of culture through the ages, and it’s a wonder that hundred- or thousand-year old structures are able to stand by modern structures.

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One of my favorite photos of the day. A curious little boy looking forward. I hope he positively influences his community one day.

For lunch, Rolly took me to a traditional restaurant that served a high-end meal. The meat fell off the bone and melted in my mouth. It was so damn good.

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We then went to Insadong, which is an old street that sells antiques, tea, and other tourist-attracting items.

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Buddha’s birthday was coming soon, and decorations were erecting everywhere. This was especially surprising to me, as I thought that Korea was a Christian dominated society. I wasn’t aware that a significant portion of the population practiced Buddhism.

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We then walked to Changdeokgung Palace.

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Unlike Taiwan (and California), Korea actually snows. Therefore, the buildings are elevated, and there are silos underneath that store hot coals. These coals will then warm the homes during the winters.

Took a break and had some tea at a nice spot. Nice as in two little girls running and screaming around our table for ten minutes. But the other 30 minutes was relaxing.

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Lastly, we walked along the Cheonggyecheon, which is a 8.4km long river that cost $900 million to build! The government had to clear a lot of room through the city for this, which initially attracted widespread criticism from the people. Politics aside, this is incredibly amazing and reminds me of something similar (and much, much smaller and dirtier) in Washington D.C.

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At this time, it was around 6pm and I was pooped. Rolly and I parted with a selfie and called it a day.

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Timeline of future posts:

  • Some questions that have come into my inbox. Note: there are some questions that I will not answer, sorry.
  • The rest of Seoul.
  • Reflecting on my 6+ months in Taiwan.
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