On Saturday I went to Doeksugung Palace, after of course stopping for my weekly burrito from Dos Tacos. Doeksugung is much like Gyeongbukgong Palace-but with more forest paths, greenery, flowers, a pond and a modern art museum on the grounds.
Other artifacts were a ‘water clock’, sundial, a wooden rocket launcher-type weapon and temple bell, all from the 1400-1500’s. King Sejong who invented Hangul (the Korean alphabet), is also aid to have invented the waterclock and sundial.
It was a great respite from the crowded concrete streets and like the other palaces-one of the city’s few green spaces. I walked around and read my book for awhile, then the palace grounds closed early in preparation for another mad cow candlelight vigil.
Upon leaving, I could see a small, growing crowd at City Hall-preparing for the latest protests; it looked like a little tent city.
I wandered over and noticed all the merchants taking advantage of the crowds, selling gimbop, rice cakes, fried foods, cotton candy, beer, and activists with their t-shirts and buttons.
I walked from there to Kyobo Bookstore-where I picked up one by Chuck Klosterman who makes witty observances on American culture. As I read it, I thought about how despite the presence of McDonald’s, Starbucks, Hollywood films, Snickers, Disney and other overt signs of American culture here–his book would make no sense to Koreans.
On Sunday I went to Namdaemun market, which like the now burned down gate, dates from the early 1400’s. And I found out the gate was not only the border of the city but it used to keep out the long extinct Korean tiger too. The market is a sprawling network of tiny streets and it goes below ground too, most of which was closed for Sunday- but there was plenty to see above ground. Everything from socks, toys, huge dried medicinal mushrooms and jars of ginseng, tea, sunglasses, toys, all kinds of clothes, shoes, souvenirs, cooking supplies, electronics and blankets upon blankets upon blankets.