We've returned from a lovely few days in Seoul. We purposely booked a hotel with internet access so that we could keep in touch....but alas..."no, wiresy broken, maybe internet wiresy next week" we were told when we checked in. Four days without internet feels weird! And now we have much to blog about!
On Christmas day we took the KTX train to Seoul and checked into the Rainbow Hotel. After pondering the chances of actually escaping our seventh floor hotel room during an emergency using the "emergency rope" elegantly packaged and hug beside the window, we decided it was best to just not think about it and instead, spend our time out of the hotel.
It didn't take long for us to decide that we love Seoul. The outdoor ice rink at City Hall made me very very happy.....although after a closer look at the thousands of people trying to wobble their way around it, we decided to watch instead of participate. I made Brett promise that we would be joining the fun next time (now I think he just said that to make me be quiet about it).
Our first night in Seoul was freezing. I mean really freezing (yes I do remember that I am Canadian). So we wandered around, enjoyed the sights, and frequently warmed up with good food and warm drinks. I have a slight addiction to bibimpap (rice and veggies). When we found a shop dedicated to only bibimpap, I knew we had to eat there! The food was so hot that Brett's glasses kept fogging up. It wasn't turkey, but it was a great Christmas dinner. Then we hit up some night markets that are open from 10:30 pm to 5 am. I was amazed by how many people are out looking for bargains in the middle of the night.
The next day we went to see a temple and one of the Palaces. The tour of the palace took an hour and a half. About 40 minutes into it I decided that it was far too cold for anyone to be learning about a palace by looking at the outside of it. Brett assured me we would survive. I assured him that I would not. As you can tell, he was right. We are still alive. And the good news is that we will now be alive for a good long time, because we passed under an archway that grants you the magic of a long life. We then got to practise our bargaining skills in the tourist area of Seoul. Clearly we need work in this area. We are not good at negotiating....but Brett did manage to save us 1000 won (about 90 cents) on one of our purchases. It's a good start.
On Saturday we experienced a whole other kind of market. This was the pushy push push shovey shove shove kind of market. The pictures cannot even begin to do it justice. Good thing we walked under that archway the day before, because clearly we would have been trampled to death otherwise. This market was more of a blackmarket. It had anything at all you wanted to find. There was even a whole area underground packed with imported items. We enjoyed the sights and had many laughs....but bought nothing. We had arrived a bit early, so we did get to experience the market minus the crowd. It seemed like everyone else arrived all at the same time. It was like some sort of signal had gone off and everyone ran to the market. Poof...all of Korea was in the same spot.
One of the weirdest things about Korea in the wintertime is their obsession with cute hats. Children and adults all wear hats that look like animal heads. I have seen this a few times on children in Canada.....and even a few quirky adults (like myself) but never ever would I have expected this to be a popular look with teens and adults. Here, it is common to see groups of teens going by, all wearing these animal hats.
Saturday night we went to a few bars. We watched a "Korean" Hendrix tribute band at the first bar, told an American GI that a dingo is not a cross between a kangaroo and a dog at the second bar, and watched a drag queen show at the third bar. I think all of the people from the market followed us to the drag queen show, because it was beyond packed. Everyone wanted to see the beautiful ladies...err...men...errr...ladies lip sync to "I Will Survive" and other famous drag queen songs.
Sunday afternoon we hit the electronics market and some shops before getting back on the KTX. We arrived back home to a freezing cold apartment and an empty fridge. Ahh reality. Too bad not every day can be a holiday!