On to Day 2!!
We were up at 8:00 am this Saturday. Why so early on a weekend? Well, we had a busy day planned and we wanted to make the most of it! The first stop of the day was heading towards 경복궁 역 (gyeongbokgung yeok – Gyeongbokgung Station) on line 3 (just past Anguk Station) to see the palace of the same name –> 경복궁.
We got there at 9:40 am and potentially just missed the English tour (was to start at 9:30 am). However, the only tours we saw going on were associated with tour groups. Maybe they weren’t doing tours on the New Years weekend?
We spent about an hour walking around the palace grounds and even got to see the changing of the guard!
Today was just as cold as yesterday, with maybe a bit more wind. Thankfully, this time I forced a scarf and my pair of thick Canadian mittens on to Anna, so we bough fought off the cold a bit better than the day before. But when we saw the entrance to the National Folk Museum of Korea we didn’t hesitate to rush in.
I really liked the Folk Museum. It had a lot of interesting information on different aspects of past Korean lifestyles. The museum also had a temporary exhibit called “Wedding Rituals”. It was part of the 2012 Special Exhibition of Asian Cultures and its run is actually finishing on February 11th, so we lucked out on getting to see it! We weren’t allowed to take pictures in the exhibit but it was very interesting to see. They had different wedding rituals and the different types of wedding dress that couples would wear from different parts of Asia (Korea, China, Japan, Nepal, and Vietnam). With Anna’s wedding coming up in 3 months she was very excited to see some of the displays.
After we left the relative warmth of the museum, we were shocked to see a number of tents had popped up outside the entrance way. Because this weekend was 설날 (Seollal) the National Folk Museum of Korea had a events happening throughout the weekend! In the courtyard outside the museum we got a free piece of 떡 (ddeok – sticky rice cakes) and 수정과 (sujeonggwa – persimmon, ginger, cinnamon punch), got to watch some cute children make kites and fortune pouches, and as we were getting ready to leave we saw the sign that ushered us towards a tent filled with 한복 (hanbok – traditional Korean dress).
As part of their cultural heritage, they were letting anyone who wanted to get dressed up in hanbok and they took your picture for free! Anna and I were number 5 and 6 in the line. Shortly after we got there the line exploded. There was also a very elderly 할머니 (halmeoni – grandmother) who was getting the hanbok put on her with several news cameras filming her and a press camera constantly taking pictures. Who knows? Maybe Anna and I were on the Korean news ^^
As I was getting my hanbok on (with much assistance from the girls in the booth), I heard a few of them comment on how pretty my hair was! Yay for increased knowledge of Korean ^^ After had gotten my picture taken I came back to see how Anna was doing. One of the girls came to help me take off my hanbok, but Anna asked if we could take a picture together. So, in my small amount of Korean, I asked the girl to wait and if we could get a picture together. She seemed shocked by my Korean. As she was retying the bow on the front, I’m happy to say we had a small conversation entirely in Korean! She asked why I was in Korea. I answered to study Korean, and I added that I was studying at Sogang University. She asked where I was from, and I answered Canada.
They were nice enough to take a picture with my camera as well!
It was so nice of the Museum consul to give out these polaroid pictures and the cardboard frame for free! It’s such a nice keepsake!
After we had made our way back to the entrance, it was about 1pm, which meant it was time to eat! Because Gyeongbokgung Station is only one stop from Anguk Station (and 인사동 – Insadong) we made that our next stop. We walked up and down the strip once before deciding on a restaurant. And boy! Did we find a restaurant! Called ‘오월에 보리밥’ (Oweole Boribab). Located on the main strip of Insadong, the restaurant is on a basement level below ‘Insadong Flower’ and ‘Gallery Gac‘. Their lunch special is a fantastic deal! For 5,000원 you get a pot of 된장찌개 (doejang jjigae – soybean stew), a steamed egg, a bowl of rice, and four 반찬 (banchan – side dishes). We also ordered a 감자전 (gamja jeon – potato pancake), which was huge! The two sets between us was enough to make us both feel stuffed.
After lunch we walked some more around Insadong. We stopped in a traditional tea selling shop. The lady at Korean Wellbeing Tea & Tea Set was really nice! As soon as we walked in she offered us a sample of Korean green tea. Once we had finished that sample, she gave us a sample of 오미자 차 (omija cha). She could speak Korean, decent Japanese, and enough English to get by. She was my second Korean practice person of the day. We ended up leaving without buying anything, but came back in where Anna bought a tea mug and I bought a jar of the omija cha concentrate. She even let us take pictures of her cute little tea shop!
This is my shopping stash from our time in Insadong. I actually got the jewellery box for a steal! Normally the embroidered kinds range from 30,000-80,000원 for one this size. This one was originally 38,000원. Then it was dropped to 25,000원. And I ended up getting it for 15,000원. A good deal to me!
After we had walked down Insadong and were getting ready to embark to our next location, I got Anna one of the special 호떡 (hotteok – stuffed pancakes) at my favourite stall. I’ve had different kinds of hotteok, but my favourite is from the 삼보동 (Sambodong) stall. They have a mix of peanut added to their syrup and it is the closest thing I’ve had to peanut butter since I’ve arrived in Korea ^^ Each hotteok costs only 1,000원 and there is usually a queue waiting in a line for these piping hot treats.
Our next stop was 동대문 시장 (dongdaemun shijang – Dongdaemun Market). You can get there from either the Dongdaemun Station or Dongdaemun History & Culture Park Station on line 4. We chose the later because it’s closer to the markets….or it would have been if they had all been opened. There were tons of vendors on the streets outside of the tall towers which were closed for the weekend.
One of the buildings was opened, but I think the cramped area and insane amount of people gave Anna a bit of a start. We only walked around one floor before we went back outside. By this point the sun was starting to go down and the temperature was steadily dropping. We walked around for a bit…
Found Shoe Alley…
These interesting little ‘hidden heels…
and these little hanbok for dogs.
It also marked the emptiest I’ve ever seen a street in Korea. There was literally no one driving on the road. All those vehicles are parked cars. Next we decided to head off to 면동 (Myeondong). We only had an hour and a half before we needed to leave for the D-Cube Art Center, so we went looking for supper.
Because I had sworn I would get Anna to try good 떡볶이 (ddeokbokki), when we passed by Red Sun I knew she would like it. We went in and got the 2-person set menu. Anna enjoyed it a lot more than the ddeokbokki from the previous day. We got the lowest level of spicy. Apparently they will take your left over liquid and add rice to it and make you a stir-fried rice, but we were both too full to try it.
We walked around Myeondong for a bit, wasting some time before we had to get back to the subway. Anna bought a hair bow from one of the many shops, and a box of brownies from Market O (soooo dangerously good!). We walked down the main strip and got free samples left and right from all the cosmetics stores. We also got a little goodie bag of samples from an A’pieu that was having a grand opening.
At 5:50pm we boarded the subway again and headed towards Sindorim Station on line 1 for our last event of the day…going to Aida!!! Both Anna and I are lovers of musicals. When I went to visit her in Japan we watched Wicked in Tokyo and she expressed interest in seeing on in Korea as well, to which I immediately jumped on board! Aida is one of my favourites, and turns out it’s also Anna’s.
Finding the D-Cube Art Center is very easy. You don’t even have to go out side the subway station to find it, and there was tons of Aida posters guiding our way. The elevator was a bit on the tricky side, with no buttons on the inside, you had to touch a panel on the outside. It actually made things easier when everyone was leaving. You simply touched which floor you wanted to get let off on, and it told you which elevator to go to.
The musical was fantastic! Even if it was completely in Korean, we both enjoyed it. Anna has seen both the English version and the Japanese cast version of it and said that the Korean version had the best dancers by far. I think we were some of the only foreigners there, and I was definitely the only ‘westerner’ in the building. The theatre was huge, but it still felt like we were close to the stage. I would recommend this show to anyone! Korean knowledge aside, there cast was great at conveying emotion.
After the show was done, it was 10:30 pm. By time we got home, it was already 11:00 pm. I don’t even think we could have stayed awake if we wanted to. I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. It had been a good, long day.
See you tomorrow for the exciting conclusion to Anna’s visit!