Friday, September 15, 2006

Notes from Korea – 2

Been doing some more sightseeing. On Tuesday Hannah and I took a city bus tour to get a general sense of the city and the different things there are to see. The bus tour is such that one can get off at any designated point and sightsee there, then hop on the next bus to continue the tour. I was mainly interested in getting an overview of the city, so we primarily rode around. However, we did get off at Seoul Tower, which is a spire situated on top of a large hill and consequently offers a 360-degree view of the city. This picture shows the view looking north over the city. Pyongang (in N. Korea) is about 130-some km in this direction. Chicago lies about 120 degrees clockwise and 10,500 km from this point.

Then on Wednesday I entered the city alone (much easier to navigate the subway system without dragging two small children around) and made my way to Yonsei University, which has a renowned Korean Language Institute. My main objective in that visit was to check out the Korean language materials available. I managed to pick up a number of textbooks to help me advance in the language.

Today I ventured into town again (alone – and it’s a good thing, because the subway was SRO, and we were crammed in like sardines there for a while, without any pushers, thank you :) ), first to check out Kyobo Bookshop, which happens to be the largest bookstore in Korea. I picked up a Korean-English (NKJV) Bible, a couple of children’s Bibles, a manga version of the Old Testament as well as one of Genesis (yes, I know, I don’t really care for that style of animation/illustration – but I find comics extremely helpful in language learning, and they don’t seem to have enough taste or good sense to have any Carl Barks’ (or any other illustrator, for that matter) Donald Duck, so it’s either Bible stories or Pokemon-type of stuff – well, given that choice, guess which one I prefer?), a children’s book of stories such as Sinbad the Sailor and Peter Pan, and a children’s book of modern Korean tales. There is also a children’s book of traditional Korean folktales that I’d like to get, but I didn’t see it – perhaps on my next shopping trip.

Weighted down with all these books, I then did a little sightseeing. I went down the street (past the American Embassy, outside of which was crawling with police in riot gear because the place is a magnet for protestors and other rabble-rousers) to the palace Gyeongbokgung at Gwanghwamun. There is a changing-of-the-guards ceremony every hour on the hour, and I managed to get there just in time to witness this. The following pictures are from the ceremony and the palace grounds.

The changing of the guards.

One of the various ranks in the military at the time.

Another rank. Obviously an archer.

This is where coronations were held and official business was conducted. It was actually rather dark inside the building - I tried to expose for the interior so the various details could be seen.

Contrasting old and new. It's pretty amazing how the two co-exist side by side in this incredibly crowded city.

A group of schoolkids on a field trip.

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