It snowed seriously in Seoul on Wednesday.
Instead of trying to take cover like everyone else did, I lingered out in the open, enjoying the feel of snow falling on my face and my clothes, taking endless photos at the risk of hypothermia to myself and my brave camera, who didn’t even flinch when snow fell into its lens.
The snow fell intermittently the entire day, not persistent enough to turn me into a snowman; it melts after a while.
Not that I would have stayed out in the open long enough to be turned into a snowman. But I might have tried for half one.
It was the coldest day I’ve experienced since coming to Seoul about three weeks ago. The temperature hovered at just under zero the entire day.
It’s fortunate that I just bought this fleece coat, which turned out to be really warm. I might have died if I’d gone out with the smaller jacket I’d brought from Singapore.
Of all days, Kay picked this coldest of days to go sightseeing.
We first went to the Japanese Embassy to witness a weekly protest by a bunch of old Korean women who had served as comfort women during the WW2 Japanese occupation.
The surviving victims who are still healthy enough (most of them are between 80 and 90 years old now) gather outside the embassy every Wednesday at noon to pressure the Japanese government into compensating them for their past sufferings and taking action against their tormenters.
They have been doing this weekly for almost 19 years now, to no effect. The Japanese government has all these years refrained from even offering an apology.
Only three victims attended this rally (maybe it was too cold that day for the others). The rest of the people around were their supporters and helpers, I suppose.
It was a very peaceful protest, even more peaceful than the anti-North Korean one I witnessed.
There was one woman speaking into a loud hailer, occasionally getting the small crowd to yell out in unison, but they were all rather gentle about it. After that, a bunch of young women got to the front and started singing Christmas hymns.
The brown building is the Japanese embassy. You can see some policemen stationed outside it, heh. Seems like policemen in Seoul are always sent off here and there to stand by at rallies and protests.
I wonder if some of them occasionally think, “Aww man, not again!” when dispatched for yet another such assignment.
The next place we went to was Changdeok Palace (or Changdeokgung).
After my last palace visit three months ago (to Gyeongbokgung), I decided that visiting Korean palaces is quite boring and not really worth the time. It’s just building after building, each building looking exactly the same as the one before.
All the buildings are restored to perfection so you can’t even feel any historic aura. You just feel like you’re visiting a movie set but there are no props or actors. You can’t go inside the buildings to look around and, even if you could, there’s absolutely nothing inside to see. They are all empty.
If you have a guide, it could be mildly interesting listening to some historical facts and trivia, but I still wouldn’t recommend it.
Kay didn’t heed my warning and insisted that he needed to see at least one palace since it’s supposedly one of the things you have to do if you come to Seoul.
So I went with him to Changdeokgung and we spent an hour freezing our butts out together with a bunch of tourists who didn’t look all too impressed, either. (The palace conducts two scheduled tours a day for each of four languages – Korean, English, Japanese and Chinese – each tour lasting an hour).
After the tour, Kay said, “I’ve come to the conclusion that palace visits are boring,” which gave me the opportunity to tell him, “I told you so!”
He had visited the Forbidden City in Beijing in 2007 and found it rather boring, also, so I can’t imagine what could have moved him to want to visit a Korean palace.
Anyway, it wasn’t all for naught. I took some photos in there.
After the tour, we went to sit in a nice cafe (within the palace) to thaw out a bit.
The cafe is classy, with nice decor and mood lighting. They serve all manner of hot drinks — coffee, tea, chocolate — all of which are produced from a variety of instant coffee machines.
The two counter girls stood there the whole time just collecting money and pushing buttons on the machine.
You can get a nice paper cup of instant hot chocolate for KRW3000 (S$3.50).
We had a nice buffet lunch at a small vegetarian restaurant called Hangwachae (in Insadong) so that Kay could have some healthy, wholesome food that’s a lot tastier than whatever we can cook up in our meagre kitchen with our meagre talents (or lack thereof).
It’s a buffet, so I took a little bit of everything to try, except those that looked too gross to try out.
Most of the stuff weren’t really to my taste. I can’t quite describe them. I guess it’s just me because this place has got some good reviews by vegetarians on the Internet. But it was alright, overall. I felt very healthy eating this meal.
I did particularly enjoy the sweet potato fritters (not too healthsome!) and the boiled potatoes (with a nicely normal salty seasoning). And I liked eating the brown rice with something that tasted like preserved bean curd sauce.
So, basically, it was mostly starch for me that meal.
The price was quite reasonable for a buffet, at KRW12,000 (S$14) per person.
Latest update on Kay’s condition:
His swollen hand has finally subsided to almost normal after he diligently massaged it all night.
But he’s got the most gigantic, horrendous, evil-looking bruise at the back of his arm.
I’m considering entering him for the Guinness Book of World Records. What do you think?