After a few more hours in Seoul

…I’m tired now. I walked for about three hours before I came back to the hotel and crashed for a bit. I saw: Deoksugung Palace, Gyeongbokgung Palace, the changing of the guard at Gyeongbokgung Palace, the nifty neighborhood along Samjongdonggil (near Gyeongbokgung), and some other places that I couldn’t name, even if I squinted at the map for a while.

While I was wandering about the grounds of Gyeongbokgung Palace, I suddenly heard, “Excuse me! Excuse me!” It was three kids, about eleven years old, who said their homework was to take pictures of themselves with a foreigner in three different places. Random, but the kids were cute and weren’t trying to do anything sketchy. So we took some photos, and I went on my way, amused.

It’s intriguing how much Seoul has built underground. There’s a subway system, like most major cities, but there’s also a vast network of arcades, many lined with shops, and passageways for crossing underneath huge intimidating intersections.

Later I found myself at Lotte. Lotte is a hotel, department store, food court, grocery store, gateway to underground walkways, and (to me at least) a fascinating experience. First of all, it’s completely packed. Back home, every store closes by 5 or 6 on Sundays, if they open at all. Second of all, it’s a lot of things that I’ve never before seen all in one (multi-story) package. Most of all, this was the place to be. Throngs of hipsters, schookids, grandmas, lovebird-y couples, girls linked at the elbows, and an astounding number of impeccable uniformed employees.

The crowds overwhelmed my fascination pretty quickly. I ventured down to the basement, where I’d heard the food court was.

“Food court” doesn’t even begin to describe it. Sure, part of it was a vaguely familiar collection of takeout food places with a central seating area. The rest of it was like a department store for food. Tanks of seafood, walls of cold drinks, an organic corner, a crowded “Valentine Day” counter selling chocolates, fresh produce, meat, noodles, sushi, dumplings, snacks, SPAM (yes), bakeries, prepared food, bubble tea…. It was a department store for food.

The only analogy I can think of is Reading Terminal in Philadelphia, except this was sleek and modern and all part of the same owner. Plus, it was only one floor of a massive complex. And I didn’t see any Amish people. Think Reading Terminal meets Nordstrom, add on a nice hotel, and think escalators everywhere.

I bought noodles and a bubble tea. Comfort food, curiously enough.

P.S. Pictures will have to wait until I’m back home. I unearthed the cord I need to download pictures, but I must have re-earthed it before I packed, because it’s not here.

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