First off, lets state zack's rule for experiencing more of a city than you could ever hope to if you planned things out - lose something. Past cases: venice, Aimee and I lost, well, ourselves and spent 8 hours wandering around getting to see the little back streets and odd shops where people actually lived rather than where they funneled the tourists through. Cairns I arguably lost control of my faculties and had a ton of fun in the clubs I might not have otherwise gone to. And now Seoul - lost my prescription.

I get off of the train, take a taxi (boring) to a random hotel in the middle of the city and discover I've left my scrip on the train. A quick ransack of my bag to make sure then it's subway ride to city hall, to the train station, to the university, to the palace, back to the university and finally to a hidden cluster of pottery and woodworking shops that I could never have hoped to have found if I'd tried. Note, I actually did try to find it again, so far no luck. Anyway, it was 5 exhaustive hours of riding and walking and baking in the sun (seoul doesn't appear to be affected by the monsoon season) and I had more fun and got to see more things doing that than what I had planned.

A few things I noticed along the way;

  • The police never make eye contact. Their eyes may be pointed in your general direction but they don't really seem to notice you, it's kind of disturbing.
  • More with the police, half of the palace guards carry billy clubs, the other half carry what can only be described as billy katanas. Big sleak black plastic swords. I want one.
  • You haggle for everything. If you don't the shopkeep will haggle on your behalf (with himself) and actually not screw you over too badly. Sort of surreal.
  • A night in a luxurious hotel - too lazy to find a cheap one for just one night. I actually feel uncomfortable - out of my element - it's been a while since I stayed anywhere that didn't have a communal bath.
A meal of fried rice, some bad TV and a restless night of sleep...

Day 2

I woke up at 4:00 again, fine, plenty of time to see stuff before the noon train. I make my way to the royal shrine to find out it's closed on tuesdays, so instead I stroll around the outer walls on small residential side streets. I debate scaling the wall as I pass a low point but the sudden sound of chainsaws quickly settles that. There's an odd sort of poverty this close to a major tourist attraction - the streets are pristine but the homes just off the road are not - I guess they figure no one will notice.

Finally rounding the edge of the shrine I come to the second of two royal palaces, this one will open eventually so I take a seat at a gas station market across the road and wait for it to open. There isn't much to look at so I take the time to jot down some notes:

"while I appreciate the infrastructure of a larger city I far prefer the environment of a smaller town with rare exception."

"Old mixes with new - slatted metal roof abuts a gabled tiled hut"

"A rare cat dining on old tuna flees as I approach, the sleeping homeless man makes no move, my relative wealth embarases me."
I guess I was feeling philosophical. The palace shows signs of opening, I make my way over only to find that access is on a strict tour basis only. Cursing my luck I wander around the side where a gardener at another entrance lets me snap a few pictures just inside the gate before sending me on my way, a plesant old man.

And that leaves me here in a smokey little internet gaming cafe trying to figure out what I want to do for the next two hours. I think i'm close to those shops. Maybe my luck will be better this time.


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