Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Korean Souvenir

This very friendly Buddha sits in front of the Jogyesa shrine near Itaewan.
Look, two posts in one day - I'll catch up, I swear!

One of the things that has taken time away from me is the rather unexpected trip to Seoul (I know, poor me).  Seoul is a magical place and I am so happy to have gone; it certainly wasn’t on a list of places I ever thought I would travel.  However, my sister was there and just finishing up an English teaching position, so I made my way out and explored the beautiful City.

I’ve never been anywhere in Asia, so this was my first experience.  From a letterboxer’s perspective, I have to say that the potential for letterboxing is high even within the city.  That is because the city is based in and around a number of mountains and the Korean people are avid hikers - there are oodles of trails.  You are never more than a couple subway stops away from a number of trailheads leading up into the mountains.  The mountains are gorgeous and have beautiful hidden treasures like Buddhist temples, panoramic vistas, and waterfalls.

Unfortunately, at least in my search of AtlasQuest, there are very few letterboxes in Seoul, and only one of which my travels could bring me in reach of during my stay.  That was the Korean Surprise letterbox in Myeongdong.  My sister, friends and I made our way out and did some nice shopping in the area and found the spot the clues led to, and after a very thorough search of the spot, failed in our quest.  A tad disappointing not to have a find from Korea, but it was a great adventure nonetheless and led me to a delicious restaurant.

I did manage to plant a letterbox, Love in Suraksan, and truly hope that it will be found at least once before it disappears into the void.  I planted it near where my sister was living in Seoul near Mount Suraksan – Suraksan is Korean for “water trickling down the mountain”.  Residents of Seoul make their way to Suraksan  in the spring in order to sit in the creek where the water trickles down and let it wash over them… I was visiting too early in the year to enjoy such festivities and instead planted a letterbox nearby instead.  It’s not that far from the subway station and does not require anyone to do any climbing, as it is essentially at the base of this mountain.

But now that I am home and faced with all kinds of ephemera related to the trip, I decided to plant a sort of souvenir letterbox.  Now, for you letterboxers out there who know my style of boxes, this is not like any of them.  First off, it is a *gasp* store-bought stamp. *boo, hiss!*  Well, in my defence, I actually purchased this cute little stamp in a stationary store in Itaewan (a shopping district of Seoul).  It's really, really, cute.  It has Korean writing on it and I've left the translation in the box.  And the written statement... well... that is indeed how I lived while in Seoul.

Now, in order to overcome the store-purchased-ness of the stamp, I would like to tell you some other interesting things about this box.  The tin it is in is of a Korean boy-band - they are of a special type of music called K-Pop which *everyone* seems to listen to down there.  It was funny, and I will always remember sitting next to a rough looking guy on the subway who was blaring K-Pop music through his headphones...  The logbook itself was made from a postcard I purchased which shows hand-carved wooden Korean characters.  The logbook shows the image of the purchased stamp along with the translation, along with a stamp impression of a hand-carved stamp/seal that I purchased - the translation for which is "bumblebee" which I've used instead of my standard signature stamp.

If you're interested in finding this box, head over to the Markham Village Branch of the Markham Public Library.  There's another letterbox in here somewhere if you're interested.  Before I left for Seoul, I visited the travel section and took out some books about South Korea and Seoul.  When I went back to plant this box, I looked for the asian cuisine section to find some books on the delicious Korean food I was treated to while there.  Oddly, the travel section and the recipe section face each other - I could reminisce.  You'll find the letterbox attached to the bottom-most shelf at the back left of the bookcase where you'll find asian cookbooks.  (If you can't find any on Korean food, it's because I took them all out!).

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