Monthly Archives: February 2016

Sightseeing in Seoul

I love to go sightseeing when visiting a new city or country to get a sense of place and of it’s history and the people who live there…..where they came from, when and why.  They are all different and all fascinating.  We, human beings, are all different and all fascinating.

We visited Namsangol Hanok Village to see Joseon Dynasty (1392-1897) korean homes and community buildings that had been dismantled and reconstructed on this site to preserve the buildings themselves and a sense of the way villagers lived their lives during those almost five centuries.  It was so interesting to see the mats and bedding used to make beds on the floor, the utensils used for cooking and housekeeping and articles of clothing.  All of  these things looked very different from what we’re used to today.  I was so impressed by  the beautifully made wooden dressers and the construction of the homes.

The word Hanok meant that the construction of the house took into consideration the surrounding land and the seasons.  This principle is called Baesanimsu.  It literally means the house is built with its back to a mountain and a river in the front with a heated rock system to warm the house in the winter and a wide front porch to keep the house cool in the summer, all to provide a healthy environment for the family.

Namsangol Hanok Village Seoul, South Korea
Namsangol Hanok Village Seoul, South Korea

In the center of the village stood a communal pavilion next to a beautiful pond, perfect for important ceremonies.  While we watched, a young couple had their wedding pictures taken in rented traditional korean clothing.  Couples from all over South Korea come here for that purpose.  Witnessing that present day excitement in this ancient traditional place made the whole experience so much more memorable.

Behind us on the hill is the N Seoul Tower, the highest point in Seoul.  We drove up the winding road lined with Cherry Trees through Namsan Park.  It was beautiful, even in the winter, with its walking trails and benches.  I’d love to come back in the spring for the Cherry Blossom Festival. The tower contains a radio station, gift shop, observation deck, restaurants and food court with a large demonstration area for folk dancers and martial arts performers.  One restaurant, N Grill, revolves every 48 minutes and had a gorgeous view of the surrounding city.

On the observation deck, a group of 25 school children about 7 years old with their teachers rushed up to me, surrounded me and in their best english said hello and asked where I was from.  They told me, one by one, their names and asked me about mine.  It was so much fun.  They were as curious about me as I was about them.

Outside, on the plaza, we watched some colorfully dressed young men dance while swirling balls tethered  to their hats. They would start out slowly beating their drums and tossing their heads, snapping them quickly around to send those balls zooming all over the place.  Then the pace would quicken and build to a crescendo.  Very dramatic!  Very Korean! So much fun!

dancers N Seoul Tower

My Travel Wish List

I hadn’t written mine down, my travel wish list, that is.  I have thought about it alot though.  The first item on the list was Paris, France.  When I close my eyes, I’m walking along the Seine, sitting on one of the bridges sketching, sitting at a sidewalk cafe eating a croissant and watching people walk by or methodically covering every inch of the Louvre.  The next few places on my list are in Italy.  As I go down my list, in my mind’s eye, Korea is nowhere to be found.

And…..yet…..Korea is where I am.  Korea.  I know nothing about Korea. The language is so foreign to my ear.  The signs that would normally help me find my way are so intriguing but yield no needed information.

Yet, from the moment I boarded the plane in Seattle, a gentle introduction began.  The in-flight magazine had lots of pictures, maps and feature stories about Korean cities, sightseeing, companies and people.  The meals were typical Korean foods.  This was my first introduction to Bibimbap. Little did I know that I would encounter Bibimbap everywhere…..sort of like pizza, hamburgers and hotdogs in the US.

Korea Japan February 2016 004

Dinner the first night my husband and I arrived was in our hotel, the Novotel Seoul Ambassador in the Gangnam District.  Yes, I ordered Bibimbap.  The fresh vegetables (in the bowl on the left) were served on a bed of rice,  Miso soup with vegetables and tofu (next bowl to the right) and beef, pork and chicken (right) are all combined with each bite.  The hot red sauce, gochujang, and the fermented vegetables can be mixed in or occasionally dipped into.  Everything is eaten with chopsticks.  Then you just lift the bowl to your mouth and sip the broth left in bowl.  Yum!

Lynn ordered Baby Chicken Soup.  It sounded light and somehow soothing after 21 hours of  travelling. The reason, as you can see, that they called it Baby Chicken Soup was that a whole baby chicken was in the soup.  What a surprise!  So much fun!  Korea Japan February 2016 005

At first I wondered…..why all of the separate dishes? As I was contemplating dumping all of the small bowls into the large bowl I tasted a few and realized that if I did the pleasure of all of the individual sparkling flavors of the rich broth, the spicy, hot kimchi, the salty and the sweet would be lost. And so bite by bite, I discovered wonderful, new flavor combinations

I love Korea. I love Koreans.  I love Korean food. I love the way Koreans eat their food. Korea should have been on my travel wish list all along.