Bookends

We are on our way home, tired and full of the wonders of Asia: Japan, India, Nepal and now South Korea, it has been a grand tour and adventure. It did not occur to us when we were making our plans that we were bookending our tour of historical India and Nepal with these two very modern cities. The contrast has been remarkable.

Like Tokyo, Seoul is a huge capital metropolis full of modern skyscraper architecture, an incredible transportation system of subways and trains, and some beautifully preserved history. We are staying in Meongdong, the fashion district, a tightly packed neighbourhood with hundreds of shops, restaurants and department stores, many multi-storied. Seoul is a city of young beautifully turned out people, obviously very interested in the latest fashion and willing to pay for it.

And it seems also interested in tradition, at least the young women. While visiting the Joseon period palace, a huge complex of intricately decorated and designed 18th and 19th century courtyards, temples and rooms, we saw hundreds of young women in colourful traditional Korean dress, each with a small matching purse. There were also a few young men in period garb. At first we thought they were docents but the cameras and Adidas gave them away. We were told they rented the costumes called hanbok to be photographed by their friends with the palaces as a backdrop. The women’s handbags were the perfect size for cell phone cameras!

We were helped by several people who went out of their way to give us directions. One man in a business suit approached us and asked where we were going. We had thought we would walk but he said we must follow him and led us into the subway where he waited while we fumbled with buying a ticket. He then came with us to the transfer point, again assisted us with the tickets and saw us onto our train. He seemed very concerned that we get safely where we were going. We were very appreciative and a little surprised at his interest and generosity.

We also met several people from Vancouver who were returning that day, making us long for home even more. We will soon be back to our routines but with many wonderful memories of our Asian explorations. Some say you travel in order to appreciate home and that is certainly true for me!

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