Sep 24, 2008

Seoul: In Which I Arrive in Korea

Recently, I took a very much needed vacation to Korea. I hadn't had a real break from work since China, and English teaching was starting to take up way, way too much brain space. I met up with J (my dear friend who goes by the rather inscrutible nom de net of xe.qon). It was good to see him again, and I was happy to have a travel buddy.

One of my first sights of Korea was a larger-than-life statue of Gandalf outside of a theater near my hostel. I'm pretty sure that the appearance of statues of English wizards in Asia means that globalization is more or less irreversible.



I met up with J that night at the hostel, and we got ourselves some of the famous Korean barbecue. I was pleased to learn that J had given up the untenable ideology of vegetarianism, and we ate with relish the fricaseed bits of beast and fowl. Then, during dinner, a dwarf tried to sell us gum. Oh brave new world with such people in it.

On our first full day J and I made our way to Gyongbokgun, one of Seoul's historical palaces. We were lucky enough to show up right when a collection of rather nattily-attired reenactors were performing a changing of the guard ceremony. It was quite the impressive crew of dudes spiky things and big hats. I really don't see that kind of thing often enough.



When I've been to palaces and castles and the like I've often wondered "Ok, this is a big space, but how did the utilize it?" Most of the places I've been to in Japan have not been furnished, and simply seeing an empty room won't tell you too much about how people lived or whatnot. Gyongbokgun did have a few reconstructed rooms, which was nice to see. I do dig the screen.



Another part of Gyongbukgun, an audience hall set upon a lake. I ever had ridiculous amounts of money, my place would probably look something like this.



Onto a totally different topic- I dig chick drummers. Lady guitarists definitely have there own appeal, but for some undefined reason, I find myself most attracted to XX percussionists. Make no mistake: I'd jump Joan Jett before the chorus of I Hate Myself For Loving You even got started, but Janet Weiss is my idea of Rock 'N Roll Fun.

This is relevant because near the palace J and I went to the Folk Museum and saw a rather nifty and random presentation of Korean folk music. The two dudes with flutes were, shall we say, calming. Calming enough that J fell asleep. Fortunately, the performance was capped off by the lady in the center leaping around in a circle, rocking out on a drum solo, and punctuating it with some well-placed yelps. It was pretty nifty. She rocked.



Away from the palace we found ourselves walking into downtown Seoul, modern Seoul, the part of the city that wasn't devoted to show and history. We wandered in and out of markets and commercial districts, and I was amused to find a statue of Admiral Ye Sun Sin, whom I'd never heard of. I had, however, heard of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and apparently this guy kicked his ass with some of the first ever armored ships. I get a daily diet of things Japanese, what with living in Japan and all. I do love it here, but it was nice to see a small bit of someone else's perspective.



More to follow...

7 comments:

kristin said...

Dude, sounds like a very cool trip so far. Please tell me more...

inkandpen said...

Very cool, and nice photos-- I especially like the statue in front of the office building, because it is odd looking.

Also, I saw Joan Jett this summer. She's about my mom's age. And I'd totally do her (Jett, not, ahem, my mom) in a second. Daymn. Reminds me I should be working out.

SonicLlama said...

Thanks! Kristen, I will tell you more.

You saw Joan Jett? That's awesome. She is a totally hot mom-aged lady, which I think is awesome. Fifty does not have to mean unsexy!

Beau said...

Looks like an awesome trip. But far and away, the biggest shocker: J eating meat. I had no idea he had given up on vegetarianism. It would have been so much easier ordering pizza with him if he would have done that back in college...

SonicLlama said...

I thought about the same thing, Beau. Those half-mushroom pizzas were for him, the bastard! Given that roughly 90% of Korean food is "meat on stuff" it was a relief that he'd changed his rabbit-like ways.

Joseph said...

Reactions to my non-vegetarianism generally fall in to to camps, the "OMG!" camp, and the "It's about time" camp. I'm admittedly a little surprised at how strong peoples' reactions tend to be. Perhaps that's a whee bit naive of me...

Stormy said...

Two things: 1) I hope you got a chance to go up to the DMZ and see the infiltration tunnels and/or the JSA, and 2) what did you of the metal chopsticks (the most annoying part of my Korean experience). After a few days of using the metal chopsticks, my hand would cramp up.

And I think you don't give Admiral Ye enough credit--his turtle ship was pretty awesome.