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Seoul in Winter

July 15, 2011
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I’d been to Seoul a number of times over the years.  It struck me as an alien place initially – but like the concept of  dental visits, one becomes accustomed to such things.  After I felt reasonably familiar with the place, I asked the Pheebs to join me there.

Being the consummate dumbass – I’d asked the Queen of the Tropics to join me in Seoul in January.

Not one of my best ideas.  You see,  Artic winds hammer the Korean peninsula all winter long, bringing frickin’ cold temps and wind which cuts to the bone.  There’s a separate article on the Magic Traveling Boots already on here which details the travails of the Pheebs encountering cold for the first time in many years.

Actually – I was more worried about the Pheebs not liking Seoul.  This was correct, but only partially so.  She didn’t like Seoul – she loved it.

We stayed in the absolute center of Old Seoul in a really nice serviced apartment – the Somerset Palace.  We had this view of Gyeongbokgung Palace  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gyeongbokgung out our bedroom window each morning.

The area we explored happened to be the centre of arts and culture for Korea – with many things for the Pheebs to see and do.  This was important, as I was at work most every day.

There was an art mall a few blocks from the apartment – it’s where Pheebs got her hot pink jacket!  Arts and culture were all around us.

Artists and calligrapher’s brushes in dozens of stores lining the Insa-Dong district.

Seoul was where we got our first taste of the quintessential Asian market.

This is Namdaemun Market – and it’s important to note the ambient temps are around 18 degrees F in this shot. Yes – an open air market in temps not fit for man nor beast.

The Koreans make up for this by heating their homes via ondol – radiant in floor heating.  In ancient times, this meant making a fire under one’s home and hoping the flames did not burn one’s home down.  Nowadays, ondol is achieved with either hot water or radiant electric heat – but the Koreans, used to living in the functional equivalent of a woodfired oven – keep their residences well north of 80 degrees F in the winter.  The Pheebs developed the habit of tea-shop hopping to remain unfrozen; she returned from Seoul with an affinity for tea which has not wavered since.

I’ve spoken about the sheer immensity of Seoul before – and this is true of every city we’ve visited in Asia.

We went to the peak of Namsan one weekend.  The mountain is unique in that it rests in the centre of Seoul.  It is astounding to look in every direction and see city reaching out to the horizon.  The ‘other’ attraction of Namsan is Seoul Tower.

Since one may see the city through the trees in winter – we skipped the trip to the tip.

While walking the grounds around the Tower, we espied a uniquely Asian custom…

Love locks.  Seems it’s something two people in love do…they go to a scenic (and hopefully romantic) site, profess their love for each other, write it on a tag and lock it to an immovable object – in this instance, the cyclone fence surrounding the peak of Namsan.  There are, by no exaggeration, hundreds of thousands of locks atop this mountain.  You’re looking at a small portion of the fence above.

We had low expectations for this city – and after seeing Hong Kong, Singapore and Tokyo – Seoul can hold its head up with the best Asia has to offer.

Look out – hopeless romantics below!  We just wished it wasn’t so cold, but then again – cold is good for cuddling!

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. July 15, 2011 12:26 pm

    With this post, it finally occurred to me that your posts are not necessarily in chronological order of visits, but are instead an accumulation of photos taken thru the years of your travels. True? If so-I’d love to know the date (or maybe just the year?) of the visit you’re posting about each time. Unless that information is top secret and highly classified… 🙂 Hugs from NYC!

    • dangerboyandpixie permalink*
      July 15, 2011 4:28 pm

      Gayla – the Seoul trip was January 2010.

      I’d tossed in a few posts outside of the current avdventure, as they were germane to the area – and that we were Pheebing around Asia. Manila, Tokyo, Singapore and Hong Kong were all on this trip.

      I’m deliberating adding a few posts on Barcelona, which was May of this past year – but have kept it to Asia in for purposes of continuity. This may change in the next month or so if I begin to run out of storylines – we will see!

      Thanks again for posting!

  2. Jack Riepe permalink
    July 15, 2011 1:25 pm

    Dear Chuck:

    My brother spent two years on an Air Force flight line in Korea. He never mentions Korea without adding the word “fucking” before it. My Uncle had a hot time in winter Korea, at the Inchon Reservoir. He doesn’t want to ever go back either. But your photos of the place tell me they missed something.

    Fondest regards,
    Jack/reep
    Twisted Roads

    • dangerboyandpixie permalink*
      July 15, 2011 4:36 pm

      There are two Koreas – possibly three, not including the infamous N. Korea.

      There is Korea – and then there is Seoul. It is said one divides Koreans into two categories: those who live in Seoul – and those who want to. Koreans have been very, very, hard at work for the past 30 years, lifiting themselves from poverty to wealth the stunning speed.

      The result is Seoul.

      AF flyboys and the men who serve with them are stationed at least an hour outside of Seoul – and it’s a different world. The comforts of the big city have not made it down – and – the facilities on base tend to be a bit careworn. Depending on when he was there – he would have experienced an entirely different Korea than the one seen in these photos.

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