I am having a fantastic time in Korea. My friend lives in Seoul, he says he lives in a really crowded part but luckily we haven't been out when it has been too crowded. The first day I was here we went to Insadong, a neighbourhood with street vendors and small shops and restaurants. This is a famous place for tourists to go to find souvenirs and see what the traditional Korean crafts are. We walked the length of the street about 3 times before the day was done. We had lunch at a chinese restaurant because I am probably not able to handle Korean restaurant food so well due to the spices. I'm eating lots of interesting new food that his mother has been cooking, and most of it I can eat without any problem--she's making the "non-spicy" version of things I'm sure. We saw the palace in Seoul after lunch. The English tour was going too fast, and the English was not exactly English, so we took our own tour, a much longer one. The palace was beautiful. They are in the process of restoring the entire complex to its former state. New buildings are being constructed according to 1930s photos and older notes. The rafters and ceilings are all magnificently painted in vibrant colours and complex patterns.
After the palace we went to have ice cream, and then to a HUGE book store (nicely air conditioned) and then I was led back toward Starbucks (the place where we would meet another friend for dinner) and suddenly around a corner beside all the shops and stores was a very big temple. We went up to the steps and inside I could see 3 big gold leaf Buddhas sitting there. There were many people at the temple bowing, kneeling, standing and bowing again. My friend is Buddhist and he said that they do this 108 times or 3000 times sometimes.
We met my other friend at Starbucks and went to have dumplings for dinner. Although it was a non spicy food, there were jalapenos swimming in the broth....
We walked after dinner and found a stream running in the city. It had stepping stones and stairs to the water, and fountains and lights and a waterfall. It was created to bring a more ecologically friendly meeting place for many people. It was a very popular place on that hot evening. People were wading in the stream although it was apparently illegal to take a bath there. Closer to the waterfall there was a security man blowing a whistle at anyone who got too close to the water.
We went back and slept so soundly! I think I am more tired than I realize, but somehow I'm waking up early still.