Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Korea Day 12 - Palaces and Playing Around

We all felt that we hadn't seen enough of the many palaces here in Seoul, so this morning we returned to visit Deoksugung, near City Hall. This is one of the smaller ones, but is famous for its elaborate changing-of-the-guard ceremonies, held several times a day. It is a big tourist attraction, and includes the opportunity for tourists to dress up in traditional clothing and pose with the guards - an opportunity we didn't take, but these two dorky American guys were all over the place in their outfits and white sneakers. If you feel so inclined, Youtube has several short videos of the Changing of the Guard at Deoksugung Palace, showing the full ceremony. We wandered all over the palace grounds. Much of it has been reconstructed after fires and various plunderings over the 500+ year history, but it is still quite beautiful. It is miniscule in size, compared to former times, when it would have occupied a huge tract of land in the middle of town. Today it is surrounded by government buildings and Dunkin Donut shops (which the guards march past on their changing route).

The palace had a lovely tea shop and gift shop, and we sat for awhile at the edge of a dappled Monet pond, having tea, laughing, and watching three men who were dredging out unwanted algae from the water. I love this photo of Wendy and Judy, having a sisterly moment!
We wandered down a stunning street next to the palace, all tree-lined with dripping autumn colors, and went in to the Seoul Art Museum for awhile, for a not very interesting show. Then we found lunch at a nearby Vietnamese Pho restaurant, and some shennigans happened with the bean sprouts.
After lunch we went over to Hongik University, to search for a designer shop that Daniella knew about through her friend, Lynn Mizono, from Whidbey Island. We had, as usual, an address written in English, and a phone number, and had asked the hotel to write the address for us in Korean. A bad sign was that the cab driver had no idea where to take us, so dropped us off in front of the university. When we started to ask people around the University for help, everyone seemed mystified. We went into a cell phone store, staffed by hip young people, and they telephoned the phone number on our paper, and then gave us the usual Korean expanation of where to go, with a lot of hand guestures. We made it about two blocks before we lost the thread and were unsure which road to take. Next we went into a beauty salon, and they also telephoned the shop, then drew an elaborate map of how to get to the place we were looking for. Walked many more blocks following that little map, but no sign of the shop. Finally we went into another small designer shop on the street we thought we needed. The owner there seemed clueless as well, but made a third call to the shop and then signed for us to follow her, back up the street we had come, and off in a new direction, where finally she handed us off to a baffled young woman who had walked out to meet us. It turned out that she was an employee of the shop we were looking for. The woman who was Lynn's friend was off in China, so we never got to meet her. And the shop, although charming, stocked only size zero and maybe a 1 or 2, tiny little things for tiny little people! But the neighborhoods we walked through were great, arty, full of young people, graffiti, and cool places to go. I was too stressed out with finding directions to take any photos!

Finally last night we went for a great night stroll down through Insadong and back again, our sweet home neighborhood, so endlessly fascinating and fun! Only one more full day here, then tomorrow noon we have to check out and head home. That will be hard......

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