Hi Seoul

Trip Start Sep 28, 2012
Trip End Oct 03, 2012

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Monday, October 1, 2012

To be honest, most of the morning and afternoon were kind of a bust. I got up early and met up with the pack so we could explore the Hi Seoul Festival that was going on. I found them at their hotel and we cruised the subway toward City Hall where the festival was going to be held. We wandered around aimlessly, finding the obvious set up of a festival, with plenty of people doing... things, but nothing really happening. We were told that things wouldn't really be getting rolling until later in the day, we would have hours before anything really started.
So now what? Now, lets discuss what we can do. For, like an hour. Most of us were pretty hungry at this point, but for the life of us we couldn't actually get ourselves to move towards a restaurant. Seriously, sometimes it's like herding cats. Nope. We need to stand around and talk about eating instead of actually doing it. 
Finally we started moving and our wonderful meal selection? McDonalds. Fine. At that point in the game I was happy to put anything in my mouth so McDonalds it was. Finally fed I was feeling much better about the situation and we were ready to move again. 
 We started wandering towards Insadong, which was nearby, to maybe do some more shopping. On the way we stopped at the Korean war memorial, which was a beautiful little garden inside tall walls. As we moved more towards Insadong our group splintered apart, couples disappearing off into shops or down alley ways. I hung close to Adam and Cheryl, not wanting to get lost by myself. Insadong was pretty busy and we had seen it all before, so it wasn't particularly interesting, although I did buy a nice T-shirt.
Our wander lasted for hours. We had hours before the festival was supposed to start, so we didn't really have a choice. Our feet were aching from walking for so long and we were tired and cranky. Eventually we made our way back to City Hall where the festival would eventually take place. Little by little our group joined us and we grabbed KFC to grub on as we waited for things to get started. After a while we heard some noise coming from the street that runs next to City Hall and we got up to see what was happening. It looked like a sort of slow moving parade was happening. A group of performers were making their way down the street. They were dressed in costume and standing tall on stilts to be seen over the crowd. They appeared to be acting out a sort of skit, but it was difficult for us to follow along with what was happening.
Shortly after those performers departed we heard whistles blowing and saw a troupe of shell clad performers marching down the street. They had brown leaf blower guns that had pink streamers shooting from the tip. They stormed down the street, covering the crowd with scraps of streamers. They paused under a stop light, blowing yards of pink streamers over the top to drape down onto the street.
Next was a series of fireworks that started the next performance. These guys were intense... to say the least. It started with a drum line of men dressed in brown, draping monk's robes. Following behind them was a troupe of men, dressed in white jump suits, masked in peaked white hoods. The masked men carried sticks that were covered in fireworks that blew sparks across the streets and into the crowds. The jump suited guys tore around the street at top speed, running in circles, kicking the air, and even tumbling onto the group, all the while shooting sparks. They worked their way down the street and then doubled back, running dangerously close to the crowd with their firework staffs. Acrid smoke billowed close to the concrete, getting kicked up by their dark boots.
Eventually they wound their way to the stage and started off the performance. Their drum line pounded out a tattoo as the stage lit up with fireworks that shot sparks down on the backs of their necks. 
As soon as the smoke cleared the lights dimmed and we watched as men in glowing suits started to repel down the side of City Hall. Music blared through the speakers as the men danced on the wall in unison, kicking themselves off the side and floating through the air in perfect sync. It was impressive, but not nearly as awesome as what happened next. 
A spot light lit up the air above us and we saw the silhouette of drummers light up the side of City Hall. Everyone craned their necks to see what was happening. A crane had suspended a mobile of drummers over the audience. The drummers beat on their drums and the movements of their playing made them sway and swing gently as the crane moved them back and forth over the audience. They finished their first set and another spotlight lit up a trapeze that hung over the drummers. A Joker-faced trapeze artist grinned his sick grin down at the audience and flipped upside down, hundreds of feet above us. The drummers beat him a rhythm as he swung with skill and precision on his bar. He was very strong and skilled and he held himself in poses, balancing and turning. We all sat with our mouths agape as we craned our necks further, watching the crane swing the drumming crew over our heads. 
The spotlight died and the lawn lit up with flood lights. Soon everyone was on their feet and we were struggling to get up as the crowd began to move. Traditional Korean drummers stepped in from the side lines and started to beat out a rhythm. A Korean man grabbed my hand and started to pull me into a dancing circle. In a panic I grabbed Cheryl's hand with my free hand to pull her with me. Soon we were running and dancing to the traditional beat, skipping and swaying. The crowd surged as everyone linked hands and circles formed around other circles. I saw other people in our group get swept up and we laughed at each other as Koreans pulled us into the mix. The official event photographers were eating this up and we noticed them following us through the crowd, snapping dozens of pictures of us, dancing to traditional drums, hand in hand with Korean strangers.
Finally the drums died down and the man clutching my hand let go with a flurry of thanks in Korean. We gathered our pack together and started to move toward the subway. It was after 10 pm, but still too early to turn in for the night. Why not go to the night market? So onto the subway we went to head to Dong Dae Mun for some shopping. The night market consists of a number of tented stalls that line the streets along with a multi-floored shopping center where the stalls have moved inside. Most of the clothes are off brand and inexpensive, but I didn't find anything that I wanted to buy. Although I did partake in some more food on a stick!  
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Carlo on

That's a crazy that that parade just appeared near you guys. The masks are wonderful. Of course, the nighttime performances are stellar as well, especially the human-sized mobile.

The War Memorial looks *so* impressive. Inspiring.

("Dong Dae Mun" translates to "East-to-door". Hmm, rather sedate.)

Clarissa! on

My face went through all of the expressions reading this. I was like :-/ oh no so much walking and waiting, and then 0.0 drummers hanging from cranes and then :D Becki dancing! That sounds so awesome!

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