Seoul Trip Oct 2019 – National Museum of Korea

Exterior of National Museum of Korea in Seoul.

20th Oct 2019 (4th Day in Seoul)

An Early Start

We started the day surprisingly early this day. For the first time in this trip, we managed to get breakfast in Seoul. In a very pretty and fitting blue dress, Constant Companion RR and I left our hotel room and started on our almost ridiculous 2 hours walk to the National Museum of Korea.

Unfortunately, there was this extremely steep slope in our way and we had to climb it before we had any breakfast. However, it looked like it was going to be another beautiful day in Seoul.

Breakfast

Somewhere before Yongsan Electronics Market, we popped into a “Paris Baguette” bakery/ cafe for breakfast. It seems like a really popular franchise of bakeries/ cafes in Seoul; they could be found everywhere we went. I must admit though, most of their baked goods look very appetising.

That morning, I had a ham and cheese muffin, some strawberry jam pastries and a latte. Constant Companion RR had a bun with sweet potato filling and her usual Americano.

Finished with our breakfast, Constant Companion RR and I continued with our journey. It would be another hour before we arrive at our destination.


Too much walking?

On average, we walk at least 25,000 steps (according to my Fitbit) every day when we travel. Often by the last few days of the trip, a blister would appear on the smallest toe on my right foot and things can get quite painful. To avoid stepping on the blister, I would adjust my walking stride and this unnatural walking would in turn, give extra stress on my legs, causing them to sore and ache.

This issue has gotten more severe during our recent travels and it is always on the smallest toe on my right foot. The issue, I believe, lies with how the toe’s natural position is as it is slightly lying on its side and, when it goes into the shoe, the fleshy bottom of the toe has a tendency to slip under the toe beside. With every step on my right foot, the fleshy bit gets “pinched” between the neighbouring toe and the inside sole of my shoe. Do that 25,000 times per day over many consecutively days, and you will end up with a very impressive and agonising blister.

Thankfully, Constant Companion RR introduced me to these “artificial skin bandages” which can be used to prevent or to rectify the problem. I just need to remind myself to have that little toe wrapped up at the start of my walking holiday and things will probably be alright. Prevention is always better better cure!

Despite the aching legs and occasional monster blister, Constant Companion RR and I enjoyed walking excessively during our travels if the conditions were right.

In Seoul, both Constant Companion RR and I agree, is one of the best countries we have ever visited in terms of “walkability”.


National Museum of Korea

The exterior

Some time before 12 noon, Constant Companion RR and I finally arrived at the gate of  National Museum of Korea. There was a beautiful body of water infront of the museum, surrounded by a lovely garden.

I, personally, enjoyed all that huge, almost gratuitous, amount of space in that area. While there were a lot of visitor that weekend, the space was more than big enough to accommodate everybody and then more.

The building, a massive rectangular-shaped structure, is kind of split into two wings. That day, a paid exhibition “The Etruscans – Rising to Rome” was held on the left wing, and on the right wing, that is where the museum holds all its regular exhibitions.

Left Wing – Exhibition “The Etruscans – Rising to Rome”

There were two paid exhibitions available that day. Constant Companion RR and I purchased a package ticket which allowed us entrance to both exhibitions. With a bit of extra money, we rented the audio guides for the one about the Etruscan.

The exhibition started with a fancy light show in a narrow corridor and at the end of that corridor, an ancient sculpture of an Etruscan goddess welcomed us. The goddess is known to guide souls to the after world.

Constant Companion RR and I took our time to look through the displays. Every time there is a number prompt shown, we would manually search for and listened to the number on our audio guide for an additional information regarding the exhibit.

I have learnt a couple of things from the exhibition.

  1. The ideal “chilling” position of Etruscan sculpting community was that of a person lying on one side (usually the left), holding a bowl/ cup (most likely wine).
  2. The museum is a wonderful way to spend time with your kids. However, please keep an eye on them. During my visit, there were these 3 annoying brats running around the exhibition despite the multiple attempts the poor exhibit staff made to stop them.

To be honest, the exhibition was a little small, I was surprised when I turned a corner and found myself at the exit. But, it was interesting enough and a nice way to start our visit to National Museum of Korea. Constant Companion RR and I spent about an hour here.

Lunch Break!

Although we did not want to take our lunch at the museum initially, we changed our mind because (according to the Google Map) the nearest eateries were rather far from the museum. Not much of a choice, we popped into the museum food court and settled lunch.

Constant Companion RR had a vegetable bibimbap while I ordered a fried pork cutlet with cheese served with rice.

Had a bit of disagreement with the lady taking my order, I ordered item number 34 and she entered “32” into my order. When I corrected her, she insisted it was because I said “32”. Weird. “Four” and “Two” are pronounced so differently. I would most likely notice if I said “Two” instead of “Four”. Maybe next time I should just gesture with my fingers (or one very specific finger) to help her understand better.

The food at the food court was decent, perhaps 6/10. I suspect 1 or 2 points come from us being hungry.

Verdict: Second-rate service and average food at best, I would recommend folks to bring their own food.

We cleared our trays and left the food court and explored more of the outside of the museum before heading to the right wing to see what the rest of the museum has to offer.

Panoramic view of the surrounding of National Museum of Korea.
A nice view of the surrounding.

Right Wing – The Rest of the Museum

The Interior

After a quick security check, visitors can access to all the various galleries within National Museum of Korea. All of the exhibitions are free to visit, except for the one about traditional Korean painting, which we already have tickets for.  The exhibition, named “Through the Eyes of Joseon Painters”, was located in one of the galleries on the ground floor.

Exhibition – Through the Eyes of Joseon Painters

This is an exhibition about landscape paintings from Joseon dynasty. I had fun hopping from painting to painting, poring over all their little details. I feel that somewhere among the brush strokes, there might be an inspiration to be discovered; something I can use for my own designs.

They have managed to recreate a fitting ambiance for the gallery with soft, soothing music and the occasional birds chirping and sounds of dripping water. In fact, they had a “waterfall” by projecting moving lights on long strips of cloth hanging from the ceiling which was cool.

National Museum of Korea’s Permanent Exhibitions

Even if you decided not to pay for any of the special exhibitions, the National Museum of Korea has plenty of free content for all its visitors to enjoy; there are 3 floor worth of galleries. I would say you can easily spend half a day without spending a single cent.

It was about 1330 hrs by the time we were done with the painting exhibition. Exhausted, we popped by the museum cafe for a cup of coffee. It was a small place and packed with people. A gracious pair of mother and child saw us looking for a seat, decided not to loiter around and gave up their table for Constant Companion RR and I.

Soon after we drained out cups of coffee, we carried on with our museum tour.

As it was getting rather late and, to be honest, I was starting to feel a little bored of the museum; we have spent almost 4 hours there already. Besides, Seoul is such a big place and there are still so many places we can explore.

Picking up the pace, we went through most of the galleries (they are all connected) on Level Two and then a few on Level Three which we randomly selected. Not surprisingly, the permanent exhibitions are filled with artifacts of ancient Korea and the Korean culture. Interestingly, they had a replica of a traditional Korea-style house, built in one of the galleries.

When we finally decided that we have had enough, we made our way out and the sun was already setting. Still a lovely day though. We bought a cinnamon sugar-coated churro from one of the food trucks outside and legged it to our destination for the night.

Street scene outside National Museum of Korea
Day is almost over! A well-spent day!

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I design fine jewellery for a living.