Sunday, July 21, 2013

Scott in Seoul Part V

This the last entry for guest blogger Dad.  It’s been a wonderful week.  After the slow start with my luggage and a soggy yet event filled weekend, the last three days have been good.  Museums, palaces, secret gardens and public transportation. 

I figured I would venture out on Monday to see a few museums.  Mostly the War Memorial Museum and Museum of Korea.  Well, as my luck would have it, all museums are closed on Mondays!  So I walked around the outside exhibits of both museums.  I am getting better on the subway.  I just seem to have problems with the buses. The highlight of Monday was meeting Romeo.  This is the young man who Chelsea has been hanging out with and doing weekend activities with.  We ate Korean BBQ and drank beer and soju and he passed the "Dad" check.  It’s the Mom check that he needs should worry about (don’t worry Romeo, I’m only joking)!  

Tuesday I decided to make another museum attempt, and, SUCCESS!!   I got a late start on the day since we were up quite late the night before, so I was only able to make it to one museum and it was the War Memorial Museum. This is a museum of Korean military history, mostly focused on the Korean War but there were quite a few artifacts and weaponry dating back nearly 1000 years.  My favorite was the Turtle Boats, which were used to defeat the invading Japanese in the 15th century. However, the Japanese finally won out, burned down most of city and forever endeared themselves to the Korean people (cough, cough).  Something I didn’t know was that Korea was involved in the Vietnam War.  The museum had a large display over their participation (go figure I thought we were the only ones fighting “Charlie”).  Three hours later it was time to head back to Chelsea’s since I was going to her school to watch her teach. 

Chelsea Teacher did a great job.  Her kids just love her and I can see she really enjoys working with the little ones.  Her younger class wouldn’t speak very loud when they introduced themselves.  Boy, did they have lots of energy for school at 6pm!  It was the motivation and inspiration by their teacher I’m sure. Her next class was a much older group.  Very attentive.  They had a pop vocabulary quiz, tough teacher to throw a pop quiz on them; 7 of 8 did well... the other, let’s just say he is doing a re-quiz tomorrow.  

Then it was off to dinner.  We went with Indian food, Nepal of the Himalayas. The restuarant was named Everest, and it was rated the best Indian food in Seoul which is saying a lot, since there are so many restaurants in Seoul.  I am sure many of them are Indian as well.  The food was excellent, then it was off to the Night Market.  It is a market that opens in the evening, we got there at 11:30 pm and this place was packed.  People everywhere and venders trying to get you to buy their stuff.  Again you would have thought it was two days before Christmas: there were so many people.  We made an early evening of it since we had a 1030 reservation for a tour of one the the palaces the following morning.  

Wednesday was "Palace day." We headed to one of the main palaces in Seoul. The tickets which included two tours were 8,000W, but I decided to pay an extra 1000 won and got the inclusive pass ticket that let me visit all the palaces in Seoul.  Chelsea got one too, since it is good for one month.  The first stop was Changdeokgung Palace.  We got the English tour of the palace grounds. It was nice to be able to understand what was being said. (Unfortunately, no English tour guides at the War Memorial... or if so, I couldn’t find them.) This palace was sort of a two-for-one deal.  The palace tour took one hour then I went on the second tour which was the Secret Garden of the Emporer. Chelsea couldn't stay for this since she had to go to work. Once inside the garden and on the tour, you had no idea you were still in Seoul.  No street noise, you couldn't see any signs of civilization, just nature everywhere.  Gorgeous.  I took a bunch of pictures, I will have to have Chelsea upload a few later.  The tour ended at a 700+ year old juniper tree.  Yes, I said 700 years! I met a couple from Indiana and a Aussie while on the tour.  We got to visiting and decided to grab lunch afterwards.  

The Aussie is Victor Watt of Gold Coast, Australia.  He is a true backpacking adventurer.  He’s spent the last year traveling around south and southeast Asia.  His journey is coming to an end as he is heading back to Australia to open a company specializing in multi-day treks into the outback.  Great fellow.  The couple were newlyweds from Indianapolis, Indiana: Joanna and Zach Mitchell.  They’re on a double vacation; one week in Seoul and then on to Thailand. Sounded great! The four of us had lunch together then Victor had a flight to catch, so Joanna, Zach and I headed to another palace, Gyengbokgung Palace.  Our timing was perfect, we got to see a portion of the Changing of the Guard.  I say a portion since it started at 3pm, but lasted nearly an hour. We watched around 15-20 minutes. We spent the next hour walking about the grounds.  It was huge, and I was getting the impression that most Korean palaces were built about the same. Nonetheless, it didn't detract from the beauty of the palace.

It was getting late and I needed to get back to the apartment and start packing since I was leaving bright and early the next morning (about 6:30am) and Chelsea, Romeo and I were going to do dinner somewhere.  Finally, my last solo venture with Seoul public transportation. I used my trusty app, got on the right train and caught the right bus back to Chelsea's apartment. Finally, I had total success!

My final night was rather interesting.  Dinner was excellent, we hit a place in downtown for an appetizer of this spiced bread type thing and some rice wine. Both were good then we it was off to find a main course. As with monsoon season, it began to rain, and this time I was without my umbrella.  Frankly, only Chelsea was prepared with both a rain jacket and an umbrella. She kindly let the guys use the umbrella, but she ended up soaked. We hurried the best we could and got to the the metro station.  We had quite an experience on the ride home. This very drunk Korean decided we were his new best "American" friends. He shook our hands repeatedly and gave us thumps up. Why, we have no idea. Then he grabbed my arm and started said something in Korean, none of us understood.  Even Romeo was confused and he is pretty good with his Korean.  We only wanted him to get off the metro, and eventually he did, but not soon enough. 

We eventually had dinner at 1130 pm in a restaurant around the corner from Chelsea's place.  It was a version of Korean BBQ, this time pork. As with my other Korean BBQ, good stuff.  Finally around 1230-45 I made it back to the room for what would be a short sleep, with me leaving early.

My adventures in Seoul are complete, I did some museums, palaces and the DMZ, tried a nice variety of Korean food, and spent a wonderful time with Chelsea.  As I told her, I am utterly amazed at what she has accomplished over the past 11 months.  I am so proud of her.  I hope my blogs haven't been too boring, I know most of you enjoy the entertaining writings of Chelsea, so you can see she doesn't get her gift for writing from me.  

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