Category: Rainbow Hotel


Friday, December 17:  On Friday night, we take the KTX to Seoul.  The KTX is the high-speed train; it takes 1 hour and 40 minutes from Daegu to Seoul.  Apparently, according to the Korail website, it can go up to 300 km/hour.  It doesn’t seem to me it goes that fast.  I think it’s fast only because it makes only 2 or 3 stops.  I love the description of the KTX design on the Korail website:  “In order to reduce air resistance, the head part of front and back of the high-speed railroad is designed after streamlined shape of a shark, plus the characteristic of Korean culture which is the soft curve.”

So, Alex gets his first Asian train experience.  We arrive at Seoul Station, get on metro for one stop to Namyoung Station, and voila, right around the corner is our hotel, the Rainbow Hotel.  We check in and immediately go out in search of a place to have snacks and drinks; we find one that’s comfortable and sit and talk for a long time.  He tells me about his recurring dream of his true love Sarah, about another girl he met who conveniently forgot to tell him she had a boyfriend, about his closest friends.  I love this evening because we are so relaxed with each other and I feel so close to him after his time here with me.   I am sad that now his time here is drawing to a close.

the guard and alex at the palace in seoul

the guard and alex at the palace in seoul

Saturday, December 18:  In the morning, we venture out into Seoul to see Gyeongbokgung Palace.

the palace

Gyeongbokgung Palace

the guards at Gyeongbokgung Palace

the guards at Gyeongbokgung Palace

inside Gyeongbokgung Palace

inside Gyeongbokgung Palace

part of Gyeongbokgung Palace

part of Gyeongbokgung Palace

Gyeongbokgung means Palace of Shining Happiness and was built by Chosun dynasty-era King Taejo in 1395, the fourth year of his reign.  The palace was destroyed several times by the Japanese, and now is only, at least in my mind, a bunch of poorly maintained empty buildings.  The only interesting thing is seeing a bunch of palace guards marching about with flags, and getting to take some pictures with them.  They seem quite disgruntled at having to pose with all the ridiculous tourists.

We go to the National Folk Museum which sits at the northern end of the Palace.  We don’t go inside but just wander around the grounds where cool statues and folk carvings abound.  We discover our Chinese astrological signs; surprisingly, Alex and I have the same sign: the sheep.  I don’t much care for this because I don’t consider myself a sheep!!

alex and i share the sheep astrological sign ~ baaaaa!

alex and i share the sheep astrological sign ~ baaaaa!

National Folk Museum grounds

National Folk Museum grounds

Alex and friend

Alex and friend

a party at the National Folk Museum

a party at the National Folk Museum

me at the National Folk Museum

me at the National Folk Museum

Alex

Alex

In Seoul

In Seoul

A Korean friend of mine who used to be into heavy metal in his younger days (his name is Young Dae, oddly),  suggests that we go to a huge guitar market at Jongro-3 station: Nak won sanga.  So. After the folk museum we venture into this market, where Alex buys two Korean ceramic type of musical instruments: one for himself and one for his friend for Christmas.  Then we go to Itaewon where we eat chicken schwarma at a Turkish restaurant in the Arab area, see the mosque, and browse in the English bookstore What the Book?  Since we are loaded down with a few book purchases, we return to the hotel to drop them off and taxi to City Hall to check out the Christmas decorations, which frankly were pretty darn disappointing.  We wandered around the stream and saw the minimalist lights, then went into JS Texas Bar for a light dinner of shrimp salad and beers.  We have to kill time for a while before taking the Seoul City Bus Tour, so we wander around the streets and step into a PC bang to check our emails.

alex at the mosque in the arab section of itaewon

alex at the mosque in the arab section of itaewon

The City Bus Tour is about an hour and a half of traversing back and forth by bus across the various Han River bridges.  Apparently each one of these bridges has some great importance, some grand design.  That is the tendency of Koreans, to think everything in their country is such a unique treasure, unlike anything found elsewhere in the world.  I actually find this nationalistic pride quite annoying.  (I could go on and on about this subject and I will in a final blog about Korea when I leave here!)  Anyway.  This bus tour would be fine except we’re supposed to see the city all lit up but it’s all a blur because the windows are all fogged up.  At one point  the bus takes us up to Nam-san Mountain to see Seoul Tower, but they only give us 20 minutes to wander around, not enough time to go up in the tower.

downtown Seoul

downtown Seoul

Seoul at Christmas

Seoul at Christmas

Seoul

Seoul

Korean what-nots

Korean what-nots

Alex in wonderland

Alex in wonderland

JS Texas Bar where we have beers to kill time before the city tour

JS Texas Bar where we have beers to kill time before the city tour

We’re both tired after the day, so we go back to the hotel and relax.   All night long, Alex can’t sleep.  He’s worried about his flight the next day.  On top of that, for the entire time he’s been here, he’s been complaining about my snoring!  All night he keeps saying, Mom!  You’re snoring!  Stop it!!  He actually gets quite vicious about it.  I don’t know what to do other than to stay awake myself, which I don’t care to do!

Sunday, December 19:  As Alex barely gets a bit of sleep, I let him sleep in late in the morning.  Finally, we go out, making our way back to Itaewon to have lunch at a Thai restaurant, which is delicious.

christmas tree near city hall in seoul

christmas tree near city hall in seoul

We go back to What the Book? to kill time and finally head to Seoul Station to catch the Express bus to Incheon airport.  We have coffee in the airport, kill more time, and then, alas, sadly, Alex departs back to the USA, where he will have Christmas with his dad and his brother, leaving me behind to while away my first Christmas ever all by myself in a foreign country 😦

As an afterward, he missed his connecting flight in San Francisco, was told he’d be on standby for the next flight, and ended up making it on that flight!  I was so worried about him coming here and getting home safely; it was a relief when Mike called to tell me he made it home.

at the airport after 17 days with mom ~ priceless

at the airport after 17 days with mom ~ priceless

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Saturday, November 13:  This weekend I go to Seoul to see some sights and to visit my Egyptian friend Mithad.  I leave Daegu on the 9:28 slow train and after I arrive in Seoul 4 hours later, I check in at the Rainbow Hotel in Namyoung for 63,000 won.

at the Daegu train station, waiting for the train to Seoul

at the Daegu train station, waiting for the train to Seoul

After I check in, I go out to meet Mithad and we head to Cheonggye-cheon Stream.   According to the Official Site of Korea Tourism, until it was restored in 2005, Cheonggye-cheon Stream existed only as a neglected watercourse hidden by an overpass.

Narae Bridge, expressing a butterfly in flight, and Gwanggyo Bridge, symbolizing the harmony of the past and future, are just two of the more than twenty beautiful bridges that cross the stream. The ‘Rhythmic Wall Stream’, lined with fine marble, sculptures, and Korea’s 8th stone building, Palseokdam, adorn the Cheonggye-cheon Stream.

Today, in addition to the nice walkway along the stream, we are surprised to find there is a lantern festival in progress.  We spend quite a long time walking along and admiring the brightly colored lanterns at the Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival.

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Mithad at the lantern festival

Mithad at the lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

me at the lantern festival

me at the lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

Cheonggye-cheon Stream Lantern festival

It’s quite cold out, so we find a restaurant where we stop in to have a few beers, warm up and talk.  Mithad goes into a diatribe blaming America for Egypt’s predicament.  I understand America’s culpability for Egypt’s mess,  as I did an extensive research project about just this subject in a paper for my Master’s degree in International Commerce and Policy.  However, I do take issue with America taking all the blame; after all,  corruption within the Egyptian government is also to blame.   He also tells me he believes that the Holocaust never happened and that 9/11 was a manufactured conspiracy.  This infuriates me.  I think our friendship will be coming to an end.

After our drinks, we go out into the cold again until we find an Italian restaurant where we have dinner.  I have one more day in Seoul tomorrow, and I think I will never come to visit Mithad again after this.

Dinner at an Italian restaurant in Seoul

Dinner at an Italian restaurant in Seoul

Today is the 22 year anniversary for Mike and I, but we’ve been separated now for 3 years and 8 months. It makes me sad to think of it.

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