I started off spending the morning planning my itinerary for the day. I have decided that I will use Seoul's extensive Metro (subway) to get around in the city. Did not end up leaving the hotel until 12:30. So I began by getting a bite to eat at a restaurant that I can figure out the menu, Burger King.
Walked to Yeouido (526) station on Line 5 to begin my journey. Fortunately the ticket vending machine has English instructions. It was quite easy to get a ticket, although I did not realize there is a deposit to the Metro Single Journey card. I figured that out when I reached my second stop Seoul Station.
My first stop of the day was City Hall (132) on Line 1. Since it is the weekend I was going to check out City Square. Unfortunately when I arrived it was pouring rain. Everyone was stuck at the Metro exit waiting for the rain to stop. I decided to wait along with the locals at exit 2, the entrance to Deoksugung (Palace).
Apparently most locals are like me, hates to carry an umbrella. All of a sudden a lady with a cart load of umbrellas came to the Metro exit, selling umbrellas for KRW4000 each.
Since I was not in a hurry I decided to wait it out. Several minutes after the lady sold umbrellas to every locals waiting with me the rain stopped and sun even came out.
I decided to do some people watching and photos of the palace entrance. There was an admission to get into the palace compound, so I decided to just hang out at the entrance.
All of a sudden a palace staff started to clear the area in front of the entrance. Saying something about the changing of the guards. I had read about it in the guide book, but did not realize the ceremony was outside the palace. I was so lucky to get a great photo spot for the ceremony.
A girl came up to me and started to explain what is about to happen at the entrance. Then she asked me if I like to ring the ceremonial drum for them to kick of the changing of the guards. I was so surprised so I accepted.
She explained the details of what I needed to do, including the number of times, how hard and how fast I need to hit the drum.
Another staff came out in ceremonial custom and handed me this huge stick.
The new set of royal guards arrived at the palace entrance and were in attention waiting for me. The announcer let everyone know in Korean, English and Mandrin that I will be kicking off the changing of the guards. I then received the signal and began striking the drum with the huge stick they gave me.
As soon as I made the first strike the crowd broke out in applauds. I had to do it three times and slowly. The crowd applauded after each strike. At the end of the third strike the royal band began to play and the ceremony officially began.
What an experience for my first offical day on my first visit to Seoul and Korea.
After the visit to City Hall area I had planned on walking down to Seoul Station to take some photos as it is supposed to be a historic building like Tokyo Station in Tokyo and Union Station in Toronto. So I began my journey, with the only guide being the compas in my iPhone 3GS. As I had forgotten to bring the detailed map, and there were no tourist signage of any kind, all other signage are in Korean.
When I arrived at Seoul Station I found the station to be under renovations, with scarffolding all around the old building. This was disappointing plus I noticed the people hanging out around the station are fairly shaddy. Most of them were drunk, and there were drunken men and women. So it was time for my next stop.
I had planned to visit the Daehagno area, which is supposed to be a mecca of Korean performing arts. With many improv performances in near by parks.
As soon as I arrived at Hyehwa (420) on Line 4, exit 2, I found all sorts of people hanging out flyers to what appears to be live shows.
Around the corner there is a crowd formed around a guitarist. He wad able to stir up the crowd but I had no idea what he was saying, but the crowd seems to find him funny.
I continued down some side streets exploring the neigbourhood and found many outdoor cafes and restaurants.
There was this main street where many vendors had set up shop selling jewlery, hats, scarfs, etc. There did not appear to be any issues with vendors setting up where ever they wish. As I saw large mini store like set ups in underground people tunnels to cross major intersections and Metros.
The main street was where I sat for the past half hour people watching and writing this post.