An nyoung ha seh yo Seoul!
Well, it was really An nyoung ha seh yo Incheon when I opened the curtains at 5am this morning and yes, it was raining. We were negotiating a lock, I believe, though having opened the curtains to see some people working in an office right outside, I pulled them quickly shut again! Being at sea does make one a little casual about looking outside in a state of undress
A couple of hours later, we were able to look outside properly, to see we were berthed in a place which might have been Gloucester…just because a city is half way around the world doesn’t necessarily make it interesting or attractive! Incheon is the port for Seoul and we’d chosen to take a “glance” at the city, rather than visit a folk village or venture into the DMZ and peer at the North Koreans over the border.
First, we had an hour or so on the motorway, speeding past large apartment blocks with huge identification numbers on them. At this point, South Korea wasn’t exactly proving to be how we imagined – I expected it to be high tech glossy, my hero thought it’d be more like Taiwan; a diluted version of China.
Sam Kim, our guide spoke most of the way about the country and the booming businesses which are boosting the economy here. Hyundai, Kia, Samsung, LG..the list of familiar brands was a long one and I imagine most of us had something of Korean origin about our person in one way or another.
I had been intrigued by the script, which is totally different from Chinese and Japanese. No clue here about what warning to heed…except perhaps a reminder to wear a seat belt?
One surprising sign out of the coach window though. A little incongruous don’t you think?
Now, we knew this was going to be a glance at Seoul and nothing like a detailed and comprehensive tour, but we’d driven at speed past a couple of likely looking places and were getting a bit antsy. You see, the coach had anti-glare film on the windows ,making photographs through them virtually impossible and really, we didn’t want to just ride about on a bus all day.
Fortunately, we drew to a halt outside a Buddhist temple and before any of us could utter a word about being “templed out”, our eyes fell on this gateway.
In we went, to the inner courtyard. You can tell by the light that the rain had stopped by now and the day was brightening, though it was chilly.
How about this for the inside of the eaves? A pity it was covered in netting to protect it from the pigeons, but all the same….what colour!
This dear little figure oversaw the proceedings from a distance. What a sweet expression.
The brightly painted pavilions were a joy to behold, absolutely covered in the most detailed patterns and pictures, all in the same palette of colours. People went about their business, entering the temple leaving their shoes outside, many of them dressed in the same grey quilted clothes.
Interesting shapes and a charming small motif on the front there, adding a little individuality. I didn’t quite see if that was printed or pieced, but I did like the quilting, for sure.
Given half an hour to wander around, we were happy campers, snip-snapping away, oohing and aaahing over the details and enjoying being out and about, free to wander.
We loved looking in the odd corners, where there might be an interesting wall or different style of building. This was such an interesting place and suddenly, our glance of Seoul was beginning to take shape.
The next stop was at “Mary’s Alley”, described to us as the old antiques area, where we could do some shopping. Hmm. I’m ok about shopping but not so hot on antiques…but hey ho, let’s enjoy the opportunity to take a look around anyway.
Look at the first stop in that street (well, next door to the 7-Eleven where we started). Does it look interesting? Tempting?
Look inside? Paper. The most wonderful selection of oriental papers imaginable, in every colour and texture, some with metal flakes, others with leaves embedded, but almost all a great deal finer than we see at home, unless we go to a specialist shop. At 2000 Won per sheet, I had to choose a selection, didn’t I? (1000 won = 60p) Who knew that this street would prove to be the handmade paper centre of the trip?!
Other stores were selling socks…
Little bags and sets of notepaper.
Beautifully coloured pottery such as these lidded teacups.
And my favourite, these lovely tassels in all colours of the rainbow.
We spent another happy hour mooching around and returned to the meeting spot with our little treasures.
Before we did, we took the opportunity to visit the best maintained public loo I have seen in ages. Not only did each cubicle have a charming piece of artwork inside, the washbasins and surrounding areas were spotless.
The hand drier was interesting, too!
Fortified by the cutest little bar of chocolate from the 7-Eleven, we climbed back on the bus and did a quick show and tell on the way to the next sightseeing spot.
I’ll share the details of that in the next post.