Tuesday, October 26, 2010


A few weeks ago I was walking to the kitchen and FREAKED OUT when I saw something scurrying across the floor. Thought it was a roach (knock on wood, I've only met ONE in my apartment so far in 15 months...), but it turned out to be this little guy, a house lizard, known as a yamori (守宮) in Japanese. Yamori means "house-protector," which is appropriate since these guys eat bugs. There's one that hangs out on my host family's window at night, near the light, where he can slurp up all the bugs he desires. Mine went under a piece of furniture at first, but a few days later I found him in my sink and chased him into a tupperware container. Took him outside to live the good life.

Yamori is hopefully safe and sated. Go in peace, gobbler of vile bugs.

Seoul Getaway Day 2: Insadong

After wandering around the palace grounds, we headed to Insadong, a shopping district that becomes a pedestrian street on the weekends. It's rather well known for maintaining a traditional feel, even though it has many modern shops.
 Rather crappy photo of an exquisitely colored hanbok.
 Coming from Gyeongbukgong, heading to Insadong.
Such a cool sculpture! 
It looks wet, but it's not! 
Northern entrance to Insadong.
For all your calligraphic needs. 
 Should have stopped in to see how Korean and Japanese paper are similar/different.
Cutie outside our restaurant. 
 Inside of the restaurant.
Kimchi jjigae and banchan. This meal filled me with such joy. 
 Chijimi, a vegetable pancake that somewhat tastes like latkes to me.
 Hello, oh healthy and delicious kimchi stew thing.
Rather rad building full of boutique stores along ramps that travel up to the building's roof.
It was quite crowded. A lot of the stores sold crafty, expensive things.
For some reason, this shot of swanky apartments reminds me of NYC.
Garden near the roof.
A very charming building indeed
Though perhaps not fun to shop in when it's raining.
The stairs on the way down were covered in all manners of very, very cool graffiti.

Cardboard whale art.
Guess what this is! (And don't peek in the bottom left corner!)
Groovy architecture that reminds me somewhat of the Umeda Sky Building in Osaka.
Red Mango!! Japan doesn't really buy into the low-cal frozen yogurt thing, so this was a treat. Unfortunately they didn't have as many fruit selections as the American stores do (in fact, their only fruit options were different flavors of jam), but it was better than nothing!
Time Warner Center, meet your Seoul doppleganger.
Shinnnnyyyy (SHINee? My favorite Korean boy band!!)!!
Oldest Catholic church in Seoul. Kind of funny that it's in the hippest shopping district. They've got priorities.
Witnessed a wedding that lasted for ages.
I will remember that, thank you. Farewell, Seoul! Hope to see you again quite soon <3 <3 <3

Friday, October 22, 2010

Seoul Getaway Day 2: Gyeongbukgong Palace

Day 2 of our Seoul Getaway. Even though we were in Seoul for the shortest trip known to mankind, we had the most beautiful weather for touristing! First thing on the to-do list was to see something historical. We visited Gyeongbukgong, one of Seoul's several palaces, which you can read more about HERE.
 Morning in Myeongdong. The streets were silent compared to last night. In the foreground is a Chinese-Korean elementary school, and in the background is the Korean Air building and Lotte Department Store of Enormity.
Nice city. 
LOVED the green-theme of this palace. 
 The paint is all very new, as the palace has been reconstructed entirely in recent years. Gorgeous nonetheless.
Big avenue south of the palace. 
 I really like that Seoul has mountains right in the city. Fan of mountains, I am.
 Changing of the guard! Traditional Korean costumes are rad to say the least.
 Colorful dudes. That could be a fun job.
 Must be weird to have foreigners taking your picture all day long, though.
 And to pretend you live in another era.
 We came at the right time for all the staged ceremonies.
Palace entrance. East Asian architecture is very... East Asian. 
 They do roofs nicely in East Asia, though, that is undisputed.
Guardian making sure no demons enter the palace. 
Pagoda-like thing in the background is the National Folk Museum of Korea. Went there later and learned all about the history of kimchi!
Good job creating a vista for the palace, mountain in back. 
 Modern Seoul and the palace.
 Cutie tour guide on our free English-guided tour. Normally I'm not into tours and such, but it was very informative and well-paced.
 Couldn't resist.
 I don't think I would be able to focus on anything if I spent my time in a room like this.
Paint from the 19th century reconstruction of the palace, faded, but still rather beautiful. 
 Told you we had nice weather.
 Here comes the king!
Going into his Confucian ritual hall to perform some Confucian rituals. I will pass, your majesty. 

His attendants and their spectacular platform shoes. Koreans were stylish long before contemporary fashion! 
 One way in which Korea clearly trumps Japan is that they have heating in their homes. Not central heating, but underfloor heating (which is apparently a more efficient method of heating indoor spaces). They've used the method for ages, and gorgeous chimneys were standard. Yo, Japan, are you paying attention???
I think this pavilion was some sort of banquet hall. I could be totally wrong. Still want to hold a party there. 
 Yet another lovely building with heating capability.
Party time! 
Just don't get drunk and fall in the pond. 
Couldn't help snapping a photo of these kids. There was a rather large group of them, 10 perhaps, and each was carrying a full-frame digital camera. Yeah, the kind that costs like, US$8,000. Photography class, perhaps? Even that little boy to the left has got one!
Breakin' rulez, bonding. 
Ladies quarters in the back. 
Here comes his madge again! 
 Guess his Confucian rituals didn't take so long after all.
 Wonder if he gets paid more for being the king.
Shoes. Rock on, Korea! 
 This was the weird part where you could go stand next to them and take photos, though we were asked not to touch them or their costumes/equipment. We declined to pose awkwardly.
 Another sleepless ceiling.
His majesty's dining quarters. 
His desk, I think. 
Seoul Tower beyond. 
I think these animal figures are from "Journey to the West." A good classic Chinese read. Long as the dickens, though. 
The Queen's depressing garden. Apparently she almost never got to leave her quarters. Gotta pop out babies. 
We were told if we passed through this doorway just once, we would be granted eternal life. Well, that was a snap! 
It's pretty much impossible to get sick of historical architecture juxtaposed with nature.
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