The wonderful young woman on the hotel desk this morning called the Hoam Art Museum for me, and established: yes, they have Rodin's "Gates of Hell" and "The Burghers of Calais," but no, they weren't currently on public display. I'm okay with this: I've seen them both often (although I'm always happy to see them again!), but Hoam is a fair ways out of Seoul, and I think there's a copy of one or the other or perhaps both in Tokyo as well! Where I'll be late tomorrow.
As I've mentioned previously, today is Buddha's Birthday. This affected my plans less than expected, although there were definitely some peripheral effects. When I left the hotel, I found they had already (0930 in the morning) set up a large stage and a lot of chairs in the nearest intersection, and the intersecting street was getting set up with carnival games and foods.
I decided to skip breakfast, just wait it out until lunch. That resolution lasted approximately a kilometre, at which point I spotted an "Angel-in-us Coffee" advertising a special, a Croque Monsieur sandwich and an Americano for ₩4500. So I got that - it turned out there was more truth in advertising than I expected as they'd shown only half a sandwich and that's what I got (with a plastic american cheese slice) ... Oh well, it was very cheap. And Angel-in-us was a fascinating place. I saw stairs in the corner and thought "oh, more seating upstairs!" Indeed there was. And then there was more above that. Part of the third floor was blocked off as a smoker's cage. And then there was another floor of seating. And apparently another: but they'd blocked the fifth floor so I don't know how far the inverted Alice's rabbit hole actually went. I ate on the fourth floor with spectacular views over a major intersection. And burned my mouth on the blessedly hot coffee. It was pointed out to me by the woman at the counter that the washroom password was on my bill. But they were too clever for me: I could see the access panel on the washroom door, and it said "lift up" on the bill, but I couldn't figure out what to lift to get at a keypad I could only presume was underneath ...
Then I walked to the head end of Cheong-gye-cheon again: I was looking to see if there were any paper lanterns that would be lit later in the day, but no luck there. But there was a heron. (This and the other I saw - perhaps the same animal - are "Grey Herons," a close relative of the North American Great Blue Heron.) This one was standing in the middle of the concrete spillway just below the initial waterfall, within a couple metres of fascinated people on both sides of the stream bed. I thought "what on earth does it think it's going to catch there?" But like many others, I watched in fascination, and within five minutes it stalked to the edge of slightly deeper water right at the base of the waterfall and yanked out a 15cm fish. Which it carefully tossed and chomped until the fish stopped twitching and was swallowed whole. I'd forgotten the stream - concrete or not - is well populated with carp. For those not familiar with this family of birds, these guys are NOT small: they're up to a metre tall, and this one was a healthy specimen. Wikipedia reminds me that like all birds they're also shockingly light: "up to 2kg" ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grey_heron ). The Great Blue Heron is probably my favourite bird.
photo: the "head waters" (such as they are) of Cheong-gye-cheon
I stayed to watch the heron for a while, but eventually went on my way again down to Namdaemun - not so much an interest in the market (although it definitely entertained me) but because I'd failed to visit Sungnyemun, the "Great South Gate," one of the old entrances to the city. It's isolated in a major intersection: they've provided a bit of wall, but the wall doesn't run through that neighbourhood any more. ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Namdaemun )
From there I caught the metro to the Leeum Samsung Museum of Art. The building itself is a piece of modern architecture and artwork, consisting of three buildings, each by a different architect, and each radically different in appearance. I enjoyed walking around it just for the building(s) itself: the art was an added bonus. ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leeum,_Samsung_Museum_of_Art ) Museum 2 was the one I was most interested in: it contains modern art (about 60% Korean?). I was typically annoyed when I found out that no photos were allowed inside. I enjoyed several pieces, but one I particularly remember was "Grand Woman III" (I think I have the title wrong, but it's similar) by Alberto Giacometti. By sheer luck, I seem to have found the in-progress work, or perhaps the master for the castings, in this photo on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Photograph_of_Alberto_Giacometti_by_Cartier_Bresson.jpg (it's the one on the right). Another was Anish Kapoor's "Hexagonal Mirror." Some of you know him - he of the gigantic chrome jelly bean in Chicago rather entertainingly titled "Cloud Gate." I actually really like "Cloud Gate," but bizarrely it never occurred to me to look up his other works. Outside Leeum there were two more pieces by him (that I could photograph), "Tall Tree and the Eye" and "Cloud Mirror." Both reflective (I'm seeing a theme). I definitely like his stuff.
photo: The Leeum Museum buildings with Anish Kapoor's "Tall Tree and the Eye" in front of them
Museum 1 is classical art - lots of pottery (a fair bit of the much-revered celadon - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celadon ), plus Buddha images and metalware. The third building is for special exhibits, but there didn't seem to be anything going on there right now - which was too bad, as I wanted to see the inside! As mentioned, they're all very different buildings.
By mid-afternoon we had the (light) rain promised by the weather websites. But I had a plan! On the recommendation of a friend who had worked in Korea teaching English (sadly this isn't listed in the guidebook), I went to the Yongsan Electronics Market. There appears to be a rule that say the best of these must invariably be overcrowded and a little seedy. I suspect it's because if you don't fill every square inch with goods, your already thin margins are chomped up by your neighbour who has more stuff in less space and is paying less rent and so charges less. Most of the stalls on the main floor were open, but it seemed like a quiet day. I almost bought several things - keyboards and USB sticks that aren't available in Canada. They're both USB devices and so wouldn't have the previously mentioned power problem - but support would be poor, keyboards are too big, and I already have too many USB sticks (and keyboards!). Although it would have been fun to be the first kid on the block to have a USB-C memory stick ...
Back to the hotel, where the ever-helpful "Mike" (I put his name in quotes as I suspect that's a chosen English name rather than his actual name) walked me through the details of fish cake. Some months ago I discovered that this Korean food product I liked was actually a mix of ground up squid and shrimp. But now Mike explained that it's not served as a dish on its own: it's normally one of those multitude of small side dishes served with Korean meals. But there's a place that serves fishcake noodle soup ... So he directed me to another tiny little place in one of those magical alleyways nearby. He printed me a map, and we duly noted the only part of the name I could read was "4.5" - at least it was something. Happily they had a semi-English menu that got me by, although Mike had prepared me for the worst: I had the name of the dish written out in Korean characters and had even been tutored in how to say it ("Oh daeng Oo dong"). (I somehow always learn food words first in a language ...) The Bibimbap yesterday was better (although I'm now about 90% sure that was beef in it <sigh>), but this was very good too and I'd do it again.
Lonely Planet mentioned that Korea is going through a makgeolli renaissance at the moment and that they are "even making banana makgeolli now" - I like makgeolli, and encountered some of the banana variety tonight ... it's a surprisingly good flavour combination. Consider makgeolli to be "beer made from rice," although I might be accused of trivializing it - and there's no hops. But I suspect the processes are similar, and the resulting carbonation (although not the taste!) is also much the same.
I have a flight to Tokyo tomorrow. I would rather stay here, but that's sadly not really an option. Dear lord I've loved this hotel and neighbourhood. And the city too.