A Korea in high places

It the first day of Chuseok, a three day holiday when Koreans head out to visit their families and many places close. Roads, trains and flights out of Seoul are packed as residents head home to their family villages.

Whilst many establishments are closed for the holidays, for others it is an opportunity to visit without crowds of locals.

After breakfast we catch the subway to Myeongdong and begin walking up the slopes to the Namsan Mountain Cable Car. It’s warm and humid and a tiring walk.

There’s a bit of queue waiting for the cable car, but the air-conditioning is welcome. We it’s our turn they pack us in tight, but we still get a view of the steep ride to the top, over green forest and traditional buildings hidden within.

There are more stairs at the top. First to a viewing around covered with romantic padlocks.

Beyond this is a structure of five brick chimneys, tools of the Joseon era for transmitting smoke signals across the kingdom.

There are already magnificent views across Seoul, but we want to see more, so we buy tickets to Seoul Namsan Tower.

There are pretty light shows to entertain while we wait, then another within the elevator up the tower.

From the seventh floor we can see views across all of Seoul, or at least as far as the haze will allow us to see. It’s a way to orient ourselves in the huge city.

We return to Myeongdong, down the emptier cable car, but noticing the queue to go up now stretches out to the road.

Myeongdong is thrumming with foreign tourists. B wants a barbecue grill for lunch. We ignore the touts and find an all-you-can-eat grill via Google.

An American accented waiter shows us what to do. Grill your beef and pork, cut into slices with scissors, serve on lettuce with vegetables and sauces.

It’s delicious and filling.

Afterwards, we walk past a long line of food stalls, too full to eat anything but an ice cream coated with blow-torched marshmallow

The big department stores are closed for Chuseok and we are tired enough to head back to Dongdaemun and the hotel via a different subway line.

While B and Alex go to the hotel, I decide to explore the Dongdaemun Design Plaza by myself. There’s one of those moving art exhibitions.on for Alphonse Mucha, who I’ve never heard of before, but was still able to appreciate. I do wish I’d saved my money for a different exhibition further up the huge empty white sloped corridors inside the DDP.

I walk all of half of a kilometre to the top, then emerge into a garden of those flapping tubes you see outside car dealerships. But it is a beautiful place and the walk outside gives a different view of the architecture.

When I get back to the hotel Alex is busy playing games with his friends over the phone and B is asleep. I sleep a while myself.

For.dinner we go to Gwangjang Market, a couple of stations away. Though the shops are closed, there are rows of food stalls open beneath the covered arcade. Tourists and locals squeeze their way through before making their selection. But the stalls all seem to sell the same things, japchae noodles, tteokbokki rice cakes in sweet red sauce, gimbap sushi rolls, stews and pancakes. We try a few. It’s okay, though the pork is very fatty.

Rather than the subway we decide to walk back, partly retracing last night’s steps down the Cheonggyecheon stream again.

The clothing stores are closed, though there are knock-off stalls along the street. Instead we cross the road to the Dongdaemun Design Plaza and I take them on a night walk around the outside. The temperature is perfect and people relax and enjoy themselves around the architectural marvel.

It’s ice creams from a Seven Eleven for dessert and a little bit of an earlier night. My feet still hurt though.

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