Although I was starting to get the hang of the subway system in Seoul, third largest in the world (after Tokyo and Moscow), I was grateful for the efforts of Don and Chris to meticulously plot our course whenever Miriam and I went “out and about” without them.
Knowing the “next” station and the “end of line” stations before we boarded any train going any direction was a huge blessing to my anxiety-ridden well-being. As I’ve always said, “Give me a lesson plan and I can follow it!”
Therefore, when we headed out to the Gyeongbokgung Palace, which took three subway transfers, I felt the confidence of the Little Engine: “I can do this! I can do this! ” And I did!
We’d packed a lunch of leftovers—chicken and chips, and I bought a coffee when we picnicked in a shady portion of the palace park. It was in the mid-80s, but with a light cloud covering, no harsh sun and gentle breezes. A small gathering of magpies, pigeons and teeny tiny wrens cleaned up our crumbs, and I felt blissfully happy to be in this place, at this time.
It was a Thursday, virtually no crowds, and we leisurely strolled the palace grounds and explored the Folk Museum. I found some really neat souvenirs (a.k.a. “happy crap”) for a few friends that are representative of the folk art, promising hope and good luck and driving misfortune away.
Outdoors, we saw giant “fermentation pots” (enormous clay urns) of soy paste and/or kimchee from many Korean regions. The sun heats them enough to create the chemical change after other ingredients are added.
Ponds surrounded several red and green pagodas, brimming with Lily pads just beginning to bloom. Or maybe they were Lotus flowers—I’m not a gardener, and Miriam wasn’t sure.
Our timing was perfect when we arrived at the Gwanghwamun Major Gate, and we got to observe the changing of the guard at 2 p.m. I have no idea how those guys, all with matching facial hair, manage to stand like statues as long as they do, in full sun, and in full traditional uniform.
Tourists were encouraged to stand next to the guards for photos, but we were cautioned not to touch them or their equipment. I surmised aloud that “I suppose a kiss would be out of the question, too,” but the guard didn’t even blink. I think surmised he must not have understood English. Ha!
It was another perfect day. No missteps on the subway is always a definite Win in my book!