Thursday, December 31, 2015

Christmas in Seoul - Days 8 and 9


Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Wednesday was a well-needed rest day. We chilled out and took it easy all day long.
*photo of Brie and me napping on the sofa

And we did plenty of snuggling.
*photo of Brie and Nati hugging

We ventured out to get lunch at a Thai restaurant and saw this sidewalk art on the way:
*Photo of Vali and Nati on a bridge that looks 3-D in a sidewalk painting.

I love the art in this city. It's everywhere - sculptures, the sidewalk, and on murals like this one:


There were chopstick shenanigans:
*photo of Nati playing with chopsticks with Ty:
*photo of Vali playing with chopsticks:

And Vali tried squid for the first time in her fried rice. She said it was slippery.


The rest of the day we spent lazing around and watching the rest of the Lord of the Rings movies.


This hotel has a rooftop park which is where Dusty has been going to enjoy a cigar during downtime on this trip. While he was up there, he noticed that a tree looked kind of odd.
*pic of a tree with a broken branch:

After closer inspection, he thought it looked like a bird. It's kind of creepy!
*branch looks like a carved bird:

We all needed a rest day. I've mentioned how frenetic this city is. It's non-stop, full of people, and when you're out and about in it day after day, it's exhausting! But after our rest day, we felt completely recharged and ready to go for our last full day here in Seoul.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

I think most of us agree that Thursday was our favorite day of the trip. I think it's because we were well rested, adjusted (for the most part) to the time difference, finally, and we avoided the subway and took cabs to our destinations. But it also helped that the sights we saw were fascinating and full of local culture.

We started off the day with a hug. I love this photo of Brie and Dusty:


Ack! I'm going to miss that girl when we fly home tonight!

Brie and I took Vali shopping in the subway station. This shop was called Gangnam Style. Haha, get it?
*pic of Vali in front of the shop.

We had brunch in the basement of my favorite wavy building in Gangnam:
*pic of the giant, wavy building:

There was an ice skating rink below street level in this building:


We had a great brunch at a trendy little place right next to the rink. There was a group of ladies enjoying brunch and drinks while their kids were out skating. Brilliant idea!
*pic of the family at brunch

Vali and Nati especially enjoyed their breakfast. Chocolate pancakes. Drinking Syrup. Vacation, right?
*pic of Vali with a huge plate of chocolate pancakes.
*pic of Nati emptying the syrup pitcher into her mouth:

We split up for a bit because the little girls wanted to go ice skating. Tyler wins the best brother-in-law award of 2015 because he took the girls while the rest of us went to tour some museums.
*pic of Tyler with the girls:
*photos of ice skating:


Vali met a friend who at one time lived in the United States:
*pic of Vali's friend, her mom, Ty, Vali, and Nati:

Nati had never ice skated before. I asked Ty how she was, and his reply was "like a newborn baby deer." Ha!

More random street art:
*pic of Jake in front of a huge sculpture of upraised hands:

The rest of us went to the city hall or Gwanghhwamun area of Seoul. There is a huge plaza where demonstrations sometimes occur. On our way there, we saw a temporary memorial set up for the people who lost their lives in a ferry accident called the Sewol Ferry Disaster where many students lost their lives. It's pretty sobering to think about.
*pic of the memorial:

There were two statues at the plaza center. One was of an admiral named Yi Sun-Sin who led the Koreans to victory in the 1500s when Japan invaded Korea.
*photo of Yi Sun-Sin statue:

There's also a statue of King Sejong who reigned from 1418 - 1450 and created the Korean alphabet called Hangul and encouraged scientific advancements.
*photo of King Sejong statue:

Near the plaza is the U.S. Embassy. See the American flag in the background?
*pic of Brie and Dusty in front of the flag:

Below the plaza, there is a museum that goes into detail about King Sejong and the development of the Hangul language as well as some of the historical war victories of ancient Korea. It was cool:
*photos from the museum.
King Sejong is credited for encouraging scientific advancement:

And for creating Hangul. Korean characters are distinctive (to me) because they contain more circles and seem to be tidier than Chinese or Japanese letters.


This was an art display at the museum that had art made from letters. Super cool:


The other side of the museum had all kinds of displays about war in Korea:



At the end of the plaza is the entrance to the Gyeongbok Palace. It consists of a giant wall surrounding a small village consisting of what appear to be housing and temple structures. This place was amazing.

Here's a pic of us standing with a palace guard:


Three times a day, there is a ceremony that takes place during the changing of the guards. There are drums that beat and a choreographed march. We happened upon the ceremony as we came to the palace. Lucky!
*pic of the ceremony:

This is the entrance to the palace. Kind of unimposing, a simple wall with a traditional structure at the gate:


You'd never guess that once you get inside, there are so many things behind the wall. All set against a mountainous backdrop on one side and the city skyline of Seoul on the other.
*pics from the Gyeongbok Palace:

There were small creature statues on the rooftops:




I love these trees - they are everywhere around here. They have the shape of deciduous trees, but with pine needles.




Outside the palace walls there was a museum of Korean culture. Lots of fun things there too, like these statues that show the Asian birth animals.

Brie is the year of the Rooster:


Dusty's the year of the Monkey (which is also the year for 2016) :


Jake and I are the year of the Ox:


There was a section that showed the importance of phallic statues.

(Side note: Jake took this picture and it turned out better than the one my camera took, so I sent him a text asking him to send me the phallic pic. I also said, "File under things your mother should never say.")


Don't worry, though. Both genders were represented:
*pic of a statue of female genitals

Some other cool photos from the culture museum:

These are statues of old war generals who guard the tombs of important dead people:




We met back up with Tyler and the little girls who were done ice skating and saw a few kid-oriented things:



This was a game kind of like lawn darts. Nati made one!


I took a picture of this sign from the museum restroom. You wouldn't think that you'd have to tell people not to do this, but apparently it's a real thing. Especially since the toilet seat in this particular stall was covered in pee when I entered it. Korean women must be afraid to sit on toilet seats and prefer to squat over them instead? Um. My mind goes to all that can go wrong if you squat over a toilet. But perhaps that's because I'm a klutz.
*sign that tells people to sit on the toilet and not stand on the seat and squat:

The rest of our day was spent at a shopping area called Namdaemun Market. This place was insane. It was like San Francisco's Chinatown times a million. Tons of inside stores and outdoor stalls, stalls set up in the center of the streets. There were so many places to buy things, I can't even imagine the competition in sales. But we got some shopping done.




Tyler and Vali sampled some silkworm pupa:




GROSS. She didn't like it, but she didn't barf!

There were dozens of shops just like this. So much "stuff":


Something that's funny is that there are all sorts of things printed with English words here, but many of them just don't make sense. Like this bag:
*bag that says "I like eating metal"

Very odd.

The rest of our evening was spent bringing pizza and burgers back to the hotel room, drinking some sparkling wine, and playing Cards Against Humanity. We didn't make it to midnight to ring in 2016. Well, I didn't anyway. Dusty and Tyler went to the roof to share one last cigar and when they got back, Dust woke me up to say Happy New Year.

We fly home late this afternoon. I'm ready to be home, but am sad to be leaving Brie and Tyler. Before we leave, Brie tells us we must get bingsu - a special kind of shaved ice and fruit dessert. Yum.