What do they call it? A Busman’s Holiday? Well, it was sort of like that.
For the past few years, I’ve been driving this route on the way to and from work. Pretty much right through one of the busiest parts of the city. From the Namdaemun gate, past City Hall, the monuments (see pics) on Sejong-ro, past the many (and often) demonstrations near the US Embassy, then Kyungbbok Palace, it’s quite a stretch of road. Always lots going on and only about a 10-15 drive away from where we live.
However, it’s one thing seeing it from the relative comfort of your car, or the elevated view you get when you’re on the bus, but we thought we’d mingle with the tourists (they were all hiding somewhere as it was raining – in monsoon season?) and go for a stroll.
Yesterday (Thursday 11th July 2013 – for those of you who are sticklers for dates and times etc), we decided to have a wee day out together. Something that we should do more of, but always find a way of doing something else instead. Eun Jin had mentioned (that means ” Yes, we’re going!”) the Gauguin exhibition that’s on at Seoul Museum of Art, and it was as good a place to start as any.
Thankfully, it wasn’t that busy inside (by over-crowded city standards at least) and it was a nice, gentle pace to walk around the various exhibits. To be honest, I think there could have been a bit more of it. It said there were around sixty exhibits on show, but it felt like it was needing something more substantial to it. Still, an enjoyable way to spend 90 minutes on a rainy Thursday afternoon.
After we left the museum the rain stopped and it was clearly a sign that we should go for a walk. My Mrs is not known for her love of walking, but the stars must have been in alignment or something because walk we did.
It’s only about 10 minutes or so from the museum to Gwanghwamun Plaza. En route we passed the “Hammering Man” sculpture which is something that you can’t really miss at 22 metres tall. A bit further, after passing Seoul Museum of History (save that for another day) we evntually got to the plaza itself and its two notable monuments. Best of all, it was relatively empty of visitors as they’d obviously been put off by a spot of rain.
The statues (or monuments?) in the plaza represent figures who played an integral part in Korean history. The first one you come to (and the older of the two monuments) is that of Admiral Yi Sun-sin. Long story short – he helped defeat an invasion by the Japanese in the 16th century. A pretty big deal in these parts – even to this day. Bannockburn, anyone?
After a short stroll you’ll see the newer monument of King Sejong. Sejong is credited with being involved in the creation of the Korean alphabet (Hangul – 한글), as well as advances in technology, astronomy, the arts and plenty more. For those of you who don’t know any Korean, Hangul is actually really easy to read. It’s very logical in its makeup, and certainly something that everyone living and working here should try to learn. Understanding what the words mean after you can read them – well, good luck with that!
So, after a bit of a wander, enjoying the fact that I’d not been elbowed by any marauding touristy-types, we made our way to the top of the plaza, just across from Gyeongbokgung Palace. We didn’t really want to go in for a tour (done it a couple of times), but we decided to hang around for a bit and take a few photos. As we were leaving, then the tourist buses started pulling up outside. It was with that in mind that we made our escape towards the hillier and somewhat trendier neighbourhood of Samcheong-dong. More of that in Part 2…
To end with, here’s a short video I made of me driving home from work from the other end of this route that I’ve just described. What more could you ask for?