The warm floor combined with the tendrils of light streaming in from the open window blanketed my body, almost uncomfortably. I rolled over to see my husbands sea green eyes open staring at me with sleepy tenderness, “Happy Valentines day” he whispered so as not to wake our hostess in her door-less loft. We had gone into Seoul for the weekend and spent Friday night out on the town. Saturday we struggled to find something open, despite the holiday on which it was predicted that 50% of Seoulites would leave for the countryside. We eventually lost hope while fighting the bitter cold, that some cultural event lay hidden pining to be discovered like a buried treasure. This past weekend was the Lunar New Year, one of the biggest holidays in not only South Korea but in all of Asia. It is a time for family, aka: women slaving away in the kitchen. We asked one of our co-workers if she had enjoyed the weekend:
"How was your weekend?" Kyle asked.
"It was okay I guess" she replied tenebrously.
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"It's hard for all Korean women" she replied quietly.
It's a story I have heard before. Women cook all weekend and don't have time to enjoy their family. "The weeks are more relaxing than the weekends!" they say, which is especially true if visiting the in laws which is expected often.
But in general, the holiday is supposed to include family time, honoring ancestors, and playing traditional games. I had read that folk villages were having celebrations and many events would be happening for foreigners to experience a taste of what this celebration was all about.
Our decision: Go to Insadang, the traditional part of town, and see what was going on there. The folk villages were having events, surely so was the most famous section of Seoul.
Result: WRONG! Insadong was deader than dirt.
So upon our departure from the city bus with the gas pumping, curve hugging, maniac bus driver unfamiliar with the brake, we decided to let our queasy stomaches settle with tea and birds at the Flying Bird Tea House. You might remember this tea house from last year as it isn’t everyday that one goes to a tea house with overpriced delicious tea and flying birds overhead.
After which we walked around, taking refuge in any store actually open, finally making our way to meet a friend in Myeong Dong (a great shopping area) for some traditional spicy chicken, potato and glass noodle dish.
Sunday however was a FANTASTIC success. We had just discovered Meetup.com the week before, and I had told Amy about the cool events I had seen planned.
"I want to go ice skating!" she declared as she glanced through some of the events.
"Ice skating!" I trilled jumping from my seat, "me too, sign me up."
"There's a group going today." she read
"We are totally going to that" I stated resolutely
After a little over an hour on a subway, a stop in KFC for Kyle's new discovery only here in Korea, the shrimp zinger burger, we attempted and failed to find a taxi to take us to our location and instead had to walk through the bitter cold. Before locating the group, we observed many Koreans either in the traditional Korean attire or trying on costumes available to the public in the plaza by the city. Many Koreans braved the cold to fly kites and, ice skate and enjoy the free entertainment.
Ice skating was DIRT cheap.
$1 for skate rentals for an hour
$.50 for gloves if you didn't have them
Granted, the outdoors ice rink was incredibly crowded, but it was outside, bordered by blue Christmas lights which are kept up all winter long.
Kyle struggled a little with the ice skating as he hadn't done it in quite some time. The ice was very rough, our skates as dull as a history teacher and billions of Koreans to avoid hitting, but it was exhilarating.
Next was a walk through the FREE museum about King Sejong and how he created the written Korean language. As we were leaving a surprise traditional Korean concert began and we had the immense pleasure of listening to the music played on instruments designed hundreds if not thousands of years ago.
And our day ended with a traditional and delicious Korean meal which included the ddeok gook soup (rice cake soup), the soup which all Koreans eat at New Years to mark the increasing of their age of one year.
Kyle couldn't get enough of it, and honestly neither could I. The only complaint I have is the lack of desserts in Korean meals. There are plenty of sweets to be found in the supermarkets, but hardly ever at a restaurant. Desserts just aren't the Korean way. Maybe that's why they aren't fat. But man does the lack of sweets make me cranky!
All in all, this Valentines day beats out last years ten fold! Not only was it wonderfully romantic, but we met some new cool folks and had unique Korean experiences. This new year is going to be fantastic.