Saturday, 29 August 2015

Thursday 27th August - moonlight tour

So Thursday night at the Palace was serene and gentle and magical. Not so the getting there and getting home afterwards!!! I had arranged to meet Mark at the ticket office. He sent me details of how to get there by metro but in the end we opted fro a taxi which Luke ordered to be here at 7 pm. A really larnie black sleek number!! So I am waiting outside and I see this car without any taxi signs or lights ooze passed - is that the taxi I ask the gate man - no as he shakes his head - unlike in Nepal where shaking your head indicated the affirmative..... the black car then stops with flashing lights about 50 metres away. I call Luke who is at his function to say the guy is not yet here - luke calls me back to say he has just spoken to the guy so says he's waiting outside..... in the meantime I suddenky remembered I was supposed to have my passport so I dashed back to get it. On coming out I phoned the taxi guy so our gate guy could talk to him and lo the driver of the black car gets out holding his pone and waives to me.... So off we go - I show the piece of paper on which Mel has written the name of the Palace in English and in Korean!! He shakes his head and points to his GPS. So off we go and rive for quite a while - I confirm with Luke via text that Luke had given the driver the destination.  All good or was it.... we see enormous palace gates ahead, all lit up and the driver says some"where must I drop you?" I say in a thick accent "ticket office.. tic-ket" rubbing my fingers together to indicate money exchanging hands!!!! In the meantime I have been getting texts from Mark saying he is running late and, then where am I and then he is now eat the ticket office.... so I ask him if he could talk to the driver. Brilliant idea - we discover that I am at the wrong palace!!! So - eventually we find the place and connect with Mark - and there are still 10 minutes before the tour is due to start. Then the next hurdle - (interesting - to digress for a moment - when is it an obstacle and when is it a hurdle.... I guess its to do with how we relate to what ever 'it' is...) My name is on their list but the reference numbers we have, which Luke received as confirmation of booking and payment) are not the same as theirs!! Not are the cell phone numbers the same as any of ours - that was not surprising as we used the location agents number and we had not got our phones yet. So once again - calls to Luke, then emails from Luke to the ticket lady .... minutes ticking by - me showing them my passport with my name and birth date exactly as on their list - I have no idea why we cannot just go in but some protocol was being breached - Mark trying to understand it - speaking in Korean. we hen get taken to another list where some other lady suddenly says all is OK so off we go - we are in room 2 which I realised later was in fact group 2!!!

There were 5 or 6 different groups with a group leader carrying the proverbial flag bearing your number. We were each given head sets. Our guide was young Korean woman, quite softly spoken with a lovely lilting voice. It was a perfect evening - the moon was full, there was a slight breeze and it was staggering to think we were in the centre of a bustling city and yet it was so very still. There were even little raccoon type animals that scurried across the path. The buildings were pagoda type structures with intricate lace patterns on the windows - we didn't go inside any buildings and in fact only the throne room which was three stories high was furnished. It was difficult to follow her explanations so in the end I decided to take in the ambiense and the essence of the place and not worry about the detail. Sadly the pics are a bit disappointing but I will include some and speak to them as I go along.

Please look at the pics as they are numbered in the captions, starting at number 1 - durrhh!!!

8. A staggeringly beautiful  scene of a building set above a pond in which everything was reflected. Trees were lit from below. This is in the secret garden, 300 000 sq metres of largely unkempt natural vegetation - the secret being exactly this - that everything is left to its own devices and not manicured so it reveals the secret of nature. The trees are old and form a canopy overhead with delicate green leaves fanning out, catching the lighting and the moon light. - a feeling of incredible gentleness and delicacy  - and yes - secrecy! 

9. A woman quietly playing a traditional instrument - it seemed to be a plank with twine on it which she played with her fingers and a stick every so often. It sounded quite eerie and haunting and sort of reminded me of bushman or aboriginal instruments

10. There was a' orchestral' presentation at the end after we had tasted some Korean tea and delicacies.
Amazing instruments that produce a very unique sound.
Hopefully you will hear a few notes I was able to record before my battery said howzit!!!

6. City buildings in the background - hard to comprehend that we were in the heart of Seoul
with its sprawling millions of inhabitants. 

5. A corner of the throne room - very ornate and beautifully balanced without being over the top!

4. Inside the throne room - viewed through netting at the entrance 

3. The throne room - one floor three stories high.

2. Inside he palace grounds and looking back at the entrance with the moon in the sky! We were given the option of carrying a coloured lantern to light your way - see the red, blue and white coolurs of the lantern - very graceful!

7. A good example of how ornate some of the walls are - notice the lattice windows in the back ground. 

1. The entrance to the palace - everyone in rows behind their room/group leader!!
The tour lasted  two hours and mark and I decided to treat ourselves to a glass of wine - well easier said than done. we couldn't find anywhere open so opted for tea. We finally found a place in a pedestrians only street or area called Insagung I think Mark said! It was wonderful to be strolling around mingling with the locals who took absolutely no notice of us. Things were definitely winding down. In fact we were told the tea room was closing so were asked to leave. I had iced jujube tea which was really good, far tastier than Mark's iced cinamon tea. A few places were still open but none were serving liquor it seemed.

By this time it was about 11 pm so we tried to get a taxi for me. Mark was caching the metro home. Well - an impossible task - taxis have strict areas in which they are allowed to porate and drin-ve and everyone we hailed was not allowed to go to Itaewon. Mark tried calling 3 or 4 taxi companies he knew to order one without luck. Eventually we called Luke who said he would call the guy who had dropped me but I didn't tell Luke that I was no longer at the palace!!! Anyway hopeless!! We cancelled him and Luke said Mel would fetch me -  by  this time it was after 11.30 and of course I had no battery left in my phone!! At this point a young Korean couple asked if they could help us and pointed us in the direction of a tall building a block or so away and assured us we would find a taxi there! We set off at a gallop as Mark was anxious to get the metro before it closed but obviously could not leave me. Well we spotted a taxi and when I shoved the slip of paper with our address written in Korean on it in the window, the guy held up 3 fingers and made a zero with his fore finger and thumb - 30 000 - Mark  was outraged but I said whoa - absolutely I will take it - rather than have Mel come out in the middle of the night!! Luke had had a good party so couldn't drive!! So I finally arrived home well after midnight - really.......

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