Tuesday, March 29, 2016

China/Korea 2009: day 13 (Seoul)

Seoul day 1: Saturday 10/10/09
Map of my Seoul stops, this day in blue; here are the photos from today. Yellow highlights in the text correspond to flags on the map.

Through the International Astronautical Conference (IAC) planners, I booked a side tour of Seoul for the weekend immediately preceding the conference (which started Monday 10/12). I flew into Incheon Airport from Hong Kong on the overnight flight and went to the area set up by the IAC to handle travel arrangements. They set me up on a bus going into town that would drop me off at the hotel. The tour picked up at the IBIS Gangnam hotel, so I figured I'd stay there anyway on Saturday night, we'd have a day tour on Saturday of Seoul and then Sunday we'd go off to the DMZ and then be dropped off at the convention center in Daejeon. Our van only held about 15 people so it was a comfortable size. And it was no state-run tour to fleece us out of money, like in Beijing.

The first stop was the Gyeongbokgung Palace, built in the late 14th century. The palace was very Chinese-influenced, from the shape of the pagoda-like roofs and their totems on the roof edges to the archways and interior design. Since I had just come from Beijing's temples a few days earlier, the similarities were obvious. Nearby the Palace is the National Folk Museum of Korea, where we spent about an hour. A few minutes away was the next stop, at the Jogyesa Temple, which is the largest Buddhist Temple in Seoul. Inside there are three giant golden (colored?) Buddhas, and it's an active temple so there were a number of people inside praying. We stopped for a hot pot lunch in a restaurant at the top of a tall building that had a panoramic view of Seoul. Hot Pot is a popular style of eating where the meat ingredients are boiled in oil and then mixed with other ingredients (vegetables like onions and lettuce, kim chee, etc.) and eaten in a lettuce wrap. 

After lunch we went down to Insadong and were given an hour or so to walk around. Insadong is a very crowded, very popular street market with everything from dried squid and other street food to antiques and calligraphy sets. I picked up another box of bandages, as my feet were still blistered from so much walking, starting back in Shanghai two weeks before. With the boat and bus trips in Hong Kong, plus a lot of driving in Seoul, my feet were finally getting the rest they needed but I wasn't totally healing yet. Next up was the Cheonggyecheon Stream, a public recreation space in downtown Seoul that was part of an urban renewal project just a few years before. Nearby is an exhibit with flags of all nations that took part in the allied forces with the South during the Korean War. The river is sunken down from the ground level, with shopping and businesses at ground level. There's a JS Texas Bar that I sadly did not get a chance to go to but would totally have gone there based on the name alone. 

Back at the hotel, I rested for a bit until I was hungry, then went wandering the Gangnam area til I found something that looked interesting. I settled on a place called Scarlett The Shrimp Restaurant that had, well, a lot of shrimp dishes. I had a shrimp Caesar salad and some sweet & sour shrimp with rice as I was in the mood for something I was familiar with.

Scarlett restaurant (shrimp & modern American), grilled shrimp Caesar salad and chili shrimp w fried rice.

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