Saturday, May 2, 2009

071111 - Arriving Seoul, Changdeokgung Palace, Anti-FTA Demonstration

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I was assigned to Seoul for a 2-months project assignment and wanted to blog about it. Let’s not talk about my work; else it will be a boring story to read. Since there’s only one flight per day, I have to take the midnight flight 1.15am by MAS airline and reached Seoul at 8.50am local time (Seoul is GMT+9, ahead of Malaysia time by 1hour) on Saturday. Checked in with Fraser Suite at Insadong (famous for art and antiques) and I was impressed with the hospitality and room service. It’s a walking distance to my office. My Korean colleague, KS Choi told me it’s a 15 minutes walk, but it took me almost 25 minutes walk. Reason being, Koreans walk at very fast pace, just like the Japanese and Hong Kong people. I’m so envy as this so-called mini apartment is even bigger than the place I’m currently staying in PJ, sigh…

Shoe rack, but I brought only a pair of working and sport shoes each.

The dinning table which I hardly use, but beware, the glass top cost around USD1000.

Living room where I normally did my ironing, so that I can enjoy my favorites Discovery channel

Kitchen for me to cook my Korean instant noodle (price are slightly cheaper in Seoul, but the varieties are much more as compared to Malaysia) and spaghetti (my wife packed me some sauces).

I’m impressed they also provided me a front-loader washing machine.

My favorite two-seaters couch for me to relax and behind is my mini working table. Normally used for my surfing. The internet here is freaking fast, faster than my office line, hihi.

Wet and dry bathroom with long bath, no complaint :-)

King-size bed, but too bad…I’m sleeping alone :-(

My humble wardrobe. I’m only unpacked half-way. A safe box to keep my passport, flight ticket and currencies. Exchange rate is 1000won ~ RM3.70 in Nov 2007. Korea does not accept Malaysian currency. My advice is to bring some Korean won and bring all your remaining expenses in USD. The exchange rate is higher in Korea. I also found out, USD100 notes give slightly better rate than USD50/20/10/5/1 notes.

After settled down, I took a quick walk at Insadong and I saw this robot giving out balloons.

Cute colorful keychain for cellphone
I headed to Changdeokgung Palace, which is 15 minutes walk from my hotel. Gung means Palace and should be called Changdeok Palace or just Changdeokgung. Should I inform the Tourism Minister of Korea? The admission fee is 3000won and this is the only palace in Seoul, visitors MUST be accompanied by tour guide of your preferred language at schedule hours. Non-guide tour is only available on every Thursday and it costs 15,000won. Luckily I’m able to make it for English tour guide at 3pm

Ahh, she the English tour guide. Most of these tour guides are voluntary as this is the only chance for them to speak in English. Korean does not speak English with each other; it’s kind of weird for them.

Changdeokgung was built in 1405 in the reign of King Taejo (Joseon Dynasty: 1392 - 1910). However, it was burned down by the Japanese invasion in 1592 and reconstructed back in 1609. This palace was listed in the UNESCO’s World Cultural Heritage. The Donhwamun gate guards the entrance to the palace

After passing the gate, I came across Geumcheongyo, the oldest stone bridge in Seoul which was built in 1411; unfortunately the stream is now dried up.

Then I saw visitors making headway to the famous Injeongjeon Hall (the throne hall) where the seat of the royal throne was built in 1405


Side view of Injeongjeon Hall


The tip of the roof, which is a common sight in all ancient buildings in Seoul

Simple, yet refined elegance of these roofs

These stones marker are called pumgyeseok line up both side of the pathway leading to the Injeongjeon Hall.

During formal ceremonies, officials stood in front of them, according to their rank, inscribed on these stones

Sundial, an ancient scientific device to measure time by the position of the Sun

Public palace area but when I look closely, I saw this couple on the lower right. Judging by their standing positing and angle of their head, isn’t kissing prohibited inside the palace?

Royal family residence quarters



Path heading to the treasured Secret Garden (called Biwon in Korean) that had served as a resting area for the royal family members

The secret garden is particularly beautiful, surrounds with pavilions, ponds, tucked deeply away amidst trees and draping foliage that wipe out the noise and commotion of the city nearby. Korean said, the most beautiful time to see the garden is during the fall when the autumn foliage is at its fullest peak and the leaves start to fall. Well, I guess I was here at the right time. This will be perfect, if my wife is there.



Whoever passes under this Bullomun stone will live longer.

Another pavilion in a pond

Gigantic tree which is over 300 years old

A goat shape tree branch

2007-Nov-11 – Anti-FTA Demonstration near Insadong
After my visit to Changedeokgung Palace, on my way back to hotel and fortunately, I witnessed an Anti-FTA demonstration near Insadong.

Being a busybody, I should not use that word; it should be, Out of curiosity, I joined the crowd.


Here is some footage I took using my camera phone, quality may not be good. Some of demonstrators unearthed the floor bricks and threw at the police. At the end of the footage, the police are using water cannon and tear gas to disperse the crowd. Some were seriously injured after beaten by the police.
video
video
After the dramatic action, I walked back to Insadong and bumped into this guy promoting some awareness by giving him a free hug. Why not cute Korean girl?!!!

I bought this fish-like shape snack, 2 pieces for 1000won called bungeo. This sweet snack is molded in the shape of fish and filled with red bean paste, then baked. The stall is overcrowded, so I can’t take a good snap of the snack preparation. These also sold in 1-Utama opposite Jaya Jusco supermarket, but I have forgotten the price.

Tempted by the nice fragrance of red bean, I also bought flower-like shape snack, 3 pieces for 1000won called gukhwa. It slightly smaller and similar tasting with bungeo

Insadong street at night

Guess that’s my dinner for today. I smsed my wife using Maxis free SMS webportal (http://websms.maxis.com.my/index.jsp) asking her to call me using her Maxis line to my hotel landline. It costs only 20cents/min, much cheaper than any calling cards in Seoul after hours of research on the net. I’m paying her bill, anyway. After hours on the phone with my parent and wife (till my ear got swollen), I headed to the bed and tomorrow will be my first day to work in Seoul.

p/s: Aiden, if you read this blog when you grown up, dad missed you badly (he’s only 10-months old at that time).

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