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Location: United Kingdom

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Some Korean Oddities

1. There are a lot of people crammed together in the same place. In the high fashion and shopping centres, it can feel very crowded, as we have to push through people all the time. On the other hand, there is little shoving, and people are very gracious about the hassle.

2. Eating Korean food takes a very different mindset to what we are used to. You can see pictures of what the food should look like - although sometimes this is cooked and sometimes uncooked, so if you fancy one of the dishes with the uncooked pictures, it can be very hard to work out what the meal will actually look like when you get served it. Also the meal you think you are ordering is only a small portion of the actual meal. You get a number of small side dishes as well. These may involve: Pickled cabbage, pickled radish, pickled small fish, pickled chillis, pickled onions and ... well, you get the picture. I wouldn't rave about any of them particularly, but the pickled radishes are the best of the bunch.

3. The streets are extremely clean - but there are no bins. I'm not sure if the two are related - but it's possible that they are. I've noticed that the lack of bins makes people simply take their rubbish home. Also wherever you get food or drink, it seems to be practice to take things back to where you got them from. So when people eat at a mall foodcourt they take their trays back to the window where they bought it. Although clean, safe, and with very polite people, we have noticed a number of homeless people - and a couple of beggars, who seem to be accompanied by a small tape player of music as they wander through the streets hoping people will drop money in their bowl.

4. As it's thanksgiving, people dress their children up in traditional clothes and play traditional games. Games I've seen include "wheel the hoop with a stick", "jump alternately on the sea-saw", korean ludo, and "throw the arrow into the pot"

Today we went to another palace. This was used for about half the Korean Joseon dynasty - in other words for about 250 years of the 500 year Joseon period - ending with the Japanese invasion. It was another spectacular grand palace, with ornate wooden buildings painted red and green.

Because of the age and risk of fire, there was no smoking allowed in the area, and they had fire extinguishers everywhere. They also insisted that people only came in as part of a guided tour. The tour guides dressed in traditional costume, and being part of a small group allowed us to feel we had the buildings to ourselves, although in the distance we could see other groups set off and leave along the same pathways.



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