After my curiosity for the depth of history is somewhat satisfied, I began to notice nicely decorated things everywhere in town. Coming from Melbourne and the mess of Osaka, Seoul, like Tokyo, is full of places that are designed to please the eyes of its residents and visitors. Kyoto also has that. Could it be something capital cities do, to impress their foreign guests? (Kyoto used to be a capital.) Whatever the reason is, Seoul turned out to be a city full of interesting architecture, small decorated pieces of installation, and interesting infrastructure. It must be fun living in a city like this, visually stimulated all the time.
Walking along the Han River, I came across sun shades over benches everywhere, shaped like kites! They’re so cute. It was funny to see people watching a guy raising kites under it. Continuing on walking, I was passing under a road bridge where the pillars were all painted. There are installations painted in traditional colours of Korean art, and the pillars are painted with barcode-like shapes. I could not help thinking how badly vandalised a place like this in Osaka would be, or how everything is fenced off to avoid damages. This is a lot more elegant way of keeping things clean and safe at the same time. Sure, the presence of CCTV have some effect to keeping this city safe and clean, but I could not help thinking there are a lot of clever thinking put into the design of places across the city that encourage people to appreciate it more.
On my way back towards town centre from the long long walk along the river, I passed by this building. I wonder how its lighting pattern change at different time of the day. Unfortunately I didn’t get to find out as it was not in my path again during the 1-week stay.
Then again, it could just be that I notice things because I’m not used to what is there. Come to think of it, Osaka and Melbourne, two of my homes, both have visually stimulating stuff – weird architecture, walking path within city, etc. as much as they have mess and crowded places. Grass is greener, they say. Indeed, it is.
During my stay, I went to a couple of museums. I came across a large banner on a building near City Hall telling me the exhibition on Marc Chagall was held at Seoul Museum of Art. I found out where it is and headed there next day. There are lots of high school kids who seem to be on school assignment to visit the exhibition, but generally their behaviour was not that bad. I put on an audio guide, pulled out a notebook and pen to jot down some random thoughts, and walked through the large exhibition. (The same exhibition was also held in Japan this year, I found out on TV show the week after when I was back in Osaka. But it was not in Osaka and already finished, so I wouldn’t have been able to see it any way.)
It was the first time for me to see Chagall’s works, but thanks to a well-organised exhibition, I got to learn his works and the story behind it. One piece made me think that some other painting I’d seen in the past might have made reference to this, it was visible in the style of drawing an animal and a girl, as well as how they float in mid-air. Now I wish to see the painting with a goat in it, that the character played by Julia Roberts presents to Hugh Grant in ‘Knotting Hill’. I wonder where the original is.
I also went to another museum – one recommended in the guidebook. Leeum is a museum built by Samsung in order to store and display the numerous art work the conglomerate acquired (or something along that line, I’m only guessing!). There seem to be three buildings that were designed by different world-famous architects, and indeed, there are interesting details everywhere. If you have a day free, I would highly recommend visiting this museum, which is just a block behind the main street of Itaewon.
In Seoul, you do not need to worry about coming home with touristy, guidebook photographs; there are so many artistic objects, architecture and cityscape that you would be forced to make interesting images with your camera.