19 November 2005

More Images from Seoul

While the corruption continues back in the United States - an attempt by Rep. Murtha (D-PA) to immediately set up a withdrawal timeline from Iraq was shot down in Congress - I am, still for now, away from all that mess, enjoying myself in Seoul. As long as I don't watch APEC-related news and its inevitable focus on W, I am okay - for the most part.

Here are some more images from my day in Seoul. I was visiting downtown and a few other areas to re-visit my old hangouts, find new hangouts, and visit places relevant to my novel, Perfect Girl. The novel-related pictures have been uploaded to the novel blog.

The National Medical Center is located near the old city's East Gate (Dongdaemun). It is noteworthy as my birthplace - and also where I returned throughout my childhood for regular checkups.

Walking from the National Medical Center past a row of Cyrillic signs, I came to this noodle house, serving North Korean cold buckwheat noodles (naengmyon). The place is called Hungnam House; Hungnam is the port for the North Korean city of Hamhung. Founded in 1953, this place is extremely popular with North Korean refugees and their descendents. I was a regular here too as a child, but was unsuccessful tracking this place down on my own until last year. I had my lunch here today.

The United States Army Corps of Engineers maintains the Far East District, which serves US military and civilian installations throughout South Korea. The red building in the center is one of the buildings of the Far East District headquarters, located next to the National Medical Center. Security is tight here, as is the case at all US facilities throughout South Korea.

Cheonggye Cheon (Creek) flows east through the heart of downtown Seoul. In a sign of progress, the heavily polluted creek was paved over in 1959, and a wide boulevard and an elevated highway were built over it. In a sign of further progress, the boulevard and the elevated highway were demolished, and the creek cleaned up and restored, in the past few years; the work was finished on October 1, 2005.

I headed over to the Insa-dong Antique District to explore places I mention in my novel. I ran across this woman doing on-the-spot calligraphy. She was writing what she called "butterfly letters."

Heading south across the Han River, I visited the Rodeo Street in Apgujeong-Dong district. There were lots of boutiques, restaurants, and such, allowing me to experience the cutting edge in Korean fashion. Too bad I did not have the "proper" presentation; I was badly wishing to be one of the numerous plaid skirts that line the streets of Seoul these days.

The feeling only intensified as I moved on, returning to Jamsil to visit the Lotte Department Store there and see the latest Korean and foreign fashions. It felt so bad to see a MAC Cosmetics counter there and NOT be able to get a makeover this time!

Jamsil's Lotte Department Store is part of Lotte World, a giant complex including a hotel, a shopping mall, and the world's largest indoor amusement park. I went to Lotte World's skating rink and found this band playing Christmas carols. The numbers were mostly traditional, but also included Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas Is You," a very appropriate number, as back in 1994, I had spent a lot of time here at Lotte World listening to Mariah Carey - and lived to tell Mariah herself about it when I met her later that year.

This is it. Maybe I'll log on from Incheon Airport one more time tomorrow, but this wraps up my Korean itinerary as I return to California tomorrow.