Thursday, April 5, 2012

Seoul, Before the Wedding

It was a family affair. My daughter was getting married half way around the world and we all had our plane tickets. Mother, father, aunts, and brother arrived at Seoul's Incheon airport from the west, the midwest, and northeast US. We were met by my daughter, Sam and her fiancé, Young Ju. What a sight for sore eyes they were! After going from Boston to Chicago to Tokyo and finally Seoul, I was refreshed just to see their faces. They had planned a whirlwind week for us and it was falling into place. We all arrived on time, which is a miracle these days, and spent the night by the airport in Incheon. Sleep was good, and meeting for breakfast to start our day was filled with excitement. The 14 hour time difference was made easier by arriving at night, so we felt pretty rejuvenated the next morning. My daughter, future son-in-law and his family had organized the week complete with agenda, hotels, and car with driver. We didn't have to think about a thing except taking in the experience. What fun it was to have the family gathered so far away. My sisters and my son had never been to Asia and we were all excited. After breakfast we made the 1 hour drive to Seoul, checked into the new hotel and met for a few gift openings before going out for the afternoon. Sam and Young Ju really wanted to show us the city of Seoul. We started at Gyeongbokgung Palace, that has a long history of building, destruction and restoration since 1395. The palace was guarded by the real and the symbolic. We had a lovely and very informative English speaking guide to lead us through the many areas of the palace. There was so much to take in. The Korean culture is proud of their history and are excellent record keepers, so there was a lot of information. This hemispheric sundial was invented in 1433 by Jang Yeon-sil. The national treasure is called, 'Angbuilgu', which means an "upward looking kettle that catches the shadow of the sun." The sun was definitely shining, and if we were here just a little later the cherry blossoms would have been in bloom making it even more spectacular. We left the palace for lunch, which was to become one of many delicious meals here. After lunch, a little shopping seemed to be in order which was a visual feast full of typical Korean wares and street food. I liked the man painting rice paper in the back of a very, very cramped store and brought home a few rolls, among other things. I hadn't changed any money yet so that held my shopping down. I was ready for a seat and tea anyway, and could have sat in this comfortable tea house all afternoon. My daughter and my sisters were still out there shopping and I didn't want to miss anything, so back I went! We had to work up an appetite for an elaborate Korean barbecue meal planned with Young Ju's uncle. What a charming and generous family he has! Arriving at the restaurant I really didn't know how I could eat all of the courses of the meal, but somehow I managed. The soup and fish courses weren't heavy so that helped. We filled leaves with several different fillings and folded before eating.Our server lit the gas pits recessed into the table and barbecued slabs of beef, tending to it to make sure it was done perfectly. When the barbecue was done, I could barely stop eating it because it was so tasty. A seaweed soup with oyster and tofu was the last course, and a cup of tea finished our meal. We left very full and satisfied. Bed looked good that night! Amazingly jet lag didn't seem to affect us, and after breakfast the next morning (how could we even be hungry again?!) we headed out for another taste of Seoul. There were happy faces all around.I finally changed some money. Young Ju said the best rate came from 2 ladies, the grandmas, who change it in the shopping district. He was right, and now I had scored Korean won to trade with the vendors. In hindsight, I wish I had taken advantage of more bargains, but not knowing what was around the corner, I spent conservatively. I'm also very aware that I have to cart it all back home, too! Street food was everywhere. The sweet, and steamy savory aromas made us stop and look. I'd like to think I'd try most things, but the ick factor of silkworms cooking away in this cauldron nixed that idea! They are an eco-friendly delicacy, but this was not going to happen. I guess I'd be voted off of the island! Instead, I bought some persimmons, hoshigaki, that are massaged and dried in a Japanese manner. It is a fascinating process and I'm sure a tastier option than the previous. We ate some of the persimmons plain which were soft, thick and sweet in the center. I think I'll make a tagine with the rest of them. It was now lunch time...more food...and the plan was to have lunch at Din Tai Fung, a Chinese noodle restaurant. So far our planned agenda was very satisfying in every way and watching the dumplings being made, I knew this would be good, real good. I was starting to feel like a dumpling myself, though, and hoped I would still be able to fit into my wedding suit. I had the skirt taken in before I left the US and was beginning to get a little worried! Problems...problems :-) A common greeting in Korea is, 밥먹었어(요)? bam-meo-geo-sseo(-yo), or "have you eaten?" I think at any point we could have given a resounding, "Yes!"

Well fed, it was time to call our driver and head out for the 4 hour drive south to where my daughter and her fiancé live. The busyness of the city slowly turned to countryside. It was a relaxing ride as we talked the whole way, full of anticipation about the wedding and the exciting new beginning to their lives. The sun was setting over the mountains as so much lay before all of us.
We had a wedding to prepare for.

Stumble Upon Toolbar


KatyD. said...


This is amazing! Would you mind if I shared this on Great Beginnings Events FB page? I would love to hear all about the entire wedding experience. Your daughter is so lovely... and a mini you! Thank you so much for sharing such a personal and touching event!
K. Hyde

2 Stews said...

Karen...Thanks for your kind comments and please feel free to share Sam's wedding story. It was such a wonderful experience and I'll be posting all about the wedding next. Can't wait to see it on your FB page...thanks again!


linda said...

thank you for sharing this very magical time.
your beautiful daughter resembles you.
best wishes for a lifetime of joy & happiness to sam and young ju!

Banannas said...

Thank you for posting such nice glimpses of Seoul--it's such an amazing bustle, isn't it?

Wishing S and YJ much joy in their future life together!

2 Stews said...

Linda...thank you so much for your kinds wishes, I'll pass them along to the Newlyweds :-) It was truly a trip of a lifetime in so many ways!

Bananas...yes, Seoul is incredible. I'm glad you stopped by so I could discover your blog, I'm sure more trips to Seoul are in my future. Thanks too, for your good wishes!