[philiptellis] Walking the world in search of interestingness

Monday, May 10, 2004

Seoul on foot and train

Today I decided to go around the city by subway and on foot. Started by taking the subway to Chungmuro, and visited the Namsangol Korean village. The village is small - about 7500 sq.ft., but the houses are pretty. There was a wedding going on in one of them, and I took a few pictures.

Around the village the scenery is quite serene. Walked around for a while. There's a mountain stream that's not too full this time of the year. I guess as the rain picks up it will fill up, or maybe it's the melting snow at the start of spring that fills it up.

Next door to Namsangol is Korea house - which has traditional korean cuisine and weddings and other functions. I walked around a bit. Took pictures of this traditional wedding ceremony, and the musicians and all. Then looked around and there was this large crowd of people dressed in suits and their best formal wear. Peeked into one of the rooms and a buffet table was being set I think. I think I might have gatecrashed someone's wedding and taken pictures of it. The stares I got definitely hinted at it. :P

Got out of there quickly and moved on. Took the subway to Hansung University looking for the Seonjamdan Altar, but couldn't find it. Turned back to Hyehwa looking for Munmyo, but couldn't find that either. Instead found Roboworld and the science museum. After a quick look through I left and along the same road came to Changgyeonggung Palace.

Changgyeonggung is simply huge with loads and loads of gardens. I really hope my pictures come out because it was getting really overcast by then. It took me quite a while to walk around the whole place. Most interesting was the resting place of the placenta and umbilical cord of one of the emperors. Strange that they'd choose to preserve them.

Finishing with that, walked along the wall, and finally came to Changdeokgung, but couldn't go in. You're only allowed to enter with a guided tour, and there weren't any more English tours scheduled for the day. Missed the Royal shrine as well because I couldn't find the entrance, and my feet were too tired to search.

Got to Anguk station and took the train to Amsa with changes at Jongno sam ga and Cheonho. Went walking north towards the Prehistoric settlement site on the banks of the Han. It was already 7:15, and the place was closed, but I got an idea of how to get there - will try again one of these mornings.

After that headed to Jamsil to Lotte World. Decided to skip the amusement park as it was already 8:30, and went to the Lotte Mart instead and got myself some stuff for breakfast.

Got back to the COEX and decided to have dinner at Pizzahut - yeah, boring, but I needed a break and something familiar. Met another Indian guy there - Vikram. He just arrived today and works at Lucent.

Got back to the hotel around 10pm and I have wet socks, blisters on two toes because my socks shifted around too much, and my legs ache too. I think I shall sleep well.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Children's Day

Today was Children's day, and a holiday here in Korea. We went to Gyeongbokgung Palace, and got there in time for the changing of the guard. I tell you, it's a long process. An enemy could attack and be done with the war during that time.

We started at Samseong Dung - which is where I stay. Look at the Subway map (needs flash, zoom in a couple of times). It's no. 219 on the green line. Headed down to Seoul National University of Education and switched to the Orange line to Gyeongbokgung (no 327) for the palace.

The palace is huge, and has a backdrop of mountains. There's a moat around one of the chambers, and also the museum of Seoul in there. We visited the museum, and then went out looking for lunch. Found it in a street market who's name i cannot remember.

We had a vegetarian dish - for once - with ginseng gin. That was followed by a Korean pizza. Served in a shallow basket rather than a pan, and made out of vegetables, dough, cheese, octopus and prawns. You eat it with chopsticks, and there's a soya sauce mixture that you dip the pieces into before eating.

After lunch went down to the Dongdaemun market and got some stuff from there.

On the way out saw a dance competition for children's day where this 8 year old girl (I thought she was 3) totally blew the crowd away. She danced really well.

Took the subway back, really exhausted by then, and came back to the hotel. Took a short nap and washed my clothes.

Later went looking for a veg dinner as Arun was with me, but the guy at the Taiwanese place that we went too looked at us very quizzically, trying to hold back a laugh. Finally went down to the mall to Mr. Pizza. Had spaghetti with cheese and meat sauce, bread sticks, garlic bread and a salad bowl with unlimited refills.

Long and tiring day. I don't quite have the stamina for sight seeing that I used to.

Radio here is all Korean, but Yahoo! Launchcast gives me a good selection.

Good night

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Updates from Seoul

Sunday - May 2, 2004

Flight was good. Friend of mine from VJTI was on the same flight on his way to San Francisco. Landed about 5 minutes late, which was okay. Stood in the wrong line for about 5 mins before someone told me that i had to go straight to immigration. Finished with immigration - wanted to take some photos there, but couldn't think of anything to shoot.

Then i went to collect my baggage, but i was too late, so did not see my flight number on any of the belts. Asked someone, and he told me that it was on belt 6, but since the baggage had already been removed, my suitcase would be on the floor in front of the belt. I found it there along with 4 other bags.

Walked around the airport looking for the limousine ticket counter. Found two cops who only spoke Korean, but somehow managed to get directions from them. Got my ticket - 12000 Won. I had already changed a few dollars @ 1130 Won, but I'll need more now - to pay the hotel and all.

Limousine was good, and i think i should have taken photos along the way, but the roll in the camera is the 100 speed one, which is not suitable for moving targets. Will try and finish this roll soon, but it's raining today, so conditions are bad.

The hotel is one building away from the bus terminal, so i just walked it. Had to check in on the 5th floor. My room is on the 7th.

The room is nice. It's a studio apt, with attached bathroom, and kitchen. Also has a TV and DVD player, a wardrobe, a washing machine and iron/ironing board, so i shouldn't need to pay for housekeeping.

After I'd checked in, settled in, and watched Ice Age - the second half of it, I went out. The sun was still up till past 7:30. I went looking around for dinner, since i was starving by then.

There's a mall under the hotel - actually i think it goes on all around the block. The world trade centre is next to my hotel, and the mall is below it. I need to take pictures of that place - it is huge and glass.

I found quite a few food places down there. Most of them have everything except the prices written in Korean. I learnt an important lesson - no use being able to read a language if you can't understand what the words mean.

Luckily, most restaurants have samples of all dishes or pictures put up for you to pick from. I had some spicy seafood thing. I'm not sure though that that was representative of spicy food here, or else, Korean food isn't very spicy.

The dish was a mistake simply because i have never figured out how to eat crab with either a spoon or chopsticks. At least not while it's still in the shell. I decided to go desi and eat with my hands. Was the only person around doing that, and the last to finish eating.

It was closing time before i finished, so i sped up, returned the dishes, and said Kamsahamnida to the lady. She offered me Mul (water) and said Annyeonghi geseyo.

I then walked around a bit in the mall, which was closing down slowly. They have the biggest book store in Asia right there, and it just went on and on. All books in Korean though.

Finally, got out of the mall, and found my way to the glass tower, where I was supposed to go Monday morning.

Returned to the hotel and went to sleep.

Monday - May 3, 2004

Woke up at 9 and was in the office at 9:45 today. Had the meeting in the afternoon when the rest of the team had arrived.

I'd lost the password for the laptop (well, actually the problem is that the Ctrl and Caps lock keys were interchanged). Called up Yathin at 11:30 (8am Bangalore time) and got the password from him, along with other laptop info.

11:30 is also lunch time here, so we went out then. Went to a French place called marché. It's supposed to be an international line. They have Italian, and Korean and Japanese food there. And all the french stuff as well - salads and breads and all. I had some prawn rice. The other guys had spaghetti, and some Japanese soup.

Everything is automatic here. It took me a while to figure out how to flush the toilet - my method was to use the 'manual override' found behind the toilet seat - I suppose most Koreans would use one of the buttons on the right. Oh, whatever. Some of the doors still require to be pushed/pulled.

My card key for my room also tells the elevator which floor to go to.

That evening we had dinner at 6:30pm. We had boiled pork and kimchi, and assorted vegetables and sauces. I took a few pictures.

Finished off at the office at 8, and went strolling through the mall. Looked at some of the clothes stuff, and they have nice outfits, but a little expensive. Not going to buy too much.

Tuesday - May 5, 2004

Today we had some kind of chicken curry with ttokkapi. It was very nice. I think I'm improving with the chopsticks. They have stainless steel ones that are really thin and hard to grip, but I'm getting the hang of it. Today I was able to pull pieces of the chicken out of it.

For breakfast I had fried noodles at another food court. None of the guys at the shop spoke English, and the guy at the counter needed to tell me something. Finally he picked up the clock and pointed to the time indicating when it would be ready.

In the meantime he gave me a coke. I walked around and took some pictures in the bright sunlight. Today is a nice day.

After lunch we went around the mall checking out all the hardware. Then got back to the office and had a long meeting that got over a little while ago.

Tomorrow is a holiday because of children's day. Will be going sightseeing. There's also a river nearby and they have a cruise. I might go for that sometime.

For dinner we had boiled ribs with different kinds of mushrooms and the usual assortment of vegetables and kimchi. It's quite an expensive dish. I'll get all the Korean names later. I can read the names, but cannot remember them. Need to learn to remember what the letters look like.