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Published: July 10th 2006
Night markets at Myeong-dong
Very popular and busy, we wandered through here each night and had bibimbap and kimchi at a restaurant or street vendor.
We arrived in the evening after a surprisingly comfortable and pleasant 11 hour flight from Sydney. I'm sure we'll feel differently after the next 6 months of flying, but Korean Airlines rock on! Managed to find the bus from Incheon airport to our guesthouse in Myeong-dong in central Seoul pretty easily and after asking for a lot of directions ended up at the Namsan Guesthouse where our hosts had cold Korean beer and snacks waiting for us, champions!
We were soon downing shots of Hite beer (yes, beer shots from paper shot glasses... the sentiment seems to be' if it's not disposable we don't use it'!) from plastic 2L bottles, followed by strips of dried squid. The Soju (Korean whisky made from potatoes, a sweeter and milder version of Vodka) is great stuff.
The next day our hosts took us down to the Gyeongbokgung Palace and National Folk Museum where we learnt all about traditional Korean way of life, how to use a geomancer to determine the ultimate position for a house and/or burial spot (mountains in background and a stream in front, with white tiger on the left and blue dragon on the right) and also sampled some
Korean herbal medicines.
Seoul is one of the many cities that puts Sydney's public transport system to shame. The transport minister should definitely be redirecting the junkets here to get some clues as to how to do it! The subway was fantastic, really efficient, easy to use and cheap. Had our fair share of kimchi (spicy pickled cabbage) and bibimbap (national dish, rice with veges and ground beef) and did our best to avoid American chain fast food outlets (no mean feat in central Seoul).
Checked out most of the usual tourist attractions and have well and truly had our fill of royal palaces. In a city of 12 million people you'd expect the locals to have relatively short fuses with tourists but we found them to be anything but... pretty much the friendliest group of people you could hope to meet. There also seems to be a general feeling of contentment among the people here. A couple of things to note if ever you're in Korea... wear nice shoes and don't wear sunglasses. We worked out after the first day that sunglasses were not appropriate and later discovered whilst chatting with a man on the subway that
it is considered rude as it looks like you have something to hide.
The air quality is shocking, but to be expected with such a huge population and high humidity. Thankfully Seoul is surrounded by lush green parks and mountains which are very popular for just chilling out in.
Also visited the Jogyesa Buddhist temple, however unfortunately couldn't participate in any of the programs as they're only run once a month for individual travellers. Will definitely be back to see more of Sth Korea though.
The Namdaemun markets were the most crowded place either of us have ever been. Steve managed to pick up a 'bargain basement' watch after some serious haggling. The watch ceased to work the very moment we stepped through the customs gate for the flight to Mongolia! We're smart shoppers alright!
Next entry won't be til end of July, from Mongolia.
Take care all. N & S.
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