Seoul-to-Tokyo

Today was fly-to-Tokyo day, which meant I had only a partial day to run about town. The site I chose - as being interesting and not too appallingly far out of town - was the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, at the Seoul Grand Park metro station. Not my brightest choice as not only was it nearly an hour commute to the nearest subway station, but from there it was another 20 minutes on foot (there's a shuttle bus every 20 minutes that I'd just missed). It's a massive park: home to a couple(? or more) museums, a zoo, lakes, green space, and an amusement park with a couple large roller coasters - and that's just what I saw during my walk. At the museum the biggest disappointment was Nam June Paik's "The More the Better," a huge pagoda-shaped video installation specifically mentioned by Lonely Planet that had pride of place in a large spiral ramp atrium ... which was turned off. Apparently created for the 1988 Seoul Olympics, it's now an (admittedly large and structured) collection of ancient CRT TVs. It's got Samsung's name all over it: not just the TVs, but "sponsored by." Will they pay to update it now that the old TVs are dying? (I'm guessing at the reason it's out of service.) Will the artist - if he's still alive - be okay with replacing CRTs with LED TVs? Interesting questions anyway. There were some good paintings and sculptures: one of the sculptures on the lawn was an immediately recognizable (polka-dotted orange and black) pumpkin by Yayoi Kusama.

photo: Some things blend across cultures: taking kids to museums

A kindergarten(?) class in front of the dead video screens of "The More the Better"

I returned to the hotel to get my bag. Mike was there so I got to thank him and two other staff in person (I also emailed the hotel last night) for my thoroughly enjoyable stay. Mike agreed with my assessment that the A'REX isn't worth it - just take the much more frequent and only slightly slower subway line, which I did (as on the way in).

Aside: some of you are familiar with Magnotta? An Ontario winery that's had a long fight with the LCBO to get their products on the shelves. A fight they lost - so they run their own stores. Their products are a mixed bag, from the low end through very good. So it was a bit of a surprise to find such a local product, their icewine - in those skinny 200ml bottles (could have been 375ml, don't think so) - for sale in Incheon airport in Korea for $69US. Good for them.

The flight was, well, like a flight. And a little late - which is a bit of a problem as checkin at the hotel stops at 2300 and I had a bit of a commute. Worse, not one but two different people at the airport recommended I take the Keisei main line instead of my preferred Keisei Skyliner because the Skyliner didn't go where I need to go (I thought it did). So that nuked my plan to get the special Skyliner/metro combination pass. So I still need to work that one out. The problem with my recommended path into the city was that I had to transfer off the officially marked subway map, onto a line that the subway map suggested ended before the station I used (but it doesn't ... felt like being off an old map in the area that said "there be dragons here"). I was told I'd arrive at my target subway station at 2217 - the woman at Narita Airport specified my arrival time at a subway station 40km away to the minute ... and she was right. That's what transport in Tokyo is like. Still awe-inspiring to a North American.

Kind of a miserable tromp through the rain, rushing to get to a hotel I didn't precisely know the location of just before check-in closed ... but, as it usually does, it all worked out. So I'm back in Tokyo - a city that fascinates me but that I'm finding surprisingly hard to like despite its incredible array of tourist attractions. Stay tuned!

photo: The National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (Seoul)

a very symetrically composed photo of a white two storey gallery with a round semi-enclosed room in the centre of the first floor