Victoria to Seoul
We first visited Seoul in 2007 and 2009, when our son Chris was teaching English here and later, attending Yonsei University. As Chris was a good tour guide, we arrived this time with some sense of what to expect in this city of 25 million people. Again, we are impressed with the cleanliness, order and efficiency by which this vibrant and bustling metropolis appears to run. Two changes are immediately evident – the results of an emphasis on “greening” the city and a proliferation of coffee shops!
Our hotel (Nine Tree, a Lonely Planet recommendation) was in a great location in the heart of Myeongdong, within walking distance of Insa-dong and Gyeongbokgung palace. We spent some time getting over jet lag, reassembling our bikes and arranging with DHL for our bike bags to be sent to Japan to be retrieved later. The latter activity took some researching and negotiation, as we needed to ensure the bags can be held in Kyoto for several weeks until our arrival.
Saturday was Children’s Day, a national holiday celebrated on May 5. As we walked beside the Han River, we saw hundreds of small tents along the banks where families were picnicking and enjoying the festivities.
The highlight of our arrival in Seoul was meeting Shinyoung’s sister, Sunyoung, and family and re-uniting with their mother, near Osan. Together, we visited the site of the 18th C Joseon Dynasty Yungneung and Geolleung Royal Tombs at Hwaseong. They are a UNESCO World Heritage site, set in a beautiful lush and peaceful forest. Lunch was delicious and classic Korean fare with many fish, meat and vegetable dishes, sauces and condiments. It was a delightful visit.
We also enjoyed spending a couple of hours in the Seoul Museum of Art, our first visit. Of particular interest was an exhibition, “With weft, with Warp”, that uses the media of thread (embroidery, knitting, weaving, needlework) to explore issues relating to women and society and the value placed on “handiwork” traditionally created by women. A number of recent acquisitions of surrealist paintings gave us a glimpse of the pro-democratization movement of the 1980s.
We had expected to meet with someone from the Korean Movement Disorders Society today but our contact, a neurologist, was unavailable at the last moment. As we are keen to start cycling tomorrow, we will try connect with local rehabilitation specialists by phone along the way.
Coffee Notes: The Coffee Bean (8/10)