Destination : Seoul – Day 4

Woke up to love bright skies and a cool breeze, perfect weather for what I had planned for today.

Grabbed my usual breakfast, though I got myself a second donut as I thought I should fuel up, and then walked down to Cheonggye Plaza. A lot of the buildings have some sort of statute or art display in their front entrance or courtyard. I spotted this one along the way. It had these huge pinwheels which actually do move, not just round like a clock but round like a roundabout. If you look carefully, just behind the pinwheels you can see Snow White and Dopey in the background amongst the toadstools.   

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The plan for today was to walk the full length (well almost the full length) of Cheonggyecheon stream and back. While I didn’t actually walk the full length of the stream, I walked what was considered the “official” length of the stream. The stream actually flows into a park but the map found at the Seoul Metropolitan government office that oversees the stream only goes up to a certain section.

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Courtesy of the Seoul Metropolitan Facilities Management Corporation website

According to their map, the total length is supposed to be 5.3 km (about 3.3 miles) but according to my iPod, I actually walked about 6.5 km (about 4 miles). It was just amazing to have such a place in the middle of the bustling city. The walking path and the stream are actually below street level but surprisingly enough you don’t hear the cars so you kind of forget you’re in the city. I started out taking a gentle stroll, stopping frequently to take pictures of the wildlife and the surroundings. It took be about 90 mins to walk the first length. I kind of knew I’d reached the end because a bicycle path suddenly joined the walking path. I did see a couple of groups of cyclists along the way while I was walking but the first group was a couple of kids while their parents followed on foot and the other group was a father and son where the son was riding on his bike but dad was walking his. Oh I did see a couple of older men riding bicycles along the walking path but they were the caretakers for the stream, so their excused lol.

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Under the last bridge there are some picnic tables and chairs so I took a break to have a little rest and to journal before making the walk back.  I picked up my pace for the walk back and it only took me about an hour to get back to Cheonggye Plaza but I was practically dying by the time I did. I completely forgot to get some water for my walk thinking I could get some along the way but unfortunately I wasn’t able to so my first stop after completing the walk back was the little “mom and pop” store nearby to grab an isotonic sports drink. Felt so much better after I finished guzzling I mean drinking that 500 ml bottle lol. Word to the wise, bring water!!!

From there I decided to walk over to Kyobo Books to take a seat outside their store, just to have a little breather and of course to journal. Anytime I know I’m going to be sitting down for a period of time (with the exception of when I’m on the subway), I usually take the opportunity to journal. Given that I was travelling along, I usually journal a lot when I’m having my meals but I always make sure not to over stay at the restaurant. I’ll usually journal while I eat but I won’t take too long either because then my food would get cold lol but once I’m done eating, the journal is back in the bag and I’m off.

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I really worked up an appetite after that long walk – hey it was a total of 13 km/8 miles – so I headed into Kyobo Books to check out what their little food court had to offer. I ended up getting pasta because I figured that would be the best thing to get my energy back lol. To be honest, it was either pasta or rice and I was worried that rice would just make me sleepy lol. One thing I have to stay is that Koreans make really nice tomato based pasta sauce. Obviously not as great as authentic Italian sauce but way better than most places back home who tend to go heavy with the tomatoes and less with the meat so that the sauce ends up being water and sometimes a little sour.

I wanted to take a photo of my lunch but given that it was a Saturday, there were a lot of families at Kyobo Books and the food court was pretty packed (well it was pretty small to begin with) and I was actually getting a lot of attention because there was “little ole” touristy me sitting in the middle of the food court with no other tourist in sight lol. What can I say, I prefer to eat where the locals eat lol. Given that I had a lot of “eyes” on – and I’m not kidding about that because there was a girl of about 12 yrs opposite me who made her little brother move to one side so she could watch me lol. I figured taking a picture and journaling would be a bit too “exciting” for her lol so I just ate my lunch as quick as I could and left lol.

Kyobo Books is actually linked directly with Gwanghwamun station, so off I went to the subway station to head to my next destination – Insadong. I took the subway to Anguk station and used exit 6 to get to Insadong. Insadong is actually a street lined with stores selling souvenirs as well as traditional merchandise and galleries. There are also a number of teahouses and restaurants offering traditional or vegetarian fare. There is a main street which is usually blocked off to traffic on the weekends with lots of little alley ways branching off. The area is of course quite popular amongst the tourists but the souvenirs are actually pretty reasonably priced. I got the chance to practice my Korean by asking how much stuff was hehehe. I managed to get most of my souvenirs and presents (for family and friends) at one store with the balance from another store.

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I also spotted a few stores selling seal stamps. Koreans, Japanese and Chinese all have seal stamps though I know back home the Chinese don’t use them anymore except maybe for Chinese calligraphy artists or very traditional people. I actually have one at home with my Chinese name on it. Yes, I have a proper Chinese name and no, it’s not a simple translation of my English name. When I got my Chinese seal done, I got it done with my sis so we decided to use just our Chinese names so there is no family name on that seal as our family name is a western one given that dad is from the UK. We probably could have used our mom’s family name as that is our Chinese family after all but it didn’t occur to us then. Anyways, when I spotted these Korean seals, I decided I wanted to have one with my Korean name. What I did was I took my mom’s family name, added that to my Chinese name and then translated it from Hanja to Hangul. The meaning of the Korean characters is actually close to the meaning of the Chinese characters with the exception of the last character but the last character is actually close in sound and is actually almost correct. You see the last character of my Chinese name means treasure or jewel and well the Korean word for treasure or jewel has two characters with the first character sounding similar to the Chinese character so I went with that hehehe. I actually translated my name a while ago and because it’s pretty similar in sound to my Chinese name, it’s easy to remember. FYI, very few people call me by my Chinese name and I don’t actually tell people I have a Chinese name and it’s not exactly on my official documents either because my mom “westernized” our Chinese names so no one realises it lol. My family doesn’t even call me by my Chinese name lol.  

I think the guy was a little surprised that I put a Korean name let alone the fact that I wrote in Korean without having to refer to anything and wrote it pretty neatly hehehe. It took him about 10 minutes to carve and cost me 30,000 won (about S$36 or US$29). He gives it to you in a little pouch which you get to choose the colour of and with a bookmark where he’s stamped and embossed the seal. You don’t have to put a Korean name or word, you can it in English or any other language you want. He had a sample board where he had some in English, Japanese, Chinese and Korean. You write it down and he’ll copy it for you. The price also varies based on which base you choose.

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I only walked along that main road looking at the stores along the way given that I was pretty tired thanks to my walk earlier. Instead of turning round and walking back to Anguk station, I just walked straight down and round the corner and got to Jonggak station where I hopped on the subway only to get off one stop later at City Hall and made my way back to the hotel. I decided to have an early night given that I was tired and I knew I was going to be walking some more the next day, didn’t want to overdo it,  so I grabbed a sandwich and dessert from the hotel’s restaurant – they don’t have room service but the kitchen is open 24 hrs so you can get food from the restaurant to take back to your room – and had dinner in my room.

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