Friday, 30 May 2008

More Soul-searching in Seoul

Half the population of Korea lives in Seoul. So you can imagine the huge numbers of people everywhere. And most of them seems to be in trading or small businesses. Its incredible. Six to 10 floors inside a building all divided into tiny real estate, each with a business operated mostly by one person, mostly of the gentle gender. I think it is excellent. In Kuala Lumpur, you find the rich businessmen paying through their nose for rental and employing foreign workers or young girls and boys as cheap labour (and keeping obscene profits).

Today was a little weird. For a start the whole day was chilly and even quite cold. And misty. So it was a lousy day to go up the Namsan Tower. If you are not part of a tour group, skip the Tower on misty day. I was also quite pissed off with the staff the Tower. The signs are poor and even though there were nobody else waiting, they insisted we had to go one floor down to take the ride back down. Worst of all, they can't even speak a word of English. I told them off, but I am sure they didn't understand a word I said.

We then took a taxi ride to the Gyeongbokgung Palace. We watched the changing of guards. Since there are no more emperors and by the way the "guards" uphold themselves, I am guessing they are all actors. The palace itself is worth a visit with some pretty scenes. We decided one palace was enough and head for lunch and then to Dongdaemun Market for more shopping.

This is a very, very, very old tree at the Gyeongbokgung Palace.
The base of the trunk is bearly connected to the ground. It must be a very historic tree to deserve such care.
This tree is near the part of the Palace where the Korean language was invented.

Trying to measure up to being Imperial Guards.

We finally took the plunge and conscripted for the make-believe Imperial Army.
Costumes are free. No salary or any other benefits.

Lunch was great at a basement restaurant run by two ladies. The place was deserted but the simple Udong noodle soup tasted great. No meat. Seaweeds and some veges.

Let's see, how many times have I eated noodles in one week in Korea?
Hhmm, I can't remember ... I think almost once a day.

We then took a taxi and showed the driver the map indicating the market we wanted to go to. On the ride my wife expressed surprise at how fast the meter was running. Well, the driver dropped us (supposedly) at the Dongdaemun, which means East Gate. So we got down and started exploring. There was a nice little park and it led us to a prison built by the Japanese (the oppressors) to imprison and torture and execute Korean patriots in the early part of 20th Century. Coming out of the prison, we starting looking for the market and we found one but it didn't look like the one we expected. After some on-the-street consultation we were point in the "right direction" but told take a taxi. But looking at the map, we thought it was just down the road. So, we walked and even went through a tunnel. Suspecting that we were in the wrong direction, we consulted cop who confirm the direction but gave us an X with this two index fingers indicating we can't walk there. So, it was quite perplexing. We decided to hop into a taxi. Suddenly, we realised that we were back where we were this morning on the way to the Palace whereas we should be quite far away if we were near Dongdaemun Market. Apparently the earlier taxi driver was either a sneek or had no clue where the market was, or didn't know how to a read map, or just plain cheated us. Moral of the story? There's always one bad apple some where.

Dongdaemun is really big. And we discovered that the Cheong Gye Cheon river rehabilitation is really a big project extending a long way from where we were yesterday. If you ever looking for the Cheong Gye Cheon, just head for Dongdaemun market. You will find it there too.

We first saw this fascinating spectacle at a department store carpark entrance in Chun Cheong.
The young lady is all dressed up and cars entering the carpark are greeted with an elaborate low bow.
Wow, the customers coming by car must be big spenders.

For dinner we decided to go back to the Dongdaemun area for Korean BBQ. And we went to the shop with the most customers. Well, what can I say. Sometimes you win sometimes you lose. Dinner wasn't as great as yesterday. I think the server overcooked the beef. And the taste wasn't that good. Incidentally, both our server last night and tonight could speak Mandarin so that was quite helpful for ordering. It's really a painful task trying to order food in Korea.

Korean BBQ 2 - not up to expectations.


PJ said...

uncle lik meng, remember my buddy from mauritius, stella? she made you crepes when you came visit me at uni. she said you look younger in the photos! me thinks aunty moong nah is very pretty in the photos - she is what the people here would call 'yummy mummy'!!!


Lik Meng said...

Thanks PJ for the compliments. Maybe we will write a book, or a blog, on how to stay young or look young. As for "yummy mummy", we have no idea what that means but I can speculate. Yummy means delicious dish right?

Vivian said...

thank god she's a 'yummy mummy':P do you know how many people have commented recently that I look more and more like mom!! A lot!

and the funniest incident was, when my friend came to the house and I opened the gate for her, and she went "hi aunty.."

oh man. It was at night though:P

PJ said...

yummy mummy means glamorous mummy (not the cereal!) see wiki

lately people keep telling me i look a lot like my dad.

so vivian, you are lucky you look like yummy mummy. i look like a pensioner!! ;-P