January 1, 2010
SoKor Day 22: Suwon Folk Village and N'Seoul Tower
In the morning we made some breakfast and chilled out for a bit and got going soon after lunch. Korea turned out to be somewhat harder than Japan to travel. We ended up on a bit of a round-about unplanned bus-tour of the city. All was not lost though, it was pretty interesting to see some sort of protest on the way, and I believe we also walked past a soup kitchen at one point which was an unexpected sight in a reasonably fancy looking area near the downtown core. The bus stops were insanely confusing because there seemed to be a lot of possible lines, and none of the signs had any English characters on them, so it was very tough to figure out where to go. We tried to get on a few busses but the drivers were as confused as we where (probably our pronunciation of where we wanted to go was terrible), so we tried to get on a few busses and were motioned off with a concerned "you're about to get on the wrong bus" look from the drivers. :)
Anyhoo after a bunch of unexpected tourism, we eventually gave up and followed Lonely Planet's advice to jump on a subway train and head out of the city to Suwon. This turned out to be a fair bit easier than the bus, because all stops were announced in English, and bright electronic signs told you which way the train was going, which helped make sure we weren't going the wrong direction. We arrived at Suwon and grabbed a cab to the Suwon Folk Village as it was getting to be late in the afternoon and we wanted to make sure to have enough time there. The weather was chilly, but it was totally worth the distance to get there!
With my glorious luck, it turns out they had longer holiday hours, so they were open for an extra 30 min longer than Lonely Planet had said, so we still had a good 1.5 hours to wander around. The windy was bity and it was cold as a beast out there, so that amount of time was cool with everyone. We got in and it was a hilarious place - at first there was some pretty standard carnival-like stuff: a haunted house (?!), a boat ride, theme park rides, etc. After we got through that then we arrived at the Folk Village.
There was some really cool stuff there, kimchi pots, a corn mortar and pestle, herbs that you could buy, cool shack houses, and lots of other staples of folk villages. :) It was really interesting and enlightening to see all the families playing about on the frozen lake - there was some sort of wooden spinning-top game they were playing, and it was spun with a leather whip! Also lots of kids were sliding about on little wooden sleds, pushing dangerous-looking mini ski poles into the ice to propel themselves forward. It was cute and an interesting look at South Korean parents and the activities they chose for a cold winter's day with their children.
After wandering through the village, we got to a place where a traditional dance was happening. It was very interesting and had some pretty intense drumming. There was also some weird "cutting" stuff going on - the lady had some (fake) blades and was putting them in her mouth and motioning cutting herself with them or licking them with her tongue! Definitely didn't expect that, and it's probably not advisable on a day as cold as this one! The guide explained the ancient ritual very well... in Korean ;p We figured it was some form of ancient ritual, but we didn't know for sure. Very interesting, though. Eventually, the lady climbed up a ladder and stood on these (fake) blades, on top of a pile of stacked desks! It looked dangerous.
We then got some "Horse Hair Candy" on the way out. It's made of honey and nuts, and has 16,000 individual strings. The guys making the candy called it a "magic show" :) It was cool, they created it and split it exponentially in powers of 2. As well as being a tasty representation of a mathematical exponent function, it also tasted pretty damn good!
After our day out in the chilly outskirts of Seoul, Liz headed back home and Lisa and I took off to go up the N'Seoul (Namsan) Tower to see a view of the city. There was a big wait, so we had a chance for a nice long chat and to catch up some more on the last few years since University. Then, up we went to the top of the tower! It was an AMAZING view. I couldn't believe it! I must have taken 100 photos. It was a really great nighttime view of the city, and clear enough to be able to take some photos without a tripod. We wandered up there for a while and walked around the entire 360 degree view. It rocked.
On the way down, someone had mentioned it was a good idea to use the Men's bathroom. So I wandered in there, and it was hilarious - right behind the urinals were big windows with the same GLORIOUS view of the city!! Haha, definitely good scenery while you're taking care of business. Hilarious. I didn't check to see if the stalls had the same glorious view, but that would be been awkward. ;)
We left the tower and got down to a subway station a bit late, about 11:30-ish, and we grabbed something quick at a Kimbop place which was warm and hearty on a cold night. We didn't realize the subway closed at a certain time, so we had to hail a cab back to Sillim to Liz's place. Cabs are so cheap in South Korea though that it wasn't too expensive and we were back in Liz's area pretty quick. Until we met up with Liz, we found a "PC-Bong" (internet cafe/video game) place to hang out. This was sortof a Red Light district area so it was a bit of a dodgy place on the street, but actually inside the PC-Bong it was pretty fancy and not dodgy at all. It was super funny, lots of students in there all playing Starcraft and other networked computer games together. It was very busy for 1am! They had lots of computers (maybe 100?) all with flat screens, and fancy desk chairs. It was unexpectedly fancy given what I expected the clientele would be at that time of night! I guess that's what Seoul can be like, some dodgy stuff outside, but all the regular non-dodgy businesses just carry on as usual. We jumped on the internet and caught up on some emails, and we got a "serviceuh" of a CUP of cola with ice cubes in it! Not a can, or a bottle... a plastic re-usable CUP. haha, I thought that was really hilarious and so awesome that they had soda from a fountain or a 2-litre bottle and just casually poured you a cup of it. It was pretty warm in there too, so a nice cold soda hit the spot.
We called Liz and were quite close to her place. We met up and she had some leftovers from dinner which was very kind and a nice nightcap before going to sleep after a long day of running around. I was excited for the next day where I'd planned a trip to a Buddhist Temple north of Seoul!
Making breakfast at Liz's place
We drove by the War Memorial on the bus
N'Seoul Tower, from a far
These little guys were on an ad for the Suwon Folk Village - they don't look all that happy to be there!
Cool totem pole
Very interesting artwork and sculptures along the trail
Traditional Korean masks
Being pouty with the mask
This giraffe has a steering wheel
Kitana blades, now only 5,000 Won!
Liz and I wandering in the folk village
A Ferris wheel?!
Cool straw roofs
Families skating on a frozen lake, with cool straw huts behind them
This was really funny, lots of people were spinning some spinning tops using a big long string that they would pull quickly away from the top to spin it on the ice
Ice Picks and little wooden sleds
Love that the lady in the middle has a cell phone.
Beautiful, but does this mean the lake isn't structurally sound?!
Great view as the sun went down
Liz walking in the park
More cool roofs! Now this time 100% more snow-covered.
Traditional dance demonstration
Bowls of fruit
More explanation (in Korean, of course) of the dance
Loved this guy's hat
Great photo of this little guy very cold from the cool wind, and just taking a break from the culturalisms and warming up his face with his hands.
Cool bearded guy
Then it got a bit nuts, the lady started to pretend to cut her face with the "blade" (was fake for this demo, of course), and then lick it?!?!
Involving members of the crowd
Two animal-toque onlookers interested in the action
Dance demonstration is almost done
Try to hold your balance on 1 chair, let alone 20! :)
"Haunted House", "Toilet" - two folk museum staples!
Great views from the Suwon Folk Village 1
Great views from the Suwon Folk Village 2
Great views from the Suwon Folk Village 3
More cool Korean-style houses
"Horse Hair" Candy being created
Kiwi Juice and Kimchi potato wrap!
Beautiful view of Seoul from N'Seoul Tower
Gorgeous view of the city 1
Gorgeous view of the city 2
Great one of Lisa
Gorgeous view of the city 3
Toronto and San Francisco!
Gorgeous view of the city 4
Gorgeous view of the city 5
Lisa and I posing for another classic photo!
Photo in a mirror
Tasty chicken dinner
Lisa at dinner
At the PC Bang (internet cafe), everyone is on a computer playing a networked video game
Lisa checking her email
Look closely at the far right of this image - free Coca Cola in a plastic cup!!