The first part of this post can be found here!
After checking out the river walk, we looked up and saw the Samsung building. This is one of the more famous landmarks in Seoul, so we had to check it out.
So this is where your money goes when you buy a Samsung device. I bought a S4 and I absolutely hate it. Anyway, moving on.
I found the building across the street to be of more interest:
From here we decided (well, one of my coworkers and I decided- the other one wanted to go elsewhere so we split up) to go up to see some 600 year old houses, and it looked close so we decided to walk instead of taking a cab.
While walking there, the street started to get more and more crowded and we finally came to this courtyard area alongside the street that was a Buddhist Temple. Buddha’s birthday is this next weekend, and according to my girlfriend there is a major event known as “washing of Buddha” and usually they are held at different times so people can visit multiple temples. This may have been what was going on here, but since Buddha’s birthday is this next weekend I’m sure they have a week of festivities.
There were a ton of people helping to prepare these lanterns and other decorations for the event. There was a ton of materials being used to put these things together and the environment was VERY colorful!
One side of the Temple:
The other side had this really cool tree that was helping to hold up some of the lanterns:
There was some sort of ceremony going on at this side of the temple as well.
And then as we were about to leave they opened the doors so you could see inside….
Pretty cool experience. We also walked by a kiosk in the same courtyard that was an information booth. We walked in and inquired about the Temple and apparently this one is really really old (forgot the number) and was built with precision down to the thousandth of an inch. Talk about precise! And it was able to withstand a large storm that came through a long time ago. I’m glad we didn’t take a taxi that way we were able to see this.
Old City/Street Life
Yeah, nondescriptive… Sorry.
We continued our journey to this old city that we had heard a lot about. We didn’t really know where it was so we just walked around for awhile until we eventually found it (at least an hour later). In the meantime, we walked through 4 other neighborhoods.
This guy was tricky. He was selling ice cream and he would try and give it to you on his stick thing and then he would take it away before you could get it. It was fun to watch, but I would be so sad if he took my ice cream away!
Here is the perfect representation of Korea. You have the old mixed in with the new. Here’s what is what we *think* we were looking for.
Weird sign translations…
We started to walk back to the subway station when we were trying to decide what to eat. Either we could eat there, or we could go back and eat in Gangnam. Both are decent options, but Gangnam is definitely more expensive. All we were seeing to eat was small street vendors, so we were iffy about eating locally. All of a sudden we happen on this place, which was way out of the ordinary because everything is super close, tight, and compact and then there’s this place with tons of real estate.
The wait staff spoke no english and neither of us speak any Korean, but it was an extremely enjoyable experience. I’ve had shabu shabu before, but I’ve always cooked it myself in my bowl. Here, however, they had one of the waitresses constantly tending to our bowls and dishing it up when ready the entire time we were eating! I’m not sure if that is normal, or if they felt sorry for us “white folk” and decided to show us how to eat shabu shabu…. but we had three people rotate through our table to serve our food. I have to say, it was pretty awesome!
For those that don’t know, Shabu Shabu gives you a bowl that is filled with a broth that is made with veggies and some other stuff. You are given raw ingredients that you cook in the broth and at the end, they put rice and diced veggies in it and make a porridge.
We ordered beef and mushroom, and this place grows their own mushrooms. They bring out their mushroom creations and cut it off fresh for you. How. Crazy. Is. That.
For $25 each, I’m sold. I’ll definitely go back.
Evening in Gangnam
Itaewon is really far from our hotel in Gangnam, so we decided to keep it local and instead of going 9 subway stops and two transfers away, we went one subway stop to the middle of Gangnam. There’s food and shopping and all that jazz. The main difference between Gangnam and Itaewon is the people- Itaewon is more expat friendly and Gangnam is 100% locals. I felt like of the 4 non-Koreans I saw, that I should be friends with all of them. I don’t think that they shared that sentiment.
The other difference is Gangnam is a lot more expensive. We paid $3/beer in Itaewon, and I paid $13 for a beer in Gangnam. I only did it out of novelty. For example we only went to Gangnam for coffee originally, but on our way out we saw this place with “Guinness” plastered all over it and given the fact that Korea is more about their “Cass,” we had to check it out. They even had “Guinness Only” rooms that had a table with a beer tap in the middle of the table serving Guinness. Interesting. Anyway, we went in there and had a beer and then left because we were suffering from wallet pain.
Dunkin Donuts – Or in Other Words, What Did I Just Eat?
Ahh…. Sunday morning. We checked out of the hotel and headed across the street to this gem:
As is the usual here, something is just “not quite right.” First off, where are the donuts? I mean they have a few but.. It’s more of pastry place. Not to mention the breakfast items they had.
I ended up springing for the egg muffin thing. It was okay.
Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea
We jumped on the subway and headed to Korea Grand Park Station. Grand Park has about a billion things at it, including Korea’s largest amusement park, a zoo, a science center, a modern art gallery, camping, and hiking, among other things. Upon exiting the subway you see the science center.
The science center is for another day, however. Instead we took the bus up to the Modern Art Gallery. This place is tucked away in the mountains and is surrounded by a stunning landscape… Imagine it in the snow. Breathtaking!
You turn around and you get this:
For $4 you can see the entire museum, and we spent 3 hours there and only went through half of it so it’s definitely worth it.
Seeing as how this museum is modern and contemporary, when you first enter you encounter…this…
Most likely thousands of Samsung TV’s.
The lighting surrounding this installation was pretty awesome, and the inner architect was having a nerd fest.
The first gallery we went into was the architecture gallery. At first we got yelled at for pictures, then they told us it was ok just “no detail,” then at the end I really got yelled at… So I don’t know what to think. One wing of the museum is phenomenal, and it has a special exhibit on the first floor of traditional landscape paintings and sculptures, the second floor of random weird stuff, and the third floor of architecture.
The Architecture Gallery had a bunch of models and photographs, as well as books that you could flip through from a few notable architects. The models would make anyone in architecture school jealous, and I did my best to not take pictures of “details.”
And this was probably the worst photo I took but I love the model… Forgive the bad photography.
Architecture photographs- and yes I’m sure I can find these online…
The gallery across the hall was more nature photographs. Their gallery setup was pretty neat too!
The next gallery was more…weird… I mean interesting. Fascinating, in fact.
The next exhibit was all by the same artist, and it was traditional landscape paintings.
As you progress through the exhibit, he gains subtle hints of color.
And this is the last image from the gallery. I had a lady angrily storm up to me glaring at my camera after this shot, so this was my last shot for this exhibit, which was a bunch of sculptures.
By this time it was 2:30, almost 3pm and we needed to get to Seoul Station to catch the train home. So we jumped on the subway and 14 stops later, we were at Seoul Station! We jumped out and bought tickets, which at this point was standing room only. Yippee.
Seoul Station itself is huge, and they cater to many, many trains.
It’s only fitting that my last picture is of food; and a cheesy food item at that. The hotdog was ok, it was from a NY hotdog stand. Hah.
So my trip to Seoul ended with a standing room only ticket on a train that moved entirely too slow and was crowded with far too many people. I sat on the floor of the beverage car along with about 30 million other people, and the entire train had people in the aisles, on the floor, etc.
While this may be considered “too soon,” I hope Korea does something about it’s lack of regard for personal safety and guidelines. It’s unfortunate that hundreds of high school kids were lost in a preventable accident, but I honestly do worry that there is going to be a train incident where people get seriously injured due to overcrowding. I think you would get hurt no matter what in a train accident, but when there is no seat for you and you are being smothered to death because there are so many people compacted around you, you start to wonder about your personal safety. I really hope that new laws are enacted in regards to safety and crowds that will hopefully help to save lives and change the mindset that is prevalent throughout Korea.
All in all, a great trip that makes me wish I lived in Seoul instead of where I do. Korea is a vibrant, unique and evolving country and Seoul exemplifies that. I really wish I lived in the city, it would make my Korea experience a lot better…. Not only because of the food, but there’s so much to do!
I’ll definitely be back soon!