Monday, March 19, 2012

Namsan Mountain

In the center of Seoul city lies a hill which they call Namsan.  On the top of this hill is a large tower which can be seen from all over the city.  The tower is lit up at night with different colors of lights and  projected onto the tower is a spectacular show of light art.

The mountain (as they call it) is paved with some wonderful rubber track paths for walking or jogging the perimeter of the mountain.  There is a large park on the south side of the mountain which we have yet to enjoy.  Bob and I spent one Saturday afternoon trekking up our side of the hill.  It all began with an elevator/escalator type ride up the base of the mountain.  From there we enjoyed a leisurely walk around the north side of Namsan.

We decided to take a path the led to the top of the hill.  Koreans construct well-paved paths!  And they love their outdoor exercise stations which are everywhere.  We found the remains of a "great wall of Korea" which was an extensive stone wall that once encircled the city of Seoul. 

We were surprised and delighted to find a variety of entertainment being provided near Seoul Tower.

 Large brick chimney's were strategically constructed on the peaks of the mountains along the fortress walls as a means of communication in case of enemy attack.

Most surprising and unusual of all, however, were the walls of the observatory platform at the top of the mountain.  Millions of padlocks and key chains adorned (if you want to put it nicely) the fences, railings, trees and sculptures found there.  Carefully attached to each was a love note or poem dedicated to one who captured their heart!

 All of this in our backyard!

Coex Mall Excursion

Bob needed to attend a meeting down south of the Han River in a part of Seoul called Gangnam.  This is a very modern and upscale part of Seoul and many Koreans aspire to live there.  It is also very crowded and busy, but is a fun place to visit.  There is an underground mall there that is very popular with the younger generation.  I had visited the mall previously to visit the Aquarium (see post "Seoul Searching"), but wanted to see some other things in the area.  As I approached the COEX (exhibition buildings), I noticed an armed soldier standing on the roof.  Getting closer, I realized there were military personnel all around the area, and caution tape prevented people from getting near the building.  People gathered around with cameras trying to document what was happening.  I was one of them!  There was a military vehicle parked nearby with armed soldiers on the upper deck.  Suddenly, a city bus drove into the area and immediately the armed military vehicle sped forward until it crashed into the front of the bus.  A ramp was rapidly released from the deck of the military truck which smashed into the front window of the bus and shattered the glass.  The soldiers ran down the ramp and into the bus pointing weapons and shouting at passengers.  A man was taken hostage and forced into the military vehicle, which then sped away.  It was like witnessing a scene from Mission Impossible!  At first I wondered if there was a real threat, but the smiles on the faces of the soldiers convinced me otherwise.  I could not communicate with anyone well to find out what had just happened, but I asked a guard if this was a military exercise to which he replied in the affirmative.  For just a moment, I realized the threat of North Korea, and was reminded of wars and rumours of wars throughout the world.

After the excitement died down, I noticed some of the surrounding scenery.  I love all the Korean sculptures and innovative building designs.  The Buddha sculpture across the street was something I would have to check out with Bob after his meeting!

 The inside of the mall was equally artistic.

My destination today was the Kimchi Museum.  You can't talk about Korea without mentioning it's love for the distinctive flavors of Kimchi!  They say it takes eating it three times to acquire a taste for it.  That held true for me, but I don't think Bob has made it past the first one or two attempts.  The fermented and pickled flavors are generally either loved or hated.  I find myself somewhere in between.  The health benefits associated with eating it are really quite amazing, if you can believe everything you read.  It is rich in vitamins and minerals, anti-carcinogenic, anti-aging, low in calories, cleans intestines and lovers LDL cholesterol.

After dinner with Bob, we walked across the street to see the largest statue of Buddha in South Korea.  The temple grounds were beautiful and peaceful amid the bustle of the city.  I will have to visit again during the day.

On our way home, we drove down the "Rodeo Drive" of Seoul.  I was only able to capture the dazzle of the Galleria amongst the glamorous window displays lining the streets.  One more reason to return another day.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Grandma Goes To Geoge Part 2

Everyday life with a two-year old girl is exciting, but when you have one as creative and imaginative as Emmie (as she calls herself), life is a blast!  Of course, it helps to have such a fun mom.  With outings to Baskin Robbins, the market and to ballet lessons, along with painting projects and pretending with her animals, Emma kept Grandma very entertained!

The last day of my visit, we returned to the Expo Center in Busan to visit a trick art museum.  What a great place for photo enthusiasts such as Stephanie and Ben.  Below is  a portion of our family gallery of art.

 It truly was a picture perfect day!