Friday, October 23, 2009

In Seoul - Series1

Oct 10 09

Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best relationship-

After a week of routine lab work and small surprises like Inaas, a friend from Jordan who’s kind enough to always come to help me and host me to places where I can get my amenities and all, and the Tamil guys always in front to guarantee rib tickling times.

Today is Saturday and its weekend spree in Seoul.

I learnt after reaching lab that it is off from 12:00 noon on Saturdays and I already could find only few heads in the Institution. I had some tasks to be completed and Inaas helped me in that. I prepared my medium for growing cells.

Around 04:00pm Sajeesh was to meet me in my place and he made it. To my surprise he told me that he was planning to take me to a Buddha temple and I had to take a subway train to reach there. Also, as promised, he was kind enough to bring me the head set to enable Gtalk and the travel card (T card) for my use in bus and metro.

I was already overwhelmed and excited. And we started our trip around 5pm. He kept assuring me to have a low expectation level about our destination, saying that its an old Buddha temple and nothing more to add-on. I reminded him that I need to see places no matter how rich or simple.

Buddha temple- Bongeunsa

We took Bus No:02 to Nakseongdae (the nearest subway station to and from SNU) and headed to Samseong station almost 20 mins from the Nakseondae. We took the green line passing Sadang, SNU education, and Seolleung. At Samseong station we need to go towards the direction of Coex Mall which is towards the left from the exit gate (where u swipe your T card to deduce the travel charge). We reached out of the subway station to find the trade centre building and many others with well landscaped footpath for the Walkers. We had enough time to wander around the KOEX (Korea Exhibition) centre with its massive shopping malls and the 16 screen multiplex. There were beautiful dahlias all prune to grow in same height and many other flowers. Then we took a left towards the Intercontinental building. And from here we can find the Buddha temple to our right on the other side of the road.

Some interesting details so far:

1. When I was to cross the road to a bus station, Sajeesh reminded me of the Zebra crossing and the signal for people to cross the road. It’s often our tendency to cross the road whenever we don’t find vehicles on the road, even though there is a zebra crossing just 50m in front of you. But from now on I should make sure that I follow the traffic rules.

2. When we are awaiting in the station to board a subway train, he pointed me the green foot prints on the floor and were passengers are to wait giving way for the passengers who alight (as shown in the picture below). Interesting!!

So, with this happy learning, we were in the Buddha temple- Bongeunsa

It’s a very old Buddha temple with many Buddha statues in various sizes. People lit candles and burned incense sticks after praying inside the very holy temple. The massive statue of Buddha, the temple architecture, the antiquity and the fabulous surroundings indeed made it a worthy place.

We observed the kids offering prayers by building stones one above the other. Buddhists stack the stones in small towers while saying a prayer and it
is believed that our hopes will come true if you do this. So a lot of places you go in korea we will see stones stacked in little towers.

That was the end of the day and we were walking back to the subway. I found the McD and Sajeesh treated me with Burger and a drink. We had a long chat for a while. Then tried to take a different way to station and got lost. It was only for us to witness a light, water and music show in front of the Trade centre building. It was really worth the lost. And delighted we reached home. He got me home safely and returned.

Oct 11 09

Today we are planning to go to Gyeongbokgung Palace, please visit this site to know about the place and share the pictures, since I didn’t click any snaps.

The trip was planned post lunch, so we met in Nakseongdae station (I can confidently reach the nearest subway station on my own now) and took a train to SNU of education and changed to orange line towards Express bus terminal. Our destination Gyeongbokgung was some 9 stations away. It was clear from the website that we need to take exit gate 5 and walk 5 min to reach the palace.

With this info we found the exit 5 and were surprised to see that from the station itself they have made it a palace way till we reach the palace. The place has also got more values- the National museum of korea and the National folk museum of korea is situated here.

First we found the National museum of korea on our left. And the palace to our right. Lots of people were gathered infront of the palace as though some event was to begin. I suddenly remembered my reading about the ceremonial opening and closing of the palace gate. And yes. We rightly arrived to witness the ceremony. Wow. As you see in picture below, the ceremony lasted for few minutes with English and Korean voice over with their traditional music around.

It was around 3 pm already and we visited the National museum first. It was well maintained and had lot of collections. Then we had only 2 hrs since the palace closes by 05:30 to 6pm. So we rushed and then Saji remembered he has already visited the place. So he guided me throughout explaining the peculiarity of the places. It was a huge place with lots of pagoda shaped buildings in one campus. Literally we were running to complete the show.

The Folk museum situated insude the palace was also well maintained. There was a doll exhibition inside it, with lot of cute dolls and we got confused literally finding it difficult to differentiate between the dolls and the live dolls (Korean girls I mean..).

I was damn hungry by now. We thought since we had some more time we can explore one more place today. So from the metro map guide we had 2 options- Seoul tower and Cheong gye cheon. Our strategy was to visit a place which is in the same line- Orange line of metro, in which we are now there and both these places were just 2 stations away. After 5 pm is indeed the right time to visit the Tower and Saji already has some experience being there. But we had no clues about the second place. Naturally we chose the latter, So that we can have some real fun finding a new place or atleast doing a mistake correctly.

Again visit this site to know the place and find the pictures.

The place is basically to walk and spend a peaceful eve around the river and get refreshed.

So we took the orange line- towards Anguk , then Jongno3 sam ga and our destination Eulirgo3 sam ga station. We had to take exit 1 or 2 as mentioned in metro map. We reached outside to find ourselves in some place were we have no clues to move in which direction to (since we were not prepared for this place and hence we didn’t browse and find the exact route). To our luck one nice gentle man directed us correctly and showed us the way. The place is in the road between the exit gate 1 and 2, towards right when you are from the exit 1, walk towards exit 2 and take the right. Any body can direct you since its very close to the station.

We found the whole shops in the road were closed for Sunday and my stomach was burning. We walked and found the place to be a small stream in between the hustle of the city with well maintained walkways and some peacefulness. We walked and walked in search of some food. The hotels that were open were full of drunkards and others vendors on road. I was reday to try the street hawkers but Saji resisted saying he doesn’t have any idea what to have from there. Then we found some hotels but chicken was not available- only fish and pork. Around 7:30 we settled in a hotel. After deciding the menu we found that those foods are not available but some other chicken based dishes are available.

After some time a full Chicken was infront of us, Sizzling in a pool of rice water. It was white in colour. Its speciality is that the chicken is stuffed with rice and a traditional medicine ginsely or so. The dish was edible and tasty. Then another fish from the oven arrived all in red, tandoori kind with salad. Saji guided me the etiquette and we had tummy full.

Though the food was incomplete without lemonade, we were happy, for I could have a Korean food in a Korean way. It was eight and we thought of taking a walk again in the Cheong gye cheon before leaving home. So we took the steps down and reached the walkway. At this time the place looked entirely different and interesting, than what we saw around 6:00 though the people were more now. We started taking a walk and after few meters we found a water fall there on the other side. It was possible to cross the river after every few metres, through some rugged rocks in place in the water to cross the river and go to the other side. It’s present every 100 meters and is safe and exciting to cross the river like that. We thought of walking further and then return. To our surprise we found a big water fall in front of us now. We moved near it. And found we can walk up. On top we discovered that it was the starting point of the river. It’s an artificial river and they were pumping water from some where.

Just imagine a waterfall and a stream with walkways on both sides, in the middle of the road, in a city, so busy. This is Cheong gye cheon.

The place was really irresistible and both of us wanted to be there for some more time. But for the time.. It was already 8:30 now and we need to get back, back to routine from tomorrow.

So we walked to the station, took a train to SNU of education and from there green line towards Sadang. And he dropped me at Nakseongdae and left. I took the exit 4, reached the bus station and returned home safely with loads of pictures clicked in my mind.

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