There are twenty four hours in a day and we used almost all of them. Ignoring the jetlag, we set out for a full Sunday with the final activity of the day known: watch Korea versus France at 4am. We met 추영(Jooyoung in Latin characters) and after a warm exchange of greetings we proceeded to 경복궁 or Kyung Bok Palace.
One of four surviving palaces in Seoul, it was in active use by the Royal Family until 1897. Sadly, successive fires (a by-product of under floor, fire-based heating in wooden buildings I’m sure) and purposeful destruction by Japanese invaders in the early 1900s left a small fraction of the buildings intact. What is here has either been restored or re-built.
The tour took about thirty-five minutes and gave absolutely no more information than was available by reading the signs posted by every place our guide stopped. I would recommend a self-tour to anyone. The changing of the guard was dull, as any changing of the guard is, but lightenned up by the American-English tranlator’s insistence on saying duty with two D’s. This resulted in hilarious comments such as “The new guards are now ready for doody.”
We had lunch at 치아야기 (Chee-ah-yah-gee) which specialises in rice cooked in bamboo. Another bamboo treat was a bamboo alcohol served in a bamboo jug. It was here that 청현 (Helen is her English name) joined us.
Let’s pause to catch up on our new characters. Yooyoung used to work with YuKyoung at Rexo. He came back to Korea while his work permit was being applied for by Rexo. Unfortunately, through no fault of his own, he was turned down so Rexo lost a good employee and we lost a good friend. Well, lost is the wrong phrase – maybe ‘were separated from’ is a better one.
Helen knows us through Royal Holloway. We met through friends of friends and after that she ended up staying at our house for a while before she returned to Korea to continue with her Master’s degree.
Our fourstrong party finished lunch and debated where to go next. In the end we settled on a traditional tea house. It was hot and stuffy when we got there so we opted to do a swift tour of their tea museum and then head for somewhere else. Our next stop ended up being 찬단궁 (Changdeokgong Palace).
When you visit Seoul, just see one palace. This was just like the last one but with a nice forbidden garden. So, I guess I’m recommending it over Kyung Bok Palace. the guide was just as useless (more useless actually) and we didn’t learn much more as teven the basic history of Korea was repeated verbatim from the other tour.
Helen bought a red Korean football shirt to get in the spirit of the night as we left the palace. An extremely short taxi ride took us to the Nanta theatre. We were able to buy reduced price tickets because we were supporting the Korean team by wearing red shirts (Helen’s motivation wasn’t entirely in the spirit of the night after all!). Nanta is good for a non-Korean speaking visitor to Korea. It was written by a Korean and it has very little speaking because it is mostly expressed through gestures and body language. Lots of activity, little talking and a great percussion soundtrack – what else could you ask for?
We were quite hungry after the show so we went to 논두렁 (Noondorung) for some bibimbap. Once again, Korea comes through for a tasty and healthy meal.
Here is where most people’s days would have ended but we were just getting started. Your storyteller needs a break from writing though so the day will be split into two posts. Coming up: batting cages, a hard to find tavern and large screens broadcasting the football to the streets crammed with Korean supporters.