I didn’t take a ton of photos during my Summer 2012 trip to Seoul, mostly because my trusty point-and-shoot finally died and I don’t really care for my iPhone camera. But between my photos and the ones my sister took, I have a few I’d like to share. I’ll start with a well-known temple.
The Bongeunsa Buddhist temple was founded in 794. Walking the same temple grounds where visitors and residents have trod for more than 1,200 years is quite humbling. It is surprisingly peaceful, particularly when considering that it is literally across the street from Asia’s largest underground shopping mall (COEX).
Above is one of the temple buildings at Bongeunsa where people go to worship. Don’t let the swastika near the top give you a wrong impression. That has been a religious symbol for centuries, and it’s very common to see it used on local maps to denote temple locations. At one of the highest points in the temple, visitors can turn around and see the scene below.
This is the Gangnam area of Seoul, and underneath the two buildings on the right is the COEX Convention & Exhibition Center. It’s also home to the aforementioned COEX Mall. It’s so huge that you can get lost in there. Seriously. It even has an aquarium. Something I like (seen below) are the numerous flagpoles featuring flags of the world.
I’m throwing in a random shot of KyoChon Chicken. This is a storefront in Gangnam, not too far up the road from where I used to work. Practically every time I ate KyoChon Chicken while I lived in Seoul, I did so here. I never met anybody who didn’t appreciate some of it on occasion. The company stands on three promises: “Specialized Chicken,” “Differentiated Chicken,” and “High-quality Chicken.” Note the intense focus on “chicken.”
Insadong is one of the many places in Seoul where you can shop until you get sick of shopping. You can find lots of Korean arts, crafts and cultural souvenirs here. I really like strolling through this area. It’s popular with locals and tourists alike, and the activity creates a really cool vibe. If you’re a foreigner, you might get to experience something that happened to me and my sister. Several students, working on a class assignment to spend a few minutes speaking with foreigners, asked permission to chat with us. I volunteered my sister, who happens to be a high school teacher.
The Starbucks in Insadong is the only one in the world where the primary sign is written in the host country’s native language. In exchange for opening the store inside one of Korea’s cultural landmarks, Starbucks agreed to display its name in Hangul.
I thought it would be funny, with my busted leg, to send my mom a photo of me pretending to nearly fall into Cheonggyecheon Stream. Confession time: while I was goofing around for this photo, I actually did almost lose my balance and fall in. That would have been slightly embarrassing. But to my larger point — I don’t think one can overestimate Cheonggyecheon’s value as a great escape from the busy streets of Seoul located just a few feet above it. I used to stroll the stream on occasion when I lived here. You can see some pleasant scenes here: moms bringing their kids to have lunch along the stream banks; businessmen, in their suits, taking off their shoes and socks, rolling up their pants, and letting their feet dangle in the water; young couples holding hands and strolling by at a leisurely pace. It’s a cool spot.
I’ll finish with one more pic for this post. I stayed in an apartment in the Chungmuro area of Seoul last summer. While walking back home one night, I snapped the photo below.