Wednesday, 26 October 2005

First Trip to Korea - A Journal (Part 2)

To my surprise, the weather of Seoul was extremely well, with sunshine and occasionally a cool light breeze. My day was started with an informative and interesting visit to the Gyeongbokgung, the Forbidden City of Joseon Dynasty in a moderate scale.

Although Sun-mi told me that the size of Gyeongbokgung is no match to the Forbidden City in Beijing, I was still very impressed with the way it was planned and constructed. Undoubtedly the floor plan was a miniature of Joseon's Chinese protector, but the architecture was distinctively Korean. While the existing Gyeongbokgung is nothing but a restored and rebuilt version that still hardly matches its original form at its apex hundreds of years ago, I was amazed at how much effort and dedication has been devoted to this project that represents the independence and dignity of Koreans.

Now that construction works are in progress to restore the northern chambers built during the reign of Joseon's second last king, Gojong, it was a pity that I was unable to visit the site where Gojong's queen, the well known Queen Myeongseong, was murdered by a Japanese assassin a few years before the collapse of Joseon Dynasty. Having explored all the opening halls in almost two hours, I turned to northeast corner of Gyeongbokgung to the National Folk Museum. With an English audio guide rented at only 1,000 Won, I spent more than two hours wandering around the halls and examining in close details the exhibits that provided an excellent introduction to the lives of Korean people from cradle to grave.

On my way back to downtown, thinking what I should have for lunch, I came across the fully costumed guard changing ceremony right in front of Gwanghwamun, the front gate of Gyeongbokgung. It took no more than 15 minutes but the colourful costumes, unique music and solemn atmosphere made the ceremony an enjoyable one.

For lunch, I had another set meal of "mandu", the equivalent of Chinese dumplings, in Insadong. Afterwards I took the subway to Seoul Station to buy a train ticket to Gyeongju on Sunday morning. While a transit at Dongdaegu (Daegu East) is required, the arrival time will be earlier than expected. Again, the ticket officer didn't speak much English, but she was very helpful and I finally had my questions all answered.

Then I tried to look for Chinese or English books on the ancient history of Korea, be it the Three Kingdoms, Goryeo or Joseon. At the huge Libro Books at Euljiro, I finally got the last copy of the original text of Samguk Yusa, literally meaning "Legacy of the Three Kingdoms", that was written in classical Chinese text.

Before I went to the cashier, Hwa-joo who has just returned from a business trip to the United Kingdom called me on the mobile, and asked me if I could join her for lunch tomorrow. Of course I am more than happy to do so. She asked me to take a taxi or walk to the City Hall of Seoul, but as an all-time fan of subway, I'd rather take the subway anyway.

What was quite disappointing was that I could not find any new titles of Korean TV dramas starring Rina and some other actresses. I couldn't help wondering if the TV stations still believe in the fallacy that only young and good looking idols are able to attract a meaningful pool of fans that justify the astronomical amount of resources being invested.

Leaving Euljiro I took the subway to Myeongdong to buy another T-shirt and some thick socks. Then I had a wonderful dinner of "seolleongtang", beef ribs soup with rice, at only 7,000 Won. Looking at the milky soup with slices of beef, I couldn't help thinking of the first dish for which Geum-yeong took over Jang-geum in the competition of the royal cuisine.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for your comment. It will be published after moderation by the blogger to avoid spam messages. Thank you in advance for your understanding.