13 September 2008

Travel: Seoul, Part 5

The next day - our last in Seoul - was to start at Migo for a quick bite before we would meet our tour guide for the ride to the Korean Folk Village. But, we had to meet our guide at 8.00, and that is when Migo opened (as I found out, standing outside it at 7.30, peering inside in a desperate attempt to get Farah a sweet potato danish).

The folk village is a representation of an old Korean village with examples of thatch-roofed houses, temples, government quarters, and public buildings (even a jail, where you could see examples of the cruel punishments dealt out to miscreants; you definitely did not want to get in trouble there). You find the traditional totem poles warding off evil spirits as you enter and then are taken back to a time more than 100 years ago. It includes examples of the homes of peasants, farmers, and landed gentry, and it gives you a good feel of how life was lived before modern times. One thing that fascinated me was the Korean method for warming their homes. I had read about the ondol system, which some estimates date to 2,000 years ago. Excess heat from stoves circulated underneath the floor, keeping it warm in winter and allowing for residents to sit and sleep on the floor in comfort. This traditional method for heating apparently has seen a recent resurgence with developers and builders and has begun to replace Western-style heating systems.

We didn't have a lot of time, but the folk village was well worth the visit. A cooling rain fell in the middle of our tour, enhancing the ambience of the place. A highlight of the trip was our visit to the village calligrapher, who would write out custom requests in both Korean and Chinese. I find this type of calligraphy beautiful, and I now have a rendition of my name in Korean.

On our way back, we asked our guide where we could get good bibimbap, as we were still in search of that traditional dish, and he took us to a local restaurant where we ate dolsot bibimbap, served in a stone hotpot. This was the real thing (in our minds) and much more enjoyable than the previous day's version.

I wanted to make a quick stop to the War Memorial and Museum. My uncle, David Hallerberg, served in the Korean War. He passed away in 2006, and I wanted to visit the memorial in part as an honor to him. I didn't go inside, because I found one of the largest collections of military hardware outside. There were planes and helicopters and tanks and missiles and naval vessels from the 1940s to the present time. There was even a working model of a tank. One could view WWII-era American warplanes, Chinese-made tanks from the Korean War, planes and helicopters used in the Vietnam War, and even a North Korean fighter jet that was flown across the border by a defecting pilot.

We of course had to go back to Migo before we left, so I could have one last Migoish coffee and Farah could have her sweet potato danish (it was the last one they had!). Another hair-raising car ride to the airport (this time, our drowsy driver almost clipped another car as we entered the airport) made our stay complete.

1 comment:

Trackboy1 said...

The blog looks great!

And go (Philadelphia) Eagles!!