First trip to Asia (part 4: continuing in Seoul)

Monday

It turns out we get the newspaper with our room — the International New York Times and Korea Joongang Daily. Perfect breakfast reading.

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Our table at lunch. I think we ordered just enough food for three people.

We had to change our plans because the palaces Virginia’s father wanted to take us to are closed on Mondays. First, he showed us his home, perfectly set up for his life and work. We then took the Metro train to Lotte World, a mall/department store/museum/adventure theme park in eastern Seoul. With one exception (looking for a winter coat in Uniqlo), we avoided shopping altogether and focused on the museum area. We had a very large set menu for lunch — four kinds of meat, four kinds of fish, all the banchan — and then walked through the folk museum. It was striking that the museum focused on daily living and happy occasions, where a Western museum might have taken more of a war/conquest-based approach. I mentioned this to Virginia’s father, and the comment stuck with him for the rest of our trip.

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Underwood Hall at Yonsei University.

From there, we took the Metro train up to Yonsei University to walk around the new main pedestrian “street.” They moved auto traffic underground, which makes for a more beautiful campus. After walking around for maybe an hour, we got in a taxi and went to Min’s Kitchen for dinner. More Korean food, so yay! Part of my excitement for this trip has been going for Korean food with Virginia’s father, and today was the day for that!

Tuesday

Palaces, take two!

IMG_2855We visited the remaining two palaces in central Seoul today. First, Changdeokgung. Finished in 1412, it’s the best preserved/restored palace to visit. We spent over an hour wandering the grounds and looking at the many buildings, including a labyrinthine complex for the king’s cabinet.

The Secret Garden is on the grounds of Changdeokgung, but we decided to wait on that and get lunch first. Today we went with German food at a place called Bärlin in the Somerset Palace hotel, and it didn’t disappoint. We also made a reservation to return for schwein hoxen Wednesday evening. For now, we more than contented ourselves with a variety of sausages, potatoes, cucumbers, sauerkraut, and strudel.

After lunch, we returned to the palaces. This time, we started at Changgyeonggung, a smaller complex east of Changdeokgung. We stopped in front of a greenhouse and took a picture of Virginia’s father there, as he remembered doing the same when he was last there 57 years ago (and the place was a zoo/park from the Japanese occupation). We then entered the Secret Garden and strolled through its serenity. We almost couldn’t because it was closing as we arrived. Virginia’s father explained we were visiting (I think) and they let us get tickets and enter. We found the pond he had been looking for all day, overlooked by the former royal library buildings (the perfect sanctuary, obviously).

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Virginia’s father had been looking for this pond all day. It’s a place of serenity, with a library overlooking it. Now to have everyone leave so it could be all ours.

After running into some ongoing restoration, which was running behind as all construction projects do, we headed up a series of treacherous stone steps and headed out.

Virginia’s father went to Yonsei to teach his weekly graduate seminar while we returned to the hotel to relax and regroup. After dinner — a set menu built around sashimi, grilled black cod, and grilled eel — we three relaxed in the lounge with a few drinks to end the day.

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