The Best Laid Plans………

Yes indeed the best laid plans do not always come to fruition! This is becoming a habit; it could be age, complacency or just I am just in a total state of chillax.

This week saw me engage with my CELTA interview which I managed to navigate successfully which means on the 2nd of January 2015 I’m flying to Chiang Mai for a 30 day intensive course with International House Bangkok. At this juncture, as I’m ripening at 53, this will indeed be my last sojourn into the realms of study.

I landed in Seoul Friday quite simply because I didn’t want to vegetate in Dullju among the important folk engaged in various stages of departure. They may leave “friends for life” or simply 45 “Facebook Friends” but not needing them to massage my none-insecurity I flew the nest.

I intended to rise early and head out to Danggogae so my attitude was to stoically resist too much alcohol on Friday night. I was relatively successful but not completely! After watching Dr. Strangelove on iPad I pottered around Donui-dong imbibing a few Hoegarden’s before supplementing this with Leffe at “Sno” bar.

Rising early I took a Sauna at Silom fire-pot before heading out to the end of line 4 and Danggogae. Adjacent to Jongno-3 ga entrance a man slept off his Soju and on the train itself his younger pre-cursor also lay prostrate across the elderly’s seats. Danggogae sits in the shadow of the mountains Buramsan to the southeast and Suraksan to the north. Just outside of Exit 1 is a large map that outlines the local hiking trails. I’d already printed off maps showing the location of the street art but of course much of it may now have been destroyed or simply painted over.  I had around 14 locations to find but what the map did not show was the steepness of the terrain.

At exit 1 I took a sharp left and climbed the hill past a clutch of apartment blocks before the made-up roads terminated. At the side of a church a dirt track cut through derelict buildings until it reached Yaksaam Hermitage some 300 metres further on. There was a good view from this decaying dong but the thick morning mist impeded its splendour. I should have found two examples of art here but neither were visible and so I passed around the back of the hermitage and took a rest at a Buddhist shrine.

Re-tracing my steps back down to the church I investigated the art again without success, I carried on passing the church and the remaining made-up road. I’d realised that 6 or more of my remaining locations were on the sloping hill behind an apartment block.  The only way down was via a single near vertical rusting staircase whose feet nestled in bags of trash. Undeterred I made my descent but as I hit the bottom tread it broke away and I fell headlong across the trash. Dusting myself off I noticed a splash of colour, I discovered my first piece of art!

A boarded up doorway, of what could have been another Buddhist retreat, was decorated with an over-sized bird effigy and further to the left was a colourful image of a tiger adorned with the horns of a gazelle and the alicorn of a unicorn. An image of a crescent moon had a very serious looking face at its centre. Another image had been whitewashed but around the corner a giant bull frog adorned the wall. Cutting vertically through two inhabited structures I came across a cartoon with bulging eyes, a geometric artwork and the large image of a voluptuous female.

I then took the top “v” in the road passing a makeshift sea container police station emblazoned with cartoon bobbies. The left fork then offered a 1 km hike to another hermitage the right more art; I took the right. Climbing the hill through a less decrepit dong I came across to further Buddhist shrines before finding a blue decoupage artwork on the side of a derelict structure. Directly at the side of this structure was a pathway which I’d realised would take me to my last spot. As I descended I discovered an image which was not recorded on my map, an image of a soaring Magpie carrying her offspring. I scurried along to my destination which was in a state of re-modelling and therefore devoid of art.

Returning to the station I stopped to engage with a gorgeous Lab which lapped up the attention. It had been an exciting morning playing art “Hide and Seek” and my original intention was to take coffee at DDP before heading to Buk Ahyeon Dong later in the afternoon. As the train sped towards central Seoul I changed my mind disembarking at Hyewha for a troll across Naksan Park and Ihwa Dong.

After collecting further snaps of street art I stopped at the Cafe on the Hill. A retriever lapped up an ice-cream from his master while another more senior canine rested in the door of a barber shop. I took on board a couple of hapters of National Geographic before taking the path that skirts the Seoul Fortress Wall down towards the DDP.

A further injection of caffeine instigated a visit to Doota where I purchased some Pink Pepper and Grapefruit 4711 Cologne and a few T-shirts. Doota welcomes some 20 million shoppers every year and has 540 shops its only downside is the limited range of sizes.

Heading back towards Jongno-3 ga I made a stop at a flower-market before forcing my way through the Hoddeok disciples of Gwangjang Market.  This sprawling village of food stalls seems fixed in a  50’s time-warp. Thousands of Koreans and tourists gorge on their fill of traditional foods like bindaeduk (giant mung bean pancakes), pig’s feet, bibimbap, and all manner of potent kimchi. On the upper tiers its possible to purchase traditional Korean dress, vintage clothing and all sorts of other products. Now it was late afternoon and so time for a short siesta before a chicken supper and a couple of Leffe.

Sundays visit to Seoul Arts Centre was interesting and involved two main exhibitions. The first which focused on the history of the Pulitzer Prize was obviously America-centric but engaging the second another failed attempt to engage with the best of European Art. “The Great Artists” should receive a government health warning and a big red trades descriptions cross! The marketing mush is relayed as follows:

“The present exhibition is the beginning of a legend. Monnet, Renoir, Rodin, Picasso, Dali, Matisse, Andy Warhol, Damien Hirst and many others. All of them more than just names, all of them great artists. Hangaram Art Museum gathered their works altogether and is proud to invite you now to see it, and to feel the original emotion of the artist. It is a great chance for everybody, for there aren’t many occasions to see all the great artists, that made us proud to be humans, in the same exhibition.”

The Monnet’s were of little consequence and I didn’t feel the original emotion of the artist. One to be avoided. What will next weekend bring? It’s my final jaunt to Seoul before my summer vacation to the UK and France

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