2008 Travel diary day 2: Sweetpea and the Secret Garden

Window lattice in the Changdeokgung
Window lattice in the Changdeokgung

Insadong, Saturday morning 16 February: I had somehow managed to get back to the hotel from Itaewon but the morning is a write-off. I am not best company for lunch with Justina of the Korean Cultural Promotion Agency. She’s in Seoul trying to drum up support (read: money) for the Dano Festival in Trafalgar Square this year (8 June). I have a soothing galbi-tang in one of the restaurants under the Seoul Financial Center, but I eat it without much enthusiasm.

Our guide for the tour of the Changdeokgung and Secret Garden
Our guide for the tour of the Changdeokgung and Secret Garden

Saturday afternoon 16 February: since I was disappointed last time I tried to see the Secret Garden, I turn up for the 3:30 guided tour of the Changdeokgung. Last time I visited the garden was closed for “reconstruction”. Alas, this time I fare no better: “health and safety” prevents the stroll. Apparently there is some ice on the path, so we have to be content with looking at the frozen pond before turning back. In the shade of the trees and with the lack of springtime greenery, the famous pond looks rather drab. But back among the palace buildings it is a sparkling late winter afternoon, and the sun is shining low in the sky, offering perfect conditions in which to look at the architectural detail.

Then, off to Seoul Selection for a browse and a coffee, which makes me begin to feel a bit more human and gets rid of the last of the hangover fog still remaining after the chilly palace walk. I’d been told that Hank is usually around at 5pm on Saturdays, but unfortunately not so on this occasion. Still, it’s rude to visit without buying a book or two, so the latest KOFIC film director book (Tony Rayns on Jang Sun-woo) ends up in my bag.

Saturday evening 16 February: the LKL / Expat Arts Korea meetup with Pete. We meet in the Baekam Art Hall near Samseong subway stop for the concert by Sweetpea (thanks to Anna of Indieful RoK for finding out about this). Pete and I are the only foreigners there. Probably all the other music-oriented foreigners are at the Bjork gig not too far away in the Olympic stadium. A very pleasant evening of mellow music, though somehow the concert seemed rather passive, without much connection between performer and audience. Then off to a Hongdae bar (BricX) for a beer and a kebab of dried leather smeared with pepper sauce. The culinary low point of the weekend.

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