(Both patriotic and gaudy, Korea never ceases to amuse)
Living in Korea for over 15 months now, it is easy to forget how fantastic it is to jump on a train and get whisked off to the nation's capital for a day or two. The more often I visit, the less harsh and crowded it seems. I have learned to lean into the bustling traffic and found an area I know well and love. Of course, the seasons changing, and I was well over due for a weekend of shopping and good food. The decision wasn't difficult - we were off to Seoul.
Laura hadn't been to the Prison for Korean citizens during the Japanese occupation before, so drug our sleepy bodies out of our hostel and headed there first. It is easily in my top 5 must-see's in Seoul. If you can't commit to the time constraints of the DMZ and don't want to wander the War Museum, this is a great opportunity to see the Japanese invasion from Korea's perspective. It truly makes the Korean War more up-close and personal, and is well-worth the trip. These are taken in the park around the prison.
My favorite part about the city has always been the juxtaposition of ancient and modern structures. A city with a huge economy and global standing that preserves its history is notable. Seoul is packed - with a higher population and a smaller area of land than New York City - and yet, it has five beautiful palaces in the city limits. It is truly impressive to me that Korea values its history so deeply.
Next, we went to the Folk Village. I must say, I was mildly disappointed. It was mostly "museums," that charged 3 or 4 thousand won to look at different types of traditional arts. You could pay more and learn to do one of them - like paint a fan or tie knots. Compared to Andong, which is actually like a village where you can see people's daily lives, it was lackluster. They had posted their website, gahoemuseum.org, but I couldn't get the site to work.
The more important point is that we had a fantastic weekend eating Taco Bell and Subway, meeting up with lots of friends for plenty of drinks, enjoying copious amounts of galbi, and shopping everywhere from Myeongdong to Insadong. Living the good life, obviously.