Seoul 2013 : Day Four

{I know, I fell off the blogging wagon while we were in Seoul… but I am determined to get it all journaled!} After our "Day of Rest," we woke up feeling a lot more energized on Day Four. We decided to make the most of it, since it was one of our completely open days. We decided to take the Seoul City Bus Tour. Not only had it come highly recommended from a good friend, it seemed like a great way to see a lot of the city and it included stops at two places that were high on our list of destinations—Namsangol Hanok Village and N Seoul Tower. So after our "traditional" breakfast of Starbucks, we hopped on the subway and went over to where the bus tour starts.

{The subway is so empty on Sunday mornings…}

{I know I've talked before about how easy transportation is here… These screens cycle through Korean, English and Japanese…}

{And there are maps everywhere… even on the glass separating the tracks and platform. Sorry for the bad i*Phone quality…}

We grabbed the bus and started out. It was fun to drive through Seoul and see the sights, the people, and the general environment… and before we knew it, we were at the first destination—Namsangol Hanok Village! "Hanok" means "traditional house" and this village is where the government relocated five of these traditional houses for viewing. They are set up in accordance to how they would have existed during the Joseon era and they represent different levels from commoner to royalty. During the weekends, there are also cultural activities and games to give an even broader view of what life was like back then. In order to get to the village, you actually walk through a wide alley located between several tall, modern buildings. What a stark contrast, no?! I think both boys were going just to humor me, but I think they both ended up really, really enjoying it. {Please note : This post is about to get very photo heavy…}

{The gateway into the village.}

{I am constantly amazed at the ornate, hand-painted decor that is everywhere!}

{Spencer, as a Joseon-era soldier}

As soon as you entered the village, you could see the N Seoul Tower...

There was also a special display of carved ice sculptures...

{Kimchi jars carved from ice!}

There was so much more to this display, but my photos just don't do it justice… so large and so intricate. (You could walk through the whole display.) It was also packed with people… so we moved on to why we were  really here...

{The hanoks!}

{Spencer saw a 20-something Korean man posing on these steps… so of course, he had to as well…}

{Then he saw two Korean girls do this… When in Korea…}

And some sights...

It was about this time that some older Korean gentlemen approached Doug. I'm not sure how the conversation initially started, but it turns out that one of them was the Vice President for the World Pro Taekwondo Association. We told him that Spencer took Taekwondo and the two of them started a little banter. (Which was hard given that neither knew the other's language.) At one point, the VP asked to see Spencer's poomsae. Spencer had a rare moment of shyness and offered instead to show him the power of his kicks. One thing led to another and soon they were faux-sparring. Spencer cut the conversation short though when the VP offered to show him some poomsae moves. Spencer responded, "Oh, that's ok… I have a Master!" Shortly after that, we parted ways with them. Somewhat of an odd, surreal experience… but one that definitely added to the flavor of the trip.

We headed into the courtyard area, where there were lots of activities set up. One of the activities immediately piqued Spencer's interest—Writing a New Year's wish. He announced that he would write "Bring Milo Home" and set to the task at hand...

Then Mama helped him fold it...

And then it was time to add it to the rope!

We wandered around a little more...

{kimchi pots}

{More wishes… wrapped around a tree structure.}

We slowly made our way back to the outer courtyard where there were some artisan, period-specific handcrafts...

As well as period-specific games for Spencer to play...

After letting Spencer play for a while, we decided it was time to head on to the next destination, so we made our way out to the bus.

We grabbed the bus pretty easily, and after a short ride… we were at our next destination… the N Seoul Tower! Part of the allure for taking the bus is that it drove you up the majority of the very, very steep hill. We had to climb the last part, but so happy that it covered 90% of the hill for us!

{The N Seoul Tower!}

We got out of the bus, and took in the vistas at the "base" of the final leg of the hill.

{The brown building in the foreground is the Shilla Hotel, a famous hotel in Seoul.}

After taking in the incredible views, we made the trek up to the tower...

At the top of the hill, we greeted Haechi, the symbol of Seoul...

We purchased our tickets for the observation deck, then headed inside to ride the elevator up. Once you enter the elevator, they have you look up to view a screen on the ceiling. As the elevator rises, you see a video "blasting" your through space. Spencer thought that was a riot in itself and worth the cost of admission. Once you exit, you are in the observation room, similar to that of the Space Needle. (Ironically enough, the whole entire time, Spencer called the Seoul Tower the Space Needle. Go figure.) We walked around, enjoying the vistas from the top. As other visitors will tell you, the coolest part of this observation room is that on all the windows, there are cities in other countries highlighted, along with the distance to them.

We did a few laps around, taking in the miles and miles of Korea that we could see...

{This one is my favorite… see the shadow?!}

And then we headed back down (the elevator displaying the reverse… with you returning to earth) to the base of the tower. We then headed for the other unique attraction at the tower… the wall(s) of locks.

Traditionally, these love locks are left by couples to indicate their commitment… but many an adoptive family has left their mark there as well. :) When I told Spencer about it, he expressed the opinion that the lock should be for him and Milo since they were going to be brothers forever. Grasping the opportunity for a positive memento and activity for Spencer, I rolled with it and we picked out a lock before we left. Spencer chose to have their Korean names on the side with the phrase "Brothers 2B." He then drew a picture on the front. We walked up and down the wall, trying to find a good spot, and when we did, Spencer put his mark on Seoul!

By this point, it was the middle of the afternoon and we were all starving… so we decided to try one of the restaurants at the tower. We ended up choosing the "Best Burgers in Seoul" joint and it did not disappoint! We had a really delicious lunch of burgers and fries and got a much needed break for our legs and feet.

After "lunch," we decided we should jump back on the bus. As we were heading out, we stumbled upon a traditional Korean drumming performance. Spencer is absolutely enamored with the Korean drummers at Yale, so we knew we would be stopping to watch them. They were really good! We did, however, have to explain to Spencer that they weren't from Yale. The fact that they were wearing the same costumes as the Yale drummers proved very confusing to his five-year-old mind.

After the drumming performance, we headed down to the bus stop. We had to wait a while this time… and it was freezing… so we decided that we would enjoy the rest of the tour, but not hop off anywhere else. After the tour concluded, we took the subway back to the hotel. We had eaten lunch really late, so we decided to do a low key dinner of sandwiches in our room from Take Urban Cafe. They hit the spot! Like all the other nights, we got settled in and went to bed early. This night, not as early as the others… But we went to bed happy and content having spent the day exploring Seoul!