[Short] Day Five

We spent the morning hours in Insadong, the area of Seoul where our hotel was located. I’d read about the food served in Seoul’s diners (little orange- and white-fronted stores all over Seoul) at this blog, and this rainy morning seemed like a good time for cheap, delicious comfort food.

I got mushroom juk (a warm porridge), and D got ddokguk, a soup with soft rice cakes, egg, and beef in a beef broth. I know this is the short version of our day, and this might seem like a trivial piece of info to include, but I can’t put enough emphasis on it: The soups in Seoul were so good, that at the end of this meal D said:

“We should eat more soup.”

Fourteen years of knowing him and seven years of marriage, and I never thought I’d hear those words. I love soup. I could eat it every day. D, even though he eats milk-sogged cereal every day, maintains that soup is objectionable because it’s “too liquidy.” I’d given up on converting him to soup. Five days in Seoul, and he’s a soup-lover. Thank you Seoul. Thank you thank you thank you. But I digress….

We had a great breakfast (and cheap! holy smokes!), then went walking around Insadong in the rain. Our first stop was Tapgol Park. We’d tried visiting a few days earlier but it was closed. This time it was open, and perhaps because it was early and raining, it was very quiet and peaceful.

Tapgol Park is a lovely little place, with way more history that you’d expect in such a small area. It contains South Korea’s #2 and #3 National Treasures, and it’s where the March First Independence Movement started in 1919. Much of the artwork and memorial statues in the park are dedicated to those who lost their lives in the independence struggle against the Japanese occupation. Some of the main sights:

The pavilion where the Declaration of Independence was read:

National Treasure #2…an ornate pagoda from 1467:

National Treasure #3…a stone stele, called DaeWonGak Sabi, that records the history of Wongaksa temple (which once stood in Tapgol Park):

After Tapgol Park, we walked up Insadong-gil (gil = street) toward Jogyesa. We liked it so much at night, we decided we wanted to see it during the day. It was very busy, and it was fascinating to watch people… where shoes were left, which entrances were used by only monks, how people prayed, when monks sang and when everyone sang…

D also liked how the monks all seemed to use golf umbrellas…

We spent some time in the shops around Jogyesa (most of them seem to specialize in Buddhist items), then headed back to the hotel. It was time to meet Mr. C. and go to the home of K’s foster family! They live in one of Seoul’s high-rises, and they had a great view from outside their front door:

We had a wonderful visit with Mrs. S., K’s foster mom. Mr. C. did all the interpreting, and we stayed and talked for a couple of hours. We were able to see so many of the details of K’s life with Mrs. S’s family, and even better we were able to see more of the relationship between Mrs. S. and K. They were so cute together.  K is a very fortunate girl to have someone like Mrs. S. in her life.

After saying goodbye to Mrs. S. and Mr. C. (both of whom we hope we’ll see again when we return to Seoul), we went back to our hotel to write. We had a little time before our dinner plans…meeting S., a blogger I “met” online back when I was looking for photos of K’s birth day.

After we met S., we walked to a restaurant very near our hotel. On top of being really enjoyable, kind, and funny, S. seemed to know the kind of food we’d find knock-out fantastic. I think it was doenjang jjigae, but whatever it was it was delicious. It was, hands down, our favorite meal in Seoul.

After dinner we went to a little tea house to continue our conversation. Before it got too late it was time to say goodbye. We had a wonderful time with S., and after we said our goodbyes D and I both thought the same thing…spending time with S. made our trip so much better. We felt really fortunate to have met her. It’s one thing to come to a country and see tourist spots, or talk with a few people here and there, but actually meeting someone to talk with, laugh with, and ask questions with….that’s a pretty incredible opportunity. Thanks so much, S.!

We had a little time before it was truly late, so we took the metro to Namdaemun Market…one of the oldest public markets in Korea. Our guidebooks said it was open 24 hours, and that there was serious bargain hunting after midnight. When we got there, though, most of it was closed. There were a few shops here and there, but overall it was dark and empty. We walked around for a while and decided to come back during daytime hours.

The last stop of the evening was Namdaemun Gate…an old city gate dating from 1447 that was destroyed by arson in February. It was/is South Korea’s #1 National Treasure, and they’re in the process of rebuilding. Right now the site of the gate is surrounded by a blue construction enclosure. There’s a window so you can see inside.

It was so quiet there. I’d seen pictures of the Gate for years, and even though the Gate burned I never thought it would be so still, so quiet. It was a nice place to sit for a while.

We went home, talked about our plans for the next day (hiking!), and went to sleep.

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~ by themagpiesnest on June 25, 2008.

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