Saturday, February 24, 2007


Stupid Tourist Saturday!

We made our way to Bukchon via the Orange Subway line (Line #3) and started our walking venture. This part of Seoul is residential and commercial with many 'preserved' houses. The houses are lived in but they also serve as tourist stops hosting several traditional crafts.

Our first stop was to the Unhyeongung which was the residence of Prince Regent HungSon TaeWonGun of the Choson Dynasty. It was quite a bit smaller than some of the other palaces but the nice thing was that it was set up more like a museum. Rooms were made up to represent what they might have actually been like.

The male side of the house was completely separate from the female side. Most rooms seemed to be multifunctional accept the writing rooms. Apparently, it is important to have a room designated solely for writing. Furniture consisted of small tables, the occasional dresser, pads, pillows and screens. Not exactly comfortable and homey. Each room was accessed by stepping over an inconveniently tall sill. I guess it served as a reminder to take off your shoes.

Visiting these places in the winter truly baffles me. They lived in the same Korea that I am living in now. It is a Korea of subzero winters, snow, wind and otherwise rather harsh conditions. Yet, the walls of the buildings are paper thin and poorly insulated. There is no viable means for internal heating, i.e. no fire places. Either these people were incredibly tough...and I mean tough or I am missing something.

The rest of our walk through Bukchon was a little disappointing. Despite a map of questionable accuracy, we found all of the 'preserved' historical houses. Each was proudly indicated by a six by six inch sign that read Historical Preservation Society Visitable Traditional House (or something to that affect). There was nothing remotely visitable about them. They were boarded up tighter than hurricane preparation and when we tried the doorbell, all we got in responce was the yapping of a vicious sounding miniature dog.

We made up for the failure by buying DVDs in Yongsan and then going to the theater to see Babel. I can see why it got the nod from the academy. I liked it, but then I have some weird tastes in movies. It definitely isn't a feel good movie.

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