Sunday, July 13, 2008

Travelogue: June 08: Day 03-04

Travelogue: June 08: Day 03-04

We seem to be taking our time getting up in the morning. Mostly, me. Actually, I'm waking up about the same time it normally do -- between nine & 10 a.m. By the time I'm dressed, in the chair, have had a bite of breakfast, we are leaving the hotel around 11:30.

Yesterday, Friday, we visited another palace. Of course, I don't remember the name and I don't have any maps... hold on just a moment. Changdeokgung Palace. Huge place. It was the last palace of the Josun era, and was the home of the last Empress. Most of the site is wooded, and was absolutely gorgeous. You can only visit by taking a guided tour, which lasts about 1 1/2 hours.

After that, we walked some more until we decided to visit the Myeongdong marketplace. Yes, around 5 p.m., and the place was packed!

But first, getting there.

To get to the palace, we had taken a taxi (handicapped accessible! Joy!). Then, like I said, lots of walking. Then the subway... Depending on the station is whether it is handicapped accessible. Most of them -- probably around 95% -- are. Generally, with elevators. But a lot of them also have these lifts that the wheelchair goes on that then creeps up the railings to the next floor. A little bit disconcerting the first couple of times that you try it. Now, some of these lifts are great. Heavy duty, almost. Then there are the ones that... aren't. They are a bit older and feel a little more flimsy.

Myeongdong Marketplace was across the street from where the main lifts were. What I had to do was to come up from the subway to street level from one line, go down one level to a different line, cross under the street, and then come back up to street level at the market. The first part went very well. Heavy-duty lifts, all three of them including the one that went around a corner. The second part... didn't. Less than a foot into the descent, it stopped. Kind of a crunch sound, then no more.

So I'm sitting on the lift, which won't go up or down. Looking in front of me, many steps. I can't see what's going on behind me, but I'm told that the lift is about a foot from solid pavement. I'm a heavy person (I'm a little over 200, now), and my wheelchair is close to 400. The subway had a mechanic working on the lift, a couple of the security guards standing around trying to figure out what to do, and my staff... It took about half an hour before I was off the lift; there had to have been a couple of very sore backs that night. They lifted the wheelchair enough to clear the gap and get me back to solid pavement.

And we were still on the wrong side of the street!

So, with no crosswalks in eyesight, I jaywalked. Rush-hour traffic was stop and go in both directions, so it wasn't quite as dangerous as it sounds. We looked at the street later that evening, and the traffic was much much faster.

The Market was one of the densest places I've ever seen, population wise. Stores on both sides of the street, vendors between the stores and going down the middle... and this is a region, not a single street. Think of, in San Francisco, Market Street from the Embarcadero to Van Ness, and three streets on either side. East Coast people, maybe Times Square and three blocks all the way around it? Stores, vendors, and people. And motorcycles. Kim was telling me yesterday that you don't need a driver's license to drive a motorcycle. Helmets? Only if you want, which means it's about 50% with and the same without. And motorcycles aren't just for people, either. If there was a motorcycle near a market, the odds are it had been modified to carry boxes and merchandise.

I saw a Pennyfarthing! Not being ridden around, although I would've liked to have seen that. It had a frame to hold the big front wheel off the ground an inch or two. It was a "get your picture taken in front of" opportunity. And, yes. I got my picture taken in front of.

The big reason that I wanted to go to this particular marketplace, though, was not the (mostly) female fashions, but was instead Myeongdong Cathedral. They're doing some type of renovation or cleaning on the outside, so we don't have pictures of the steeple, but the inside is absolutely gorgeous.

Then came the joy of getting home. Taxis, at that time of night (around 9 p.m.), were telling us it would take between one & two hours to be able to pick us up. So we walked down to a subway station that had an elevator, and managed to get back to the hotel around 10:15 p.m.

I was asleep almost as fast as my head pillow...

Today Truc & I went across the river to see some tombs. A very large memorial park was built around the burial site of six people who, back in the 14th century I believe, were killed trying to reclaim the throne for the rightful King (they failed).

Getting there was extremely easy. We went into the subways, found the office, and asked for help. Not only did we get directions, we managed to get an escort the entire way there! Remember the lifts that I was mentioning earlier? Going there was all heavy-duty lifts and elevators. Coming back, there were two of the lighter weight lifts. I was a little nervous getting on them, after yesterday's misadventure, but these to worked like they were supposed to. We were back at the hotel in less than 45 minutes.

Now, I'm not going to post any pictures this time, for a couple of reasons. First, most of the people that are getting this e-mail are on my normal mailing list, which doesn't allow attachments. And I'm too tired right now to deal with that. The second reason is that they are all on a camera memory stick that I don't have a reader for with me. So, maybe tomorrow or the next day.

Elizabeth, thinking of you (smile). The temperature has been in the upper 70s & low 80s, Fahrenheit. Kim & Jay are saying that it's very humid, but I'm finding it less humid than southeastern Massachusetts. Not your type of weather, I know, although I think I've gotten more vitamin D sunshine this week than in the past three months.

Postcards (Elizabeth's "Postcard Project TM") will hopefully be going out on Monday for some of you...


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