Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Korea Day 2 - There's No Dancing in Baseball

We slept in quite a bit on our first full day in Korea since neither me nor Ken are really into getting up early and I was exhausted from not having slept the previous day. We decided to go over to a sushi place that the book mentioned. Again given how few numbers there were on anything and the fact that we couldn't really read any of the signs I'm not sure if we actually found the place we were looking for or just another sushi restaurant. We took the Seoul subway to get there which is a huge system but a very easy one to navigate thanks to a lot of clear marking and maps. It can be exhausting to use it though since every stating is on multiple levels underground and they don't really seem to believe in escalators. Some days it felt like all I did in Korea was just walk up and down endless sets of stairs. The subway stations are also like little underground malls with a ton of shops selling all sorts of things from food to clothing. But even with all this going on the system is very clean even having some of the nicest public bathrooms I've seen around, with real toilets to boot. The sushi place was very good though expensive. I think we each spent around $20 which when you're used to spending $1 on food is quite a lot.

After lunch we went to Gyeongbok Gung one of the two big palaces located in Seoul. On our way there we passed what seemed to be the US embassy which was mostly notable for looking like a building from the 70's contrasting all the much more modern buildings around it. The palace itself had been burned down several times. Once during an invasion the palace was burned not by the invading army but by the people of Seoul who were pissed off at their leaders for fleeing the city. We got a free English tour which was helpful since it can be sort of hard to know what your looking at without some guidance. The palace was a series of one story building designed out in concentric circles. The building were definitly nice looking but it wasn't exactly spectacular. The most interesting thing was actually the changing of the guards right when we got there. They had dozens of people in traditional dress marching around for quite a while. Ken noted that it looked incredibly similar to the forbidden city in Beijing. Actually they noted a lot the connection between Korean and Chinese culture. The thing in the palace I spent the most time looking for though was a trash can. For a country with no litter they seem to have amazingly few trash cans. In China I would have just chucked my trash anywhere but Korea is so much cleaner I was really looking hard for one. It wasn't just their either on the whole trip me and Ken had a lot of trouble getting rid of trash.

After we took the tour we headed over to a small US military base in Seoul to see if we could get tickets for the USO tour of the DMZ. There are a number of private companies which run tours of the DMZ but the guide book said that the USO tour was the best and it was the cheapest anyways. Once we got there though it turned out that they were sold out and for the USO tour at least you have to book way in advanced. We had some extra time to burn so we just sat around for a while at a nice coffee shop. We both wanted to see a baseball game and with two teams playing in Seoul there are games pretty much every day. Going to a game in Korea is somewhat like going to a game in the US 20 years ago. The tickets are cheap they aren't anywhere near a sellout and they let you bring in whatever you want. We tried to get the nicest tickets they sell but it seemed that they were sold out of those for the home team side. They divide the stadium up with fans for either team sitting on opposite sides. Really the most shocking thing about the stadium though was that they let you bring in outside beer. They won't let you bring in a hot dog in most places in the US and when they're charging $9 for a beer in new Yankee Stadium forget about bringing your own.

The stadium was nice and we decided to root for the home team the LG Twins. All the teams seemed to have the corporate sponsor before the team name. The funny thing is why in the world would they call a Korean team the Twins. The Twins comes from the twin cities in the US so I don't know what it stands for in Korea. The game was pretty good the baseball seemed fine though no one really hit with any power the LG Twins had two foreign players, which is the most a team is allowed to have, including an aging slugger from South America who was noticeably fatter than the thin Korean players. The baseball was interesting but the best part of the game was the cheering. Besides the fact that they had a number of NFL style very pretty cheerleaders who did about one wardrobe change and inning they also had a guy who was in charge of coordinating the cheers who was actually more amazing as he was constantly jumping around getting each section involved in the cheering. The other team also had a similar person over in there section though I don't think they had any of the cheerleaders. All in all the dancing was probably more interesting then the actual game.