We slept really well in our comfortable bed, waking early at 6.30 a.m. due to the time change.
Breakfast at the Holiday Inn Express Euljiro was served in the basement and we found a varied selection of hot and cold dishes to suit all tastes. Most diners were wearing smart business suits, appearing very formal for a Sunday morning so it was intriguing to wonder where they might be going. We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast sampling lots of Asian dishes and looking in wonderment as people ate chocolate croissants with chopsticks!
Ready to set off, we took the metro which was only one minute’s walk from the hotel making it nice and convenient for us. Using the metro was so much easier than the previous day without our heavy suitcases and we could just use the escalators instead of searching for the lifts.
Our first destination of the morning was the War Memorial of Korea at Samgakji. Entrance to this vast museum is free, and it is open daily except Monday. The museum is housed in the former national army headquarters. We started our visit by walking through the Memorial Hall which is dedicated to the memory of those involved in past war efforts.
The major focus of the museum is on the Korean War covering the background to the war, its progression and how a truce was eventually established. The Korean War took place between 25th June 1950 and 27th July 1953 resulting in a death toll of just over 1.2 million. Galleries cover North Korea’s surprise invasion, major battles and the roles played by the United Nations and other countries. We were able to view ammunition used by hostile and friendly forces as well as artefacts from people displaced by war. On the lower floor, the two galleries cover Korean history up until the collapse of the Japanese occupation in 1945 when Korea became independent.
Surrounding the museum is a park and lake which was looking beautiful with flowering azaleas. This park forms an outdoor hall where both U.S. and Korean restored tanks, aircraft, warships and artillery used during the Korean War are on display. We were particularly interested to view a B52 Bomber and a replica of a full scale South Korean naval ship sunk by North Korea in 2002.
After enjoying cups of coffee in the gardens we took the metro to Yeouinaru station so that we could walk along the banks of the Han river in Yeouido. Surprisingly, this area seemed to be quite desolate except for a half marathon taking place during our visit. The river is extremely wide at this point and pleasure boat trips are available from the pier. We spotted numerous bicycle rental stations with hundreds of bikes and tandems available for hire but they didn’t seem very popular on a Sunday lunchtime.
After walking along the riverside awhile we turned inland and walked through Yeouido Park which was historically an old airfield. We followed a forest trail along a wooden boardwalk which led to a pagoda and lake. Again, there were azaleas blossoming everywhere and we seemed to have timed our holiday to view them at their best.
Leaving the park further on, we caught the metro from Yeouido station to Noryangjin. It was slightly more confusing using this line as there are also express services which miss out stops, much like on the New York City metro. From the station it was just a short walk to Noryangjin Fisheries wholesale market which is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
It was interesting viewing the fish, much of which we couldn’t identify. We watched as live fish were selected from tanks by customers, caught in nets and placed on weighing scales whilst still alive. In addition to supplying the wholesale market, individuals can also make purchases to either take home or carry up to one of the first floor restaurants who will cook it and serve with side dishes. We didn’t want a large lunch so we ordered some prawns in a light tempura batter which were very tasty.
It had started raining heavily when we left the market so we decided to return to the hotel for a short rest and a cup of tea. A couple of hours later and we were on our way again, this time with our waterproof coats as the rain was still persisting. We took the metro to Itaewon which is a popular area with expats and U.S. military personnel. The district looked attractive but few people were around due to the weather. We didn’t feel like walking far so found a small restaurant called Stacked and managed to get a cosy window table just as someone was leaving. We ordered a selection of steamed dumplings, egg and shrimp fried rice and a beef and noodle soup all of which tasted delicious and weren’t so heavy on the chillies as the previous night’s offerings.
On the way back to the metro we stopped for cappuccino’s and returned to our hotel hoping that the rain clouds would have passed by morning.