Yesterday morning we headed out into this vast city to see what it had to offer. Prior to leaving our room, after another session of me gazing through our hotel window in disbelief of how large this city is I did some research and what I found both surprised me and didn't at the same time. According to my go-to for all things factual Wikipedia, Seoul is the 2nd largest city in the world based on metropolitan population. Thus confirming what I have said before, this city is HUGE.
Back to my tails from yesterday, we took off and after a quick stop in our favorite convenience store near in the basement of our building (we are both suckers for grocery and convenience stores in other countries, they are beyond fascinating) we boarded the subway bound for an area of the city that is home to what local's deem the cities most remarkable palace and a shopping area that we have read all about, Insadong. After what was approx. a 30 minute ride on the train we emerged into the vast expanse of Seoul, only to find that not many people speak English, which is pretty strange feeling because many signs (including all street signs) are in both Korean and English. After using my Magellan-like skills to a T, we found our way to Gyeongbokgung Palace. As I tried to describe yesterday, this city is incredible thanks to many things, but not the least of which is the centuries old palaces and gates that pop up in the midst of an area that could easily be mistaken for New York City (or in respect to the palaces, maybes it's the way around and the skyscrapers emerge from the palaces...I digress). The palace was a sight to behold. I would be lying if I said we probably would have enjoyed it more had the humidity not made me look more like someone that just got out of a pool, rather than someone that just stepped out of an air conditioned subway. We toured the grounds for a stretch, posed for a picture or two, looked through the gift shop on sight, and narrowly missed Sara getting trampled by a tour group as she tried to snap the perfect picture of me (if that currently exists).
After taking in the palace, we headed north (or south, or east, or west, not sure) towards what we thought was Insadong. Our goal in Insadong was to pick up some things to have for Camden, traditional Korean items that we want him to have and hold onto and look back at fondly. The area is basically an alley, nice alley at that, filled to the brim with shops of all kinds. Art galleries, t-shirts stands, jewelry stores, local restaurants, etc. It was entertaining. We did find a couple of things, but we certainly are going to need to venture back out today to wrap up our shopping needs prior to the tornado hits our room tomorrow (which is code for Camden coming home with us. He is off the wall).
After we exited Insadong we restarted our search for food that was familiar to us. We ate Korean food the day before for lunch, and although enjoyable, neither of us felt 100% afterwards, so our goal for yesterday's lunch was to make sure we found something that we were comfortable with. We ended up in a very quaint Italian restaurant sitting one story above a very crowded street. The food was good, not great, but good and that is what the doctor ordered.
After lunch we hopped in our first cab of the trip, which to no one's surprise was quite clean and nice and the driver took us to the cable car station that housed the chariot that I was going to conquering my fear of heights in as we scaled the mountain smack dab in the middle of Seoul. I am happy to report that I rode the cable car all the way to the top without too much trepidation. How did I do that, I noticed there was a boy on the car with us that couldn't have been much older than Camden and told myself that if a 2 yr old can do it, as can I. Fear of heights eliminated? I think not, but it was a step in the right direction. At the top of the beautiful mountain we were greeted by what would become our favorite place in Seoul, the N Seoul Tower. This is a tower that looks kind of like what I would picture the space needle in Seattle looking like that stretches high above the mountain and affords those willing to brave the trip up the observation deck views that would solidify in any one's mind that this city is unbelievably huge. The city stretches 360 degrees as far as the eye can see. It was really cool to be able to experience.
At the bottom of the tower is one of Korea's most recognizable areas, it is a fence covered in locks, thousands of lock (picture padlocks all locked together), ten of thousands of locks all put there by people hoping to gain a little bit of the love and happiness that the locks are symbolic of. We couldn't say no. We purchased 2 locks and Sara (who has MUCH better handwriting than me) wrote a message for the world to see on it and we found the perfect spot for it and now our locks are part of the Korean landscape forever.
Needless to say, we were quite tires by this point in the day, so we cable car'd it back down the mountain, hopped in a cab and then the subway and back to the hotel we came. Tired and sweaty, we decided to hang in our room for awhile before cleaning up and trying to find some Korean food for dinner. We gave it a shot, but we failed and we ended up at the bar in the Fridays in our hotel. Did we feel guilty for eating at Friday in Asia? Not really. We needed a small taste from home...and that came in the form of a hamburger and draft beer for me, and a chicken quesadilla for Sara. Today we will eat Korean food again...I hope.
If you made it this far, thanks for following along. If not, sorry for being so long winded. There's alot to talk about.