During the first week of November, I had the fantastic opportunity to travel and visit a dear couple of friends who are living in the city of Seoul, friends that I met a few years ago while living in Columbus, Ohio.
This is how I was able to keep my promise to visit them and at the same time accommodate my biological clock to the Asian time use. Because my second destination would be to attend a specialized course in Japanese textile techniques in the city of Fujino, almost two hours by train from the city of Tokyo, ... but well I will tell you that the story in another Blog.
Unfortunately, my friend's husband had traveled and I could not greet him, but that did not prevent us from enjoying a very pleasant week in a city that surprised me by its beauty, its art, and its people.
My friends live on the outskirts of Pyeontaek, south of Seoul, a beautiful rural area, with typical little houses with fruit and vegetable plantations in every square meter. Trees loaded with apples, persimmons full of bright orange fruits, rice fields that had already been harvested, edamame plants and other vegetables that I don't know their name. Amazing to see how each piece of land is cultivated with very primitive tools, without technology, and by an elderly population. The young people go from the countryside to the cities and there I only see old people diligently taking care of their lands and crops.
The first walk I took to the city of Seoul was with a friend of my friend who kindly dedicated her day off to walk with me the streets of this beautiful city. With her, I learned the public transport system by train and subway.
On a sunny day, we toured the area where artists, designers of clothing, jewelry, ceramics, and extraordinary "hanji" (rice paper) lamps have their shops and studios. There, the artists are truly highly specialized masters who display ancient artisan techniques of exquisite beauty.
While it is not very common for Koreans to speak in English, young people do speak it very shyly and are always very willing to help, guide and indicate directions to tourists. Also in different corners of the city, we found some very nice girls from the tourist office who helped us find a tiny vegan restaurant. Not only did they give us the address of the restaurant, but they also called them to reserve us a table.
And what a surprise, this place was attended by a nice and temperamental Korean, tiny and energetic that delighted us with its delicious vegan and homemade food. I liked being in that place so much that I went back to visit her another day.
We finish our tour by visiting a Buddhist temple in the center of Seoul, with an extraordinary flower exhibition and a few minutes of meditation in front of its golden statues.
The next time I went to Seoul I did it alone, I walked between the plantations to the bus stop, arrived in Pyeontaek, took the train to Seoul and then the subway to a market. As the market did not turn out to be the place I had in mind, from there I took another subway and went to Ehwa University which is a women's university. In the neighborhood, there are streets with very exclusive shops only for women. Korean ladies wear very elegant and stylish outfits.
The following days we went with my friend to a luxurious hotel in the city of Seoul in front of the Han River. From the 32nd floor, we had a privileged view of the river, the city and the mountains that separate South Korea from North Korea.
One morning we dedicate it to visit the royal palace Changdeokgung, with its intricate maze of royal precincts.
We were able to attend the classes of a teacher in stone seals that with great patience and in Korean guided us to carve our own seals on stone. From there we left very proudly with our hand-carved seals.
The next day our destination was to learn to build lamps with "hanji" (rice paper) and all its secrets. Also, the class was in Korean and the result was a pair of precious lamps.
That afternoon we visited the Museum of the University of Women that had an exhibition of textiles and vintage clothing, ceramics, jewelry, and crafts.
The week in Korea was intense and very interesting. Discovered a very beautiful city with traditional corners, with master artists, meet people and above all enjoy the generous hospitality of my friend.
November, despite being a cold month in the northern hemisphere, it was surprisingly sunny and not very cold, which made my stay very convenient and enjoyable to be able to spend much of the day walking outdoors.
The last night, we separated, my friend went home and I went to sleep at a hotel at the same airport in Gimpo to board my plane to Haneda, Tokyo, Japan very early. Staying at the airport hotel was very convenient because that way I didn't have to travel several hours to get to the airport at dawn.
That was my trip through the city of Seoul. If you have the opportunity to visit it, don't stop doing it. A very beautiful city, with friendly people, extremely safe and vibrant, still retains many typical buildings where you can see delicately constructed wooden windows and doors without the use of nails or screws. Ceilings with very ornate ceramic tiles, visit extraordinary master craftsmen and enjoy a rich and delicate culture.
Seoul Vegan restaurant
Rice Paper Lamps
Our rice paper lamps
Our Stone Seals
Sunrise at Seoul