Thursday’s whirlwind

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9

Thursday’s tourist activities began after breakfast when we met our friend Jamie in the lobby of our hotel and from there proceeded to the nearest subway stop which is in the basement of the hotel. Our first destination was Kyongbok Palace, a palace originally built in 1398.

We happened to come on a day when a costumed reenactment was taking place. There was music and marching and throngs of people taking pictures, including many groups of school children. We were amazed to see kindergarten kids carrying cell phones and expensive cameras, apparently the norm for Korean school kids.

The tour was interesting, though people tended to group in the shade on this humid 80 degree day. Funny how in dry Idaho, I tend to forget the effect of humidity on an onterwise moderate-sounding temperature. In Korea everyone seems to walk around with a sheen to their face.

After Kyongbok Palace Jamie took us (first walking, then riding a bus) to a small restaurant which translated into English is called Snow Tree House. It is in a small multi-story house that serves absolutely lovely Korean food. We had kimchi soup, vegetable pancakes, cabbage and radish kimchi, and as the main course, a beef dish that seemed somewhat like very tender grilled hamburgers, beautifully seasoned with sweet and spicy sauce. The beef was served with rice cakes, also grilled. We used our chopsticks to tear the beef into bite sized bits, me with much laughing and dropping– I am not all that great with chopsticks.

After the wonderful lunch (about $35 for the 5 of us in case anyone is interested), we headed for Insadong, a road of artsy little shops where we found all sorts of interesting little things to bring home. The younger boys were most delighted with wooden rubber band guns that cost only $2. (They are at this moment bouncing around the hotel room having a rubber band gun war, while I periodically caution them that the guns will be confiscated if mom gets shot.) Jamie was a delightful shopping companion, chatting with the shopkeepers, and exclaiming over and pointing out various cute things.

At one point we were called over to a shop entrance by a couple of young men. They gave us an animated demonstration of a candy formed by stretching out honey while quickly dipping it into powdered sugar so that the strands of honey were coated and very thin sweet threads of candy were formed. The guys were a riot, counting out the multiplication of strands each time they folded the candy in half, and finished their demonstration by giving us each a sample.

Further down the road, there was a man with a loudspeaker standing on the back of a moving flatbed truck, selling bags of oranges as he went. Another man rode by on a bike that was loaded down with huge bouquets of flowers. The road was filled with people, but cars periodically made their cautious way down the center, tapping on horns and waiting for people to step far enough away from bumpers so that the cars could move forward a few more feet.

By the time we got done with our shopping, we were getting tired, but Jamie really wanted to take us on the cable car up Namsan Mountain. She said we would love it, and she was right. All except for the walk up to the base of the cable car. Super steep streets and 8 hours of sleep in about 40 hours time made me suddenly aware of my exhaustion. The boys were almost as tired as I was. But we walked and paused, walked and paused, and finally made it up to the cable car place. There I quickly found some cokes, hoping the caffeine boost would propel me through the rest of the day.

The cable car ride was delightful. There were only a few seats on the car, so most of us stood, holding bars or handles, subway style. Seoul in ‘panorama’ format was amazing. The contrast between the wooded mountain we were ascending, and the sleek city sprawled below us was striking. I don’t know exactly what I expected there to be at the top of the mountain– maybe just a lookout?– but in actuality there were shaded pavilions and walking paths and big open spaces where a performance had just concluded, and several buildings with many stores where you could buy all sorts of things.

There was even a revolving restaurant — very expensive– near the top of Namsan Tower, where many young men take their girlfriends to propose to them. I was tired enough that I was content to take some pictures at the overlook, and was imagining getting back to our hotel soon for a rest. But Jamie wasn’t ready to quit. “I have to show you one more thing– I really want you to see the locks!”

Locks? I was puzzled.

“Yes, so many locks,” she said. “I think you will like it.”

(To be continued)

Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9

The honey-stretching showmen

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  1. It sounds like you’re having a fabulous time. I am so glad. I pray that everyone continues to enjoy themselves. I am glad that you are able to see so much. I am sure that you are exhausted, but having the experiences will be so worth exhaustion. I am so excited for you all and love the pictures you sent.

    Have fun!

  2. you got some great shots, mary.

    how are the boys reacting to being in korea? i suppose you’ll get to that!

    enjoy!

  3. Sounds like a great time to me! So nice your boys are experiencing it all with you. Keep on seeing all that you can and experiencing what you may WHILE getting some rest!

  4. Sounds like you’re having a delightful time! Your comment about the man selling oranges made me nostalgic; I have fond memories of the “peach man” waking me up when I was in Korea 20 years ago! He would walk his cart and call out, “Peaches! Peaches! Peaches for sale!” Not too loudly or obnoxiously, but strangely soothingly.

    I’m curious about the cola… Did you find that the cola tasted different than here in the States? I think I remember that it tasted different — like it had actual sugar in it instead of high fructose corn syrup.

  5. So glad you are having a wonderful time. I wish my family of 4 could eat out for only $35. WOW

  6. You make me miss Korea so much! Our family lived there for two years with the Army, and my husband has spent a total of 4.5 years there. We loved our time there, and all the terrific friendship bonds we formed, both with our Korean and American friends. I think Korea was the best assignment we had so far in our 18 years in the military. Thank you so much for the walk down memory lane!

  7. sounds fun

  8. it was a nice inspiring story. I alson admire you for having so many children…I like a big family truly but financial and homewise its an impossibilty in Malta 🙂 I have a 4 month old first born but wish to have another kid when he’s a little grown