Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Korea Memories - Friday, May 20th

Day 2 started pretty early since our bodies didn’t know what was going on. Seoul is 14 hours ahead of Central Daylight Time, so it took a few days before we were quite right from a sleep perspective. We walked around a bit and sort of took in our surroundings. We were staying in the Nakseongdae area of Seoul, and there was a shrine in a park built to the General Gang Gamchan. He lived way back around the year 900 and the name Nakseongdae carries meaning. Nakseongdae means the place where the star fell to earth, and according to legend, where that star fell is where he was born. And that’s where they built the shrine. What I kept coming back to was the fact that as Americans, we really don’t have a long historical perspective compared to most of the rest of the world.

This is a pagoda that dates back to the time of Gang Gamchan. I was continually amazed to be around artifacts that were at times 1500+ years old.

That day for lunch I met up with some fellow Air Liquide employees in the Air Liquide Korea office in Seoul. It was very interesting to see where our experiences and practices line up and where they differ. For me, doing this at the outset of the trip was a great way to almost center myself and have a stake in the ground. It was reassuring to see that even though we were far from home and in a strange country, I had something in common with a number of Seoul residents. I even met a guy that had graduated from Mines a few years before I did. The world is truly small.

After lunch I met back up with Susie and Sungwon at the National Museum of Korea. You could probably spend 2-3 days in that museum and not see it all. The best part: it was all free. We focused on the three kingdoms historical artifacts. I won’t post all the pictures here, but I do want to point out a couple things I found interesting.

This is a pair of shoes for a warrior. They are made of bronze and have spikes on the bottom for traction. I bet Ty Cobb would have had a heyday with a pair of these.

This is the headgear for a warrior. Look at the piece in the middle. I can’t imagine wrapping that around my head. I couldn’t have been comfortable, but it sure had to beat taking a sword to the earhole.

This is a gold crown that is about 1000 years old if I remember right. Pretty ornate. And the gold is extremely thin, so it wasn’t heavy to wear.

This is a bronze incense burner and is one of Korea’s national treasures. It was made maybe in the 600s and is incredibly detailed. It’s hard to see the detail in the picture, but each of the bumps on the top half of the burner is a different figure or character formed out of the bronze.

The museum was showing a special exhibit on traditional Korean musical instruments, so it was interesting to see those. Here are pictures of a drum, a “bass guitar,” a “12 string acoustic guitar,” and scores of music from sometime in the 1500’s.

For dinner we went to a famous restaurant called Yangmani and had a very traditional Korean dish called tae chang. Most Koreans we talked to were surprised that we had even tried it. Depending on what I read, it’s either intestine or stomach from a cow. They marinate it, then bring it out and cook it on a grill set down in the table. It really had a pretty good flavor, but the consistency was just a little too rubbery for my taste. I wish I’d taken a picture of it…

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