The project is up, the media promotion is over, and I have come to Seoul for a few days to be a tourist. First stop was the Myogaksa Temple. That is actually like saying ATM machine - "sa" in Korean means temple. In any case, they have a two-day program for people to stay and experience life in a Korean Buddhist temple, so I did that. The temple is right in the middle of the older part of Seoul. It is a little oasis of quiet and beauty.
Kimchee fermenting on the rooftop.
Bell ringing at dawn.
The program is geared to people who have never encountered Buddhism so a lot of it was review for me, but it was from a distinctly Korean perspective that was very interesting. The nun who runs the program is very lively and funny so it was as "fun and happy" as she kept telling us it would be. The program also was in English, although about half the group was Korean. I recommend it, especially if you are looking for an introduction to Buddhist philosophy put into action (but in a fairly gentle way).
From that little oasis, I moved on to a hotel near the big Olympic Park in the newer part of the city. May I say right here and now that I am very grateful to the Seoul subway system for including English everywhere - it makes getting around so easy and makes the entire city feel accessible.
Well, sort of. Once I was out of the subway, things got confusing fast. People don't really use street names as ways of giving their address. My host in Cheongju explained that this was a relatively new invention that most people have not adopted. So, if you ask where such-and-such street is, most people will have no idea. You need the name of the people or place where you are headed.
So I wandered around looking for my hotel while my bag that got heavier by the hour, for yes, it was more than an hour that I wandered. I did ask for help but please see the above paragraph. Finally someone looked up the phone number of the hotel and I was able to ask someone else to call them and they sent out an emissary to find me and bring me there.
Once here, I realized that I had made the choice I tried very hard not to make when booking my hotel online. I had booked myself into a "love hotel" aka a hotel that caters to the hourly crowd. It is very common in Seoul apparently and, after four days of searching online for a room without success, I booked this one with a bit of apprehension. But it is ok. The location is good, the room is very clean, and I think they are trying not to put less long-term guests in rooms near my room so it is actually quite quiet.
Mr. Pringles is very sexy.
The only way I would know that this isn't a tourist hotel is the lack of a bureau for clothes, the condom and the sex toy thing in the little courtesy pack in the room.
Also the "walk of shame," as I have dubbed it. The hotel is on a street with other hotels of the same purpose. Every single one has a screen of sorts that allows cars to drive up to the door without people being able to see who is getting out of the car from the street. As a pedestrian, everyone walking by can see. I feel like holding up a sign saying, "I really didn't mean to book my stay here! I am only a misguided tourist!" But whatever. I can manage for a couple of days in my love hideaway.
A rather scant breakfast after a long night of illicit love, don't you think?
Today, once I finish my walk of shame to the main road, I have VIP tickets (gift of the Biennale director) to the Korean International Art Fair. I will hold my head high.