Saturday, June 21, 2014

Exploring Downtown Seoul, South Korea

Pyeongtaek-si temperature that day was -2 degrees Celsius. Our Korean friend said, it's good to go out since there was a bit sun out. For a regular Filipino who rarely experiencing this kind of extreme coldness, it was an exciting event for me. Though three days after I was there, I haven't really tried to go out for that long since most of the time I was in an office, in a car, hotel, mall or train where a heating system is on. Armed with thermal leggings, thick pants, a cotton sweatshirt, a leather jacket, a parka and scarf (which felt a bit heavy for me), I was excited to finally roam some parts of Seoul, the capital of South Korea. 

A Twosome Place is one of the coffee shops with a lot of branches around South Korea, locals consider it as a close competitor of the famous Starbucks. 

We left Hotel Bene at around 9AM, with a little bit of sun, our Korean friend Mr. Shin asked us to stop for a coffee on a nearby block. There are a lot of coffee shops from where I was staying, I admit I had a little regret of not trying some of them because of the limited time and unlimited Maxim instant coffee in the hotel. The shop was a bit specious, surprised that we were the only customers there. I ordered the usual frappucino and yes, it was good. The cake was awesomely delicious. We just stopped for a few minutes to take some photos and off we went to our little journey to Seoul. 

Inside Mr. Shin's Kia Grand Carnival GLX was one of the best joyride I had; well, aside from being in a high-end car, with a wonderful view outside, with the heated seat that relaxes your butt, with a top car window (or whatever they call it); being out to see a lot of things from Pyeongtaek-si to Seoul was a wonderful experience. It took us about an hour to Seoul. Most of the Korean people have cars, some were just parked elsewhere. South Korea as we all know manufactures top cars in the world and owning one is not that hard, even factory workers who are minimum wage earners own a car which any ordinary Filipino cannot usually have. So I took a lot of pictures with cars along the way, car-spotting was more like it. 

Amazed by South Korea's modern architectural designs 

We met Mr. Shin's wonderful family, had a quick lunch at a Chinese restaurant. Their home is located near the Prime Minister's house in an uphill. Like the usual houses  I saw on Korean TV series, we were on an uphill climb. Met his three awesome kids and beautiful wife, being with a Korean family feels like home. 

Meeting the Shin Family 
At a Chinese Restaurant with a photo-bombing cook ^^ 

Everything was so foreign to me (of course). I don't see a lot of palaces, big gates and tall buildings everywhere in my country so I tried to memorize everything I saw in South Korea. I have seen the famous Namdaemun Gate, Gwanghwamun Gate, the statue of the Hangul founder King Sejong, entered Deoksugung Palace, some shrines, subways and others. When you read about their historical past, I admire South Korea even more. 

Interesting and beautiful Deoksugung Palace 
Shopping may be one of a girl's hobbies and believe me, when I entered Shinsegae, I wished I was a millionaire. If I was a Shopaholic, this would be my everyday destination. Seoul Tower is visible at a distance. It was a bit disappointing. I couldn't go there since it was a bit foggy and our time was limited. 

Shinsegae and Seoul Tower
My feet ached from walking. Coldness has reached my skin even with my layered clothes. I lost track of the names of the streets and intersections we were in. We also went thru a traditional market, which I unfortunately forgot the name, I think it was Dongdaemun or Namdaemun Market.  Shop a little souvenirs and eat some traditional street food, I had fun.

Typical day at their traditional market

We had our dinner at one of the restaurants at Insadong Street. It was one of the busiest streets I've ever seen. There was a section where all sorts of handicrafts, jewelries, kikay stuff and other souvenir shops.  I have captured a lot of things  ---  from people, shops, food, lights, buildings and experience the typical life they had there. 

Colorful  lights at Insadong Street
I was able to roam a small part of Cheonggye Plaza, where the Cheonggyecheon Stream was located. The plaza was amazingly lit. Bright lights from buildings and from the stream adds the romantic ambiance of the place. I was amazed at how the people of South Korea were able to preserve it. 

Colorful Cheonggyecheon Stream and Jong-Ro Tower

My day ended with a happy heart. Though I was not able to capture the whole Seoul, but at least I was able to see some parts of it.  I was amazed at how people preserved parts of their pasts, though some left a very painful memory during those past wars, hardships and all those foreign invasions. The country has been able to gather itself from all those hardships and emerged as one of the promising countries of the world. I was glad I was able to share some sites with you. 

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