The rest of last Saturday…

The rest of last Saturday…

After I finished admiring and photographing the Anglican Church, I went right next door to Deoksugung Palace…

deoksugung-4

In an effort to avoid boring historical details, I’ll just say that Deoksugung is a complex of about ten buildings that was used as the Korean royal palace on and off for many years. The oldest buildings were originally built about 400 years ago, burned down in the “great fire of 1904,” and were then rebuilt. Now the buildings are used as either things to look at and not go into, or as museums.

It was interesting to walk around the complex — the buildings make the area feel historic, even if most of them are replicas of the originals. It was also strange to experience these traditional-looking Korean buildings with a huge 21st century city as its backdrop.

I didn’t intend to visit The Royal Museum that is housed in one of the newer Deoksugung buildings, but as I was walking by a woman standing by the door kept saying “anyonghaseyeo” (hello-ish) and gesturing me in. I find most museums that are full of royal relics rather boring, and this one was mostly true to that form… lotsa royal costumes, royal eating tables, royal scrolls, royal rice bowls, etc. In an apparent effort to prevent aimless wandering, there were arrows on the floor to show you exactly where to go and what to look at next.

The other museum, to my surprise and delight (that’s right, delight… I was delighted), was the National Museum of Modern Art. I’d been planning on checking out this museum for a while (see: six months) and suddenly it was right in front of me. It wasn’t as cool or big as I’d hoped — there were four rooms of mostly abstract paintings — and I only had about thirty minutes to get through it before it closed, but there was an exhibition of one (Korean) artist that I dug enough to make it worthwhile. The paintings were all hung lower than they are in Western museums, requiring me to crouch on occasion, and approximately one-third of the paintings were named “Configuration.”

After the art museum I left Deoksugung and walked to Namdaemun (Great South Gate)…

namdaemun-gate

One of the original gates from the old Seoul fortress, this is actually as old as it appears — it was originally built in 1398 and rebuilt only once in 1447. I’d ridden by many times on various busses, and every time I did I thought “I gotta go there and take pictures up-close,” but (to my chagrin) there is no way to actually get over or under the five lanes of traffic and over to the actual gate. This gate looks much cooler at night, as it is all lit up with floodlights, but I wasn’t there at night so I have no photos of that.

Convieniently located adjacent to Namdaemun, I found the Namdaemun Market. A traditional Korean market, I was amazed that I hadn’t been here yet… it felt as close to historic Korea as I had been since I arrived nine months ago. A huge city block full of vendors selling everything from ginseng to fireworks to skinned pig heads. When I saw the fireworks for sale I thought about buying some to shoot off on the roof of my apartment. When I saw the row of skinned pig heads and the woman selling them, I thought: this woman gets up every morning and comes here to sell skinned pig heads, she’s probably done this for years. I ended up buying a tee-shirt.

And then I took the bus back to my apartment, and then I went out to a meat dinner with Mat (a roommate), and then we went to a bar for darts and beer, and then we were drunk, and then we drank with some Korean gangster-looking types, and then I was drunker, and then we were back at our apartment and I was very drunk.

Last Saturday was a good day, last Sunday was not.

(More pictures from my sighseeing in the Seoul album — down there and over there, or back there on the word.)

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