Got To Have Seoul Part 1 [Travelogue]

seoul1So the time finally came!  I started a Travelogue section to this site because I figured I would have plenty of time to roam around here in the land of the morning calm, and I wanted to share the experience with you, the dear readers.  But there was one thing I forgot to factor in…..it gets unnecessarily cold here in Korea!  And this coming from a guy who spent 5 years on the prairie in the Midwest, so yes, I know cold.

The extreme cold, and  the typical excuse of “working too much” left me basically stagnant here at Osan, and to the night life of Songtan.  Which isn’t nearly as drastic as it sounds, as I have actually managed to have a few good moments even without getting too far away from the immediate area.  I joined a pool league, for one.  Which has found downing bottles of soju and pints of beer at an unflattering amount, and basically having a real good time with like-minded neanderthals who could care less about winning, and more about enjoying a Thursday night whilst letting off some steam.  Beyond the pool league, I have spent a great deal of time at the fore mentioned VFW listening to and swapping stories with some old guys who have been around the world and back, committing hilarious sins and manifestations of self-realization all the way.  We play cards, we laugh, we drink.  So, yeah, it’s not so bad.

tim burton1But dammit was I excited to get out and go!  And go I did.  I received the word the base was hosting a tour to The Seoul Museum of Arts and The Seoul National Museum.  Finally, I was headed to the big city.  To be in South Korea for almost four months and never stepping foot in the country’s largest city has been absolutely absurd.  So it was basically about damn time.  And to top it off, the featured exhibit at The Seoul Museum of Arts was on the acclaimed filmmaker and artist Tim Burton.  Now, I am not the biggest Tim Burton fan, I do enjoy much of his work, but I am a huge film buff so this felt pretty perfect.  And it certainly was intriguing to say the least.

The Seoul Museum of Arts is a building that seems to have been intentionally left at its original stature unlike the majority of the architecture in the city which seems to be as modern as humanly possible.  The extent in which the museum went to honor Tim Burton was extremely impressive.  From the exterior arrangements, to the interior world they created that looked like the Mad Hatter and Willy Wonka had a candy coated orgy with a few Oompa Loompas the night before, and destroyed, well, a museum.  The abundance of artifacts from Burton’s childhood, beginning years as an artist, and his film works was pretty impressive as well.  It was simply spellbinding to realize that Tim Burton has been a kooky and cerebral character almost from the day he was born.  The display mostly consisted of his art work, including several pieces of clay sculptures used in many of tim burton2his films.  But, there was Planet Hollywood like displays of some artifacts to include Michael Keaton’s rubber mask he wore in both of the Batman films Burton directed when he revitalized the imagine of the Dark Knight in the late 80’s.  The prized piece, in my opinion, where a set of 4 of the extremely creepy prop eye balls from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, designed by Trainwreck’d Society alumn, Stephen Chiodo.  Overall, a very impressive showing, and I left knowing far more about a man I didn’t even realize I wanted to know about.  Definitely worth the trip.

But, as amazing as the exhibit was, the group I was with was allotted far more time than I could personally spend wandering around.  I also have an undiagnosed nervous condition that springs up in crowds.  Especially when it felt as though half the population of Seoul was walking around me, and I was getting in the way of all of their photograph opportunities.  So I decided to take the last hour of our allotted time to simply stroll around a few of the blocks around the museum.  The buildings surrounding the museum where quite different from the old museum itself.  The skyscrapers in this section of town alone rivaled those of major U.S. cities like Chicago or NYC.  The sidewalks for filled with strolling daytrotters who managed to make me feel like a giant because their naturally small stature.  Coffee shops and small boutiques as well as liquor stores and 7 Elevens and even more liquor stores lined the streets.  Just as you would expect from any large city, I manage to walk mast at least two Starbucks, three 7 Elevens, and two Dunkin Donuts (for all of you east coast readers).  I was only out and about for an hour, but I truly believe that got a reasonably good feel for the city.  The “progress” of capitalism was evident all around me, especially when you remember that this ground was a war zone just sixty years ago, about a hundred miles north lies one of the most deserted and starved lands on the planet.  Here’s to hoping such quick success doesn’t leave the South Korean in over their heads and struggling again.

tim burton3We stopped for lunch in an area known as Itaewon, which is nothing more than Songtan on steroids with cleaner streets and bars you can’t smoke in.  I found a little dive bar called Dilinger’s for a pint of Cass and overpriced cheese sticks.  It almost scares me how much I am not concerned about how much a loner I tend to be.  I have n qualms with dining alone in a new city.  Less distractions.

I ate quickly so I could explore a bit before the next stop.  When I stepped out of the bar, I head loud music coming from an alley way and decided if I am going to wonder, I might as well see what was going on that required live music.  I approached a small square with a few tents and gaggle of Korean men standing around large pieces of carpet.  It turned out that the music was coming solely from a laptop hooked to giant speakers and the men were playing some kind of game involving four sticks, about eight inches long, that the threw onto the carpet.  What was the goal in this game?  Not a damn clue.  But dammit if they got extremely excited when they did something right, even though I had no idea what they had done.  One man seemed to have had a couple of bottles of Soju for breakfast, but man was he having fun dancing with his self to the beat of the Korean pop music echoing in the background.  Certainly looked like fun, but I had double back to get to the bus.  But not before I decided to spend the last of my won on some Korean Barbie dolls.  You know, typical dad shit.  I also noticed an English book store cleverly titled What The Book?  It was a massive second story store with thousands upon thousands of paperbacks lining the walls.  I seriously could have spent days rummaging, but alas my bus was waiting.

national museum2The pure mass of the Seoul National Museum is almost indescribable.  The girth and excessive spanning of land in which this giant temple of even older temples is something that a photograph simple can not portray properly.  And one step inside and the utterly impressive decorative sites within the building is magnificent as well.  This is a 3 story building, with each story containing as much art, sculptures, and artifacts as an average sized full museum in itself.  In fact, the magnitude of the building led me to realize that there was no way I was going to be able to check out the entire place, I decided to limit myself to the Buddhist Art section (very interesting, and extremely old pieces of work) and to a stroll around the building which had an impressive man-made lake, a beautiful scenery, and a collection of ancient temples lining a long court yard.  Wandering the exterior of the museum ate up the majority my allotted time.  I did manage to share a cigarette with some of the local employees who surprisingly enough manage to get some English out pretty well, embarrassing me for my lack of any Korean.  They were fun and cheerful, and made me feel amazingly old by their energy.  But, they were a fine batch of young kids, and probably the highlight of the trip.

national museum1Overall, the trip was a great success, and I feel as though I finally took the plunge and got out.  More adventures are to come, especially considering the fact that the weather is already so much better.  Spring is upon us, and the adventures can only become greater.  Melissa will be joining me here soon, for a fun filled week of adventure as husband and wife.  I am very excited to introduce my wife to the zany characters of Songtan, experience the night life of this estranged place, and to take her places she may have never thought she would go.  I’m just learning the ropes before her arrival.  Studying, essentially.  That is when the real adventure will begin.

Be the time this episode of the Travelogue series is live, I have already made a return to Seoul, stay tuned for that story in the coming weeks.  For more photos of this trip, be sure to visit the Trainwreck’d Society Facebook Page.

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About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

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