|Korea - Seoul
||[Apr. 19th, 2010|03:10 pm]
Being the capital of Korea, Seoul is a huge city. Absolutely huge!|
Probably, even bigger than Moscow (and, yes, bigger than a typical US city, such as NYC). Most of the traditional historic sightseeing is compacted in 'old town' called Bukchon ("Anguk" metro station). It is situated by the northern hills. Seoul, in general, is surrounded by mountains. They are not very high but still manage to create somewhat of a microclimate in the capital.
I arrived in Seoul on "Asiana airlines" flight just before 4am on Monday. I really don't know why "Asiana" is considered a 5-star airline. Seats were about the same as everywhere, and they didn't recline much. Staff were courteous, yes, but nothing really stood out in either decor or service.
Anyway, having arrived before 6am (that's when public transportation starts operating), I had to resort for taxi to my tea guest house. Word of advice: never use taxi in Seoul - they are extremely expensive!!!
Anyway, by ~5am I was at my tea guest house. Now, ask yourself for a moment: how many hotels would be open at 5am?
Guess what - my guest house was closed. (Now, a little history... When I reserved this hotel, I was asked about check-in time, which was offered in increments of 30 min throughout the day. That surprised me a lot, since I know that most hotels are open only during the day, but still... If they offer to accept me at 5am, they are probably open then...) My appeals to open the gate (via all possible means) didn't work. Temperature outside was zero degrees, so I could either stand with my luggage until 8am (when I meet R), or I could walk around the city. I chose the latter. So with my big luggage (on wheels, luckily) I started walking about the streets. It was dark outside, yet I saw a lot of people. Several businesses were already opening. Groceries are plenty in Seoul, so there is no shortage of food. Credit cards are mostly accepted.
I explored the neighbourhood for a couple of hours, came back, tried to knock on the door again, and... WOW... it worked - host woke up and let me in. I was so excited! So, now I am stadning in the courtyard and exploring the newly found maps of the city. Then a white woman comes to me and says: "Are you Eugene, R's friend?"
That took me by surprised. It took me a [brief] moment to come back to my senses. This woman turned out to be one of the two other friends that R mentioned on that e-mail a few days before my trip.
At 8am R & her mother come to pick us up and start sightseeing (yes, R's mother was a surprise).
When R's mother led us up the hill for city views, most of us couldn't keep up with her.
Temples (and especially their roofs) look very beautiful. Roofs are colorful and elaborate. We first hiked up one of the hills (east of Bukchon) for nice views of the city, then we had a lovely traditional lunch celebrating birthday of R's aunt (where we saw a few more members of R's family).
Next up we saw "Blue house" (same as "White house" in USA) and then we explored "Gyeongbokgung" palace.