Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Seodaemun Prison in Seoul

With the kids in vacation, getting up late, keeping me busy and messing up by perfect schedules, I decided enough is enough and pulled them out of the home to experience a bit of the Korean heritage. We just happened to choose to go and visit the Seodaemun prison which was built by the Japanese to confine the Korean freedom fighters. It was an interesting but somber experience.

The main building of the prison houses a complete history of the Korean Independence movement from the Japanese and the gory details of the torture and executions performed by the imperialists. We were not allowed to take pictures of the interrogation and torture and the death chamber. There were torture boxes in display - a small box where a prisoner was kept in had nails poking in in all directions to hurt the prisoner. The box was kicked repeatedly to make sure the prisoner got hurt. Another scary item was the torture tools used to poke the skin under the nails, mutilating the extremities and hurting the internal organs. Here was the first time that I witnessed the gallows. It really creeped me out. It was even more upsetting to hear the moans and cries of the elderly Korean couple who were visiting this place for the first time :(

Just off exit 5 from Dongnimmun station is the way to the prison.

The red brick-walled structure with the watch tower is the entrance to the prison.

The map of the prison.   
Tiny entrance to the prison

The main building houses the torture chambers and the History of the Korean Independence movement. 

The jail which housed the Koreans.

 Worser crime calls for lesser rice :( The blocks varied in sizes to reduce the size of the rice portion for each prisoner according to the crime committed.


The prison cell that housed so many inmates under very bad sanitary and climatic conditions.

Solitary confinement cells. Even lesser space.




This is an exercise area where inmates where allowed to exercise but not allowed to talk to each other
I took this from where the warden could have a clear view of all the inmates.
This is an Execution building where the Koreans were sent to the gallows. We were not allowed to take pictures inside here. There is a popular belief that the poplar tree inside the building is spindly and frail while the one outside is sturdy because it witnessed the atrocities that has happened inside. 
I have not been so close in seeing the atrocities of war or the Independence struggle movement. I am now terrified at the thought of Jallianwala bagh massacre, and I think I can understand and appreciate the millions of soldiers all around the world, fighting and enduring atrocities for something they believe in. It is going to be long night for me tonight...  :(


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Bubbling goodness

Yay! Summer vacation is here! I love it when my kids are around, waking up late, heavy breakfast at noon, playing and chatting until lunch time and continuing to play and chat until dinner. It is pretty fun and I am enjoying every second spent with them. 

Today, we ventured out of our home even with the MERS situation hanging above our heads. Few people were wearing masks, there were sanitizers even inside the bus for public use, and antibacterial wipes everywhere. Maybe a little less crowd in the malls, and deserted restaurants. Everything is a bit gloomy and depressing here in Seoul :(

But we decided to try out something new today. We tried out the Red Sun restaurant in the Ipark mall in Seoul. Nice, clean, restaurant and the cute little drawers in the tables for the forks and spoons. Pretty neat! 


The meal consisted of a platter with noodles, spagetti, topokki (Korean rice cakes), eggs and veggies along with a special sauce. The platter is then placed on the stove right on the table where everything cooks along with the sauce! 

Assortment of items on our platter on the stove on our table
Bubbling goodness :)
We chose vegetables with our meal, there was also the seafood, ham or pork to choose from. 
We had to have some more topokki extra to this amazing sauce!
The sauce was sweet-spicy concoction that tasted amazing! I also like the way we had to share from the one big platter. Lots of selfies, chatting and a full stomach, we left the restaurant thinking that it was a very nice experience. Something I would cherish forever! 

W for Bubbling goodness Worth remembering for ABC Wednesday
















Monday, June 8, 2015

The Moonlight tour of Changdeokgung Palace

There are five main palaces in Korea. I had been to the biggest and majestic Gwanghwamun palace which is a must-see for all tourists because of all the history involved. But for the prettiness, I must say the Changdeokgung takes the cake! I was lucky to get into the Moonlight tour of the palace coordinated by the Korea Tourism organization on the full moon nights. The palace is beautiful in the daytime but the night time view just took my breath away!

General public are not allowed for this tour. There is a form to be submitted and then 100 people are allowed to participate in it.The weather was so pleasant and it was a perfect night to visit the palace. 

The program started out at 7:30pm, Korean precision timing, with the registration for the English or Chinese language tour guides. We were all given headphones to listen to the guide. Then, we were treated to the Royal changing of Guards at the palace gate. 


Changing of guards at the Changdeokgung palace
We were given a pretty LED light to carry through the palace, just in case. Then came the pretty sights! 

The traditional Changdeokgung palace surrounded by the hi-tech buildings of Seoul

Changdeokgung palace at night



The place stones for the officials. 

The Throne room for the King. Check out the beautiful electric Chandeliers!

The pretty pretty palace at night!

The night time view around the walls of the palace.

We then reached the secret garden, which houses the beautiful lotus pond. The night time view of the pond was like a dream come true.

The lotus pond in the secret garden. Note the reflections. 
While we were feasting our eyes on the lotus pond, there was also an audio treat performed by a local artist in a nearby gallery. 

The love nest for the king 



After a visual treat, we were then ushered into a open air auditorium in the palace where we were given ice cold omeja tea and some traditional Korean snacks, while we got to see the Korean artists performed. I especially loved the short presentation of the Korean version of Romeo and Juliet.

Pansori about the Korean love birds



I really had a beautiful time at my favorite palace in Seoul. And the tour also was so well arranged that I hardly noticed that it was around 10:30pm when we were out of the palace gates. We did finish a quick questionnaire and even received a free gift on top of our treat! This was indeed a romantic and even informative tour of the beautiful palace.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Seoul Brand

Brand names are quite popular and even a status symbol nowadays. Brand named clothes, shoes, are the most sought after items in anyones wardrobe. But I have never heard of a brand name for a city.

Seoul brand promotes the city of Seoul. This is a unique opportunity to improve the image of the city of Seoul and also promote the inflow of visitors to this magnificent city!

I am so happy to become one of those members to promote Seoul :) It is indeed an honor and a privilege to work towards a better and foreigner-friendly city!



Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Lotus Lantern Festival 2015

My absolute favorite festival in Seoul has to be the Lotus Lantern Festival. It is held every year on April 8th of the Lunar calendar for Buddha's Birthday. It is as though the city bursts into color with culture and beauty for these few weeks! I do love the delicately decorated lanterns displayed all over the city. The highlight of the festivities for me is the lotus lantern parade. The lanterns are exorbitantly adorned with lights that brighten up any mopey face! The beat and rhythm of the dancers during the parade add more fun and color to the proceedings.
This year, the lotus lantern festival was celebrated on the 16th and 17th of May. Seoul was basking in perfect Spring temperatures with flowers blooming everywhere and looking so pretty! More pictures of Lotus Lantern Festival here. This year I was not able to do the lotus lanterns with the monks but I had a great time doing it the previous year.

The Changgyecheon Stream with the lanterns on a bright sunny day!
The Beautiful stream as the dusk approaches...
Oh! The festivities are so addicting!
Lanterns for the year of the Sheep
I loved this lantern with a beautiful message!

The lantern mountains resemble the ones made by Minhwa drawings 
The lanterns are huge almost 3 times the height of an average adult. 
The peacocks were the highlight of this year's parade. Oh so beautiful!




My favorite flower of all time! The beautiful lotus. So pretty!

Beautiful fishie!
Beautiful Phoenix that would make Dumbledore proud



Another favorite of mine!

Love the paintings as well!




Dragons with smoke and fire spewing from its mouth was ofcourse the crowd pleaser!





The Hero :)

T for Tasty bit of Lotus Lantern Festival for ABC Wednesday
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