Like all great cities, Seoul is a collision of cultures, architecture, and history, and this weekend, with my co-worker Minjung as my tour guide, I got my first look at this sprawling metropolis. Of course, the skies were pissing rain after being sunny all week, but that didn’t hamper my spirits or excitement as we took the 1.5 hour bus ride from Seosan and navigated the mind-boggling subway to our destination. After being in Seoul I now realize why everyone considers Seosan to be such a small city: compared to Seoul, every place is a small. As the 6th largest city in the world, Seoul has a population of over 10 million – to put that in perspective, New York – the largest city in the U.S. – has a population of just over 8 million. In Seoul skyscrapers intermingle with ancient palaces; Eastern culture intermingles with Dunkin’ Donuts, and everything moves in fast forward. Minjung and I took in art museums, palaces, meals, shopping, and tea rooms, but even with all that we didn’t even scratch the surface of what Seoul has to offer. I will definitely be going back, probably next weekend in fact, to continue exploring. Click to see pictures and descriptions.
Naturally the tour started here. Never been more stoked to pay $4 for drip coffee in my life.
The rooftops of Bukchon in the Anguk neighborhood of Seoul. The area and the architecture is over 600 years old. There were many tea rooms and art galleries nearby.
Making wine from flower petals.
My co-worker and tour guide for the day, Minjung. She lived in Seoul for 10 years before moving to the quiet confines of Seosan. In this picture we are sitting cross-legged in a traditional tea room where we drank chrysanthemum tea. I get made fun of a lot because as someone who is not particularly flexible, sitting criss-cross apple-sauce is a real pain in the ass, and I generally end up shifting positions about 400 times in the course of meal.
Traditional wooden serving dishes, a.k.a “me trying to be artsy.”
Later in the day we stopped at The Gahoe Museum, a tiny culture center exhibiting traditional Korean Folk Art. If you were wondering why this tiger is smiling it is because unlike Chinese or Japanese cultures, Koreans believed that tigers represented good fortune and health, and where therefore creatures to be embraced rather than feared. Snakes, on the other hand, don’t fare so well in Korean lore.
Old meets new. Guards in traditional uniforms stand at attention at the gates of the Gyeonbokgung palace in the middle of Seoul. It is the largest of 4 such palaces. Don’t worry, the spear was as fake as his beard.
Pekang Mountain sits in the distance, overlooking the palace.
The throne. Not sure which interior decorator they consulted back in the day, but it’s a little flashy for my tastes.
Little kid with a huge umbrella – ella, ella, ay, ay ay
A separate palace building in the middle of a huge pond.
Last stop of the day. Standing on the steps of the Deoksugung Palace, which was constructed in the mid-1500s.
*Many more trips, and pictures, to come…