Wednesday, February 22, 2012


One of the interior gates in Seoul's Gyeongbuk Palace.
Having arrived in Seoul and picked up my new cell phone late in the evening of February 15th, my first priority was to make it out to the Hongdae University area with all of my luggage for the next year in the cheapest manner possible. This was made both very convenient and easy by the existence of the AREX train linking Incheon airport directly to down town Seoul (Toronto Pearson, please take note!).

While this first part was rather easy, lugging my luggage through the streets of the University district on a busy evening was not! Thank you so much to Soeul-ite Lauren for spotting me and helping me not only navigate, but carry things to my hostel!

Korean street signs are very confusing until you realise:
1) Nobody uses them.
2) They are actually very logical. All major streets have names, all small streets branching off that artery are given the same name and a number, these are all in numerical order with the even streets on one side and the odd on the other.

Simple, No?

I did not make the above connection of course, until I spent an hour wandering in circles the next morning on my way to ballet class (yes, that's right, ballet class). Fortunately, figuring I'd get lost, I'd given myself approximately that much time to find the studio and only wound up running in about 30seconds late!
 (Class was excellent by the way and for all those looking to find dance classes in Seoul, I recommend Seoul Tanz Station. English language website is here: )

After Ballet it was time to meet up with some Seoul-ites, my friend Minjung and her sister SoJung for a great few days of food and cultural experiences. Not only did they ensure I was fed delicious hot pot while sitting on the floor in the traditional manner, they found a place where I could try on Hanbok - traditional Korean clothing.

SoJung and I in traditional Korean Hanbok.

Minjung and So Jung's family were such wonderful hosts! Their mother kept me well fed with delicious foods like Bulgolgi and Ddeok Gook. The also made sure I got to try great deserts like Hoddeok! I wish I had pictures, but my hands were too cold to take any!

Still, we managed to brave the -13C weather in order to go visit Gyeonbok Palace, a 14th century palace (restored in 1865 after it's destruction by the Japanese in the 16th century) located in the heart of Seoul. It was beautiful and we made it just in time for the changing of the guards.

The 'guards' parade in front of the main gate to Gyeongbukgug.

More of the traditionally dressed guards.

The grounds just go on and on. This is a Pagoda in the back.
 Proof that it was, in fact, freezing.
Minjung and I outside of the Blue House, seat of the Korean President.

Hard to believe that Korea, now one of the strongest economies, was the poorest country in the world a little over 40yrs ago. Check out the contrast between pictures of a re-construction of a 1970s street and the one of modern-day Korea below.

One of the reconstructed traditional streets in Gyeongbukgung's Culture Museum.

A traditional drum tower surrounded by modernity.

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