Wednesday, December 23, 2015

to Seoul and back, day 2

So... where were we? Ah, yes, breakfast for starving me after a morningful of nature and crazy gorgeous fall foliage! And for that I headed to Gangnam! Yes, the same Gangnam from Psy's "Gangnam style!" 

Gangnam is a trendy, expensive, modern district and, hidden somewhere behind one of the subway station's exits (there were so many!) there is a food street packed to the brim with eateries of all sorts! I went up and down the street a few times, trying to make my mind up! Too many tasty choices! 

But I had read, by chance, that phở is something you have for breakfast. Also, there are no decent Vietnamese restaurants that I know of in Mexico City. Plus, I was never really good friends with phở. So I thought I'd give it a go, in hopes that I'd get something that would change my perception. And since I was in exploratory mood, I went into a Vietnamese place and ordered the most basic and traditional version of phở: a beef one. 

Frankly, the aroma was really good. Subtle, just slightly spicy (as in containing spices, not as in hot), its warmth perfect for the cold day... So, I stand corrected. Non-vegan phở, when done well (at least done well enough for this ignoramus), is super good. That's comfort food! 

Energized - and a bit sad I wasn't hungry anymore to keep tasting more dishes - I walked to my next stop: the royal tombs of the Joseon Dynasty, Seolleung and Jeongneung. It is a UNESCO heritage site, and it's located in a nice park within the city. Plus, and to my great surprise, the tombs follow a design I had never seen in Asia! They're round mounds, with a number of guardian statues around. I loved it! Also, and another thing I had never seen, the whole complex had spirit paths: paths that only the dead kings and spirits could "walk", while mere mortals had to use adjacent paths. And the site was serious about preserving that tradition, with very clear signs asking you NOT to step on the spirit paths and on the spirit steps! Really cool.

Of course, being inside a park, and a very hilly one at that, I had more opportunities to just walk around and enjoy the trees and the odd bird and squirrel (yes, again). 

The views of the park, the ancient structures and the modern city around were incredible. What a fantastic city that you can find all this in a single spot!

And just before finishing my tour of the place! A huge ginkgo biloba tree. Nice.

From there, I went further up north, to visit a historic district called Bukchon Hanok Village, famous for preserving high concentrations of traditional houses. But first, after all that walking and before embarking on even MORE walking, I had to get some rocket fuel. Good, solid, really well done rocket fuel!

And then, in a race against sunset, and with a map given to me on the street by some people promoting the district, I started a convoluted tour through winding, hilly, beautiful streets offering views of old times - the occasional glimpse of  Gyeongbok Palace, persimmon trees, tiny alleys...

... traditional decorations

... inner gardens, with the house built around and the occasional art exhibit 

... rooftops and more rooftops, curved, tiled, old

... and the most charming of slender streets, some peaceful and quiet, some bustling with throngs of people admiring the buildings and the views of modern Seoul in the distance

By the end of this walking tour I was getting pretty tired. But I was not done yet...

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