korea – day4 – secret garden, seoul tower, street market

April 6, 2008 – 9:21 am

so in my attempt to show joseph around seoul finally, i wanted to take him to the street market. that morning at breakfast i was thoroughly reprimanded by my aunt, uncle and cousin who demanded that i take him to see more things. so instead of just showing him things most koreans think is normal and average, my aunt tagged along and took us to a few places (more on that later). this is what we ate as i was getting “yelled” at:

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every morning, we’re required to eat breakfast as a family. something that joseph and i normally don’t do everyday is eat breakfast, and if we do, it’s rarely together. this is something i hope we’ll do in the future together, but not likely to happen everyday. and honestly, probably not going to happen once a week either.

after breakfast my aunt decided we’re going to changdeokgung, so off we went on a bus that was less than $2 per person for a 40min ride into the city. darn cheap if you ask me! joseph’s first real taste of seoul and one of the first things he sees is burger king’s bulgogi burger. *sigh* we’ve yet to see the kimchi pizza i used to adore, but there’s still a few days left on the trip.

not sure if everyone knows, but there’s rhyme and reason to my fighting for the check. korean culture dictates that in various situations an older “sibling” or married person pick up the tab. there’s other incidents where you are supposed to at least ATTEMPT to pay. one example of this is if you’re out of town, and being a “burden” to a friend or family or if you have guests in town and want to treat them. here my aunt and i are fighting for who pays to get into the palace (this concept is often lost on most westerners, and it’s hard to fully explain all the intricacies so i’ll bypass the remaining details):

 

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the palace requires that you go on a tour through the palace and “secret garden” based on a schedule. if you want to take the english tour you MUST go during a specific time. same with korean, japanese, or chinese. (people wonder where i get my analness from. here’s your answer):

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after we left the palace grounds, we ran into street vendor cart that sells gookhwabbang (traditional cake with red bean). some other tourists were curious as to what we were eating, and so my aunt nonchalantly passes one of the tastey treats to a tall white lady and says “TRY!”

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she then quickly went and bought her own bag to share with her friends, and offered my aunt one as a replacement for the one offered to her. my aunt laughed and brushed her off.

next was lunch. and when i say lunch, i mean a very traditional korean meal! we had samgaetang (chicken soup). but this is not a chicken soup like the kinda stuff that campbell’s makes in a can, it’s the kind that feels homemade, in the deep farm lands of korea, with the healthy stuff that kids absolutely hate, like ginseng, chestnuts, jujube, and gingko nuts.

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i guess i’m now old, since i love the samgaetang. both joseph and i pretty much ate each of our entire chickens that were stuffed with rice and all the healthy “junk”. after finishing this meal i think i wanted to take a nap, but my aunt is a vary active woman and demanded we go to the next place.

namsan tower – now known as N Seoul tower. Not really sure why they changed the name, but whatever. it’s still the same cheese that you get at empire state, or top of the rock in nyc. view is great since you can see most of seoul, but on a super clear day you can see pretty far, as far as incheon which is about an hour drive away from seoul. unfortunately, our day was not as clear, but we still got to see pretty far.

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afterwards we went to namdaemoon shijang (north gate market). this market is at the foot of what was one of korea’s OLDEST and most beloved landmarks. the gate had survived many wars, japanese invasion, and the modernization/bastardization of korea’s epicenter. recently a crazy old man, decided to light the gate up in flames, destroying a piece of history and national treasure that sat amidst throngs of cars, and flashing lights as a reminder to all koreans of “where we came from”. korea quickly put together the funds to rebuild the gate and what you see today is a large wall that encircles the entire area. when i saw this from the bus, i felt a tug in my heart that was deep. i guess it would be like the statue of liberty being taken down by a mad man. you’d feel pain but it’d be rather surprising to know how much you were unknowingly attached to it.

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we didn’t take any pictures of the market, but it’s definitely a site to see. apparently it’s best to go at nite when all the business owners are buying stuff to sell at their stores, but i hate the shopping and haggling, so why bother? but we did see this box on our way out:

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i didn’t realize an operating system was synonymous to “home ceramic irons”.