Thursday, 15 September Seoul to Siem ReapClick Here For All Seoul Photos
Of course we were wide awake at 4:30 am, with hours to wait for breakfast. It’s foggy outside. I guess that’s to be expected. The humidity is so high that even our room is damp in spite of the A/C running at full blast. We celebrated E-M’s birthday at breakfast with song and tiara, then joined our guide, whose name never became clear to us, for our ½ day tour of Seoul. Of course, we had to be packed up and checked out of the hotel first. Throughout the tour we never had a really clear idea what we were seeing. The first stop was, I think, a restored royal palace.
We thought it resembled the Forbidden City in Beijing, but on a smaller, less-elaborate scale. We were shown where the emperor dwelt and how he was surrounded by concubines and servants. Apparently the dynasty lasted from the 13th century until Japanese occupation in the early 20th century. That occupation lasted until the end of World War II and resulted in the destruction of much of Korea’s historical architecture. The Korean War, in the early 1950s did much damage too, both physically and economically. Our guide spoke of a severe shortage of protein sources in her childhood, resulting in the common use of boiled silkworms as food. They’re now sold as a street food, but meat is plentiful. In any case, there has been and is a great deal of reconstruction and restoration. And new construction, too, by the look of things. We visited a lovely Buddhist temple.
Everywhere families were out enjoying the national holiday of Thanksgiving and Chuseok (honouring ancestors and deceased relatives).
Many people were dressed in beautiful costumes, there were activities set up everywhere for children, and street vendors were doing a roaring business. We saw elaborate candy floss creations and laughed at Turkish ice cream sellers’ antics as they created colourful ice cream cones for children. In spite of our guide’s doubts, expressed the evening before, the restaurant produced a delicious garlic-free meal for me, and a garlic-laden one for everyone else. We shopped in a busy street featuring some traditional crafts as well as modern goods, then visited a reconstructed traditional village.
We were all pretty worn out by the time we got to the airport, with the result that security found forgotten water bottles and we stumbled through the whole process, assisted by unfailingly courteous and kind security staff. Once aboard the plane to Siem Reap, I managed to stay awake only long enough for dinner. Larry had to be awakened for it. I woke a few times when we encountered turbulence from a nearby typhoon, but slept or dozed through most of the 5-hour flight. There were a couple of complicated forms to complete before landing, but we managed to get through that process just fine. On the ground we had no difficulties with customs or immigration. On the advice of our travel company, we all exchanged US dollars for local currency at the airport. This turned out to be a big mistake. The real “local currency” here is US $$! Our guide, Dy (pronounced “Dee”) immediately had our affection as he joked with us in near-perfect English and gave us important information about our itinerary and how best to enjoy our time here. At the lovely Victoria Angkor Resort & Spa we were greeted with cool cloths to bathe hands and faces, and a refreshing drink of coconut milk, sugar palm syrup and mint, then shown to lovely comfortable rooms. By then it was nearly midnight local time (2 am Seoul time and who-knows-what time in Toronto) so we happily turned in.
Click Here For All Seoul Photos