Insadong (인사동) is a district in Seoul that specialises in crafts and "traditional" Korean merchandise, at least that's what the shopkeepers keep telling us. You have to watch out for the peddlers in this area because they are very good at getting you to buy things. Take the incident today, for example, in which an old man selling persimmons graciously offered the three of us free samples, and then guilted us into buying one more each. "Five hundred won" he mumbled. We had a brief glance at each other, knowing we'd been suckered, but what the hell. "Sure", "OK", "All right then". He got the persimmons out as we got out our wallets. "One thousand won," he said, as he passed us the fruit. Everything happened so fast that we didn't realise how good this guy was at tricking foreigners. "You old fox," said Anthony. We collectively decided we'd rather pay a dollar than get into an argument with this guy for 10 minutes, but we knew full well he was a dirty sneak.
Anyway, for those of you who receive presents from me, this is where I got them. This is dammit-what-do-I-get-mom-for-Christmas central. I would love to tell you what I bought today but that would ruin the surprise. Apart from the shopping, there are lots of cool other places here that attract foreigners. We went to an exhibit of Buddha art, which was really cool (photos below) and there is also a big shopping complex that has a very interesting spiral design (you can walk to the top simply by continuing along the ring of shops, because the floor is always slightly inclined.. making it sort of like one giant floor coiled around itself). And also, lots of free samples of food, nice restaurants, really lovely little teahouses, and old men that trick you into buying persimmons.
I took a lot of photos today. The subway was disgustingly crowded.. it was like standing in a Frenchman's armpit for an hour.
The next few photos after these are of the Buddha art exhibit we went to. Lots and lots of interesting paintings and statues. The one that captured our attention was the red painting of the twelve Chinese Zodiac animals having a massive free-for-all with a variety of weapons. We agreed that the Horse seemed the most self-composed, the Rooster was surprisingly aggressive and the Snake appeared to be getting stabbed to death by the Dragon. It sounds grisly but it's actually a very delightful painting. I was happy to see that the Tiger appeared to be going absolutely berserk, and we also noted that the Rabbit (Anthony) appeared to be fleeing the battleground.
The gigantic impressive tower in the earlier photos is one of Samsung's big office buildings. The headquarters, which is enormous, is actually in Suwon, looming in the distance of my neighbourhood. Cramped-armpit subway journey below, and three guesses what the franchise in the last picture is (pronunciation of the symbols is "suh-tah-buk-suh-kuh-pee").
PS: Today is mine and Lizzy's six-month anniversary... champagne and cuddles all round.