Tuesday, December 29, 2015
We had a low-key morning and slept in a bit before getting a late start. The boys went in search of a cigar shop while the girls walked around a neighborhood called Seorae Village. It was interesting with lots of French shops and influence.
When we were in Italy a few years ago, Nati was a baby and the Italians seemed to swarm her and say, "Ciao, Bella!" to her. She's getting almost the same reception here. People point at her and smile. At the mall the other day, a woman holding a toddler followed us around for a while. Nati said, "Mom, that lady is watching me." When we exited the store we were in, the woman, still following us, made eye contact with me and smiled. Then she started talking to Nati. Of course I couldn't understand her, but the gist of it was that she wanted her son to meet Nati. So they "played" for a bit and Nati said her usual, "He's going to come to my birthday party!"
When we were at the trickeye museum, a woman who could speak English asked Nati if she could take a photo with her. Nati said, "Sure!" and even smiled a sweet, normal smile instead of the dorky look I usually get when I aim a camera at her. Another time, a group of three girls at the subway station swarmed Nati with squeals of delight.
My point here is that Nati is a hit here too. We went into a soap/perfume shop in the Seorae Village neighborhood to check out their store. Nati has an aversion to many strong smells, so she and I had to turn around and go back outside right away. The shop owner came out and handed her a couple of Christmas tree decorations.
*photo of Nat with the decorations
We ate lunch at a cute little burger place that had author's quotes written in chalk on the walls.
*photos of the burger place:
I had a banana bread beer. Tyler said it was brewed in some other country, shipped to California, where it was then presumably shipped to Korea. Hmmm. It was weird.
We walked to a giant Starbucks that was near the subway station we were going to take for the day. Along the way, we saw row after row of these types of apartments:
It's hard to comprehend what 26 million people living in one area is like until you see these blocks of apartments, and they're everywhere. People are everywhere. The subway station in the evening between 6-8 is actually kind of scary. It's like exiting a concert or a huge sporting event where you're pressed against people and all of these anxious thoughts go through your mind. But it's like that all the time. Dusty said it feels like an ant farm - people scurrying all over the place. This trip is amazing, and there is so much that we are seeing and learning, but I don't think I could live like this for very long.
What's interesting to me, is that even though there are a zillion people here, this city is (for the most part) very clean. We have seen a few puddles of frozen vomit outside of a club or two in the mornings but the trash is picked up and it feels much cleaner than other large cities I've been to in the U.S.
I hadn't seen a gas station until yesterday. This one is interesting. The pumps dangle from above:
Also, that mint green Kia is adorable.
We went inside this giant Starbucks that sits above the entrance to the subway:
Inside was a huge atrium with a hanging sculpture of birds hanging from above:
*photo of Vali in front of a Starbucks sign:
We took the subway to another neighborhood called Insadong where there were all sorts of shops.
Dusty found this. It's a shower gel dispenser in the shape of a giant nose. The gel squirts out the nostril. Um. Cool?
I wish we could've gotten one of these statues for the berm in our back yard. Probably over the weight limit of our luggage, though:
There was a store completely filled with purple stones. I fell in love, and although the saleslady was trying to sell me a pair of $300 earrings, I ended up buying a little amethyst necklace. These giant geodes were so cool:
If I hadn't been traveling with a cranky and cold 4-year-old, I would have spent some time in these artsy ceramic shops. Love.
Our next stop was a nearby Buddhist temple called Jogyesa. It was beautiful and the detail of every piece of the design is hard to even believe. I can't imagine what went into creating something like this. Outside the temple were paper lanterns set up with Christmas-like decorations. Interesting since it is a Buddhist temple.
Outside the entrance were four metal sculptures of different deities or ancestors. I'm not sure what they represented, they seemed to me to be guardians of the temple:
And some photos of the temple itself:
We took our shoes off and went inside where there was a mix of devout people praying on pillows on the floor and others who were taking selfies. I didn't take many photos, but it was a breathtaking place. And calming. Inside of that temple, the throngs of people in the city kind of melted away.
It's so interesting to see these traditional structures set against a backdrop of huge, modern buildings.
The balloon shaped tags you see on the fences and everywhere are recognition of people who donated either rice, water, money, or other things to the temple. The detail on every square inch of this temple is unbelievable:
*photo of ornately carved doors and temple structure:
We were tired of the subway crush, so we took a cab home. Along the way, we saw a carrot attached to the antenna of a car:
I took a few photos of the streets to show how much is going on here. And this was during a 'slow' time:
This cool blue tree is right in front of our hotel:
We went out for dinner in the Gangnam Station area. Everything is lit up at night and is so beautiful!
Brie and Tyler wanted us to try Jjimdak for dinner.
Jake's got the hang of chopsticks!
Look at this gorgeous couple.
*photo of Tyler and Brie:
The Jjimdak was delivered to our table. It came on a HUGE platter and we all ate from it.
It might look different than what we're used to eating, but it was really good! Chicken, potatoes, peppers, rice dumplings, and cheese atop glass noodles with a really spicy sauce. It was very hard to eat with metal chopsticks. Dusty brought a fork from the hotel room. I think I had about six glasses of water because my mouth was on fire from the spiciness, and we got the "normal" version. (There was also a hot and hotter version. Yikes!)
On our way back to the hotel after dinner, we came across this interactive display that honors Psy, who is the K-Pop star who sings the song Gangnam Style. We had to take a pic in front of it. Apparently this display lights up and plays the song and you can dance in front of it, but it wasn't working last night. Bummer.
Day 7 was a full day. We were all pretty tired of walking around and bumping into people. But the sights we saw were amazing. Vali wasn't feeling very well last night, poor gal. We've all passed around a sinus/throat illness this week. I'm hoping she's better today. Brie wasn't feeling all that great either. We were supposed to do some mountain hiking today, but that might not happen. Whatever we do, it'll be fun, even if it's just hanging together in the hotel.