Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Seoul in Winter (Day 3: Kyobo Book Centre, National Museum of Korean Contemporary History, Gwanghwamun Square)

We set out in the late afternoon today, and paid a visit to the Kyobo Book Centre at Gwanghwamun to pick up a book for a friend and browse around to see what interests us. You can take the subway to Gwanghwamum Station and look for exit 3 (the store's entrance is connected to the underpass at the exit) or you can take the subway to City Hall and exit 4. Walk straight once you are out of Exit 4 and you will see the building with 'Kyobo' on your right hand side.We took the latter option as we did not want to change to another subway line.  The bookstore is located at level B1 and is stocked with mostly books in Korean language with a section for foreign books. There are quite a variety of things to look at besides books, such as the pretty stationery that the kids were very interested in. There's also a cafe inside the store, and the cosy furnishing allows visitors to simply pick out a book and do some leisure reading.

Browsing the shelves.

We spent the morning browsing and picking out some purchases before it was almost time for lunch. We thought it might be a good idea to hop over to the Gyeongbokgung Palace to visit the National Palace Museum there. However, we chanced upon the National Museum of Korean Contemporary History just a few blocks away and decided to go in and take a look.

The National Museum of Korean Contemporary History from the outside.

The galleries are divided into four halls on three levels based on four different time periods, from the pre-founding days 91876-1945), to the country's independence (1945-1961), development of the country (1961-1987) and modernization and future (1988 onwards). Entry to the museum is free, but we rented portable audio devices for the kids for 1000 won (~S$1.20) each. However, we found that there were sufficient information panels in English accompanying the exhibits for English speakers to understand without the devices.

Each hall begins with a lighted timeline highlighting the main developments.

The girls got quite good at using the the portable audio devices but they moved very slowly compared to Daddy as a result of following the long narrations.

A  mock up of a typical classroom during the war interested the kids. How about 80 kids in a class braving the dangerous environment to attend school?

The final hall has a mock-up of the presidential office overlooking the Blue-House (Cheong Wah Dae), which is the official residence of the President.

It was only midweek but there was an impromptu protest building up at Gwanghwmun Square right outside the museum. It was an angry reaction to a statement made by the President the day before, and although the main protests were scheduled for the weekend, we had the opportunity to see a smaller scale of that happening this evening. We took the opportunity to take some pictures and have a closer look.

Some of the sidewalks were lined with crowds listening to speeches and watching performances.

A police line marks the boundaries of the protests.

We noticed that under the statue of King Sejong was a small passage way leading to an underground museum, and since Mummy is a museum junkie, we decided to go in to take a look.The underground passageway is called the 'Story of Sejong' and links to other halls, such as the one telling the story of Admiral Yi-Sun Shin.

Navigational tools invented during King Sejong's reign.

Here we go into the underground museum... ...

King Sejong is perhaps best known for his efforts to unite Koreans under a common written language. It was almost 3 and everyone was hungry. We lasted only a short while in the museum before hunger got the better of us. We decided to visit the museum again another day.

On the way back we mingled a little more with the protesters and found something warm to fill us up. It was getting cold and soon it will be time for dinner.

When we finally made it back to the apartment, Daddy went down to empty the recyclable trash in the basement. There happened to be a lady there who helped to explain to him where each type of rubbish should go. There were different bags for large cardboard boxes, small plastic wrappers, aluminum cans, glass bottles, large plastic botttles and small plastic wrappers. Everything seemed to have a proper place. The lady was sorting out trash that was incorrectly placed, and was very helpful when she noticed that it was Daddy's first time doing this.

We had been snacking along the way back and did not get hungry till quite late. Daddy agreed to bring the girls out to find some food while Mummy did some packing of her shopping loot in the room.

Not exactly dinner, but it's the holidays, so let's make an exception.

Looks like something we have not tried, but we were not willing to pay 15,000 won was a cheese grilled lobster tail tonight. Perhaps another day when we feel like indulging.

Mummy requested a kimchi soup with rice-cakes from her favourite local eatery.

Daddy decided to try a new store he found in a narrow walkway near the apartment and picked out some beef noodles.

Pleased with the generous amounts of noodles and kimchi, but the amount of beef was  too little.

Another day was coming to an end. So quickly, a quarter of our family holiday was over just like that. It was a challenge to make the most of every moment we had in this special city without over-doing it by over planning and packing our schedule. We wanted to take it slow, and hoped to carry on the easy pace for the rest of trip. After quite a bit of walking today, perhaps one way to slow it down was to laze around Myeongdong for the whole day tomorrow? We'll see... ...

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Seoul in Winter (Day 2: Noryangjin Fish Market & Lotte Mart)

Day two did not start till mid-day! We were all recovering from the late night and travel fatigue (not to mention the wonderful comforts of the apartment) that we woke up real late. Of course, that did not deter Daddy from going out into the freezing cold for his routine pre-dawn jogs, 

The temperatures during Daddy's morning run were below zero, and the pond in the foreground had frozen over, covered with a layer of ice.

Beautiful breaking of dawn silhouetting a church crucifix.

Since it was almost lunchtime, we decided to head down to Noryangjin Fish Market where Mummy was craving the Flower Crab Stew she missed during our last visit. It's a dish from the stall of a particular old lady she had became fond of.

We took the subway to Noryangjin station and took the underpass to the market area, gawking at all the produce being sold along the walkway. Unfortunately when we reached the market, we noticed that the entire upper level had been gutted. Next to the original building was a brand new building that appeared more modern and clean. There were many vendors on the ground floor, with shops and restaurants on the upper floors. We were told that all the restaurants on from the original building had been moved here, but after asking around, we could not locate the old lady that sold the flower-crab stew Mummy had been looking forward to.

The upper floors were dismantled, but the wet market on the ground floor was still business as usual.

What was left of the upper floors of the original building. The writing on the wall seems to tell us to turn back.

The ground floor was business as usual

The new building had a ground floor with vendors selling fresh and live seafood, similar to what was sold in the original building wet-market area.

Mummy had a discussion with the restaurant owners on the second floor. Many of them serve their own specialties, but if you wish to have something fresh from the market below you can buy it up and request for them to cook it.

A shop selling processed seafood where Daddy picked up his lunch of sashimi to bring along to our next stop, Lotte Mart!

Mummy approached a restaurant owner to inquire about flower crab stew but he was going to charge a high price for it (his restaurant did not sell it but he offered to buy the crab for us and cook it). Mummy decided it was not worth it.  Since Mummy's craving was not to be found, we decided to head straight to Lotte Mart to do some goodie shopping and have lunch there. Friends had placed a list of orders with Mummy, and she thoroughly enjoys hunting for them. It seems to give her a deep sense of satisfaction to  bring back bags of treasures for all her friends. It helps that she has been here a few times, and has a keen eye for bargains and lowest prices.

On the way to Seoul station, we stopped outside the underpass to pick up some roasted chestnuts, which tasted wonderful on a cold day.

At Lotte Mart, lunch can come in the form of pre-packed foods bought off the shelf or cooked food from the stalls there. We sat down at the eating area within the supermarket area (there is a food court on the second floor) and and a hearty meal before going on our treasure hunt.

Kimbap with cream cheese and vegetables bought off the shelf.

Sashimi-to-go from Noryangjin Fish Market.

Kids ordered rice with sauce and sausages from one of the stalls.

We expected to bring back a lot more loot but after comparing prices with online sellers such as those from G-Market, we found the online sources to be cheaper for a number of items. We decided to have those items delivered to our apartment instead of picking them up from the shopping centre. We still had a cart-full, with some goodies for ourselves.

We headed back early and decided to buy in some dinner before an early night. The night was spent unpacking and lazing around, activity books we brought from home to finish up, and watching videos. It was the holidays, and it was starting to feel even more like it with a 'free and easy' holiday. Maybe another sleep-in tomorrow?