Sunday, February 21, 2010

Blog 4 - February 22

Lunar New Year is a very big deal here. Below zero temperatures did not deter the thousands of Koreans who visited Gyeongbokgung, which translates to 'Palace Greatly Blessed by Heaven'. Don't ask me how to say it! This is the oldest and largest of five palaces in Seoul and was built in 1394, rebuilt in 1876 and is currently being rebuilt again as it was destroyed by the Japanese in the early 20th century. Did you know Korean drums are only played on the vertical?

The palace was postioned strategically with the mountains surounding it.

It was so cold we spent ages listening to Bob Dylan playing (not live unfortunatley) and paying 5,000 Won (AU$5.00) for weak coffee. Strange that coffee is more than a full meal which is usually 4,000 Won (AU$4.00)

I was the only westerner eating at this cafe in food alley, Namdaemun Market. The name means Great South Gate and was the main southern gate to the old city. It is the largest retail market in Seoul and one of the oldest markets in Korea. Across the road was the exclusive department store Shinsegae where French cakes were 20,000 Won and I found tea for 44,000 Won (AU$44.00). This quest for loose leaf tea has become an obsession and I have found barley, corn, pomegranate, green, jasmine, chamomile and many unrecognisable teas however no Liptons or Lan-choo. I could only take one photo as I was told no photos - perhaps they thought I was going to go home and copy them. In your dreams! Baking is rare here and we are like most Koreans and don't have an oven.

How come Koreans are so skinny when cakes like this are easily available and not always expensive?

This photo was taken outside our front door. Still cold here and we are really enjoying the ice and snow as it is a novelty after temperate Adelaide where even in the middle of winter it is a minimum of 5 or 6 degrees. We are getting used to allowing 10 minutes to add coat, scarf, gloves, hat and layers before venturing out.

Our first mail arrived in the letterbox. What could it be? Do we pay? Who to? How much? Hopefully not the forty million in the top corner! It turned out to be our gas bill and the amount is 29,090 Won ($29.09). Pretty good, however the apartment was empty for most of January apart from our son Liam and his friends who came from Japan for a week. It still seems pretty cheap when you consider our gas comes from the north west shelf of Western Australia.

Koreans love to shop! I went with Seung Hee and her daughter Choi Won to buy a lunch box as she has just begun a new job as a landscape architect. This took most of the afternoon as it was no ordinary lunch box. Koreans eat rice for every meal so this thermal pack has containers for rice and a number of additions that vary every day. Thanks for the gift of plates.

Another of many firsts - our first dinner guests on Saturday night. Thanks for the corkscrew. Lee Farrand was born in Korea, raised in Adelaide and returned here to live and work 4 years ago. Recently married to Heather, he is now a PhD student at Seoul National University so they are neighbours. A funny meal - a rare treat to find Australian wine and cook pasta with real Parmesan, however it was eaten with chopsticks as we have not yet acquired forks, which is a specialist item here. We discovered a western supermarket CostCo on the Lunar Year holiday weekend and bought up big! And yes - they are Tim Tams on the table along with Ging Seng, a Lunar New Year gift. Ginseng is a precious herb that reduces stress, increases libido and assures long life. We can vouch for its effectiveness and have enough to keep us going for years to come!

The roses were a Valentines Day gift from the Australian Chamber of Commerce function we attended at the Ritz Carlton on Friday night. Thanks to Pilar, our new friend who is the Executive Director of AustCham. Yes - we are certainly mixing in lofty places here! It took us 45 minutes to get there at 6.30pm on the subway and over an hour to return by taxi as there were amazing traffic jams at 11.30pm!


Lee Farrand said...

Great... now we're famous!

areed754 said...

Hey Susan - this is great. Loving the west meets east! Anne Reed

Anonymous said...

the patisserie is a consistent feature - mind you they look very tempting. I enjoy the news and pix. x julie

Anonymous said...

Just realised I've been reading your blog backwards! Nevertheless, enjoying following you. Laraine

Anonymous said...

im a bit late this week to catch your news - wonderful!!!! Ronis

Anonymous said...

Thanks-love the news and photos. You've experienced so much already Susan. Bravo! Happy to send black 'railway' tea anytime. xdiannelee

Anonymous said...

Enjoying your cross cultural stories and look forward to them each week. Vivian

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