savemyseoul's Diaryland Diary

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said she'd like to meet a boy who look likes elvis

I'm mid-trip, in Gyeongju, taking a little break in a PC-방 because there are no coffee shops in my near vicinity and it's raining. I've actually gotten extremely lucky thus far, though; the weather has been spectacular, warm and sunny without being too brutally hot. Although 85% humidity takes some getting used to for a Coloradan...

Contrary to the itinerary I posted in my last entry, there will be no cross-country jaunt to Mokpo. There turned out to be simply too much to do in Gyeongsanbuk-do, and I just... well, I like taking my time as a traveler. I've never been one for lightning 'see everything everywhere TODAY' trips, they simultaneously exhaust and bore me. So after planning something along those lines for myself, I took a step back and said 'fuck it.'

I stayed in a fairly famous little hostel last night -- the sort of place that people come to Seoul and recommend completely on its own merits, before even talking about the town in which it sits -- and I packed my bags this morning and moved to a sterile, anonymous motel down the road. I guess I'm looking for something different than your average backpacker on this trip, but I paid W30'000 for last night, sleeping on a crappy rice mattress on the floor with a broken fan and a communal shower, and I'll pay W30'000 for tonight while sleeping on a real mattress with a functioning fan, AC, a television, and an en suite bathroom. The only difference between the two is that at the hostel I'd be likely to meet other foreigners; but please, I live by Itaewon, my goal on this trip was pretty much explicitly to escape from foreigners for a while.

I just finished The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana by Eco and am about 3/4 of the way through Seeing, the [sort of] sequel to Saramago's Blindness; and both are stunning. I admit to a certain... obsessive fondness for Eco, but I think anyone would enjoy Queen Loana, as it captures the amazing prose and the depth of his literary fascination you find in Foucault's Pendulum while being much less liable to make you want to rip off your brain and stuff it in a nearby deep-fryer.

Trip itself, thus far: excellent. I don't have any pictures at the moment, and won't until I return to my camera cable; I can't even tell you if I possess good pictures, as the LCD screen on my digital shattered somewhere in Brazil. But I've been clicking away like mad, so I'm hoping some few will turn out well. I've been to more temples than I can count, including two of the primary examples of Korean Buddhism -- Jikjisa and Haeinsa -- and am going to another, Bolguksa, tomorrow morning. I think in some ways I prefer the settings of the temples to the temples themselves, as the old monks really had an amazing eye for proportional placement on the mountainsides, while the actual structures vary in age from 400 years to less than 20, and it's weird to be unable to tell the difference. Korean ceremonial architecture has changed so little in 1100 years that the traditional carpenters and painters working today don't really have to 'replicate' anything when they rebuild old structures; they just do what they always do, on a building site that dates back millenia. It's a strange feeling.

I have to admit, after mocking for the better part of my life the stereotype in the West of Asian tourists taking pictures instead of experiencing, I think I may be guilty of a bit of the same. That's not to say that I haven't been experiencing as well, but as anyone who has traveled with me is well aware, I'm fanatic about plaques, and there just aren't any here. Even if I could understand Korean, there would be only slightly more information available to your average tourist. I think that a lot of the temple sites, though wide open for visiting and intended for tourism, are used most often for religious tourism; and so I end up looking at ten buildings, all of them nearly identical, with the same brackets and paint-whorls and Sino-Korean writing and gold-gilt Buddhas, and I end up taking pictures of everything in hopes of perhaps, at home, with Claire's help or a dictionary or wikipedia, evolving a better understanding of what I'd been looking at. It's a bit ass-backwards, but it's how it goes.

This entry is utterly directionless! But because I will forget, and throw away the receipt upon which this is written, I need to transcribe something. These are the rules that were enscribed on an ancient 14-sided die found in an excavation of the tumuli burial sites in Gyeongju, estimated to be some 1200 years old. One presumes that the rules were much like any modern drinking game... follow the instructions, if you fail you drink? Read and enjoy.

- Never abandon your unpleasant partner.

- Drink three straight shots of liquor.

- Drink silently.

- Sing Goeraeman.

- Let them strike your nose.

- Recite a poem.

- Drink your cup with both arms bent.

- Disregard an assault while remaining calm and passive.

- Remain immobile while someone tickles your face.

- If you have two cups of liquor, give them away.

- Drink up and laugh loudly.

- Ask anybody to sing.

- Sing and drink.

- Sing Wolgyeong.

I think I'm going to go watch the new Mummy tonight, oddly enough. Love to all.

6:23 p.m. - 2008-07-30

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