Monday, June 23, 2014

Random Acts of Art in Seoul

23 June 2014

Our new hotel in Gangnam-gu is definitely nicer than our previous spot, and we're making it "home base" - as in, we can leave our big luggage here while we travel elsewhere, and then come back.  We can have our meds sent here via FedEx.  We're good to go, and don't need another address in Seoul.  (And we seem to have marble walls.  When did you ever have marble WALLS in a hotel???  How cool is that???)

And of course we have the ever-present spa bath in the room.  Seems to be a basic Korean hotel item.  Of course, then I wonder if many Korean homes have whirlpool tubs, similar to the Japanese very hot bath.  Is this a basic household item?  I don't know.  It definitely is something to enjoy in a hotel room, though!

Thus far, our hotel rooms have also included a computer or two.  Not just wifi, but a computer in the room.  We have our own laptops, of course - but it's kind of cool that the room comes with a computer, even if we don't use it.

Last interesting and enjoyable thing that seems to be unique to South Korea - the mini-bar in the hotel fridge is free.  FREE!  We get water, which is normal in this part of the world.  But the juice, or iced tea or coffee, or whatever, is free!  And if we want more, we just call the front desk and they'll deliver!  Wow!  (Of course, alcoholic drinks are available for a charge.  Beer seems popular.  But free juice and tea and coffee - wonderful!)

So - summertime in South Korea is as wet as summer in San Francisco, or Seattle, or pretty much the entire Pacific NW area.  Today has been alternating rain and sun.  At least it's warm rain.

The hummingbirds on the manhole covers seem perfect for summer, even if we don't see any of them.  Same with the butterflies.  (What company puts butterflies and hummingbirds on their manhole covers?  I love it!)


So Gangnam-gu is more in the center part of the city, with all the usual urban stuff going on - coffee shops everywhere (which we need after getting soaking wet when we go out walking).  The major bus terminal is just a few blocks away.  There are all kinds of hotels, a hostel or two, lovely cafés and restaurants in a variety of price ranges - all the things we need for a nice stay.

And there are little hidden "open spaces" that house public art - all kinds of abstract sculptures in front of buildings, or under an overpass, or in some alcove.  Sudden little bursts of art.  There probably are signs with the title and artist, but of course everything is in Korean and we can't read a word of it.  But I like the urban feel of the abstract metal, and each time we make up a new story or meaning about the sculpture.  There are also occasional spots to sit and view the pieces, either benches, or little gazebos, or something like that.  And we often find a new sculpture we hadn't notice before, just little new surprises popping up around the neighbourhood.  So, well, we just are enjoying the art.

We haven't found any parks around here yet - but there's a café with a wonderful garden out front.  "Madame Butterfly" - isn't that a great name for a florist/coffee spot?  With carrot cake, of course.  Just one more lovely little place to hang out, especially on a rainy afternoon.  And with one of the best doors I've seen in a long time!

I also liked these tea and coffee containers in the little market nearby.  I do like milk tea - basically, British style tea with sugar and milk.  In Asia, it's served either cold or hot, and iced milk tea is surprisingly tasty.  (I'm less likely to try a toffee nut cafe latte.)  But I love the containers - Royal Milk tea adorned with a beautiful maiden from maybe 17th or 18th century England.  And of course the cafe latte drink features a dark and dreamy Italian Renaissance beauty.  As I said, random acts of art.

Also random acts of serendipity.  Does anyone else believe it was coincidental that the fruit truck parked right by the Apple Room?  (We haven't checked out the Apple Room yet, so I'm not sure what it is.)

Of course, we've also found classic Asian sculpture, such as the lion.  Perfect for a hat photo, right?  (There was a mature couple who were quite nonplussed while watching me take the photo.  They didn't laugh, just watched every move, every shot.  With interest.  Ah, those crazy Americans.)

So, when the rain stops we'll explore more of our neighbourhood.  Take the train to the zoo, which looks like a wonderful spot to hang out.  Maybe walk around Seoul Forest.  Visit the palaces, which date back to the 1400s or so.  Of course, if the rain keeps up there are all the museums to visit, but it seems as if some of the most beautiful spots around Seoul are outdoors.  There's also a hidden brook in the northern part of the city, set between two walkways and lower than the city level - sort of a small Zen-like hidden spot in the midst of the city.  

And shopping - Seoul seems to be a great spot for shopping.  I've been good, and only bought a new backpack - a bit bigger than my previous one, and better for those week-long side trips without the rolling luggage.  Pack came with a great label:  
"We want to be with you every time you're ready to run.  At the moment your dreams come true.  Whenever you travel to strange places.  When you're at the beginning of adventures.  We want to be with you for all the time to come, like your old friends."
I've never had such poetic luggage before!
Anyway, we'll spend some more time in the city before we head out, so we'll keep you posted!  And if I'm lucky, I'll find a spot where I can create some art, too!


  1. some helpful phrases, Romanised:
    BUS-ooo john-you john-ee aw-dee-yay ee soy yo? = Where is the bus stop?
    Juan-john shitty aw-dee yay yo? = closest bathroom?
    Meck-joo hahm-byong choo say-yo = A bottle of beer please
    cake = cake-ee
    coffee = copy
    chocolate cake please = chock-oh-laht cake-ee choo say yo
    delicious! = Mah shee say yo!
    So jew choo say-yo = a Korean whiskey please
    calm sah nee dah = thank you!

  2. chay nam pyun ee = my husband
    chay pween-ee = my wife
    pay koe poe say yo = we are hungry
    kwen chohn hee = very
    hy-en cha ga = cold tea
    oo-yoo = with milk
    salt tongue = with sugar
    have fun!