The second half of my Golden Week was a quickly put together week in Seoul. I had been to Seoul before when I was at Kansai Gaidai. I went for 4 days and didn't really have any plans for when I was there. I basically did the same thing again. I had 6 days and I had a LP. That was my whole plan.
I got into Seoul around 3:30pm, got a bus into town, dropped my stuff off at my tiny hostel, and went out and got a quick bit of sightseeing in before the day was over. I first headed out to Deoksugung Palace and then onto Insa-Dong. The palace was really nice and I got the added bonus of there being free music to listen to and a festival going on to add to the festive air of the day. Korean Palaces are very spread out and they are a lot different from Japanese castles. It's really nice and different to walk around to the different buildings that make this giant palace into it's own little world.
I made a quick stop at Tapgol Park after the palace. The park is right next to
Insa-Dong and it had some pretty interesting statues to look at. One of them is a 10 leveled stone tower that was made in the 1500's and it's really beautiful. There are more intricate Buddhist scriptures are worked into the stone. The park itself is kinda tiny, but there are a couple other places to see and them more statues that dot the area.
Made my way into Insa-Dong after the park. Insa-Dong is a long market street that is, honestly, pretty touristy, but it was touristy in a way that it wasn't so bad. One long road leads through the whole area with little side streets that lead to small tea houses, restaurants and shops that you can buy souvenirs and other little nick-knacks. There were a lot of people there, a small group was singing for people, someone was selling ducklings, food was being made on the street, and everybody was going everywhere at once. I had dinner along the street and since I don't speak any Korea, except for saying thank you, I just did a lot of pointing and smiling and slipping into Japanese every now and then.
It looked like rain so I
moved on and found Jogyesa temple. The temple was covered in paper lanterns and in the middle of prayer services. It was very haunting to walk around the temple and hear the chants of the faithful along with the laughter of children and Koreans talking out in the courtyard. Beautiful temple, though. There were murals of Buddhas life around the outside and brightly colored lanterns hanging above. It was a nice break from the over the top office buildings.
Thursday was museum day because I had spent way too much time in the sun on Wednesday. I headed out to the National Museum of Korea and proceeded to spend almost 4 hours within it's walls. The best part? It was FREE! The worst part? All the school kids that kept running around and being distracting when I was trying to be cultured and actually get as much out of the museum as I could. As distracting as the kids were, the museum is huge, as big as a wing of an airport and 3 stories tall. Korean history, Vietnamese history, development of the Korean language, furniture, Buddhist sculptures and paintings, the museum had everything!
moved onto the War Memorial Museum after spending so long in the National Museum. The War Memorial Museum was closing in 2 hours, I had gotten there around 4, so I tried to get through it a lot quicker than the National Museum. Not nearly as big as the National Museum, the War Memorial was darker and more thought provoking. War history on the bottom and recent history on the top 2 floors. The Korean War was the most interesting part for me. I didn't know that so many countries had sent soldiers to help in the Korean War: Ethiopia, Columbia, Egypt. So many more people than I had thought. English videos were up and there were tiny battlefields to follow along with the dialogue. Very informative and interesting. On the front lawn there was an open air art park that you could walk around and check out some old fighter jets and other military vehicles.
After the museums I had dinner and than made my way up to the N'Seoul Tower for the awesome night view of Seoul. Ever since I went to the Tokyo Tower at night, I have loved going up those towers at night and
looking at all the lights of the city, Seoul didn't disappoint. There were a lot of people there waiting for the sun to set, along with me. Rather relaxing really, to just sit and wait for the sun to set and for everything to light up. The view was well worth the trip and the time to go up and look at Seoul at night.
I honestly, didn't do all that much this day. Korea has one of the largest Christian populations in Asia and there was a long time of persecution of Catholics in the 1600's. The Jeoldusan Martyr's Shrine and Museum was really close to my hostel, so I decided that I would go and check it out of the morning and then see what I was up for after that. The Shrine was actually pretty powerful and interesting. I wasn't really expecting much, especially not as many worshipers as I saw. I felt a little awkward walking around and playing the tourist when this place was obviously much more important than I was thinking. At many of the statues there were, mostly, women praying or reading scripture. Many of them went into the museum
to pray before a small remain of the first Korean Catholic priest and then moving on to the chapel to pray.
The rest of the day, I didn't do anything really. I went back to my hostel and spent some blissful time alone and talked with people on skype and caught up with my e-mail and started getting some of my blogs written. There was a lot to get done, but it was nice to stay indoors and relax for the first time my whole 2 week vacation.
Since it was my last day there, I decided that I would do a little more hiking before I left, so I headed out to Inwangsan to check out a shamanist area. When I first got there I was kinda surprised, it really wasn't what I was expecting at all. There was a small Buddhist area with temples that seemed to be falling apart a little, one of them had been completely burned. As I kept going up, I started to feel more out of place. Careful to be respectful, I didn't take many photos and when I did I made sure that nobody was around or I
waited for someone to finish their prayer and moved on.
As I was walking up, I turned a corner and low and behold, there was a naked man standing in the path. Quick to move on, I smiled and started to go past him when he told me, in English, that there were 2 more men ahead of us, both naked, and they would be really angry if they saw me walking around. I was just going to walk back the way I came and wait, but he was adamant that I hide. So I moved off the trail a little ways and guess what, HE FOLLOWED ME! I was sitting on the ground, he was still naked, and then he started conversation with me. The usual questions and everything. Then he did something crazy, he started praying to me. I mean sitting in front of me and praying. The whole time, I'm trying to keep a straight face, I mean really, what are the odds?! We sat there for 10 minutes, when he got a call or made a call on his cell phone. He quickly put on his clothes, and we moved on. As I was going
to walk away, he made a move to hug me, I'm thinking, one hug won't hurt. But then he put his face in my neck and was holding me there. I finally just pulled away when it seemed like he wanted to kiss me and just left. As I was leaving, he told me, "I love you", but I just ignored it and kept going.
I rushed through the hike after that. The encounter with the guy left me a little angry and unsettled, so I headed back to my hostel for a couple hours and then ventured out for dinner and walked around the area close to my hostel before returning and trying to get some sleep.
All in all, not a bad vacation. I had a lot of fun and at a lot of kimchi.
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