Sunday, May 5, 2013

Golden Week Day 2: Dark Night of the Seoul

On our first full day in Seoul, we ventured out to have a look at Changdeokgung, which came most highly-recommended out of Seoul's major palace complexes. We showed up in the neighborhood a little early for the English-language tour, so we stopped first at Bukchon, a neighborhood with lots of hanok, or traditional-style Korean houses.

The tour at Changdeokgung was of the "Secret Garden" -- a wooded area behind the main palace complex where (I suspect) the king had exclusive drinking (and poetry) parties. We didn't stick with the tour group for very long. I'm sure the tour guide was saying lots of witty and informative things, but her loudspeaker was so quiet that we couldn't hear her over the crowd, and the whole tour moved a little faster than people with a nine-month-old can do comfortably. We did discover, however, that the secret garden has a really nice diaper-changing room.

 It wouldn't really be a vacation if we didn't take lots of self-portrait pictures.

 Gus enjoyed this part of the day koala-style.
This was kind of a neat touch; a lot of the purpose of the secret garden was for the education of the crown prince. To drive the point home, most of the buildings had a bookshelf in them; if you took your shoes off you could go in and make use of the royal reading room. Some of them might have been Confucian classics, but I did spot at least one of the Twilight books.
After a morning of secret gardening, we were ready for some lunch. We found a place near Bukchon that looked good. It was.
Nobody puts Baby in the corner. Except his parents, that is.
It totally felt like we were having lunch at somebody's house; we took our shoes off when we came in, walked past the kitchen area where they were making dumplings, and sat down near a TV that was playing the news in Korean. We'd expected to only find tourist-trap restaurants in the neighborhood, but it seems we got lucky.
We ordered a (giant) seafood and green onion pancake, as well as a red bean soup with rice noodles in it.
And of course there was kimchi. Wonderful, wonderful kimchi; both the standard bok choy variety and some made from daikon. Since a single bok choy leaf is too big to handle with chopsticks, they gave us tongs and scissors so we could cut them into more manageable pieces.

After lunch, we returned to Chandeokgung to check out the actual palace buildings.

 I'm not sure what these were all about; we saw them on a lot of the roofs.

Quinn is born to direct and I'm (apparently) good at taking direction.
Case in point.

We headed back to the hotel so we could rest our feet a little and and Gus could stretch out and get a break from the carrier. Then we headed back out to visit Namsan Park and the Seoul Tower.
This is what the tower looked like before our climb. It didn't look that far away, so we opted to walk it rather than taking the cable car. Lots and lots of stairs.
 Here's the tower at the end of our climb, with Quinn posing triumphantly in front of it.
Apparently, Namsan park is a big date place. Couples (Seoul mates?) will climb up and leave a lock on one of the fences to symbolize their love. Ours is the greed combination lock in the middle.
 Lots of locks.
 Even the benches are romantic.
Seoul Tower included a teddy bear museum (why? why not?) and when we spotted a bear doing the "Gangnam Style" dance Quinn (and Gus) couldn't help but get in on it.

We took the cable car down, and paused to get a shot of just how far away the tower looks when you're not on the mountain.

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