[Short] Day Two

The long one was a marathon, so let me sum up…

Seoul is really big and kind of overwhelming for first-time, first-day visitors. We thought the best way to start would be with a bus tour of the city. I highly recommend the Seoul City Bus Tour. It takes you to all the main sights, lets you get on and off all day, and it’s efficient. You get a little information (on headphones), you choose to get on or off, and you can pick up another bus every half hour from the drop off point.

The first stop we chose to take was the National Museum of Korea. It’s an enormous, modern, beautiful complex of ancient artifacts, art, and traveling exhibitions.

We only saw a fraction of the permanent exhibit, and in that we skipped most of the Three Kingdoms artifacts. What we saw we really enjoyed: the celadon, calligraphy, portraits and landscapes, and Joseon furniture. Here’s a sampling of some of what we saw:

After the museum, we went back on the tour bus and got off at Seoul Tower atop Namsan mountain, a forested mountain and park in central Seoul. A steep climb led us to two observation decks, where we had incredibly clear views of the city below. Seoul is pretty from up high…an unending city of high rises, but with forested mountains scattered throughout and a wide, winding river (the Han) running along its South side.

We finished the bus tour, then spent time in one of Seoul’s Kyobo bookstores (inside one of the subway/metro stops). We looked through books about Korean culture, and spent a long time looking through the children’s book section. It was such fun to see all our favorite children’s books published in Korean, plus all kinds of other beautiful Korean titles. And the best part was seeing families and children interact around the books…the whole place was bustling with activity. I’ve never seen such a busy bookstore before, or so many parents interacting over books with their kids.

After a quick stop at our hotel, we went out to dinner with P and J…a couple we’d met through P’s blog, Seoul City Daily Photo. A few months ago P was kind enough to look for photos of the day and week E was born, and when he learned we were coming to Seoul he asked if we’d like to meet. He and his wife were very kind and very interesting, and we had a meal of bibimbap and seafood pancakes (so good!) at a restaurant in Insadong.

P and his wife, J, also showed us around Insadong…taking us to the Buddhist shrine Jogyesa and to a restored stream (Cheonggyecheon) in central Seoul. We’re so thankful for the time they spent with us, because that first night set the stage for an incredible week. They also gave us tips and insight into Seoul that helped us appreciate and enjoy our time even more.

On the way home from our walk with P and J, we bumped into a protest. In the last post I mentioned the uproar over US beef imports…and almost every day we were in Seoul we saw a protest. The protests we saw are larger than I’m used to, but they were calm and peaceful. It was just thousands of people walking down main streets with candles, flags, and loudspeakers.

After the protest moved by, we walked back to our hotel and saw Bosingak…a pavilion and bell that used to ring to mark the opening and closing of the city gates.

 

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~ by themagpiesnest on June 22, 2008.

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