Serendipity

Posted on April 3, 2010

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Original post, February 8 2009

It was the strangest of days, a day where, for once, I had been left to my own devices, a solo traveller trying to find her way around Seoul. After deciding that Gyeonghuigung and Seoul Museum of Art would be my trip for the day, I set out with guidebook in hand. Despite getting the right subway and subway exit, I did still somehow manage to get lost within the first 5 seconds of setting foot out of the station. Then, getting myself back on the right track through some familiar landmarks, I managed to get myself to that lonely palace. It was about 2:30 pm. Both palace and museum were open and right next to each other, but I decided I’d take a look at the palace first. Before doing so, I sat down on a bench and, facing the entrance, I nibbled at some chocolate snacks and read the description of the place which my guidebook provided. I didn’t manage to make into the palace. A hyper-active 53 year old Korean man walked by, and instantly noticing that I was a foreigner, sat down next to me and struck up a conversation. Despite my natural shyness and apprehension at talking to complete strangers, he seemed harmless and what followed was a quite nice conversation about Korean culture, Korean people, and the man’s experience. While I told him about my reasons for visiting the country, he told me about his past travelling around Europe for his job, the seven years he’d been studying English everyday, and the fact that he had a wife, two daughters, but at the same time a secret girlfriend which he thought his wife wouldn’t be happy to know about. I don’t blame her.

In the end, I was lured away from the palace and museum before I had managed to visit them, as the man very kindly offered to take me around for a quick tour, showing me the presidential house with its typical blue roof, Inwangsan mountain and Seoul fortress wall. Roughly two hours later, he dropped me off at the same spot we had met and we swapped emails. Eager to take a look at the palace before it closed, I hurried back to it.

 

 

 

The museum was already closed which meant that I had still not managed to take a look at any art gallery in Seoul, but I was just in time for the palace. In the end, as I took a quick look around at the compact compound, I realised there wasn’t much to see there after all, and that my day would have been completely boring had I not met that friendly and eccentric man.

 

I went to get dinner back at Insandong, which being Sunday, was filled with people and activity. Insadong is a magical place, a place where in the stretch of one small street, you can come across anything from a trio of westerners playing Beatles tunes and ‘O Sole Mio’, to a Monk playing and singing traditional songs. While walking back home, I thought of the amazing week which was ending, and of the next three weeks to come, having no idea what they would have in store for me. Thinking beyond those three weeks, I realised I had no idea whatsoever what the future would bring either and that made me feel even smaller and more humble.

– Text and Photography by Denise Pulis @ www.travelwithdenden.wordpress.com

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Posted in: Seoul