Sunday, February 1, 2009

Lunar New Year

The last weekend in January is Lunar New Year, which is one of the most important holidays throughout east Asia.  We had a long weekend so we went to Seoul with most of our friends from Gwangju. 

Readingtown had Friday off, but Avalon still had to work. Caitlin, Jesse, Shane and I decided to go up early to Icheon, which is a little town about an hour from Seoul. Icheon basically has two reasons to visit and we did them both. The first is that its famous for its pottery. We went to a little ceramic village and shopped around in more little pottery shops than I have ever seen in my life. The boys quickly livened up this trip by drinking big beers and wandering through ceramic shops. None of the owners seemed to mind. One adjumma even gave them snacks to go with their beers. It was extremely cold and we were basically the only shoppers there. Some owners weren't in their own shops, but hanging out in others because it was so quiet there. 

I bought these four tiny petal teacups and little wooden petal saucers. There were some really beautiful ceramics there, but I liked these little guys and figured they wouldn't be too much trouble to get home. 
Later that night, we went to the other reason to visit Icheon- the Miranda Spa. Korean spas called jim-jjil-bangs are really awesome! We have recently become enamored with jim-jjil-bangs and have been going to the one in our neighborhood a lot. The jim-jjil-bang is separated by sex and you cruise around from hot pool to hot pool or to a jet pool or to a sauna or to an herb bath totally naked. This may sound scary, but in Korean culture this is totally natural. Everyone goes from toddlers to women in their sixties or seventies- all naked. 

In America, this would never fly as it would probably attract weirdos and wouldn't be a place you would go with your sister, mother, daughter and friends to spend an afternoon or evening soaking, relaxing, exfoliating. In our neighborhood, it is only 4,800 won and you can stay as long as you want. There is a gym there too. The spa in Icheon was much nicer because it sits on a natural hot spring and there are outdoor hot pools. Caitlin and I sat outside in a hot yellow mud bath, drinking beer, and staying warm, but having ice-locks! Our hair was freezing out there. 

The next morning, we hopped on a bus to Seoul, met up with the Avalon folks who rode the train up that morning, found a hotel, ate Mexican food, and headed to a Canadian Brewery. Matt and Jesse decided that the Beer Tower would be most appropriate for their beer needs. 
Later that night we went a party called "Four Rooms", which meant that four (well really three) bars in one building threw a party together. One bar had a lingerie show and a Wii. One was a Canadian themed bar and one was called "Owl Bus". This was by far my favorite. It was the perfect bar for Kathleen. It had a design theme that was at the same time industrial, bohemian, and full of OWLS! It was pretty small and cute and a some DJs for a little dancing.  I don't have pictures from this night because I put all my things in a locker. 

On Sunday, we went out for more Mexican food! Then we tried to find a museum with a William Blake exhibition. We traveled long and far to get there for it only to be closed! The boys couldn't take this museum fail and re-gathered themselves by lying on the sunny ground. 
From there we went to Namdaemun market. I heard there was a large wholesale jewelry market there and I was right, but this was also closed! Museums, markets, lots of things shut down for Lunar New Years. Sunday was mostly a bust besides the good food we ate. We went to an Indian buffet for dinner. Below are Jesse, Matt, and Simon testing the lady's race car wares at Namdaemun.
Matt and Shane had some fun playing crazy on the subway all weekend. Lisa looks to me for help, but I can give her none. 

Monday was much less of a fail! We split up into smaller groups for people with different agendas. Matt, Lisa, Shane and I headed to Gyeongbukgong, the largest of the Seoul palaces. Most of the weekend, the holiday was a burden because of closings, but not at the palace! It was open and there was no admission fee! There were also lots of traditional Korean  activities happening. 
One of the fun activities was dressing up like a palace guard! For free! The boys didn't want to, but Lisa and I waited in the short line. I think they gave me the child's outfit. All the other ones had long sleeves and were longer in length. 
The ponds in the palace were totally frozen and people were allowed onto one to play a spinning top games and to be pulled on little wooden ice sleds, but the children had a pretty good monopoly on those. 

The palace was close to my favorite non-alcoholic beverage establishment of all time. The Old Tea Shop filled with antiques and live birds! We went there on our last trip to Seoul and I don't know if I can visit that city without coming here. 

Then we were on a bus home with still one more day of the long weekend to relax. We went to our local jim-jjil-bang and cooked a fish dinner at home. Matt makes a delicious fish!

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