This past Saturday I set out for a third appearance in Seoul, and experienced a series of contrasts worth noting. By any standard Seoul is a gigantic city. The city proper has over 10 million residents, while some generous classifications rank the greater metropolitan area of Seoul as the second largest in the world at 23.5 million people. While I certainly enjoy living in an area of Korea much smaller in population, I am also a big fan of world class cities. This exploration of a worldly metropolis was of particular note because of the balance between crushing hordes and quiet isolation.
The fabulously sunny day began with a stop by the Han River. A decent major city needs a body of water and the Han serves for Seoul. While over a kilometer in width in some places it was quite calm Saturday. No doubt fully congested on summer days, I was happily left alone to daydream along the bank’s path. Then, a typically tightly packed sea of bodies otherwise known as the subway ride to my next stop: the World Heritage palace Changdeokgung 창덕궁. The autumn colours surrounding this palace defy description, and are well removed from being adequately captured by my photography abilities. Beyond amazing, they were captivating. So much so, I became separated from my tour group; a good thing. I was able to take in the “Secret Garden” alone. On the edge of a 400 year old pond, surrounded by reds, oranges, and yellows, encased within a city of millions and not a sound to be heard.
The rest of the afternoon was spent purposely trying to get lost in some very quiet neighbourhoods before heading to the overbearing bustle of Insadong. This was capped by the more than overbearing crush of an early evening return to Namdaemun. While Namdaemun is the complete opposite of a secret garden in an empty palace it is great fun to jostle intimately with thousands of bargain hunting comrades – for a short while. The reward for doing my best to search out decent wares and haggle over prices was an early evening visit to Korean National treasure #1. I had seen the great south gate before, but this was the first time to see it lit up. I finished the day by lounging peacefully alone and admiring the massive gate that once marked the southern entrance, but now lies near the centre of the burgeoning city. The craziness of the markets was well balanced by finding the hidden gems of solitude within Seoul.
-no taxi ride home this time, had to take the bus.
-I’ll put new pics up in the next few days.
-only three weeks remain on this adventure: yikes!!
-juggling performance went well, but think I’ll retain my amateur status.
-apparently no one else has any memorable taxi rides