This was a day for sightseeing led by composer Hyo-Won Woo and some other wonderful young composers and singers of the choir who joined us. The first destination was my choice--the traditional Korean artisan shopping district of Insa-dong. This area is full of medium to high end art galleries, artisan shops, jewelry stores, and so on.
A bit of it is slightly “touristy” but it’s pretty easy to spot the excellent shops and ignore the touristy ones, just like you would in any city with a district like this. I found some cool things to take home to Sherri and Aidan and we had another traditional Korean lunch including one really spicy dish which was quite yummy.
From there we went to the 13th century Gyeongbokgung Palace, a compound of many buildings, which have gradually been restored to their original condition. This was an amazing place, and you could really feel the history around you. The architecture and decorative details of the buildings are mind-blowing, and every few minutes various historically accurate rituals were played out by people dressed in period costume. l-r; Byung-Hee, me, Hye-Min Lee, Hyo-Won
After this visit to a very historic, beautiful place we met up with singer Hye-Sook Paick and went up to the Seoul Space Needle where you can see out over the whole city. This was an amazing little sidetrip and they also have a tradition at the top-- lovers, husbands and wives, or families can write a wish for happiness on a lock, and then entrust the universe to make their wishes come true as they attach the lock to a long fence and then throw the key over the side of the hill. There were tens of thousands of these locks attached there- it was very cool!
l to r; Hye-Sook Paick, Hyo-Won, Byung-hee, Hyu-Young
We still weren’t done, as it was dinner time and we met up with Hye-Sook's husband, Kyoo-Sang Choi, and sat down to what he described as a working class dinner at a small restaurant. Even on a weekday, the place was packed and I learned more about Korean culture as we roasted our own meat on the little vented individual grill at the table. Some of the small side sauces were delicious and we even roasted our own garlic for fun. We then made our way all the way across Seoul to Puchon where Mrs. Woo lives. We wound up at a very posh and intimate wine bar there and folks asked me to pick out a wine. We went into the storage area and I brought out an Oregon Pinot Noir, as I figured they might like to taste an American wine they might not think of trying themselves. They liked the choice, but Mrs. Woo’s husband, who had joined us, found a better Pinot Noir from Australia to compare to the first. Cheese and chocolate entered the scene and we had plenty of fun chat, including with a very funny Canadian transplant named Nikola Schicchi (not Gianni!). He was great fun to talk to.
It was finally time to pack it in- we had been sightseeing, eating, and chatting for about fifteen hours. The Korean people love to talk and socialize and I was glad that they wanted to do so with me- it was a great honor to be a part of this fun day celebrating Korean artisanry, history, food, culture, and friendship.