Seoul – Day 37, April 29

I didn’t have really high hopes for today, and the day turned out about like I expected it to. It was pouring all day.

I got ready for my half-day city tour and as I left my hotel, there were a bunch of tour buses. I was sure one was mine but I dutifully made the subway trip one stop to City Hall. I got in the van with about 8 other Americans, and we went back to my hotel and picked up two French people. So you know, that’s how it started.

We stopped at the Buddhist Temple I had already seen then went to the Gyeongbokgung Palace. It was huge but a struggle in the rain and just not as interesting as the other palaces I’d seen on Wednesday. Our guide Emily had a little mic and kept herding us from one slightly less wet place or another. I learned that the kings of Korea all went to the bathroom in front of the queen, concubines, and ladies in waiting who all said, “Good job” when he finished.

Then we went to a sort of conference center having to do with the former home of the president: The Blue House. Now the president lives on the compound of the Ministry of Defense. The important part of this stop was that there was a cafe for a hot drink and a restroom. I had a handful of pecans from my stash in my backpack and the owner of the cafe came over and made a very noisy show of telling me I couldn’t eat outside food in his cafe. Jeeze!

Then we went to the Ginseng House where there was a little lecture and show and tell before we were put in a room where we were pressured into buying ginseng. It tasted terrible as tea and I don’t think they had any takers. Maybe the French but I was trying to not pay attention to these shenanigans. The two DOJ attorneys on the tour were not amused.

We got dropped off in Insadong because there were government protests at the City Hall stop. I’m staying in Insadong so that was really convenient.

I came back to the room and shortly after headed out of The North Face store in Meyeongdong. What a disappointment. It was basically just a logo store. Asians are very brand-conscious.

Then since the rain had stopped and I had some time, I went to Gangnam. I really didn’t know where I was going and what there was to see. It was a nice area. I think I need a guide or a car or fancier clothes or a solid interest in K-Pop to bother with Gangnam again. I returned to my hotel as the weather turned bad again.

See my picture of the young lady on the subway? She has a curler in her bangs and is pushing a suitcase. It’s a thing here to bring around a rolling suitcase. People are generally NOT on their way to the airport. They use suitcases to carry groceries or a change of clothes. It was definitely date night. I saw some very well-dressed young men carrying flowers on their way to some lucky girl’s house.

I have the DMZ tour tomorrow, so hopefully everything will get more interesting!