So much for Spring. Light snow was falling as we finally caught up with my Seoul Friend for a tour of Noryangjin Fish Market, where one can select their dinner and then take it upstairs to be cooked. We, though, just came to ogle these National Geographic caliber creatures of the sea.
This crab had other plans…
Warmed by a package of fresh made red bean paste filled fish cakes (in design only) from a street vendor we decided on some worthwhile wandering of Dongdaemun, one of Asia’s largest shopping districts and where I picked up (quite) a few fun things for Anna Grace as the snow blew sideways at us; our preferred itinerary for the afternoon, taking in a Korean baseball game, long having been nixed. A Fashion Week event was underway, the models walking amongst us mortals (at least we think the Hello Kitty-robed dude was a model) and looking terribly frozen through their smiles and skimpy clothing.
One of Seoul’s remaining city gates, surrounded by modern living on all sides.
Lunch was at a place suggested by Seoul Friend, near one of Seoul’s old gates: steaming stone bowls of Bulgogi with crispy rice on the bottom! If you have never eaten this goodness, you really should.
JF and I bid farewell to Seoul Friend, and braving the weather headed back toward Insa-dong, the intention being to pack and take in the excitement of the street markets in Myeondong before our departure the following day. Walking back to the hotel, the snow falling a little more heavily, I snapped a lovely photo of the Bosingak Belfry (again, the modern surrounding the traditional) amidst swirling flakes. The Belfry was used during the Joseon times to mark time. The bell would ring 33 times at 0400 to start the day; thankfully now it is only rung to celebrate the New Year’s.
Taking the little break was ruinous to our dinner plans. The lure of Korean street food lost to, “Let’s get something close by so we won’t freeze.” Darn you, Mother Nature. Snow? On the first day of Spring? All is well that ends well, and the menu at a nearby Indian/Pakistani restaurant was just the palate cleanser we needed for our departure to Japan the following day. Karahi Beef and its spices brought tears (of joy) to my eyes; JF reported equal happiness with her Paneer Curry. So, just as I left Singapore without lifting a chopstick of Chicken Rice to my lips, I would leave Seoul without sitting for Korean Barbeque. Two strikes in my “foodie” credentials passport. Would I redeem myself in Japan?
Of course, the morning of our departure day was non-parka warm and sunny! JF and I had just enough time for a lengthy walkabout of Changdeokgung Palace, one of the five main Joseon palaces and the one considered the most beautiful. We agreed; the palace buildings seem as if they came from nature rather than interrupted it; and if I had been a Joseon royal this is where I would be spending my time.
At some point during the Joseon period, “Yang Tank Guk” was the term given to the “soup from the West,” the friendly name for coffee used among the general population. I wonder what traditional name would be given to these beverages?
Some final shopping in Insta-dong before the ride to Incheon. The neighborhood is noted for its calligraphy artists, evidence by the brush sculpture at the top of the main street. We really liked Insta-dong, where just steps from the busy and modern one could find traditional craftsmen and women tucked down barely findable narrow lanes, almost as if time had stopped, or at least slowed down.
JinAir only offers in-person, at-the-airport check-in so we duly obliged by the request to arrive 2 hours early. I hoisted my 22.9kg Tumi onto the baggage belt and the JinAir groundcrew member smiled and said, “We only allow 15kg for checked baggage.” I just smiled in return and she moved the baggage along.
The quirky checked baggage limit aside, JinAir was a pleasant airline to fly; and if I had to hop back and forth between Tokyo and Seoul I would have little to grouse about. Though the plane was older (translation: no entertainment beyond the in-flight magazine), the seats were spacious and the legroom ample. The afternoon “snack” was a box with a Tuna Onigiri. The snack was delicious; the tuna-breath filled cabin air, though perhaps not so much.
Konichiwa, Tokyo? JinAir doesn’t exactly rate a prime gate at Narita. We may actually have landed in Osaka and taxied to Narita, that is how long it felt we were moving along the runway. The JinAir flight crew was ready for the passenger impatience and would periodically announce that we were “almost” at our gate. Kind of funny, really.
Finally, bags in hand we headed to the Japan Rail Office to collect my pre-purchased JREast Pass. Except the system failed. Regardless of whether one has pre-purchased a pass, one must still queue with all those who have not. So much for time saved. Nearly 45 minutes after we joined the queue did I receive my pass. JF messaged her husband that he should head to the market and collect some dinner for us, as it was nearing 2000 and neither she nor I were any longer in the mood to dine out.
The Husband came through spectacularly, with tempura and steamed edamame waiting for us. We feasted; I Instagrammed my view over Tokyo Bay to friends; and then called it a night.