It really doesn’t matter that we didn’t have to be anywhere this morning first thing. I was up at 5 am again anyway. This lack of sleep is going to catch up with me, I’m sure.
Today we took a really long ride on the subway to the center of of the city to visit Seoul Tower, the forested Namsan Park, and the surrounding neighborhood.
We disembarked from the train at Myeong-dong, which is worth mentioning only because I’m traveling with teenage boys as well as someone pretending to be. I really should have prepared myself for the onslaught of jokes pertaining to whether or not one can find Myeong-dong or the relative size of Myeong-dong compared to any other dong.
These people are a laugh-riot, I tell you.
It was supposed to be sunny today, but the smog was fairly substantial, and reduced visibility from the glass-walled cable car we rode up the hill, as well as from the tower itself. The Seoul Tower is the highest point in the city and nearly its geographic center. It’s supposed to be a huge hit at night, when one can enjoy the lights of Seoul. We’re not crazy about crowds, and so elected to go during the day (8,500 won ticket per adult or adolescent child – about $29 total for all of us for round-trip tickets). It’s also a popular date location, and couples like to leave padlocks on railings and fences to symbolize their love.
From the tower, we were unable to see as much as we would have on a clear day, but we could see remnants of the Seoul City Wall, which was built in the late 1300s, originally to protect the city against invaders, and rebuilt several times. Along the wall there were signal fire mounds built as systems of communication.
After only a short time in the observation level of the Seoul tower (10,000 won per person, or about $8.50 each), my eyes were watering and burning – I think from the smog, but that might have been psychosomatic. We decided to take the cable car back. although the guidebooks say it’s an easy walk either way.
At the base of the hill we found the Namdaemun Market, which was fun just to just lose ourselves in and people watch. Most of the goods for sale were clothing and kitchen items. It was very crowded, but not terribly loud. We found a set of the stainless steel chopsticks we’ve admired at some local restaurants, but not much in the way of local hand crafted goods or art. It’s not a tourist destination, although it’s in many of the guidebooks.
Speaking of tourist destinations, it’s clear there are some areas throughout Seoul that cater to tourists and others that do not. I think I’ve said before, our neighborhood is the latter and we’re mostly enjoying that, although it’s rather an adventure. Tonight we had dinner at another local restaurant where the menu had no pictures and the staff spoke no English, but they did serve Dr. Pepper – the only place we’ve found so far to do so, and Dr. Pepper is Colin’s go-to drink. So we were happy. We managed to communicate to our server our desire for her to point out what she recommended, which is how and we got two big chunks of fried chicken and fries. Good enough.
Earlier in the Namsan area, we found a restaurant which had a menu with English and pictures so we were finally able to order chicken bibimbap, which we all agreed was our new Korean favorite.
So … there are advantages and disadvantages to being catered to as a tourist, but we’re certainly coping.
More adventures tomorrow!
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