Being cultural in Seoul – Korea house

Korea house
Originally uploaded by kdt

Somewhat by accident we saw a program of traditional song and dance. We had planned to see a popular kitchen pantomime, but our visit to the Korean national library had placed us closer to Korea house.

The program consisted of 8 parts, of which the head spinning finale was the most spectacular. The next most spectacular part was the photo session of a couple of hundred of pushy people with the beautiful stars. I’m surprised that the performers haven’t been blinded by the light digital compact camera flashes.

Be rest assured I joined the throngs to bring to you photos of the dancing troupe. Here is but one.

Visiting Libraries

Korean National Library
Originally uploaded by Helen K

Previous holiday blog readers will be wondering if we have visited any libraries yet. Well despite the lack of being able to read Japanese or Korean.. we’ve seen the inside of three.

The first was the public library in Hiroshima, then the public library in Fukuoka, and the third was the National Library of Korea.

Thankfully both public libraries were marked on the tourist map (makes you wonder doesn’t it). While going to the one in Fukuoka there was a wind storm, which made walking very difficult and we only had 10 minutes before it closed.

The Public Library in Hiroshima is in bad need of a face lift and some care. Nothing like 70’s lino to make the place look great. There were a number of men reading newspapers (doesn’t change anywhere in the world!), and mostly women selecting books from the shelves. Now compare this to the library in Fukuoka… While it was closing, it was a very impressive 3 story building. Huge entrance foyer, theatre attched, a number of self-checkout machines, public computer access and lots of wood used around the whole library. Definately a library that has had some money spent on its space.

The National Library of Korea was a little tougher to get inside have a look around than you might expect. Entry is by a smart card, one pass that has RFID. To get the card we had to complete an on-line registration form, in a registration office. This was not as easy as it sounds – given the complete lack of Korean speaking ability on our part!

The library is undergoing building works, and a number of areas used by the public have been upgraded inside (although not the walkways between the different sections). The first floor space is pretty speccy, where people use books requested from storage and computers. I didnt take many photos either – too many people and CCTV camereas. It will be great to see this place when it is finished.

The Third Country on Our Trip

Originally uploaded by kdt

In the past we’ve visited Germany for 18 hours, Singapore for six hours and Mexico for 4 hours! But we’ve a new record for our shortest visit to a country. We’ve visited North Korea for 5 minutes. Fortunately it was under the sound protection of the ROK Army.

This photo was taken from North Korea and shows the inside of the small “temporary” blue buildings built more than 50 years ago with the purpose of being used by either side and for talks between North and South Korea.

We traveled with the USO to visit the DMZ which included Panmujeon where the 1953 cease fire agreement was signed, the Dora Observatory where you can observe with big binoculars (but can’t take pictures), the 3rd tunnel.

The 3rd tunnel is one of four tunnels under the DMZ discovered by South Korea that were built to allow for a surprise attack by North Korea. The third tunnel was discovered in October 1978. Apparently 30,000 troops per hours could move through this tunnel. All I can say is that, if the troops are as tall as me there would be a lot of concussion and very few troops moving through. I thank the South Korean managers for providing hard hats. I’d been in hospital if I actually hit my head as many times as a I hit my hard hat against the rock.

Duck dinner in Seoul….

Duck dinner in seoul
Originally uploaded by Helen K

After an hour or more of wandering around the Namdaemum Market after the DMZ tour, we headed off to Tobang duck restaurant. This was reccomended by the Seoul City Guide.

Locating the place was easy, and ordering was easy (pointing works well), however we really could of done with some assistance in eating everything that was brought to the table. The place had a great feel, majority of tables had people sitting on the floor in the traditional style, but I think the head waitress took pity on us and gave us a normal table.

As you wll see by the picture, we ate what was called Sulfer duck shabu shabu shabu. Sorry I don’t know what the translation was… From the Korean, you are going to have to look that up.

Before the duck is brought to the table the gas is turned on and a bowl of water is boiled and greens are cooked in the water, then placed on a drain train. The duck is then brought out and is sat between the two. Of course as we are in Korea we are presented with kimchi (pickled cabbage), pickled garlic, onion, thin shaved slices of raddish, and a couple of other things we can’t work out.

Amazingly enough we managed to eat all the duck… But we really could of used your help H & T! The duck tasted very different from pekking duck – but it had a great taste that you would of loved.

News from the TV…

Japanese/Korean TV has certainly been interesting. How many people can you place on a TV show panel?… I counted 8.

However the CNN news ticker announced a few days ago that “Bejing is to host the 2008 Olympic Games”. Obviously first in the know!

Here in Seoul at the hotel we have access to the Armed Fornces network… now theres exciting TV. All types of information is provided from avian flu, to updates on the different war areas America is involved in around the world. There was even an add for the library at one of the bases… surprisingly enough they stock DVDs, magazines, and computer games.