Museums, gardens, friends, food. Another day in Seoul.
On a long walk this morning we happened across the the Seoul History Museum. With only a short amount of time before our next appointment, we reduced the perview to coverage of Japanese occupation in Korea. Once again learning about the atrocities that Japan committed against the Koreans during this period, I heard the same nostalgic, repetitive, meandering, sorrowful music that had accompanied the museum exhibition on the atomic bomb in Hiroshima. Another story of terrible things done to others and the eventual narrative wrapping the comes of making sense of their true absurdity, of finding some way to move on and at least in face, coexisting with those that committed such crimes against them. It is absurd, but in public, for the sake of peace, the presentation looks forward, even if not without regret for the lessons that must be told.
We continued on to Cheondeokgung where we just barely made our reservation for a tour of the Secret Garden. A beautiful, green path through woods with various buildings that hundreds of years ago were once used by the royalty as a retreat to a pleasureful side of life.
We then met with my sister-in-law's brother who walked us to a delicious restaurant where we enjoyed a fried potato pancake, sujaebi (a delicious anchovie-based soup with wide noodles, potatoes, and seafood), and dongdongju (an alcoholic sweet rice drink). We then continued to walk through the Bukchon district with old traditional homes and down to Insadong, a street with many street vendors, performers, artists, and shops. We continued to Cheonggyecheon, a recently unconvered stream that flows through the city.
Jake hyung then drove us to the National Assembly where he works and showed us his office before taking us to a food court in the mall for a delicious dinner of more traditional Korean food.
We had topokki (spicy red sauce with rice cakes, fish cakes, a few quail eggs, and a few Vienna sausage), some rice balls with seaweed, twigim (fried battered veggies, like Japanese tempura), and gyeranjjim (a steamed egg casserole). It came with a creamy plum drink to cool, the spicy dish.
It's become clear to me that it is impossible to take in all that Seoul has to offer in the few days that I'm here. It is a city far more open, louder, more opportune in the bending of rules than anything I've experienced in Japan. It is more accessible and open to westerners in language and customs. Another side of Asia to open the world a little further.