Archangel's blog A pointless waste of time



I've uploaded a few photos now. More to come though.

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Day 1

So, a new day dawns. What to do, I wondered. I decided to start the vacation of lightly and explore the village I live in. It was supposed to be beautiful and according to lonely planet it's a "must see". Being hungry and not familiar with the area I bought a sandwich and juice at the local store, which I ate standing up in the area. After eating and walking a few more paces I realized there are many, many cafés that serve such stuff, and not just franchise places. Now I know...

My first stop was a renovated Hanok that's now a museum about the area. A Hanok is a style of house which is a one storied house around an inner courtyard. The house is made of wood and on a raised platform both to keep damp away but also to heat. The cooking area is below floor level and thus the heating from cooking heats the floors.
The guesthouse where I live is of this type and it's a common type of house in this particular area (it's recognized by UNESCO).

After learning about the houses and the area I headed uphill, deeper into the village. The further uphill I got the more beautiful and picturesque it got. A really serene area! Many of the winding streets were very narrow and it was easy to get turned around in there. A long time was spent wandering these streets (more could have been spent). The area is jam packed with small privately owned museums and lots of arts and crafts shops of all kinds

I eventually left the village on the other side and wound my way back down on the outskirts of the village.

It was now time for lunch and I was close to where I started the day. Not having decided what to do after lunch I headed back into the area where I ate dinner yesterday. The same problem as yesterday presented itself but after peeking into a few restaurants I stepped into one that had lots of customers and took a chance. I ended up ordering a Kimchi pancake that could have fead two. It was spicy and delicious, but I couldn't finish the whole thing.

Lunch was over and I had decided to head west to the palace, another "must see". The entrance fee was pretty cheap and the area inside huge. Felt a bit like the forbidden city but with more greenery.

A note on the weather: yesterday when I arrived it was 25 degrees and very misty, so no views to be had. Today it's closer to 30 degrees and sun, sun, sun and maybe a few little clouds. So just halfway through the day I felt pretty baked, even though I had on sunscreen, hat and drank loads of water.

On the way out of the palace I managed to catch a reenactment of the changing of the guards in full historical costumes. Nice!

Right outside the palace is Gwanghwamun square, an (apparently) historically important place that could rival tienmen square, not in width but in length. Halfway down the square was a big statue of a important king (me and names... It began with an S) and on the backside of the statue there were stairs leading down to a free underground museum about said king. And the exhibits were even in English!

A bit further down the square I took a left to follow the Cheonggye stream. This is urban planning done right (in my book)! It's a river that was covered over by a freeway going straight trough Seoul. But! A few years ago they said "screw cars" and tore the freeway down, exposed the old steam and built a 8 km long promenade with trees and art. I saw fish, birds and loads of dragonflies. A lovely walk through an otherwise urban landscape. I only followed the stream for a little over 2 km and then came to Gwangnamun market, where I strolled among the stalls and street food vendors and then continued to the even bigger Dongdaemun market. Here anything clothes-related can be found; fashion, cloth, buttons and fasteners, string, etc, etc. wholesale!

I got through only a small portion of the place before I grew tired and hungry. Thus I headed back to the street food stalls of Gwangnamun and had myself some noodle soup with kimchi dumplings (and beer of course). The dumplings were good but the soup a bit bland.

From here I took another route back towards the guesthouse. This route lead through an area with small outdoors barbecue places. From what I've read you have to be at least two to have barbecue, and that's a shame, it looks nice. On the way back I found a place that would serve me beer without me having to buy snacks. So here I am, drinking beer... And after a beer I even got a bit peckish and ordered som nachos (I'm to chicken to order the small squid snacks).
I'm going to try to upload some pictures tomorrow, tonight will have to be an early night. I have to get up early tomorrow for the DMZ-tour.

Observation 1: (negative) Imported (European) beer is more than twice the price of domestic.

Observation 2: Western tourists are somewhat common, common enough that most people won't really spare me a glance. But! Western tourists that actually say "thank you" in Korean seems rare. It almost always elicits a surprised smile.

Steps taken: 27 178 (21.44 km)

All my best!

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Meant to write yesterday before I went to sleep but fell asleep early and quickly due to jet lag and exhaustion.

Landed yesterday around two pm. And took me almost two hours to claim my luggage and find my way to the guesthouse. They did try to throw me of the trail, first by not orienting the maps they have at the subway stations with north up. So when consulting these maps one has to think carefully. Then it turned out that the Starbucks I had planned on using for reference had closed. Luckily I still made the right turn. Found the guesthouse on my first try.

The guesthouse is very small and cosy. I think I might be the only guest at the moment, it's very quiet. The room is ok, but as usual (or is it just me) the pictures don't tell the entire truth. It's a little more run down than the pictures would suggest but still alright (by my standards). I have my own bathroom, there is wifi and ac and bottled water is included. It's on a quiet back street where the only noise is the cicadas (except when sleeping, then it's the ac).

After freshening up I decided to take a small walk nag grab some dinner. Headed south since according to lonely planet there weren't many restaurant further up in the village (the area I love in is called Bukchon village). I found a large street with loads of shops, cafés and restaurants. Walked for a bit and found a large "art mall", four floors of very small quaint art shops around an open inner square. The basement held workshops where one could try making stuff oneself.

The small back alleys were jam packed with small restaurants. Most looked very charming. It would be easy to get lost among these alleys where two people barely can walk side by side. The problem was that most restaurants didn't seem to have English menus.

Finally settled on one and tried my luck. I ordered "traditional" bibimbap" which meant that it didn't come all in one bowl but in separate bowls and I had to mix it myself. It was good but had a little to much seaweed for my taste. Food and one beer cost me about 65 sek. So it's cheaper here than back home. Same goes for shops, cheaper but not dirt cheap.

To celebrate that it's vacation time and I'm not going to stay on the healthy track I found som dessert... Cotton candy shake!
Yes, you read that right! Had to try. But turned out to be just a milkshake with a cotton candy on top. So I could eat cotton candy from the top or sip milkshake from the straw. Nothing special but fun to have tried. The milkshake was a bit subpar to be honest.

Wanted to have another beer and a sit down so wet looking for a bar. Turned out this wasn't an area for bars. Finally found a restaurant that had lots of beer advertisements so took my chances. Asked inside if I could just have a beer, that was ok. When trying to order a beer from the menu he pointed to the fine print: must order side dish with drink or drink is double price.
No thank you! No sale today. Didn't help that the cheapest side dishes were about 80 kr.

After reading a bit more in the guidebook it seems this is pretty common here.

So I ended up walking around a bit more before I headed back to the guesthouse where I promptly fell asleep.

Observation 1: (positive) There are quite a lot of public toilets, they are all free and in pretty good condition.
Observation 2: (negative) There is a severe shortage of trash cans around town. So having finished a bottle of water I might have to lug it around for a while. Not even all shops have trash cans outside them. There's surprisingly little litter, especially considering the woeful lack of bins. Seems people don't throw their garbage just anywhere.

That's it for now!

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