Soundtrack time: hit play and start reading. Possibly the best version, of possibly my favourite song ever.
One, by U2, live, with orchestra, in Sarajevo (I think -- these online versions can be inaccurate).
A collection of pictures of Korea from 1966, on Flickr: hat tip to the Marmot's hole (see sidebar for link)
May 3rd to 5th was Children's Day Weekend: Children's Day is a holiday for kids, like Grandparents' day, Father's day or Mother's day in Canada, except without as much of the "It's just a hallmark holiday" cynicism (which is reserved more for Valentine's Day (Feb 14th: girls give chocolate to guys), White Day (March 14th: guys give chocolate to girls), Jajangmyeon Day, or Black Day (April 14th: single people eat black sauce noodles, wear black, and feel sorry for themselves for being single), and, goofiest and most cynical of all: 11/11's Pepero Day. Girlfriendoseyo will be very busy over the next month, but she and I took the chance to enjoy the hell out of this weekend.
We went to a restaurant called "Mad For Garlic" near Gwanghwamun. (There are others, but that's where we went). They have an interesting touch for decorating their place: they took iron frames and hung wine glasses from them, so that the glasses catch the light,
And cast really interesting shadows on the walls.
Then, we went to Kyunghee Palace, for the opening of the Spring Hi Seoul Festival. Jung Myeonghoon, Korea's most famous maestro, held a free, outdoor concert. I went with Girlfriendoseyo, we lucked into spots in the seating section, and had a prime view of the show. It was great.
A lot of people came.
Then, on Sunday, we met up again kind of early, for the ancestral rites in Jongmyo, shrine for the ancient kings of Korea, and UNESCO world heritage site: There was a ritual for the minor kings and major princes in the secondary shrine at 9:30am, and then the same ritual for the major kings in the primary shrine at 1:00. We caught the last half of the early one, and the first half of the later one, and figured that'd do the trick: there's only so much solemn "old man in black suit marches up stairs and sets a dish on a table while another old man in a black suit and a cool hat chants" one can handle, when sitting on a big, flat rock with legs folded.
And as you can see, there were a lot of men dressed in black to get through.
While the Korean orchestra (in red) played, and the dancers (in purple, below) moved from one pose to another in unison.
However, it was a once-a-year event, at one of Korea's most important heritage sites, so a lot of people came out anyway:
Here are those purple dancers:
We stumbled across their practice after the 9:30am show finished, as they prepared for the 1:00 performance.They cycled through about six poses, in various combinations. A lot.
They were all young: Girlfriendoseyo guessed that they were first year-history majors from some university.
Me doing yoga stretches after an hour of sitting on rocks, watching the whole ritual.
Me sitting on rocks for an hour.
The one with the book was the one chanting.
Those "Ishii-ii" (Girlfriendoseyo told me that's what they're called) in black just came out of the woodworks at the end of the ancestral ritual. I have no idea how they all got in there. I think there was a duplication machine in the back.
All lined up, waiting for their turn to march solemnly and slowly up steps and into a chamber, take off the lid of one pot, and then stand inside the chamber until the end of the ancestral ceremony.
Accidentally took the picture of the bum of the guy in front of me. Not quite as impressive as the dudes in black Hanbok.
I don't have a picture, but during the afternoon ceremony, there was a welcome speech by the chair of some heritage society, and then an old man came up and said a few words. He was introduced as the dynastic heir to the Choseon throne -- that is, if Korea were still a monarchy, he'd have been the king. I bet he's choked about that.
After we'd seen enough chanting and ceremonial table-setting (and the kids near us were getting noisy), we went over the bridge from Jongmyo into Chang-gyeong-gung, a smaller palace, but maybe the prettiest one in downtown Seoul (for my dollar).
They were staging, I believe, the King's birthday ceremonial rites, which involved brighter colours and cooler dancing than the rites for dead kings.
Guess, by picture quality, which picture was on my cameraphone, and which was on Girlfriendoseyo's camera. . .
Then we strolled the grounds of Chang-gyeong palace, which were ablaze with flowers, and drifting with cottonwood fuzzy-floaties that caught the sun as they sailed down toward the lake.
Layers of flowers.
It was a good day for couples. If the guy's shirt were a little more purple, he could have blended into the bushes behind him.
We were there with Danielle and her friend Myung-shin, and wandered past a "do not enter" sign behind the greenhouse,
where Dani showed us her unexpected, nigh-encyclopedic knowledge of plant life.
She pointed out a lot of cool flowers and stuff, and taught me many things I've forgotten now. She kept pointing out different plants and going, "You can eat that one. Don't eat that one. This one's safe, but it tastes bad, because it's part of the mustard family." Sometimes she'd take a bite of a leaf or something, just to prove it.
Girlfriendoseyo liked the mushrooms. There were a bunch scattered about, but not in a circle shape,
so we didn't quite get a full-fledged fairy-ring like this one:
However, girlfriendoseyo DID manage to snap this photo:
That's A Fairy Ring, painting by Walter Jenks Morgan, from victorianweb.org -- more about Fairy Rings (circles of mushrooms where fairies dance, and from where mortals can be trapped, made invisible, cursed, or whisked into Fairyland,) here.
Here's a picture of me, from GFoseyo's cameral. Rocking the Korean style hanbok pants. (Far and away the most comfortable pants I own. Almost more comfortable than wearing none.)More of Changgyeong-palace grounds. Girlfriendoseyo thinks I have a good photographer's eye, but I think she acquits herself well here: (I believe that's an acacia below: they smell really good right now).
We met Dani and Myung-shin at the top of the stairs you can see beside the big-ol' tree.
Dani fed ducks. She could have thrown that into the water and seen a swarm of carp and giant goldfish, but she didn't.
I wish you could see the cottonwood drifting in this picture, but my camera just doesn't have the juice to catch them.
Everybody had their cameras out.
More of Girlfriendoseyo's photography:Then, after stomping around there for a while, we went to Daehangno and saw a movie and rested, just enough to have energy again to meet Matt and Heyjin on Sunday night for dinner. We met in jongno, and caught some of the Jogyesa Lantern Festival Parade going through the downtown. You may remember my long, gushing, joyous post on last year's lantern festival, as one of the happiest posts I've ever written.
One picture of the parade:
Last year's post mentioned Tapgol Park strung with lanterns, floating in the dark, but none of those pictures turned out, so here's a second try:
Tapgol during the day:
With the light sensitivity a little higher, you can see the layout of the park a bit. This is how it looked:But this is closer to how it felt.Otherworldly. So beautiful in there.
Out of focus, it looks like some kind of a visitation. . . So that was Saturday and Sunday. On Monday, the Viking, the Vikette, Girlfriendoseyo and I went up to Surak mountain, in my old neighbourhood:
When Matt and I worked together, it was startling how often we wore, purely by coincidence, the same colour shirt. (We both had sage green, burgundy, and light blue button-downs, and not much else, so after the "collared shirts" rule came into effect at POLY, it was just a matter of percentages, really.)
It happened again: green shorts, black shirts, beige adventure hats, totally coincidental.
good if you get separated, though: "Excuse me? Have you seen another foreigner who looks JUST LIKE ME?"
The Viking has mellowed over time, and took more frequent breaks than the day he almost killed me on Jirisan.
The sun was catching these flowering trees so beautifully. . . wish the pics turned out better. You'll just have to come to Korea next May and climb a mountain with me if you want to see what it's really like.
Under that very tree, were some of the pink blossoms scattered over the brown leaves from last fall.The easier pace helped Girlfriendoseyo immeasurably: this was the first time she made it to a mountain's peak since we met, and maybe much longer than that -- we'd gotten as far as a few ridgelines before, together, but never quite reached a mountaintop.Vikette and Girlfriendoseyo get along wonderfully. My two favourite women in Korea, and definitely in the top. . . twenty. . . worldwide. (hee hee hee)
At the peak. We had a picnic that has joined the ranks of my favourite mountain moments ever.
The list also includes:
Feeding the bird at chiak mountain.
Skinny-dipping in a cold pool on Jiri Mountain (whilst drenched in sweat) [sorry. no pictures of that one. Suckas!]
Matt praising a five-year-old girl who'd made it to the peak of Buramsan, in Korean, and having her grin, wiggle, glow, and answer, "I love you" in Korean, to him.
Hiking down Suraksan in the twilight with Viking and Vikette, seeing the lights of Nowon-gu as we tried to avoid roots on the darkening trail.
Heyjin trying to feed squirrels near the peak of Sapyesan last Chusok.
The climbers on Jiri Mountain who hiked with us for a while on the way down, and then shared their lunch with us (we were woefully underprepared for the trip back down, and they had a gas cooker and ramen).
The best Bibibmbap I've eaten in my life, at the bottom of Chiak Mountain.
Pulling out the overpriced bottle of Makkgeolli at the top of Geumgangsan in North Korea, and sharing it with a few friends and strangers, just so I could say I drank Makkgeolli on a mountaintop in North Korea.
Geumgangsan: from visitkorea.org
Good times, dear readers, good times. You are reading the words of a seriously, joy-wacky dude.