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Seoul Trip Report (part 3)

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Wednesday, 20 January 1999

In the afternoon I went out to Song-jeong, which is in the northwest part of Seoul; one subway stop before Kimp'o airport. I went to the house of an American expatriate named Shawn, whom I'd met at the CyberCafe, to help him fix his computer. While walking to the subway station to meet me, he had met three Swiss missionaries on their way from Mongolia to Manila for a conference. We all went back to his place and had noodles and chicken.

On the subway back, one lady looked at me, said "Hello" in English, and told her husband (in Korean) "I think he's from America or Pakistan." Her husband tried to shush her, but she kept at it. I finally answered, in Korean, that I was an American from California. She asked something in Korean which I didn't understand; her husband looked really embarrassed, and the other people in the subway car laughed. I said, in English, "I think the answer to that question should probably be no." When the lady and her husband got off the subway, she turned to me and said, "Hello."

By the way, most of the tourists in Seoul are from Japan, and some from China. Of the few Westerners whom I saw, most were from Russia. Apparently quite a few people from Russia visit Korea; while in It'aewon, I saw many signs in Russian advertising big sales on great merchandise.

Thursday, 21 January 1999

Tiger sculpture from Koreans in Taiwan

It was quite cold in the early morning, when I went to Olympic park to see their open air sculpture museum. The sculpture you see at the left is a gift from Koreans in Taiwan. I also climbed up the wooden stairs of an earthen fortress. On the way to and from the park I passed some incredibly drab apartment buildings, all absolutely identical.

I then headed to Lotte World for the afternoon. This place, built by the Lotte chaebol (conglomerate), is ticky-tacky beyond belief. I loved it. It has an indoor skating rink, amusement park, shopping mall, swimming pool, and health center. The mascots are Lotty and Lorry, who appear to be raccoons.

While at Lotte World, I went to the Lotte Korean Historical Folklore Museum. It was OK, but had a slightly "Disney-ized" atmosphere to it. It cost 4,000 won, and turned out in retrospect to have been a bit too expensive.

Lotte World Lotty and Lorry

In the evening I went to a local mandu (dumpling) joint for dinner; the wang-man-du (king dumplings) aren't as good as the plain kind. Live and learn, I say.

Friday, 22 January

Off to Yongsan electronics market in the morning; I got there before they opened, so I decided to eat. I had a french toast, omelet, cucumber, catsup and mayo sandwich from a roadside stand. This sounds horrible, but it tasted great, and only cost 1,500 won. I finished off breakfast with chocolate milk and a red bean pastry from "I'm Baker" (total of 1,000 won). By the end of the trip, "I'm Baker" and I had established a deep and meaningful relationship. The pastries are cheap and tasty; what more can you ask?!

I'm not sure if this has just happened since the iMac came out, but PC cases come in tons of different styles in Korea. Here's a picture of some of the less flamboyant ones that I saw. Computer cases

Kyeongbokkung (Palace) In the afternoon I went to the Kyongbokkung National folklore museum, which is on the palace grounds. For only 700 won, this is the real deal. It beats the hell out of Lotte World. Two temporary displays were really great; one of the animal zodiac (since Lunar New Year is coming up in mid-February), and one about Hanbok, the traditional Korean clothing. The modernized version looks really sharp; it's an excellent blend of east and west. Whimsical animal zodiac figures modern Hanbok (school uniforms)

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