Day 3 was a bit of a late start. We had breakfast and packed all our things back up, said goodbye to our host family, then rode the subway into Seoul to check into our hotel. We unpacked and rested, and I washed my hair (which I hadn’t been able to do at homestay for practical reasons), and relaxed a bit. So I don’t have so many pictures from this day. We got a late lunch/early dinner at a Korean restaurant close to our hotel, in Myeongdong, where I tried Bibimbap for the first time. After that we wandered around the area for awhile, and found ourselves in Namdaemun. We didn’t do much shopping, just wandering around (and getting lost of course!)
That evening, we decided to go find the Namdaemun gate which burned down recently, to see what was going on with it, but found city hall instead. On the way back we passed by a beautifully lit-up pagoda we had to take pictures of, then went back to the hotel. I don’t remember what we did for dinner… that might have been pizza night in Myeongdong. You can imagine the weird looks in the US or Japan when I ask for no tomato sauce on my pizza, but imagine trying to convey a food allergy in a language you don’t know. Charades got us through, but I was worried the message wouldn’t be clear. Luckily I didn’t need to, they did a good job.
Relaxing in our hotel room after check-in. It was a pretty serviceable hotel, and though our room only had a shower, there was a super nice public bath on the upper levels.
Waking up we got up later and later each day, partly because we’re both a bit lazy in the mornings and dislike getting up, but also partly because despite going to bed early, the nights were pretty restless because we were unused to the rooms as well as tired from all the walking from the days before. The hotel was nice enough to rent out humidifiers, which was super nice as that was one of the main reasons we were both uncomfortable. Anyway, on day four we got up and grabbed lunch somewhere, then headed to Deoksugung to see the changing of the guards and get at least one more palace in, since our plans had changed a few times and we hadn’t hit more than one.
We got the times of the change mixed up, but it turned out to be good because the changing began right when we got there. We watched that, then headed inside for a look around. There were a lot of Western-style buildings on the premise, and the contrast was really nice. A lot of flowers were blooming, and it was a nice day overall. But right as we went in, a giant group of Korean school girls came in after, and were amazingly loud for their size. So we didn’t stay long after that. We decided to get donuts for a snack, and watched a huge group of Korean riot police march by, then headed on to other things.
One quick thing, it was a weird culture shock moment, especially on the subway, realizing how loud many Korean people are. In Japan, it is considered rude to talk on your cell phones on public transportation such as the trains and the subway, and there are announcements in both Japanese and English to that affect. In Korea, there is no such thing, and people scream conversations. This is accompanied by a hand covering the cell phone and the mouth, with no effect other than to make the speaker speak LOUDER through the hand. It was amazingly funny and a little appalling at the same time. Altogether, I appreciate the Japanese trains so much more now!
Anyway, after the palace, we took the subway to “Korea’s Manhattan”, Yeoido, which is a kind of island(ish) on the Han river. We managed to get turned around looking for the main park, and therefore had to walk pretty much across the entire thing. Then, I had the bright idea of doing one of the river cruises, but there is a TON of construction along the edge of the river for an improvement project sort of thing, so it was hard to find. Plus, the times were bad and Kenji didn’t really want to do it, so we had to walk back to the subway. Altogether, we were both grumpy and tired of walking and Not Happy, so we took a blessedly long subway ride to COEX mall for some food.
COEX is a GIANT mall, which the guidebooks say take a few days to go through. Part of it is an aquarium, but I was hungry and it would have been closed after we ate, so we didn’t go do that. I decided on Quizno’s for sentimental purposes (lunch every day in New Orleans!), but was disappointed and so after some shopping we went home. Not one of our better afternoons, and my legs were really hurting by the end of it. Still, saw some interesting things.
The gate. You can tell because the painting style is exactly the same, lol!
Inside the palace, there was a lot of contrast with both the buildings and the outside skyscrapers, as well as inside with both types of buildings. I really liked this palace since it wasn’t a guided tour so we could wander around, and it was really neat to see these differences literally side-by-side.