Gwanghanmuh Square

I came to this square for one reason….King Sejong!

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I saw pictures of this statue, and loved its immensity and how it is backdropped by both a beautiful palace and a cool-looking mountain.

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King Sejong was the inventor of the Hangul alphabet, which is fittingly engraved on the side of his statue.

 

 

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This square is also a great spot to view  Gyeongbokgung Gate, which sits there importantly, welcoming visitors to the wonderful palace just beyond.

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From one spot, you can admire Seoul’s modernity, appreciate it’s ancient history, and enjoy the beauty of the surrounding nature. I love that in a square!

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The Stream

Cheonggyecheong Stream is one of those sites I kept accidentally running across throughout my trip, and every time I did, I couldn’t resist a visit. It’s so peaceful and quiet compared to the streets that lie just above it. Why walk beside a road full of cars when you can stroll along a gentle stream?

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On one of my final days, I found the “source” of the stream, which is marked by this colorful shell thingy.  It’s not too attractive, but for some reason, I like it.

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I can’t tell you how many times I walked down those welcoming stairs with a drink or a snack, rested my weary legs a bit, and just people-watched.  There always seemed to be interesting things going on, like this television interview, below. I resisted the urge to photobomb.

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Cheonggyecheong reminds me of a fancier, more man-made version of Linear Park in Oswego. My town might not be all that exciting, but I always appreciate the river running through it, along with all its adjacent walkways. I love the peacefulness that lies just below the streets, both in Seoul and here in  Upstate New York.

A little shopping at Samcheongdong Street

One morning, I decided to start my day by walking Samcheongdong street. It was a beautiful day, and I just wanted to take in some interesting sites.

I came across this temple and it’s beautiful lanterns.

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There were a few shops renting hanboks for the day.

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Foreigners could even get a discount!

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There were many cute shops, indeed.

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The street was peppered with unique artwork, motivational signage, and a few murals.IMG_0686IMG_0687IMG_0688IMG_0689IMG_0695IMG_0694IMG_0697

I don’t know why anyone would get sick of Korean food, but if you wanted something different, there was plenty of that here. I saw a few American-style burger restaurants, some Italian and Mexican places, just to name a few.

I really wish I didn’t begin my walk before Macaron’s opening hours. I would have loved to have a macaron day!

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The shops were quite interesting as well. If  you forgot your happy pills, I suppose you could stock up here.

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I didn’t partake in the foot bath.

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I thought this was rather quirky…Sesame Street characters being used to hawk Korean skin products. Hmmmmm……

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I don’t really enjoy shopping, but I do love to walk around and find interesting things to gawk at and photograph. This was definitely a cute street, the perfect place to wander around with a morning cup of coffee.

 

Charming Bukchon

Bukchon is a really cute little area to explore…filled with little houses and shops all in the traditional style. I thoroughly enjoyed wandering up the hilly, cobblestone streets, taking in the views and doing some people-watching.

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The streets were filled with young Korean girls, donning their traditional dress for some great photo-ops. It was sometimes difficult to navigate through a walkway without getting in the way of someone’s shot!

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One of my favorite things about Seoul was seeing these girls in their hanboks. The dresses are just gorgeous and the girls look beautiful. Korean youth really love taking selfies and cell phone picutres. I can only imagine the lovely photos they got on this day. By the way, foreigners can rent hanboks as well. There are shops all over that rent them out by the hour. They even help you dress in them. My daughter did this during her stay, and said they were a bit of work to get into, even requiring a large hoop underneath.

Bukchon is atop a hill, and there are a few platforms affording lovely views.

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I was lucky to be there at sundown…

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I took this photo to demonstrate what traditional roofs look like from above.

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Oh, look! A Soul in Seoul!

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Kia is headquartered in Seoul, a fact I didn’t know until I went there. Kia cars are everywhere!

Anyway, I highly recommend visiting Bukchon. There are plenty of places to eat and shop here, but I did neither of those. I am not much of a shopper. I would rather walk around and take in the sights (a no-cost activity!) and this neighborhood is a great place to do just that.

An Incredible Aquarium

I wrote about my failed attempt to visit some royal tombs and see a beautiful temple in my previous post. In summary, I had all these ideas and ended up having to exchange them for new ideas on the fly. This was not a bad thing, and is, indeed, a fun way to travel. I am totally a newbie at travel, but I did plenty of research and had a pretty good idea of where I was and what point of interests lay nearby. When I realized I couldn’t visit the Bonguensa Temple, I looked across the street and saw the COEX center.

Originally, I had no plans to visit this shopping complex or its’ aquarium, but I found myself right there, and I was rather tired of walking around by this point, so I went for it! I paid the hefty 25 dollar entrance fee and began my little journey.

I am so glad I did!

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First, I found Nemo….IMG_0846IMG_0847

Then I found some amazing fish tanks!

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I passed a tank full of big, orange fish. I stopped and turned around to find them all looking right at me! IMG_0868

I figured they wanted a group shot.

Displays got more interesting the further I walked on. IMG_0848IMG_0862

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The Amazon displays held some pretty frightening creatures…

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…such as these Arapaima. I am a fan of big, ugly, scary fish and was so excited to see these things in person!

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Look at this spotted ray. How pretty! I did not know they even existed.

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And gar, of course, are always cool. IMG_0892

Next, I entered a touch pool area. What fun! I got to touch some unique looking starfish and a sea pineapple.

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After that, I stuck my hand in a tank of those little fish that nibble away at your dead skin. They all gathered ’round for the feast, and I could feel the subtle suction. I found it a bit freaky.

I next ran into this beauty…. a zebra eel!

IMG_0898IMG_0899IMG_0900What an interesting creature, as was this PINECONE FISH below. I had never heard of these animals before.

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There were tanks of jellies and baby jellies.IMG_0902IMG_0905

I was absolutely captivated by these worms! They would completely retract into the sand at the bottom, only to rise up again.

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“That’s a Moray”

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As you can tell, I just love eels, especially this leopard one below.

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Since I never planned on visiting this aquarium, I knew nothing about it. Therefore, I was completely shocked that there was a manta ray and shark tank…the large kind that you can walk through.

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They even had a manatee! Not at all what I expected from an aquarium in a shopping complex. I finished off my visit by gawking at these giant, dog-sized crabs….IMG_0964

a strange little axolatlIMG_0974

and an adorable chorus line of cute penguins performing in front of a  pineapple.IMG_0980

What a great day!

Although the entree fee is a bit pricey at 25 US dollars,I felt it was worth it. I am a huge lover of zoos, aquariums, animals, and things that swim in the sea. I saw some insanely unique things here, and the displays were delightful.

I didn’t venture into the rest of the COEX very much, but I wish I had. My daughter (who is studying abroad in Seoul) just posted some pictures of a book store here that looks absolutely magnificent. Other shops looked interesting as well. Again, I shall return!

 

 

 

The Infamous Gangnam

I had a whole itinerary planned on the day I visited the Gangnam district. By the end of the day, I did almost nothing I planned due to getting lost and getting accosted by some Buddhist woman…more on that later. Anyway, I did make it to my first desired destination….Samsung D’light.

I was intrigued by the idea of this store and simply wanted to check it out.

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It’s a store featuring Samsung products, but it’s set up more like a futuristic museum.

You can try out all the cool new stuff:IMG_0819

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Seoul is a very technologically savvy city, and this store epitomizes that perfectly.

Afterwards, I eased on down the road to find my next destination. The Gangnam area reminded me of New York City with all the tall buildings, heavy traffic, crowds of shoppers everywhere. Other parts of Seoul are a lovely mix of modern and traditional. Gangnam is all city.

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There was a plethora of interesting buildings. I call the one below “Cheese Grater”

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I was trying to find some royal tombs, but I was walking in the wrong direction for a very long time. I finally headed down to the next subway station I came across, and came up with a Plan B. I saw the Bonguensa Station on a map and knew there was a lovely temple there, so off I went!

I got to the temple, and it was indeed lovely. I was looking forward to venturing inside, when a Japanese lady came up to me and began to ask questions. I obliged, simply because she spoke English, and I hadn’t spoken to anyone all day. Although she spoke it well, I didn’t really understand what she was after. She told me she was studying to be a monk (I think?) and that I needed to repay my ancestors a debt of some sort. After a while, I felt the need to remove myself from the conversation, and she hopped on over to some other unsuspecting folks. This dampened my enthusiasm for entering the temple, which is YET ANOTHER reason I need to return to Seoul someday!

All in all, Gangnam was exciting and noisy, and fun to walk around in for  part of a day. My senses were definitely satiated.

 

Seoul Olympic Park

Since I enjoy parks, and I also like the Olympics, it was only fitting I should visit the Seoul Olympic Park! I started my morning off here on a beautiful Korean spring day.

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IMG_0767IMG_0771The park is quite immense, with buildings and structures on one side, a giant lake, and more nature on the other side. I have been doing a ton of walking on this trip, so I opted to mostly check out the Olympic side of the park.

One of the first things I noticed was this exercise park. If you look closely, you’ll see that nearly every machine here is being utilized by a Korean. These same machines gather dust in the U.S…I NEVER see them being used!

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I continued walking, enjoying the beautiful landscape.

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There was a fair amount of modern sculpture near shortly after the entrance. I found most of it rather creepy, but I kinda liked this thing, below. I suppose it’s meant to represent skateboarding.

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There where many arenas, most of which looked like they may still be in use.

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This one was for handball.

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I found this sculpture rather hideous, but as I got closer, I was impressed with its’ size compared to the neighboring buildings.IMG_0800

I wish I had a travel buddy. I so would have rented one of these things! IMG_0796

On my way out of the park, I spotted a heron. I tried to capture his photo, but ended up with his reflection instead.IMG_0811

There’s the elusive guy!IMG_0812

I had a great time wandering around the park. The admission is free, there are bathrooms, and I found one convenient store selling a few snacks. One could walk for hours here, and there are plenty of interesting things to look at. It’s also nice to see locals enjoying the great outdoors, chatting with friends and walking their dogs.

Cutest afternoon ever at Bau House Puppy Cafe

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My daughter spent this past semester studying abroad in Seoul, which is why I decided to visit. Since she had classes, I didn’t get to spend time with her much during the day. I’d wander around and explore by myself, and meet up with her at dinnertime. On this one particular day, however, we got to hang out in the afternoon.

Now, Holly had been in Seoul for a few months at this point. She had already experienced some of the animal-themed cafe culture the city has to offer, and really wanted to take me to a puppy cafe. I met her at Bau House, in the Hongdae district.

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We had to by a beverage to enter. At 8 bucks a pop, the drinks are not cheap, but this is also an admission price. Once you buy it, you are free to play in the cafe to your heart’s content. Holly and I ordered two iced green tea lattes and grabbed a seat, hoping we could get our hands on a cute little puppy.

It did not take long! The pups here were so playful and happy. They just love visitors. This little guy hopped into Holly’s lap and stayed there almost the entire time of our visit.

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This was my pal. She was so incredibly soft and fluffy!

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The white puppy finally hopped off Holly’s lap to get some food, and was quickly replaced by this curly-haired pup.

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White puppy returned, and was not too happy about being replaced. He tried to force the other pup out of her lap.  They even had a little puppy fight!IMG_0729

The little curly-haired one held her position, and white puppy figured the next best thing was to crawl behind Holly’s back. Holly suddenly found herself in the middle of an adorable puppy sandwich.IMG_0730

We tried to leave at one point, but my little friend returned to claim a spot on Holly’s ever popular lap, and we just couldn’t resist staying a bit longer. She’s just too darn cute!

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It was so fun to play with the pups. They were all so friendly, happy, and well taken care of.  You can tell that the staff thoroughly enjoys this job, for they lavished attention on all the animals. They also kept the place remarkably clean. If puppies aren’t your thing, there are grown up dogs in the back part of the cafe. Guests are even allowed to bring in their own dogs.

What a great experience this was, completely worth the 8 bucks!

 

A visit to Noryangjin Fish Market (Seoul)

My last day in Seoul was a very rainy one, so I planned a few indoor activities to keep myself dry.  First off, I started with yet another amazing market in this city: the Noryangjin Fisheries Wholesale Market.

Getting here via subway was rather easy, as there is a Noryangjin station. Finding the entrance to that giant building pictured below was a bit trickier. See those blue arrows on the smaller white building? I had to follow unofficial signage like this through narrow paths and small, unmarked doors until I reached my destination. An older couple was up ahead of me trying to figure all this out as well. They thought they hit a dead end at the unmarked door and turned around. I went ahead and opened the door and found my destination. So if you decide to visit, remember to keep going even if it looks like you’re about to enter somebody’s garage.  You will eventually find seafood!

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Once I stepped inside, I found myself on a level above all the activity, perfect for capturing photographs without interfering with the vendors and their attempts to earn a living.

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I saw just about every sea creature imaginable: fish, shellfish, eels, lobster, urchins and shells, and some of the largest crabs I’ve ever seen.

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Now, you may purchase something here at the market and have it cooked up at the local restaurants in the vicinity, but I didn’t do that. I was just here to browse from above!

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I was so overwhelmed with the size of this place! See all the small lights in the photo below? Those are all more vendors hawking aquatic deliciousness. Huge!

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This was the third market I came across in Seoul, and I found each one utterly fascinating. I would so love to return one day!

A Misty day at the Korea National Museum

After visiting the Noryangjin fish market (highlighted in another post), I headed to the Korea National Museum. The grounds of the museum were quite lovely, and since it was merely misting, I checked it out before the rains came down.

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The little purple trees were just beginning to bloom…..

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….as were the tulips.

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Even if you don’t care for museums, consider walking the outside area. It makes for a pretty stroll, and doesn’t cost a thing. The museum is also free, which made this a great rainy-day location. I took my time looking at all the exhibits, staying nice and dry while it poured outside.

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One of my favorite rooms was one in which the entire contents of an ancient cargo ship wreck were on display. It looked like a Pier 1 display from days gone by…

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There was a special Egyptian exhibit going on at the time. It costs about the equivalent of 11 bucks US, which I normally wouldn’t pay, but the rain was quite heavy at that time and I was not anxious to wander around in it.

Unlike the rest of the museum, the Egyptian exhibit was crowded. I had to stand in line and wait patiently to see anything. Again, I took my time waiting out the rain.

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This little game below is called Senet. I was in complete awe that this game and all its little pieces stayed together for thousands of years. I don’t believe I even OWN a board game with all it’s parts in tact.

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Did you know that Egyptians also mummified animals? They made little caskets for them. These below are tiny shrew mummies in cute, tiny boxes. Every time I go to a museum, I learn something new!

IMG_1081The rain never stopped that day. I got quite wet taking the subway back home, but since it was my last night, I decided to suck it up and go out for one last dinner. All in all, I couldn’t complain about weather on my trip. For eight days, it was sunny and in the sixties. I consider myself quite blessed!