Day 1 in Seoul: Walking Around Bukchon

Friday, October 2nd, 2009

On Friday, J. and I left for Seoul, South Korea. Our transit that day involved a cab to the nearest subway station, a subway to the high-speed maglev train, a short flight over the Yellow Sea, and a limousine bus to our guesthouse. The maglev ride to the Pudong airport only took 8 minutes due to its top speed of 431kmh. For some reason, we got business class tickets on our flight, so we were seated upstairs (a first time for both of us) on Asiana Airlines.

Incheon Airport was as wonderful as everyone says.

On the ride into Seoul along the highway, I knew immediately I was going to like it. Bright blue skies, large bodies of water, and clean streets were a refreshing sight. Our bus dropped us off near our guesthouse in a trendy and older section of town called Bukchon. The neighborhood lies between the Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung Palaces and is comprised of a few shopping streets and old, restored buildings. Coffee and desert is plentiful.

We’re staying at Anguk Hankok Guest House, a four room traditional style building with a small courtyard and paper thin walls. The ceilings are supported by heavy timbers and resemble a ribcage vaulting above sliding screens and narrow doors. It feels like being in another era. At night, the place is completely quiet except for the lady snoring a few rooms down. There are mosquitoes. And they will be smeared against the wall.

Our first afternoon, we wandered around Bukchon and watched the sun set over the older buildings. The neighborhood has a great feeling. There are lots of narrow alleys, cats, kids playing outside, old people cooking in their kitchens and pumping wonderful smells outside, potted plants and vegetable gardens on every vacant surface. The restored buildings have a lot of charm, and even the newer ones in completely different styles seem to fit into this quirky neighborhood. There are narrow walkways, staircases up hills, birds singing.

The air smelled clean and the temperature cool. After months in Shanghai, it felt odd to not be breathing dust and all manner of unpleasant smells.
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J. on the platform to the maglev train in Shanghai.
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Little crumbling buildings along the futuristic route.
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Planes at the airport.
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Incheon Airport.
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Fishing net on a boat.
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Farms amongst high rises on Incheon.
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People recreating along the river.
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Highway.
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The Yellow Sea.
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J. outside the guesthouse.
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The doors of Anguk Hanok Guesthouse.
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Decorative pattern on wall.
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The guesthouse courtyard.
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Plants on the roof.
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Paying for the room upfront: 420,000 Won ($350).
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Enormous, crispy pears.
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Pomegranates growing outside.
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Walking down a narrow street.
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Decorative roof cap in metal.
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Decorative roof cap in stone.
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Old smokestack.
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Clear doorknob.
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Road.
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Ubiquitous & Beautility.
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Looking west over the neighborhood.
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Another view as the sun sets.
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Gas meters.
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Vegetables on the sidewalk.
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Playing baseball in the alley.
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Gutters.
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Beautiful view down one of the old streets.
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Decorated door.
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More patterns.
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Sea foam greens.
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J. and one of many little doors.
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Me at another door.
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Rusted letter slot.
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Door covered in buttons.
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Flowers.
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Kimchi pots.
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Studded pole.
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Clay court.
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Kimchi.
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Pancake.
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Beef.
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Dumplings.
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J. eating soup on the floor.
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CASS Beer. The extra “C” is for decency!

After an expensive and difficult to order Korean dinner, we went to bed excited over thoughts of day two.

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