Today was our fourth day off and we boarded a bus again for another day trip to Seoul. We met our tour guide Jessica who has been with us for our three days of touring. First stop was the Namsan Seoul Tower, formerly a broadcast tower but now a tourist “go to” cultural landmark. The Tower is on extremely high ground with panoramic views of the city (along with cafes and gift stores and viewing stations). The iconic landmark is also a romantic destination as evidenced by the fences that are ringed with “padlocks of love.” We had lunch in the area at a restaurant called Mok Myeon San Bang, known for its bibimbap which is a “mixed rice” bowl to which you add various veggie toppings (all well spiced, of course). I think this meal may have won over some who have tired of non-Western food.
Next stop was the Gyeongbokgung Palace situated in the middle of the city of Seoul. Built in the 1300’s, it was the seat of power for Korean royalty. We did a walking tour of the compound which includes buildings that are open pavilion-like. What is most striking about the Palace is that this visually stunning 14th century architecture is anachronistically surrounded and towered by 20th century buildings including the familiar Microsoft. There’s nothing like standing on ‘ancient ground’ and looking up at glass-paned skyscrapers.
Our last stop was a shopping district called Myeongdong which, according to some travel literature, is considered a favorite “local haunt” and a rising tourist attraction. The streets are closed to traffic and are extremely crowded (you feel like you’re an extra on the set of an Asian movie’s “night market” scene). The narrow pedestrian streets are lined with popular fashion and cosmetic chain stores as well as street food vendors. Obviously, we have one final trip to Seoul to Incheon International Airport one week from today!
By Gina Daddario, Professor and Chair of Mass Communication, Posting from Sokcho, Korea