Goodbye!

My wonderful son escorted me to Incheon Airport so I could catch my flight back. The flight ended up being further delayed and did not leave Seoul until about 3:00AM. He stayed with me on FaceTime up until the flight pushed back! I was still waiting after he had arrived home. Great trip with outstanding hospitality by both my boys who gave me a real locals’ tour and were so impressively living in their respective countries.  It was the trip I wanted to have… and more! DSCN1091

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The flight back was waaaaay quicker than the flight over.I

Videos

Here are a few videos, all shot with my camera …so they are short but sweet. Quality is mediocre…should have shot more!

Royal Palace Changing of the Guard Marching Band.

Trains from the Hoegi Hotel.

About to leave Seoul.

Christopher ordering sushi #1… (surreptitiously filmed–Chris is self conscious about his Japanese and he shouldn’t be!) Because sometimes you want something other than what is on the conveyor belt.

Christopher ordering sushi #2

4:30 pm Chimes as heard from Christopher’s room (to come)

Last evening: Leaving my Soul in Seoul.

It’s been such an awesome trip. I really fell in love with Korea during this trip. It’s such a great place to visit. Very safe, a sophisticated city yet one with its own personality. Cheap everything: food, hotels, clothes. Easy to get around here. I would come back again. My dad had always loved it here and I can see why.

Here we are on the last day and evening.

Kyle in front of his university, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies.

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Late check out granted by the hotel. Loved this nice place. Only about $35 per night USD.

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Hate to leave…

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Waiting in his dorm room and calling my Mom on FaceTime.

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What, another selfie?”

Among the last meals: Real Deal Katsu.

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This entire meal was 5000 won (about $4.50 USD). No wonder he doesn’t want to come home!

Gyeongbokgung Palace and Royal Museum

As my trip was winding down I was so happy to get a notice of a flight delay of five hours (turned out to be closer to six–my flight, scheduled for 8:45pm, was now pushed back to 3:00am) Arrival time in Kona still the same so it meant I had more time in Korea with Kyle as opposed to Honolulu Airport. Score!

So the morning before my flight, I asked for late check out, granted by the nice people at the Hoegi Coop Residencenear Kyle’s university area. Fun place to stay, and CHEAP… and Kyle took me to Seoul’s ancient palace compound, dating to 1395. From the web site: It was in 1395, three years after the Joseon Dynasty was founded by King Taejo (Yi Seong-gye), when the construction of the main royal palace was completed after the capital of the newly founded dynasty moved from Gaeseong to Seoul (then known as Hanyang). The palace was named Gyeongbokgung, the “Palace Greatly Blessed by Heaven.” With Mount Bugaksan to its rear and Mount Namsan in the foreground, the site of Gyeongbokgung Palace was at the heart of Seoul and, indeed, deemed auspicious according to the traditional practice of geomancy.

I like that word: Geomancy! In any event, as I understand it, the palace compound was destroyed by Japanese aggressors twice over the centuries, most recently, during WW2. Through grants and fundraising it is being restored to its original splendor.

The day may look sunny but it was about 25 F air temperature, with winds sending the temp down further. FREEZING. As it were. The location of the palace is central Seoul, surrounding on three sides by mountains to protect from invaders and the city on the other side. There is a stunning national museum as well. It was one of my favorite things we did in Seoul!We arrived just as they were changing the guard! Very cool, even better than London. Warning: Lots of photos ahead!

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Requisite cheesy photos allowed standing with the guard once the Guard had changed. 🙂

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It may not seem so but it was FREEZING! One of the coldest days we had in Seoul.

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Radiant floor heating (very efficient and comfortable) is a tradition in Korea. This is a shot of the opening to the basement fire pits which they would use to heat the palace rooms. My hotel had radiant heating too. If it works, why change it!

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This little house was the concubine’s quarters. I’m guessing no one escaped from there!

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There was an endless amount of buildings!

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These are the royal kimchee pots.

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Above: This is SK’s equivalent to our White House, located across the street from the palace compound.

In the compound is also this wonderful palace museum. The car was purchased from Ford by one of the emperors and restored.

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Kimcheegon… again.

Here’s that great authentic place again in Kyle’s university area. The kimcheegon was so good I wanted to go back so Kyle obliged. It’s below street level and has some old-timey Korean vocal music playing when you walk in.

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And because this blog insists on making the first photo small (can’t figure it out and don’t want to mess with it any longer), here’s that same photo larger. (You can click on all photos, by the way, to make them larger.) Last photo shows the place looking out toward the street.

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The ambiance and decor here was SO COOL. See photo below. That’s the owner behind the counter cooking up our kimcheejon.

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When the kimcheegon pancake arrived, we devoured it. It’s also served with a delectable tofu broth. Because Kyle considers it an “appetizer,” we then went to the Korean BBQ place (third time there) and later, had a waffle with vanilla topping on the walk home. It was really really REALLY cold…down in the 20s at night with wind chill making it lower.  Walking back to Hoegi from here (only about 10 minutes) can be a deep freeze as the wind blows right in your face. I am so glad once again I had my new cashmere  wool coat–and my new Korean leggings, which I purchased from a street vendor for 6000 won, or about $5. USD. Made of high quality cotton and totally able to hold off the chill. Kyle said I looked like a “Korean college student” in my leggings, coat and “Ugg-like” boots, and if that is true, the college students know how to dress for winter.

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Back in Seoul.

Christopher stayed with us at the Fussa hotel on the last night so we could be sure to get back to Narita Airport in time for our flight back to Seoul. Christopher set his iPad alarm on NUCLEAR ALERT so we would be sure to wake up and we all three hit the ceiling when it went off.  That commute would take approximately two hours, although Christopher, with his nerdy train apps, got the time cut down to one hour 36.  He took us as far as the Skyliner which is a fast fast airport train which uses Shinkansun (bullet train) technology. We got to sit in a luxury seat, but the fare was 2400 yen. (about $20USD).  On the way from Fussa however, we got a taste of crammed Tokyo commuter traffic on the subway, which Christopher says he and his friends call a “Hug a Stranger” experience. We have seen a lot of airports this trip, especially Incheon. Plus every time we go in and out of the country we have immigration and customs. Kyle has made 8 airport trips back and forth to Incheon, picking up all of us and taking us, and I have made six. But now that I know the trains I am sure I could get to Kyle’s from the airport should I visit Korea again (a definite.) The metro in Korea is soooooooo slick. New, color coded, easy to follow and CHEAP. Only $4.50 to get to the airport from where Kyle lives, compared to $30 plus to where Chris is in Japan. A trivia fact: I noticed all the subway train cars and escalators and moving walkways in Seoul were made by Hyundai.