After days of amusement parks (as with all my trips!) I finally spent an entire day away from theme rides.
With no crowds to stress about, I took it a little easier this morning. My feet were hurting pretty bad, and I still had the abrasions on my heels to worry about. I gingerly made my way to the nearest convenience store - only across the street and a short walk to the next corner. By the time I got there, my left foot was already bleeding again! Luckily they had bandages which worked perfectly for the whole day. In fact, I hope they survive my shower so I can keep them on tomorrow!
I was about thirty minutes behind "schedule" when I left Seoul Station, and I took an extra 30 minutes to eat real fast at a Dunkin Donuts. It was the only thing obviously available in the area but I won't make that mistake again. The donuts were fine and the hot chocolate was hot and chocolately, but I had a bacon egg and cheese sandwich that was subpar at best. Anyway, with food in my stomach I headed for my first tourist destination.
Where I was promptly shut out.
It turns out that the main gate near Seoul Station is being renovated, and is covered by scaffolding. What is it with me and national treasure gates being renovated? Berlin, Hiroshima, and now Seoul. Any others I forgot about?
I walked through some underground mall nearby for a few minutes before I finished the trip to City Hall. I didn't go to the hall, but across the street is a palace with a part of the Contemporary Art Museum inside. The art was okay, but it seems like Koreans are largely run-of-the-mill - at least they were prior to the end of World War II. Nothing more-recent was on display. There was an exhibition of photographs of the royal family here too, meaning I saw very little art today that didn't involve film or lenses.
I also happened to be there at the right time to see the insanely long, very complicated, overly ornate changing of the guards ceremony. I watched for a few minutes, went to the Seoul Art Museum across the street, and came back to find the ceremony was still occurring.
The Seoul Art Museum seems to house only special exhibitions. There was a Tim Burton exhibition for ₩12,000 that I didn't go to, instead browsing the free collection of photography. It was interesting but there was no English for any of the individual works.
A short walk from the city hall area brought me to the Agricultural Museum. Three floors of exhibits teaching me about Korea's harvesting roots (pardon the pun) were fairly run of the mill (pardon the pun). The dioramas were nice but uninspiring. And the bottom floor was essentially an advertisement for big business agriculture in Korea. That said, it was free.
Just up the street is yet another free museum. If you have kids, head to the National Police Heritage Museum. There's nothing new here, but children will love looking at the police stuff. The second floor is an experience wing, where you can stand behind bars, learn about crime solving, handcuff a perp, and simulate firing a gun. For kids, this is pretty awesome. I had no instruction in how to shoot the gun, but its just a glorified video game gun with compressed air to give a bit of kick. You get seven shots in 70 seconds, and they score you on your accuracy. I got a score of 16, while one of the girls shooting next to me scored a 53! I'm not sure how that happened. I did get second place in my group though. Anyway, for some reason you can only do this activity a few times a day, and participants must be over 11 years old.
It was only 2pm when I finished my itinerary, even though I started an hour late.
I chanced upon the Seoul History Museum, another free museum full of exhibits. They had a good bit detailing how the city has been built up to the metropolis it is now.
After that, I still had plenty of time to search for baseball cards!
My target today was an underground mall near Seoul Station. There were no baseball cards, in the normal sense of the word, but I found a bunch of stamps, some lottery tickets, and some phone cards. Phone cards aren't cheap, even though they are from the early 1990s and I only want them for the silly picture. I'll give a full overview (scans, etc) on my card blog in a couple weeks.
I finished the day back at Seoul Station asking for some help in my search for baseball souvenirs. The information booth lady was polite enough but not very helpful. On the way home, as I was entering the extremely crowded metro station, I had to push my way through the crowds. More on that later.
Dinner was at a kebab place here in Itaewon. Not bad. And I had my first korean beer, Dry Finish, made by Hite, I think. Really light. I need to get to that brewpub down the street though.
Tomorrow, I'll do three big spots: the National Museum, War Memorial and Museum, and the North Seoul Tower. Plus I have yet another lead in the hunt for Korean souvenirs. So wish me luck until then...