Well I can't sleep so I may as well type up the Seoul report. We knew that we had a hotel room provided by the airline for our 26 hour layover, but we didn't know that it was in the heart of downtown Seoul in the MyongDong shopping center, which, if you are a 20something upscale Korean person, is the place to be on a Saturday night.
After a wee bit of asking about at the airport, we found our way to the correct desk and found a very hospitable young man awaiting us. He scurried us through money exchange and ticket buying and onto the bus to our hotel. As we drove into town, we were a bit surprised to see Hammering Sam's galpal here. We were even more pleasantly surprised to find ourselves in a very nice hotel (excepting the malfunctioning air conditioning of course).
We had a very light complimentary meal at the hotel and then wandered about in MyongDong area. The contrast between Seoul (green foliage, healthful and wholesome looking people, big wealthy city) and Khabarovsk (dead grey late winter, sallow complexions, and Soviet style buildings) was quite sharp. The fashionable streets were filled with fashionable young people and fashionable shops. As we strolled along a young man approached us asking for help with his English language homework. We answered his questions and smiled a lot and eventually his hands stopped shaking. We very graciously presented us with a wrapped gift (two lovely coffee cups) and his profuse thanks. How lovely. There we were in a humongeous city and within the first few hours a stranger gives us a gift.
The next morning we made a bee-line for the LUSH store. More pictures? Well, if you insist. (If you have no idea what LUSH is, click the pretty pictures to your right.) There were five LUSH stores in Seoul and I only visited one. How's that for restraint?
Then we toured a historical but unoccuped palace (I forget which, dreadful, I know) and wandered the streets. The last member of the Korean royal family lived in the palace we say until he/she died in 1989. The Royal family was pretty much decimated during the decades of Japanese occupation. As we strolled along, we crossed paths with these lovely matrons leading a wedding procession. And here is a cute tour guide from the Palace of the Forgotten Name.
We very much enjoyed Seoul and Korean people: gracious, warm, and wholesome. After a week of being glowered at, it was so refreshing to be able to assume the good-will of strangers. Jamie especially enjoyed the large platters of sushi and I even got brave and tried some kimchee, though I did rinse it off in my Udon bowl first.
It is now 2:25 am and I am still wide awake and Jamie just got up cause he can't sleep either. Tuesday is going to be a long hard day.