Monday, October 31, 2005

Excommunication: South Korea

Welcome to Korea, South Korea that is, the land of multiple battles both ancient and modern. By all accounts this place shouldn't exist. Having been the territory between two Imperialistic powers; China and Japan, Korea became the staging grounds for many battles. While Erin and I visited there (on our rather unintended vacation) we visited the largest palace in Seoul. The palace began construction in 1394 A.D. during the Josen Dynasty and remains the largest and most elaborate of the Five Grand Palaces. When completed there were 330 buildings covering 410,000 sq meters of land. During the mid 16th century most of it was burned to the ground by a Japanese invasion and then rebuilt. Yet, again in 1911 all but 10 buildings were destroyed by yup you guessed it the Japanese. The structures that remain are still awe-inspiring. We visited the palace twice within the time we were in Korea and were lucky enough to visit during a reenactment of the changing of the guard.

The guards wearing red are higher ranking soldiers and carried short swords. Every guard was well-equipped with fake beards and mustaches, which they constantly had to press back on due to the heat. Some nearly fell over at times from nodding off to sleep while others kept busy by chewing gum. As for the cute guards wearing brown they were there to make you feel a little more welcomed. Even still I felt like when I walked by these guys they were going to swiftly lop off my head. You see, now this is what I'm talking about here. The guy in red (below right) is fast asleep. If it weren't for the kid in the Adidas t-shirt in the background (left) this would make or a pretty good shot. The ceremony began when this wussy guy, dressed in light blue, came out of a room above the main entrance and tinged a bell. After that he disappeared back inside to his card game. Then a not so wussy guy whammed on a giant drum and the changing of the guard was on. A new batch of guards appeared accompanied by guys playing instruments that sounding like bagpipes being slaughtered.

Oh yeah by the way the name of the palace is Gyeongbokgung (Gyeongbok Palace). Try saying that five times fast. After a couple of bows and checking of official nametags the old guards were replaced and we could move on into the rest of the palace.

There a shot of your intrepid adventurers standing on a stone pathway that is known as the
emperor's Walk. The middle stairs to every entrance are roped off, reserved only for royalty.
Every structure was colourfully painted and intricately designed.
On the left is a shot of the ceiling of the emperor's throne room where they discussed matters of war with the highest ranking generals.
Erin sitting in the general courtyard next to a stone with Korean characters carved in it to designate name and status. She is probably sitting just as ancient soldiers of the past have when the Emperor would address them before battle. Korea has had a troubled past with many enemies from ancient Liao to the Mongols, the Japanese, and also fighting amoungst themselves. Even their two major religions Confucianism and Buddhism have played a role in instigating some skirmishes.
A pagoda, surrounded by a man-made pond filled with coy, which the emperor used as a place of meditation. The royal family's study (top right). A Korean woman in traditional dress with a notably pissed-off look in her eye. The first time a snapped a photo of these ancient beauties they chased me off yelling in Korean. Apparently it may not be kosher to take their picture. Oh well at least I now know I can out run them.
For those nature lovers out there, a glimpse of South Korea's Flora & Fauna.

There's the giant coy, aprox. a meter long, some kind of black and white crow, and the swift carnivorous long-eared black squirrel.

Hope yall enjoyed this overdue view...

...well another stamp in the passport more taboos trounced upon and I'm still not sure what I 'm eating. Take care yall. (Fear not I am not wearing a Yankee's hat but rather a Hanshin Tigers hat. Osaka's die hard baseball team who tearfully were swept in the Japan Series.) Ja mata! (Later!)