My very first video on Afield. I set the camera to shoot the intersection below our hotel, went to bed, and this is what I had in the morning. I am accepting suggestions on which music to add to it.
This past summer, long before the Siberian winds started keeping me indoors for days at a time, we made a quick weekend trip to Seoul, South Korea for some shopping and a little dose of the western world (and Mexican food). Blondie, being the family travel agent, made the reservations and bought the tickets well ahead of the trip, but, unbeknownst to her, at around the same time some cosmic jackhole didn’t wash his hands and brought a terrifying infectious disease (MERS, also known as Camel Flu) to one of the most densely populated metropolitan areas in the world. The fallout and general madness that followed the outbreak gave us a little pause – should we be like the 100,000+ other tourists who said “f__k that!” and cancel our plans or should we just go and see what happens?
Obviously, we went. When we arrived at Seoul Incheon Airport the wave-crest of the outbreak had broken so businesses and schools were starting to open back up. The tourism trade, however, didn’t recover as quickly so during our short weekend in Seoul we never had to wait in a line, for a table, or crowd into a busy afternoon train. At one point we were in one of the most popular bars in Gangnam and had the entire place to ourselves, which was made even cooler by the fact that we had a personal bartender (named Austin, sure it was buddy) and that they were projecting Charlie Chaplin movies on the wall directly in front of us, which, I might add, get exponentially funnier with each drink so by the time we stumbled out of there we were straight donkey.
Since we were only in town for a few days we narrowed our daily must-sees down to a day of shopping and gluttony in Itaewon, the area near the huge army base that sits directly in the center of the city, and then a day walking around Bukchon Hanok Village and Gyeongbokgung Palace, which also includes the National Folk Museum.
Itaewon is probably the most “American” area due to its proximity to the military base and it is also where we managed to find some righteous Mexican food (Vatos Urban Taco!). However, there are a lot of bars there and when bars and young American militarians get all mixed up I get a little jumpy – most likely a result of a few run-ins with Army Rangers during my days at S.C.A.D.. We kept a pretty low profile while in the neighborhood and didn’t take any pictures, but there wasn’t much that I wanted to shoot anyways. Apparently, however, there is an area called Hooker Hill that sounded interesting, but Blondie, nor I, could think of a good reason to be ambling around there late at night – we will save that for the next trip.
The Bukchon Hanok Village is a traditional neighborhood separated by quaint alley ways and traditional houses near the palace complex. It is truly a photographers dream, but because we have a tendency to sleep late we were there at noon when the light was crap and it was hot as balls. We managed to walk around most of the village though and even got to peek in on the set of a movie production. Also, there was some sort of Conservative Christian protest going on in the area so every street corner had a group of bored/sweating police officers decked out in full riot gear. We got an iced coffee at a local cafe with a third floor roof deck and hung out for a while to see if the Man was going to unload on some Christian skulls but nothing ever came of it.
The Gyeongbokgung Palace and Folk Museum grounds were amazing. Originally built in the late 1300s by the Joseon Dynasty, the palace has undergone a series of fires, abandonments, and a near complete destruction by Imperial Japan. Since WWII it has been restored to its original form and it is incredible to look at. I imagine that during the full tourist rush of the summer the place would be packed with school groups and sweaty tourists, but, yet again, there weren’t many people in town so we had much of it to ourselves – even gaining access to some of the paid portions free of charge.
The rest of our trip wasn’t nearly as visually interesting as the village or palace grounds, but we managed to have a great time anyways – even when it rained that sort of rain that skips your shoes and goes directly to your socks. All in all, our first venture into Seoul was a good one and we cannot wait to get back for some more exploring and a plate full of fish tacos and one of those margaritas with the bottle of beer tipped into it – I love those things. Check back next week for some more travel/photo-related goodness.
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