Seoul, fourth time around

When we arrived in Seoul, the first thing we did was head to Namdaemun, the “South Gate” that was destroyed by fire. This is Korea’s so-called first national treasure, and probably it’s most recognizable landmark outside the country. There was quite a scene there. Walls had been erected around the site, as workers inside clean up and begin the rebuilding process. One section of the wall was made transparent so that people could look through and see the damage.
Namdaemun wall

Namdaemun wall 2

There was a good sized crowd there. A lot of people were taking pictures with cell phones, nice cameras, and videocameras. In the back, there seemed to be a protest going on. I asked my friend to translate and she said something along the lines of “throw out all the congressmen.” In the middle, there was a shrine with flowers, some writing, pictures of the original gate pagoda, a place for people to sign their names, and a Buddhist monk watching over it all while ringing a bell.

Namdaemun monk

p1070837.jpg

Afterward, we got a taxi to Insadong, where we ate a killer Kamja-tang and wandered around the streets a bit. Then it was off to the hotel to check in before heading to the Bjork concert. I forgot to mention the crowd scene inside the venue, something I was curious about beforehand. Maybe I didn’t mention it because there wasn’t much to say. They were like any concert-going crowd in America. Some of them went full-on apeshit while others sat absolutely motionless, with still others somewhere in between. What was interesting were the things the crowd reacted to. Bjork has a way of saying a simple “thankyou” after some songs. Every time she did this, the audience laughed and cheered. They also seemed to cheer loudly when she’d go off on one of her strange dances.

The show got out really early. It started at 7 and ended around 8:40. There was a pretty massive Busan contingent who made the trip, so it was an effort in getting some 15 or so people organized. Eventually, somehow, everyone met up at the subway. I’ve never seen so many white faces in Korea as I saw that night in the subway. It was probably a good half and half on the train.

We made our way to Hongdae, a hipster university neighborhood. It was flooded with people out on a Saturday night. People split into different camps to go eating or bar hopping.

The next day some of us went to a massive breakfast at Gecko’s in Itaewon. I had a good ol’ American style breakfast, with actual hashbrowns. That was nice.

Geckos Breakfast

Seoul caters much more to foreigners than Busan (which is, interestingly enough, one of the reasons I prefer Busan). So I was able to stock up on some Western food, buy a couple of new books, and get some incense.

Later, I split with the group and met a Korean friend and former professor at Starbucks back in Insadong. We caught up on our lives and had some nice conversation about my future in Korea. I’ve got some big decisions to make.

I regrouped with my friends again later and we went out for Dong-dong-ju and anju, and then I led them to a neighborhood with some good bars. We hung out for a while longer, then caught a late train back to the south coast.

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One Response to “Seoul, fourth time around”

  1. Namdaemun gate should stays forever. Now our generation should prove that we are better than our ancestor by preserving the building longer than 600 years. That should be the goal for uplifting everyone’s spirit.

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