Sunday, February 26, 2006

Palaces and Parades

In my attempt to get out of my apartment this weekend and perhaps get a little culture into my day, I spent the afternoon in of Seoul’s most traditional shopping areas.

I first went to Changdeokgung Palace and took a not so little tour around the palace grounds. It was very beautiful ...but.... the that it was freezing, and the tour was a lot longer then I anticipated...ok...let me explain.

I bought what I though was an entrance ticket to the Palace and anticipated taking a quick wander through and then I would be on my way.

With my ticket in hand, I walked around to the main entrance where there was a small gate that was closed. It had a little handle, so I figured I would just let myself in (I had just seen someone come out of the same gate). Apparently, or shall I say, predictably, I was wrong. A Korean Palace guard quickly came out and in very broken English told me that I would have to wait for the tour to begin before I could enter. He pointed to a sign that said the next English tour starts at 3:30pm was currently 2:00pm.

Then, in my broken Korean, I attempted to explain to him that I didn’t want to take a tour; I just wanted to go by myself and take some photos. He said I could not.

I opted to take the Korean tour that started in 15 minutes (the guard looked even more confused, but agreed that I could take the Korean tour - those crazy foreigners)...and I was still planning to be on my way within the hour. Wrong again.

Since I speak very little Korean, I didn't get much out of the tour (thankfully the guard gave me an English pamphlet), but after the first 30 minutes of standing in approximately the same damn spot, I quickly translated that this wasn’t going to be a short tour.

I once took a tour when I was living in Ulsan, which was also entirely in Korean. Funny enough, the tour guide was a comedian and had everyone laughing throughout the half day tour. I of course could only laugh along, as if I had a clue what was going on. Again, on this tour today, my guide had everyone laughing but’s kind of funny, now that I think about it.///good incentive to learn seems as though they are a damn funny group of people!!

After an hour and a half, I was thoroughly frozen and the tour was finally over.
It was pretty interesting, but likely a lot more enjoyable when one's hands aren't freezing off.

After the palace, I walked around the main strip of shops in Insadong (post warming up with some much needed hot coffee). The streets are lined with hundreds of shops, brimming with traditional ink paintings, calligraphy, antiques, ceramics and souvenirs. Down every alley way there are tiny cafes and traditional-Korean restaurants. I saw quite a few vegetarian restaurants and one shop called Temple cooking...looked pretty good. I bought some ceramic mugs and watched a couple live performances.

All in all, a great Sunday!!

Insadong main street

Some performers in a parade I saw

A young girl from Mongolia...she was singing to promote vegetarianism...the guy behind her i think was drunk...he had been playing a guitar down the street and then I guess couldn't resist dancing....he was pretty funny to watch

Changdeokgung Palace

Changdeokgung Palace


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