The tale continues.
A place that I’d never heard of in my little fandom bubble, but that was recommend for tourists to check out on a lot of travel websites is the War Memorial of Korea, which is where we headed off to on this day. I’m not very interested in war and the machines of war, i.e. planes, tanks etc, but the statue of brothers (google it to find out more about it) definitely got to me. The Korean War wasn’t just a horrendous war, it was a war between brothers, a war that tore a nation and a people, families, apart. And why? Because both the US and Soviet needed to feel special? We’re not going to go into the reasons behind the war etc, but it was a horrendous thing that took place, for no good reason.
The outside exhibit of the memorial was full of planes etc which didn’t peak my interest all that much, but that did make for a nice view while strolling around. I know some people who would have peed their pants just at the thought of this exhibit, but I am not one of those people.
The cutest tank ever.
In front of the main building there was a big military demonstration, complete with guys dressed up in old-fashioned uniforms going at each other martial arts-style and 70+ people twirling and firing their guns in perfect unison. This final part with the modern soldiers was both amazingly cool to see and kind of unsettling. South Korea is technically a country at war and seeing them show off their military in such a way (even though it was just a cool show for tourists and school kids to enjoy) set to what sounded like a film score meant for a dramatic battle scene was really quite unsettling. It was impressive, which made it almost scary. I’m not sure if you’re at all getting the feeling that I’m trying to describe, but all I’m saying is that seeing a country at war proudly display their military provess feels a bit off.
According to VisitKorea, the War Memorial of Korea serves as a national moral educational venue, and when walking through a few of the museum’s exhibition halls that definitely came through. In Sweden if someone had tried to put together an exhibition on a former war in such a blatantly and almost ridiculously patriotic way, they would have been laughed out the door and probably accused of racism. But maybe, since the Korean War isn’t truly over, it is natural to display it in such a way, to make sure the people keep the faith? Does the South Korean people really need an exhibition like this to know that it would not be great if North Korea won?
After we’d gone through the museum and re-educated ourselves on the happenings of the Korean War, we decided to walk to Itaewon, since we weren’t too far away from there and had yet to check out that part of Seoul. I wouldn’t say that I disliked Itaewon, but how it clearly caters to foreigners did make it seem a bit less charming in my book. I’m not the kind of traveler who’d like to feel at home while I’m not, because what would then be the point of traveling? We didn’t really spend that much time there though, so there very well might be plenty more awesome things about Itaewon that we didn’t see. In Itaewon we got some more bibimbap (we had it a lot, because it’s easy to get it made vegetarian, and it’s so good) and drank some weird raspberry wine that I still haven’t decided whether I hated or not.
That looks like a goddamn ‘VisitKorea’ photo. Someone should hire me.
After having stopped at a very fancy salon in Itaewon so that la boyfriend could get his hair cut, we headed home and started preparing for another night out of partying in Seoul, I mean, it was Friday after all. We had some soju and makgeolli at home, so we decided to play some drinking games just the two of us, which meant that by the time we headed to the subway to get to Hongdae, I was already pretty drunk. We went to a club/bar (it is what you make it. More club than bar though) called Super7 and somehow ended up in a big gang of people wildly dancing (I literally don’t know how we ended up there because my boyfriend just pulled me over there after I’d gone to the bathroom. How he bonded with them is a mystery.). We then proceeded to get down, even getting super turnt up to ”Fantastic Baby”. One thing though, I’m not sure if it was because I’m an obvious foreigner (I have a feeling that’s the case) but some of the Korean guys there were a bit too liberal with their words and where they put their hands. I’m not gonna go into too much detail, since I think you get the picture, but I felt like that was a bit strange since I was quite obviously there with my boyfriend. Ah well. Guys can be creeps all over the world, I suppose. Also, side note: you can smoke in Korean clubs. What’s up with that? They have smoking booths on the street, but you can smoke in a crowded club? Not sure how great I think that is. Well, after an awesome night of partying, despite the creepy guys, we walked home (the subways stop running at around midnight-ish) and were asleep by 3AM, which for Korean partying is nothing.
I was a little bit hungover when I woke up, but it wasn’t so bad and after having gotten real domestic with him going grocery shopping and me doing the dishes and figuring out the recycling we headed off to the Jongmyo Royal Shrine, which is a world heritage site. I have been getting more interested in the Korea of the Joseon Dynasty recently, so seeing the primary place of worship for kings of that time, and where many royals’ spirit tablets are kept was very cool. It was also nice to just stroll around the kind of park-like area, because we did not find many places like that in the bustling city of Seoul.
Entrance to the shrine area.
A sign that should be in more places.
Gorgeous, if I may say so myself.
After checking out everything there was to see at Jongmyo, we strolled away to, as always, try and find some food. On the way we bought some traditional Korean cookies and candy in the street, and finally ended up having some kimchi pancake (which came with MASSIVE amounts of kimchi on the side) in Insadong, where we then also did some light shopping.
Unlimited amounts of kimchi.
Traditional Korean “cookies”.
Traditional Korean “candy” = basically a giant slab of peanuts trapped in honey.
After this we were about to head home, but since we realized we were super close to the Jogyesa Temple we decided to go there first. The Jogyesa temple is very big and being the center for Korean Zen Buddhism, it’s an important one as well. I knew from previous travels in Thailand how beautiful Buddhist temples can be, and this one did not disappoint. It is an active temple though, and there were people praying in there, so the few photos I took of the inside of the temple I took from outside, since I of course didn’t want to be disrespectful and disturb people at prayer.
Giant gold Buddhas inside the temple.
The lantern game is strong in this one.
After the temple we walked along the Gwanghwamun Square, which is even prettier at night, and headed to the subway to go home.
Yi Sun Sin is always watching.
This was the last full day we had in Seoul, so it was about time that we headed to the part of Gangnam were loads of the kpopping activities of this country have their center. When we got there we ended up finding the ”K-Star Road”, basically a road lined by what’s known as ”Gangnamdols”, basically giant bears (?) that represent a bunch of different kpop groups, and yes I took pictures of all of them and yes I will show you all of them. They were really cute and it was fun to see in which way whoever designed them had decided to show off that specific group’s characteristics.
My face when told to pose with the SHINee one.
Me failing at posing with the SHINee one.
And finally: Block B.
We also passed by the SM… something. It wasn’t the real SM headquarters, I think it was some kind of touristy place, but we didn’t go in, so I can’t verify. It did have giant pictures of select SM groups on the outside of it though, one of which was Girls’ Generation which meant that I got to…
Hug Tiffany’s face. It was completely necessary.
The K-Star Road was supposed to guide us to different entertainment agencies’ headquarters but it ended up being spectacularly bad at it’s job… It did allow us to find the JYP building though and after having stared at it for a little while we promptly decided to head into the Dunkin’ Donuts next door and hopefully, if we were lucky beyond belief, we could see some kpop stars going in or out. We didn’t. But we did get to have donuts, and that Dunkin’ Donuts was filled with posters etc of mostly, but not only, JYP idols which fans had drawn and written on. And there were even some autographs from some JYP idols in there! Even idols need their donuts.
Posters. And yes, I did leave my mark on these.
Donuts for days.
We then wandered off and somehow ended up at the actual SM building, which was tucked away almost inconspicuously. But we found it mohaha. Of course we didn’t see anyone though… We also stumbled upon the FNC building, which was staked out by a few international fans. We decided not to join them though, since… well… no. Instead we went off to try and get some food.
We ended up each eating a kimchi pancake at a place that looked like it would be super cheap but definitely wasn’t. But what can you expect, we were in Gangnam after all.
My boyfriend then really wanted to go rock climbing, so after doing some research we ended up at this massive climbing wall right by the Han river. That area next to the river was really nice, and seeing the light from Gangnam across the river was very pretty in the dark, so it was a bit of a shame that we hadn’t gone there earlier in the trip. But oh well, what’s done is done.
Massive climbing wall.
People chilling by the Han river.
Tune back soon for more!