Category: What the Book?


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

Sunday, November 14:  This morning, I slept in a bit and then went to meet Mithad in Itaewon.  First we went to my favorite Western bookstore in Korea, What the Book.  We went to my favorite Turkish restaurant for schwarma.  Then Mithad’s friend Ayman met up with us and we visited the War Memorial of Korea.

Entrance to the War Memorial of Korea

Entrance to the War Memorial of Korea

The Korean Infantry at one time had their headquarters on the grounds of the War Memorial of Korea.  This is the largest memorial of its kind in the world, according to Official Site of Korea Tourism: The War Memorial of Korea.

huge sculpture in front of the museum

huge sculpture in front of the museum

Huge statues of soldiers from Korea's wars

Huge statues of soldiers from Korea’s wars

Statues of soldiers

Statues of soldiers

You can see the size of these by comparing them to me

You can see the size of these by comparing them to me

me under the hand of a soldier

me under the hand of a soldier

Before going inside the museum, we spend some time exploring the displays of different weapons and military equipment outside the building.  Around 110 pieces of large military equipment/symbols are on display. They include Korean War sculptures, the Statue of Brethren, the Statue of King Gwanggaeto, AH-2, T-34 of the North, US B-52 and others.

Flags lining the pathway

Flags lining the pathway

Military equipment

Military equipment

Battleship

Battleship

Bomber

Bomber

Tanks

Tanks

Plane

Plane

Me with a plane

Me with a plane

Mithad and me on the battleship

Mithad and me on the battleship

more military equipment

more military equipment

Exhibits inside the building display equipment used during the Korean War in such a way as to invite comparison between the items. Large weaponry and equipment used by different countries during World War II and the Vietnam War are also on display. In the Large Equipment Exhibit on the second floor, many kinds of defense industry equipment and both real and model weapons are displayed. In the Bangsan Equipment Exhibit, you can look at weapons and war equipment produced in Korea. In the War Memorial’s Storage Room, 17,800 files and artifacts of war are preserved. Modern damage control and prevention devices have been installed to keep these materials safe from harm (Official Site of Korea Tourism: The War Memorial of Korea).

on the grounds of the museum

on the grounds of the museum

the museum

the museum

another statue on the grouns

another statue on the grounds

* Memorial Hall
This an exhibition hall dedicated to the memory of patriots involved in past war efforts. The place presents sculptures, reliefs, and wall paintings under the theme of overcoming hardship, and working towards the unity, prosperity and eternity of the nation.

large drum inside the museum

large drum inside the museum

inside the museum: don't know what this is, but it looks cool

inside the museum: don’t know what this is, but it looks cool

war paintings

war paintings

me in front of a war painting

me in front of a war painting

* War History
The place features a war history from prehistoric era to the Japanese colonial period. Military remains, relics, and documents are on display as well. Among them are war & victory records, ammunition, the Turtle Ship (and other military vessels from the Joseon Dynasty), fortress models, and more.

old ships

old ships

Mithad and an old ship

Mithad and an old ship

* Korean War
Here, visitors can learn about the background of the Korean War, the progression of the war and how a truce was eventually established. Exhibits also display ammunition used by hostile and friendly forces, information and artifacts from people displaced by the war, and information on major battles.

Korean War diorama

Korean War diorama

Korean War Diorama

Korean War Diorama

After the War Memorial, I parted ways with Mithad and Ayman and headed back to the Rainbow Hotel, where I picked up my bag and took the metro to the train station.  I took the slow train back at 4:43 and arrived in Daegu at 8:30.  I was home in my cozy flat by 9:30.  This is the last time I ever see Mithad.

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