Monday, September 7, 2009

The Royal Treatment

[Actual Date: August 23, 2009]

"Do you remember that show," asked Michelle, "where those people started out on an island for a three hour tour and ended up trapped for the rest of their lives? Well, that's how I'm starting to feel."

Michelle and I were rounding on the 2nd hour of our 90 minute tour through Changdeokgung Palace. We were required to go on a tour instead of self-guidance, even though it was completely in Korean -- meaning that, for the next several hours, unless the tour guide thanked someone or asked for the location of the nearest bathroom, we couldn't understand anything she was saying.

To make matters worse, it was at least 80 degrees outside with a humidity rate that would melt iron. Neither Michelle nor myself had ever been so hot. We melted, we dripped, we pooled from place to place. In truth, we ambled along at such a slow pace behind the tour group that even the young pregnant woman out strolled us, and eventually, we were left behind by the rest of the pack.

It was nice for a while. We had the place to ourselves, and the greater number of my photos looks as though we had stumbled through a recently deserted palace rather than touring a UNESCO landmark in the middle of Seoul with a group of 40 other tourists a kilometer or so ahead of us.

We didn't mind having the place to ourselves, except that the palace grounds were the size of a small forest and we were a little disoriented. ("Disoriented" is a good word, since using "lost" in every single blog entry would be repetitive, and probably downright copyright infringement on the ABC television series.) Eventually, though, we found a second tour group and latched onto them. This group had a guide whose intent seemed to be taking us up and down six kilometers of woodsy hills beyond the palace buildings to ensure we'd get full value out of the $3 entrance fee we'd paid. Three hours after beginning our (first) tour, Michelle and I made it back to the front gate. No longer lost and wandering through the palace grounds, we were now free to become disoriented anywhere we wanted within the entire metropolis of Seoul.

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