Some Seoul Searching

I love days when I wake up, walk outside, and think, “Holy [insert your favorite expletive here], I’m in KOREA!” Sometimes it really blows me away that I’m here, on the other side of the world, somewhere I’ve never been. It is amazing. Honestly, the fact that I miss friends and family is small compared to that feeling. I am somewhere some people only think about in the abstract, somewhere some people would never think of going or only dream about. No, it’s not paradise, but I’m having adventures others either won’t have the opportunity to do or the daring to do. Even the “dirty” air seems fresh with that kind of realization.

To realize growth, something has to change. I feel like I’ve grown a great deal in the last two months, and it makes me wonder why on earth I was ever anxious about coming here. I am so glad this is where I am for the year. All these good things couldn’t have happened if I wasn’t willing to risk a little change.

Margarita time!

Anyway, enough of that particular soul searching. It’s time now for some Seoul searching and recounting what happened last weekend. Chad arrived on Saturday night, and instead of going out to Hongdae with some other girl friends to send off a couple to the states, I decided to stay in and focus on writing and editing. Pretty awesome. I met up with Meagan as we were off to find the others and our new arrival. We headed to one of the local bars, Exit, and proceeded to chat, play some pool, and oh yes, drink margaritas! Finally, the preferred beverage is found!

The evening was pretty tame, with Chad ducking out early and the rest of us girls staying at Exit goofing off and talking. After several awkward attempts from Korean men to pick one or several of us up, we decided it was time to leave and chow down on some McD’s. Then off we went, headed for home and a Sunday in Seoul.

Unloading at Myeongdong

12:30 in the afternoon turned out to be the perfect time to head to the bus stop. It was a gorgeous day and on the warm side for most of it. We swiped our T Money cards on the M4101 and off we went. We unloaded in Myeongdong where we traipsed about for the larger of the two H&M stores, where I was finally able to find a pair of jeans! Huzzah! Then, instead of hopping a bus or subway to Insadong, we walked. This was a first for me as well, so it was really interesting to go from one part of the city to the other knowing exactly where I was in relation to where I had been dropped off! We walked across a little river that I remember seeing in Katheryn’s photos, the one with stepping stones all across it. Everything was in the middle of skyscrapers, so easy to lose yourself in, but so fun to find little quirks of the city. The best way to find yourself is to get lost. And though we were never lost, it had the taste of being lost, the kind where you have no idea where you’re going, but you’re never worried about it.

Somewhere in Seoul

We came upon the little food kiosks of Insadong first, before there were any sign of shops. This is the place to go for souvenirs, antiques, and sweets. We lined up in front of a food shop that sells some kind of honey candy and watched the workers “perform” a show for us. I saw a monk browsing through some antiques in a back alley, a jumble of people at all the best hotteok stalls, and (I had tried one of these when I was in Hwacheon over Lunar New Year. Delicious.) Jogyesa Temple in daylight.

After trekking from Myeongdong to Insadong, we headed toward Gyeongbokgung Palace. Thankfully, I snagged a brochure so I could properly learn about it and spell it later. It was 3,000 Won to gain entrance to the majority of the complex, but we tend to just say “Three bucks”. It’s a thing we do. I had only walked by the palace gates on my trip to visit Ines in January. The rest of the palace was much more extensive and impressive. Here’s a bit from the brochure:

Gyeongbokgung Palace was the first palace compound to be built by the Joseon founder. … The site is auspicious according to geomantic theory: a plain with a stream immediately to the south and mountains around the other three sides. The main palace halls, used by the king directly, were larger than any other structures of their kind…

The courtyard walls form perfect squares aligned with the four directions, and the gates in the walls directly face north, south, east or west. The careful placement of the buildings reflects the fundamental philosophy of the Joseon rulers, who wished to establish a framework for governance according to Confucian propriety and virtue.

Gyeongbokgung Palace was destroyed during the Japanese invasion (1592-1598), and the site remained vacant for the next 273 years. The compound was rebuilt and expanded greatly during the reign of King Gojong… the government continues to rebuild and restore the halls, gates and bridges of Gyeongbokgung Palace, a precious cultural legacy of the nation.

Gyeonghoe-ru, where King Jeongjo would read.

We didn’t have much time at the palace considering we arrived roughly an hour before they closed for the day. After wandering around for a bit, we hopped on the subway with our shopping bags and tired feet. It would have taken longer to ride the subway all the way back to Suji, so we opted for a comfortable bus ride back home starting from Myeongdong. Since it was Sunday night, that also meant it was open-mic night at Traveler’s Bar and Grill. Sign me up for a cheeseburger! We dropped off our purchases, went to Jukjeon, and subbed it to Seohyeon. We were starving when we arrived, so I ordered some poutine, better known as British chips and gravy with cheese. I cannot explain the wonder that is horrible food on an empty stomach. Seriously, I just can’t. After that, my burger was subpar, the cheese being more processed than I remembered it last time. The music was good, and I managed to snag some books from the exchange library they have.

All in all, it was a fantastic weekend. I’m glad to be finally settling in and enjoying myself.