We docked at Inchon, Korea about 7am and Immigration authorities there came onto the ship to clear those going ashore. Everyone had been assigned time slots to appear in order to keep order to the process but, as you might expect with everyone thinking they were above the rules, a goodly number ignored the slots and just came when they felt like it. So, another day started with a built-in schedule delay.
Fortunately, the process went by fast despite the line going from the aft end of the ship all the way to the middle. My group was just leaving the ship for the bus when I finally got to the location where excursion people were gathering.
The trip from Inchon to Seoul should be about 45 minutes or so with no traffic. It took an hour and a half. Traffic in Seoul is horrible. We only survived the day at just a couple of hours late because they have bus lanes that allow buses to avoid many of the car lanes. Now and again we had to use the car lanes but the bus lanes made a difference.
We drove by the “Blue House” which is where the President of Korea lives. It gets its name from the blue tiles but, to me, they looked green instead of blue. Fortunately, I was on the proper side of the bus to get a good photo.
Our first stop was at the National Folk Museum. It’s a fascinating history exhibit of Korea built into a pagoda-shaped building and set into an old Korean village reconstruction. I followed the tour for a bit then went out on my own when it was clear the guide was going to spend most of the time in the museum itself; I found the village more interesting. They had a display of animals from the oriental calendar associated with the “year of” dates. Sadly, I found out that my birth year was the Year of the Snake and not the Year of the Dragon. Had my mother waited about four months I would have officially been a dragon. 🙁
We then headed for a local hotel/restaurant for a Korean BBQ lunch. This consists of a burner on each table heating a pan of oil into which meats and vegetables are put to cook. With this is rice and spicy additions like kimchi and other things. It was quite good. What we were not told, however, was that ALL the other buses from the ship were also stopping there for lunch so instead of being in a smaller restaurant we were basically seated at long tables in a large exhibition room. Still good, just not cozy.
From there we stopped at a market street for some shopping. I walked a few stalls down the street and found that what they call “accessories” was mostly cheap stuff I would have no use for. So, I went down the street a bit and spent some time at the South Gate to the city. It’s now in the middle of the city but still interesting.
Next was the highlight of the day, a visit to Changdeok Palace. This is the second most popular palace in the city and we went there because the first, Gyeongbok Palace, was undergoing repairs and not accessible. It was interesting as the usual oriental palace with the overhanging roofs and many rooms and many photos were taken there. The most fascinating thing I found, however, was the kids. For one, there were a number of school groups going through the site and even more interesting quite a few teens dressed up in formal costume and posing for each other to take photos. They really worked at getting just the right pose in the right location.
From there is was a short drive to Hanok Village, another site where old Korean houses were arranged as an old village. The sun was starting to set by then and one more market stop was on the agenda but most of the people (except for two ladies) voted to return to the ship and skip the shopping. I was neutral and planned to stay on the bus either way.
We got back a couple hours late and I decided to sort through my future excursions to see if I can pick ones that are not all day affairs. The excursion companies put in too much and forget about traffic when the develop the schedule. Ten to twelve hours is just too much.