Sunday, May 10, 2009

Korea - Day 4 - Hanok Village, Namsan, Seoul Tower, Itaewon

Day 4, today we decided to go visit one of Seoul's most noticeable landmarks, Seoul Tower. But before we went we had to eat a quick breakfast. Tteokbokki, kimbap and deep fried dumplings (mandu). We did this at a small stand outside of the subway station (again).Hanok Village is a traditional Korean village at the base of a small mountain (Namsan) in central Seoul. They have many traditional Korean homes and places for people to play some traditional games and basically see how people "back in the day" lived. It was fun, there was a time capsule there but we were lazy to walk down into it, so we started our little hike up the mountain.This picture of us starting our Namsan hike is pretty representative of most of the pictures of Pae and I together, taken with auto-timer from ground level! We were going to buy a small tripod, but failed to do so before our trip.Although spring hadn't fully set in, Namsan is known in Seoul to be one of the best places to see flowers in full bloom. On our little walk we didn't see too many, but were able to get pictures of some of the blossoming cherry trees.You get a pretty good view of parts of the city from some viewpoints on the mountain.Here is a panoramic of the part of Seoul we could see from the side of the mountain we were on...I had to "stick" together 6 or so pictures though! If you click to enlarge you'll notice all of the poorly spliced areas! Oops.And when you've climbed half way up to the top, a short rest is always good! We just sat and watched students, businessmen, tourists, fitness freaks and even pets coming down and going up the mountain.When I talk about Namsan and refer to it as a mountain, well, technically it is, but "hiking" up Namsan isn't like your normal hike...rugged, woodsy, dirt in your shoes...but the whole path up to the tower on top, Seoul Tower, is paved with stairs, and well taken care of, benches, trash cans, bird houses, etc.Arriving at the top of the small climb there is a giant radio tower called Seoul Tower. I think you can see the tower from pretty much most places north of the river in Seoul.

I read somewhere that they claim that Seoul Tower is the highest above sea level in the world...not sure it that's true, but it is on top of a mountain. It's actually only half as tall as the CN tower in Toronto.It was pretty hard to get a picture of us with the entire tower, this is the best we could do!One of the cool things about the tower is that there is a fence surrounding the main deck on the bottom where people put locks symbolizing their love or friendship. There are so many locks that they had to start bringing in small lock trees that people could put their locks on. There were even several bike locks and car steering wheel locks on the fence! People write on their locks their names, messages, dates, etc, lock them on the fence. Apparently there are lots of people who throw their keys over the edge, but there are now signs there warning people not to do that.We froze up on top of the mountain and decided it was time from food, we had a small snack (noodles) on the mountain, but then decided we'd check out Itaewon and get some food there.Itaewon was popular when I was here 20 years ago as a Marine. It's a place where you can find all kinds of souvenir stuff and hundreds of foreign restaurants. We were disappointed that we found mostly closed store fronts and nothing really interesting there at all. Well, outside of this tall statue of a pig that was, randomly enough, right outside of a Thai government office.We made it back towards our hotel and found some food at a simple "mom and pop" restaurant. As we love food, we had to take pictures!I had some pretty good kimchi fried rice, while Pae had spicy octopus on rice.We finally walked around our subway station to get a look at the area and I came across a lady cracking eggs and putting them into a Tupperware container...she'd filled it almost all the way with at least 500 eggs. I had to take a picture, although she first denied me permission to do so, with a harsh "NO!" then when I told her that "I've never seen this many eggs before", she looked confused with the "dumb tourist" look and allowed me to snap away!What's the best thing about heading home after a long day out? ICE CREAM!

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