A Travellerspoint blog

May 2018

Seoul South Korea-Found Indonesian Music and Lost Umbrellas

i woke up late yesterday, since I got to bed 4:00 am the night before and had a headache. I woke up roughly around 8:45-which is late for me but really really early for most people in the hostel.

This was just as well because the weather was pretty crummy, the temperature was in the mid 50's and it was raining. After eating breakfast and doing some work on the computer, I set out wearing the sweater and leather jacket for the National Museum of Korea, which was a 3 different trains on the Seoul Metro.

The museum itself, in a giant building was a short walk from the metro in the pouring rain, and while it was giant, I couldn't get much into it. I went to the first exhibit, something like Korea before the Joseon dynasty-starting in 1392, and all sorts of paintings/artifacts, and after what may be 15 minutes-the lack of sleep caught up with me. I went outside and took a nap on a bench in the museum.

After a 15 minute nap (i think), i went back to the museum, and looked at the guide, it appeared that the third floor might be more interesting with old pottery, and something emulating the Terracotta warriors in China-it wasn't. I just gave up and went to the cafeteria for lunch, which consisted of some mushroom and rice dish, and went outside.

Outside, my whole opinion of the Museum turned around, in the museum plaza, which had a roof to keep out the rain, I heard the Lantun Orchestra, playing to a large crowd of family and children sitting on steps. The orchestra, which came from Jakarta and specializes in Indonesian Jazz had an absolutely phenomenal sound, complete with a smiling, wonderful lead vocalist, and instruments that, in addition to a normal Jazz sound, sound like they come from Indonesia. I watched the band as they played 6 songs, or so, and stayed till the end and purchased a CD.
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After that, I went back to the hostel and took a nap for a few hours.

At around 6:00 pm, I went out again. First I went out for some Korean Barbecue. At home I don't eat much meat-but I like to eat food that is indigenous to a specific region. On the way out i borrowed one of the hostel umbrellas, as it was still raining. (someone here said people forget to return the umbrellas-but I was committed and i was going to).

First I stopped for Korean Barbecue. Normally, I don't eat meat, but I like to eat food indiginous to a specific region, and i stopped here. I dropped my umbrella off at the entrance.

The barbecue, cooked in front of me on a small grill, was delicious. On the way out i collected the umbrella, and then I walked around Hongdae, and stopped at a place called Dystopia (with copies of 1984, and Animal Farm on display), for a $6.00 Mocha drink-all coffee is expensive here for some reason. i sat there for a while, and read my travel guide. On the way out, I looked for my umbrella. I couldn't find it. I thought I found it-(I wasn't truly sure which was mine since I only had it a few hours). I asked others in the cafe an umbrella i thought might be mine was there's-the person working at the cafe thought I was bothering others I guess-so she asked the other people). Out of two possibilities, they we're both claimed by people there. The second umbrella, the cafe girl asked every person in the cafe-and the very last person said it was his.

So I lost the umbrella. I was umbrella-less. I walked around without an umbrella. It didn't really bother me. Throughout my life, I always almost preferred to get wet then to carry an umbrella. In this case, it was just a light drizzle, so with my hat I was ok. It was at this time that I noticed that EVERY Korean carries an umbrella. Old people carry umbrellas. Kids carry umbrellas. Ladies carry umbrellas. Men carry umbrellas. Nerds have umbrellas. The cool with tattoos and piercings carry umbrellas. The only exception is that with couples, sometimes one is carrying an umbrella shielding the couple, (in which case the other is usually carrying a folded-up umbrella).

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I felt like I would let the Lazy Fox Hostel down if I didn't return the umbrella, but I bought a new one for the hostel for around $10.00, and came back around 11:15 and went to bed.

Posted by DavidPearlman 17:53 Archived in South Korea Comments (0)

Seoul-War Museum and Tough Night

Yesterday, I awoke relatively early and went to the Korean War Museum. The museum had a few different parts, one with the weapons and heroes from the wars of from 2333 BC. This wasn't really interesting. Most of the museum was of course from the Korean War. I learned a lot of the Korean War. The North Korean communists nearly captured the entire Korean peninsula-which is when the UN intervened. The UN was founded in 1945, after World War II, and the UN declaring an act of war was one of the first acts. Someone, maybe President Truman or General Maccarthur, thought that if the North Koreans won that would be the beginning of world war III. I also learned that the UN members who thought almost captured the entire peninsula, when the Chinese communists started fighting hard. Of course there was a truce, but never an official end to the war. There were exhibits of airplanes used, a Cadillac given to the ruler of South Korea by the US, other stuff. It was a nice museum. While I was there, some kids interviewed me. I learned that in Korea, kids study until 1:00 am and awake at 6, so they can get into a good university. They asked me what I thought and I didn't know.
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i got out around 2-3, and looked for a place for lunch. i couldn't find any-so got on a bus and took it to a neighborhood with restaurants, and found a buffet. I ate a lot. The metro to the hostel ran nearby, so after eating a lot I went back to the hostel and took a nap for a few hours.

After a few hours-it was dinner time, and I went out with some folks from the hostel for chicken-but there was no chicken, and I didn't want it. I had some octopus in the park with some of the guys (take out).

Then we went out around 11:00 am. Went to the same bars as the other night. I didn't play beer pong this time-I just watched. One bar checked my id and wouldn't let me in-There is a maximum age limit too which I exceeded by 15 years according to the bouncer-so I went elsewhere where some other folks we're. Made it back around 4:00 am after some dumplings.

Posted by DavidPearlman 17:25 Archived in South Korea Comments (0)

Gangnam Style Exhausted

Yesterday, I awoke early after a night of drinking and a few hours of sleep. i wasn't up for museums and other attractions, so i, went to the Gangnam part of town, which involved a ride on the metro through 15 stations, which seemed like it was 45 minutes. i heard that there wasn't much to the Gangnam part of town, which I found was true. It is many upscale stores, hotels and restaurants. I did find a monument to the song "Gangnam Style", though, after getting off on the subway. Not sure what to do then, i walked around past stores playing blaring music, inviting me to come in and be cool for about 5 seconds while I listened to their music and looked around. Then I got on a bus to the Hyundai Department Store (not sure what was there-but i figured what I would see). I never found the Hyundai Department Store, but stayed on the bus until the end of the route, where i found a Canon store, and looked around.

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Fortunately, the metro was there, and my lack of sleep was catching up with me. So i got back on the metro (this time, it was 17 stops back). The metro was standing room only. After roughly 13 stops, I couldn't stand any more. I saw a bench in one of the stations we stopped at, so i got off the train and sat on the bench and took a nap-for about 15 minutes (i think)-and went back to the hostel and slept for a few hours.

i had a second wind in the evening-so i took a few other metros to the Seoul Tower-which is a radio tower. I got off the metro, stopped at a bar and had a beer, and walked up the hill. it was getting cold out. I went to the tower, and found a huge crowd of tourists, but it was nice. i stayed there and walked around for a while.

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Posted by DavidPearlman 15:59 Archived in South Korea Comments (0)

Seoul South Korea-Museums to Beer Pong

Yesterday i awoke on the late side-around 7:30, simply because of the cold. i don't like cold and stayed in bed. I didn't leave the hostel until around 10-after breakfast and showering, talking to others, etc, and went to Gyeonbokgung, the largest palace in the city, which is really a recreation of a large palace which was destroyed by the Japanese during their invasion, so much of it was reconstructed during the 1980's forward, with the rest of it due to be completed by 2045. The whole complex was quite striking, with once again, lots of Koreans wearing traditional uniforms (I learned they get in free with the uniforms). I took a guided tour, and saw where the king lived, where he held meetings and where he held banquets. I learned that many kings only lived until their 40's, as they had a lifestyle without much physical activity, since the servants helped them do everything. We saw the throne, with dragons, the red sun and the moon, and the 5 mountains of Korea. I learned that the wife of dis ceased King has a separate residence on the property.
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After the hour and a half tour, i walked to the Folk Museum of Korea which was right next door, and learned some interesting things about the common folks in Korea as well as the upper class. The upper class competed for government jobs by taking exams, like civil service exams, and this was a path to wealth. Intricate wedding ceremonies we're held, with a live goose presented, and the marriages we're prearranged by parents. i also learned that the life expectancy was way lower in those days, and a party was held for the parents when they reached 60 years of age. (Parental respect is very important in South Korea). I also learned acupuncture and other natural remedies we're developed in Korea, (or at least heavily used). They didn't reconcile this with the fact people lived shorter lives. The poorer people in Korea had hard lives and mostly did farming.

After the museum, I walked along an outdoor exhibit which showed life in Korea-during the 70's-it showed an old fashioned printing press, a room with an old fashioned tv, and a garage with a 1978 Hyundai Pony, one of the first cars made in Korea.IMG_2260.JPG

I was booted from the complex, since it was 6:00 pm, so I took a walk along the side, up a hill, towards some old fashioned houses. After a few hours, I went back to the hostel and took a nap.IMG_2286.JPG

i woke up around 11:00 pm, some folks we're going out to the entertainment district, a few blocks a way from the hostel in Hapsong. I went out and had a few drinks. I one bar we played beer pong. Nobody over the age of 25 should ever mention "beer pong", i thought I succeeded at one thing I haven't before-getting the ball in a cup of beer-I was proud of myself, but learned I leaned over the table too much so it wasn't much of an accomplishment. A few of us left, had some dumplings, and got home at I don't know what time.

Posted by DavidPearlman 16:29 Archived in South Korea Comments (0)

South Korea-Run Run DMZ

Yesterday, I awoke early to visit the DMZ zone, which is the demilitarized zone between North And South Korea. A small bus took me to the big bus from the hostel for the hour and 1/2 ride. I was seated on the bus next to a 20 something American girl who said she was travelling around the world, going to Europe, Asia and Australia for 2 months. i probably should have sounded impressed but I remarked how that seemed like a rushed trip-she didn't like that, she remarked "well it's never enough time"

We arrived to a touristy area, with the Freedom bridge, which is the bridge that POW's from North Korean returned on. There was also a park and a bombed out locomotive used on display, which was used to carry ammunition from the South to soliders in North Korea, and it was riddled with bullets. The park also had a giant observation deck (you couldn't see much except some mountains which weren't too far off, even though it was a sunny day). There was also a small amusement park, cafeteria, and other tourist-oriented places.
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Then we got back on the bus and went to the third tunnel, which was discovered in 1974, created by the North Koreans so they could secretly attack South Korea. This involved a LONG walk down to the tunnel, and then a long walk in the tunnel, hunched over with hard-hats. Of course we didn't walk through the whole tunnel, where there is a concrete barricade. We then took the long walk back. Of course, there was another souvenir shop and we we're herded back on the bus.

For the third stop, we went to an observation point, where you can actually see North Korea. We saw a city on the other side of the border, complete with the North Korean flag and a statue of Kim Il Sung-the first leader of North Korea from 1948 (the small white thing in the middle of the first picture). it was pretty neat-but again there we're so many tourists around. (the little white thing is supposedly the statue of him). Once again, we we're given a short amount of time and taken back to the bus.
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The last stop in South Korea was a train station, called the Dorasan station, which was built in the early 2000's, for the expected unification of the Koreas, but is only used by tourists on 4 trains per day. It is the last station in South Korea (although the tracks go to North Korea).

We then stopped at a Ginseng store where we we're told how great Korean Ginseng was. I went back to the bus.

After the bus dropped us off downtown, It was right at the Deoksugung Palace, which hasn't been used in a long long long time(since 1910 I believe) but there is still a changing of the guards ceremony three times a day, with 28 folks in colorful costumes banging on drums, marching, and repeating commands. I then went into the palace which was peaceful since there weren't many tourists there.
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After that, I found a big English bookstore, read for a while, and went back to the hostel for a nap. I then went out for dinner. It got cold out, so I had my sweater and jacket on and I was still freezing.

Posted by DavidPearlman 17:32 Archived in South Korea Comments (0)

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