On Saturday, we skipped breakfast for an early start to Seoul Tower in Namsan Park. We took the nearly abandoned subway to the closest stop and walked the rest of the way through a sleepy alley full of print shops, along a busy road, and towards the the tram entrance.
After being crammed on the tram, we took in the spectacular views of the city from atop the mountain. The air was very clear, revealing just how vast this city is. Masses of white residential towers extend in every direction, broken only by verdant hills, water, or neighborhoods of smaller buildings. I imagine the sprawl of Shanghai would feel the same from a tall enough viewpoint and without pollution, but it would still be lacking the picturesque landscape.
Besides the view, another feature of the tower is the railings covered with locks. Each lock was left by two lovers, often with a sweet dedication written on it. The locks completely cover the rails, making them a chaotic and metallic living memorial to love. J. and I have a lock up there, but the label we put on it has already started to fade. The fading isn’t symbolic, but the lock is.
The view from inside the tower itself is a little better, but the space is glassed in and crowded. We had coffee overlooking the view south. It was the highest I’ve had a coffee outside an airplane.
The gate to Gyeongbokgun Palace.
Traditional weird rolling aluminum door. These are all over town, painted the same way.
Neighborhood near the base of Namsan Park.
Gourd growing on hospital rooftop.
Gingko berries everywhere.
The tram heading up to Namsan Seoul Tower.
Lamps and amazing view.
Body sculpture in mesh.
Kid posing with bears.
On ever square inch of railing at viewpoint, locks symbolizing love have been left by lovebirds. It’s a wonderful sight.
Warning to impetuous love.
J. and I’s lock in the middle.
Making hearts with bike locks.
A wall of love.
J. and I sitting on a sloping bench.
View of the city on the southwestern side of the river.
Shadow of the tower on the treetops.
Looking down at a church.
Residential towers, endless towers.
After little time in the crowded and vertigo-enducing tower, I was ready to be on the ground. We took the tram back to the street and walked down the hill towards a massive urban renewal project. The whole Cheongyecheon river park extends for blocks and is below street level. The water is clear and rushes over rocks and stepping stones like a real creek. Little glinting fish and larger koi swim about. Both sides of the water are lined with river grasses and flowering plants whose rustling drowns out the sounds of the city. It’s hard to image that not too long ago, the river would have been dry with an elevated highway above it.
We walked most of the park towards an area J. thought would be good for lunch. But because of the holiday, most of the stores were closed. Lots of people were getting a weird clump on a stick from street vendors. We gave it a try and were surprised to be eating basically a corn dog coated with crinkle-cut fries and ketchup. Not healthy, but good for an empty stomach. Still hungry, we found a small Korean restaurant amongst the empty stalls of the market. We ordered bimimbap and a kimchi pancake for 15,000 Won ($12.50).
The beautiful promenade of Cheon Gye Cheon.
Man in hat.
Crossing the stepping stones.
Another view of the urban oasis.
Old olive green building.
White textured wall.
Kids in traditional dresses begin to cross the stream.
Old man and pigeon.
Another old man in gray hat.
A quick snack: corn dog with attached fries. Healthy.
Old gate to the city.
Inside a brick-lined subway tunnel.
In the evening, we went in search of earplugs along a crowded tourist street in Insadong. Crowds of Koreans were strolling, eating, and chatting excitedly over the smallest things. If we hadn’t been stuffed from lunch, we would have tried more of the unusual snacks for sale, including a lot of the literally nutty desserts and fish-based snacks.
Don’t know what these are.
More fish snacks.
Beneath a batting cage.
The batting cage. 1,000 Won per round. I tried three times.
A popular fried dough vendor.
Bears! Bears! Bears!
Ear plugs were found at a pharmacy near the guesthouse. They only had two pairs left. Ready for a night without hearing mosquitoes buzz by our ears, we went to bed excited over thoughts of day three. An epic hike onto a mountain would be waiting for us in the morning.