Friday, October 10, 2008

A Hell of a Lot in About 12 Hours

I had a great time on Wednesday giving Ben, an old student from Heritage who is in naval intelligence these days, a slice of Seoul. He arrived from Busan at Seoul Station where we met, then took the subway up to City Hall with the thought of attending a free modern art exhibit at the Seoul Museum of Art.

While wandering around, we stumbled upon Daehanmun (great first gate) just in time for the ceremonial changing of the guard. With timing like that, I knew we were in for a good time, and I wasn't wrong.

Changing of guard, not our picture--from
After that, we headed west, vaguely seeking the Namdaemun markets, but ended up at the Art Museum and decided to go on in. We spent about an hour looking at some very interesting multimedia art installations, and about five minutes looking at uninteresting ones. The exhibition is titled Turn and Widen. While some of it was weird (hey, it's modern art!) much of it wasn't, as Ben put it, "intentionally inaccessible." As usual, mouse over the image for a brief description. There are more pictures at a recent post by Chris in South Korea.

Hello, World, the words on the screen are created as an acoustic signal and propagated through several hundred meters of copper tubing before appearing--or something like that
In this installation, bare light bulbs clank gently against oval mirrors set in a field of broken glass
Patrons sit on the white balls and observe the light and shadow of tree branch images playing over them, titled Light Spheres II
After leaving the exhibit, we walked down a tree-lined avenue alongside the walls of Deoksugung (gung means palace). Arriving back at Daehanmun, Ben wanted to go in--W 1,000 admission, typical of the cultural sites here, I've noticed--and I certainly wasn't averse. This one turned out to be particularly interesting, on account of, first, it was not burned down in the Japanese invasion of 1592, and second, during the Japanese occupation of the early twentieth century, it served as the home of the last emperor, Gojong, until his death, as well as the center of the Japanese colonial government. The Japanese built the two large Federalist style buildings on the grounds during that time. One of these, Seokjojeon, was playing host to a traditional Korean handicraft exhibition.

Ben and I in front of Seokjojeon, those are otters in the fountain; not real otters, no
Well, that was enough culture for us--now was the time for drinking! We headed to an area called Hongdae, around Hongik University, that I had heard was loaded up with bars and restaurants. Well, my sources weren't wrong, as we immediately found a large pedestrian square surrounded by said bars and restaurants. It begins less than a block from Hongkik Univ. stop on the green line.

We began at a quiet, inscrutable puzzle of a place called Sphinx where we had a few maekchu and a sausage and potato appetizer (including tater tots!) before making our way to a samgyupsal restaurant across the square--those of you who have followed this blog know I am totally enamoured of this Korean fatback pork barbecue. We had four beers each, ate to satiation, and paid a tab of W 42,000 (slightly less than USD 20 per person). There were street performers playing right next to us the whole time. Incidentally, there were also two squads of riot police in the square, sitting on their shields. In case candlelight protests broke out. I guess.

My new best friend, a giant walking beer mug, the blurriness may be the camera, or may be the cameraman
Me in front of our last stop, a chicken hof called Chick'n the Home
After that, we visited a couple more nightspots before making our way to Deungchon-dong, where Ben was suitably impressed by my officetel. To summarize: as Ben said, We did a hell of a lot in about 12 hours!

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