Three Tours

We never used to take tours (except for that time in Managua when a taxi driver drove us around pointing out the outstanding works of Daniel Ortega in Spanish and locking his doors at the red lights.)  Recently, we decided it’s not that bad to learn things. And really not that bad to talk to someone other than each other for awhile.  Without further ado …

Tour Number One:  Seoul has two main palaces, both of which have been destroyed repeatedly down the millenia.  These days, they’re in fine shape.  The secondary palace (Changdeojgung)is known for its gardens and being that we are firm believers in cultivating mind, body, and spirit within the confines of nature neatly contained within in perimeter walls and city blocks, we began there.  Here is a picture of Jon barely believing its immensity and beauty.

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The palace did not require a tour but its gardens did.  Our English language guide very thoroughly pointed out many lovely scenes, allowing us breaks of 4 to 7 minutes to take photographs and/or contemplate or possibly “drop by the toilet.”  Before posting a picture we must discuss the things we have learned about Koreans.  They have been very kind to us so we say all this with love and respect.  First, they LOVE Gore-tex.  Anyone over 40 is wearing a full neon suit of Gore-tex hiking gear.  Often carry hiking poles and sometimes has a tent rolled up on their back.  We are not lying.  Second, and not surprisingly, everyone has an enormous Samsung Galaxy with a screen almost as big as an iPad.  Third, when a Korean poses for a picture, they pose for a picture.  Grandpas to infants.  In this picture, Kellie demonstrates a popular Korean photo pose.

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Tour Number Two: After lunch we headed over to the “main” palace (Gyeongbokgung) which is huge and gorgeous and framed by mountains.  So, here you go.

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This palace also did not require a tour but we found the English tour guide while walking around and enjoyed her crazy accent, wild hand gestures, and traditional garb so much that we couldn’t tear ourselves away.  Eventually, the sun began to set and it was amazing.

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Third, Final, and Best Tour:  Kellie booked us a Night Food Tour with a private company that promises to take you ridiculous places to eat ridiculous things without specifying what they would be or where you would go.  So here is where we went.  We started slow with a traditional Korean BBQ spot.  Meat grilling on the table, lots of pickled vegetables, crazy sauces.  Also, Korean car bomb shots which consist of a shot of Coke, a shot of beer, and a shot of Soju (weak Korean vodka made from sweet potatoes) all dropped into a glass, three shot glasses deep and chugged.  Here is our guide Leo pouring them up:

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With each stop we went down darker alleys towards more and more out of the way places that you would never find, much less, stop on your own.  Here is a sign for dog soup which Leo tricked us into thinking we were eating when instead we had more chewy, baby rice dicks.

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Also, here is Seoul looking all Blade Runner at night.

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Next stop was an insulated tent that grilled whole mackerels and had toilet paper hanging from the ceiling as napkins.  What more can you say.

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Final stop was the center of a market that, by day, sells sweatpants and vests, but by night sets up food stalls in the center in a very atmospheric, intoxicating, and intimidating way.  We had mung bean pancakes.  Lots more to drink. Lots more Korean drinking games, of which, Leo swore to know at least 50.  Koreans drink a lot.  No joke.  One of the highest per capita in the world.

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The food tour was a legitimate once in a lifetime kind of time.  Korea is feeling more and more like that every day. Our gratitude is immense.

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