I didn't actually intend to visit Korea as part of my RTW trip, but it turned out to be cheaper to fly from Japan to China via Korea than to take a direct flight. So, I flew via Korea and decided to take a few days and stop to visit the area in and around Seoul while I was passing through. My first day in Seoul was a Sunday which was great, the city had a lot of open air markets and other outdoor activities as can be seen in the photos below. The full set of photos can be seen here
I was staying in Insadong, a famous neighborhood with street shopping, arts and crafts and traditional restaurants. It's famous for it's street shopping as you can see below it was crowded and busy on Sunday:
Insadong had all sorts of things going on in the streets, everything from a person in a robot costume who was offering to dance with passers by (I have no idea what the deal was with the dancing robot but it was very entertaining):
To traditional foods in an outdoor market:
There were also a lot of local people hanging out and enjoying a leisurely Sunday, the group of old men below were having some kind of round table discussion/spirited argument, I really wish I could understand Korean what ever they were discussing seemed interesting:
The Insadong area is also very close to Jogyesa Buddhist Temple, which was really cool to see:
They are in the middle of redoing the roof of the temple so they had the dragons shown below sitting next to the building, I really liked the way they look, it was great to see them up close and personal rather than on top of the roof where they normally are:
I wandered through the city for the rest of the day and went to check out what's left of Namdaemun Gate. Unfortunately a few weeks before I visited Seoul the gate, which is one of the most famous landmarks was burned down, by the time I got to Seoul it had been encased with the wall shown below so they could begin sifting through the wreckage and begin rebuilding:
On the outside of the walls Korean children (and adults) had posted drawings and writing about the gate:
Across the street from the gate there's a really famous market, Namdaemun Market. The market was really crowded and had pretty much everything you could ever want for sale, as you can see below it was full of people:
There were lots of colorful things for sale including the home made candy shown below, check out the full flickr set to see other photos of the market
From what I saw while I was in Korea it looks like people are very into ginseng, the market and many other places I visited had the roots packaged in jars for showing:
I rounded off my first day in Korea by climbing up the hill in the center of the city to the base of Seoul Tower the whole hill is a park with a trial/stairs that lead to the tower at the top. It was a nice day so I hiked up the hill:
When I got to the top I saw the locks below locked to the fences around the tower, I've seen these elsewhere in Asia. Young couples buy locks and write something along the lines of "Jack and Jill love for ever" and then lock the lock to a lucky place and throw away the key, the idea being to lock their hearts together forever:
I went to the top of the tower which wasn't all the exciting because a sand storm in China combined with the smog from Seoul made the view not all that great.
The tower had signs showing the distance from various places, as you can see below it's a long way home.........
One really funny thing happened while I was at the top of the tower. I decided to hang sit down and relax for a while. I had my Nintendo DS with me and had been playing it a lot since Miho gave it to me a few weeks before. I had just finished winning "The New Super Mario Brothers" and I was playing it. A couple of Korean kids came over to see what I was playing and when they saw that I had won the game they called their friends over. I quickly had six Korean kids between the ages of 5 and 10 surrounding me and leaning in closely to see how to win levels in Mario. We couldn't talk to each other due to the language barrier but they kept pointing at levels and asking me to play them. Every time I won the level they thought it was amazing and got very excited. The thing I thought was amazing is the differences between the concept of up close and personal in Japan and Korea, half the kids were between me and the DS and it was in my hands, I could barely even see the screen. It was very entertaining.....