Namsan is a pretty cool area to hang out - under the hill, there is a Hanok village and dozens of nice restaurants. As you climb the hill (yes, I strongly advise you to skip the overcrowded bus and actually walk up using your two feet), you will see a great panorama of Seoul and surrounding mountains, you can do a free gym session, visit a shrine, rest and go to the bathroom (clean and tidy) and the road is jogger-friendly. Once on the top, you're in a tourist paradise - performances, sights, souvenir stores, restaurants, lovey dovey spots and the famous N Seoul Tower.
Under the hill
I visited the Hanok village twice, and if you're spending long enough time in Seoul I advise you to do the same. On Friday evenings a couple of times per month, Seoul Mate (look up their website via internet explorer) offers free walking tour. Apart from the obvious advantage of being shown around by awesome, friendly and funny local students who speak English really well, evenings are also less busy than daytime - so if you want to take nice photos without hordes of tourists in them, evening is the time to go. On our first selca, you can see tons of people behind us - but within 30 minutes, they were gone.
Trivia time: Guess what this thing is for?
It's an aid for noblemen to hold on to as they take off their shoes, so that they don't have to bend as that would make them look less cool.
And below, traditional Korean bedding. When I go back to Korea (which is atually in 2 months - I should really switch to Swedish posts now or I will be posting about Sweden while being already in Korea again), I will definitelly buy some and ship it back. I wouldn't dare to argue that Korean "beds" are better than good quality western style ones, but compared to what I've experienced as a student moving around different dorms, they're certainly way more comfortable than that. And they take up veyr little space. In short, Korean bedding is awesome.
Altar to honour thea late members of the family.
Now if you come during the busy weekends' daytime and look sufficiently non-Korean and like somebody who speaks English, you might be lucky and get scouted as a tourist for a Korean high school student with native-level English and experienced tour guide skills that will show you around, chat with you and even take photos if you insist. Also, what have the Korean teens been eating that they're so tall?
This is a slightly confusing part. There are hanbok-clad ladies promoting different things, but I absolutely didn't understand how it worked and it seemed to be targeted mainly to Chinese tourists. It seemed like there was free tea, but mostly it seemed like promotions for a beauty clinic.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is the famous soap on a stick. It took me some time to find the first one here in Namsan, but since then I'd been seeing it everywhere - even at uni. The hygiene of the solution might look questionable and is definitelly lower than liquid soap, but as it is on a stick, it dries fast (limiting survival of bacteria) and it lasts longer than liquid soap and you use less, so you could argue it's more eco-friendly.
Backpack old-Korea style.
We had a discussion about the pink colour of the lamps - in the end, it's just faded red. So the lamps are supposed to be red and blue, but the sunlight bleached them.
Kimchi making pots! I really wish I had one, but actually glass jars work just fine for home-made kimchi.
In Korea, portion for 2 - 3 people is plenty enough for 5 - 6. I don't want to sound condescending, since we waste plenty of food in Europe too, but the amount of food being thrown away in Korea is crazy, especially in restaurants. There's no option to ask for a half-serving (at least not written in the menu, maybe if you asked) and take-away leftovers don't exist either.
Anyways, in Korea, if something is too big or long to eat with chopsticks, you cut it with scissors. Not only in restaurants but also when we eat in the kitchen at school.
On the way up
Finding the way from Hanok village up to the Namsan hill is not as easy as you might think (unless you have internet access, basic knowledge of Korean and naver maps - google maps are pretty useless in Korea), so you need to pay attention to tourist signs and people who seem to be dressed for hiking - follow them.
Waryongmyo shrine - despite reading the description in English, I was confused as to what exactly it is and whether you can access it or not. It seems to be built about a hundred years ago, worshipping a Chinese statesman, and somehow mixing Chinese infuence with Korean folklore. There are supposed to be statues enshrined inside, but I wasn't sure how far one was allowed to go, since there were some signs along the way up only in Korean and I didn't know enough Korean to translate them.
But there's a lot of interesting things to see as you progress...
Namsan hill was used in the Joseon era as the central point to signal enemy attack by fires being lit, with daytime signals being the smoke, and nighttime signals being the fires. The signal system led to Namsan from different points on the borders.
You can be Paris, forbid people to put locks on bridges (which nobody listens to anyways) and then have the fence break and fall, or you can be Seoul and prepare controlled environment for couples to hang various items on. And you save on Christmas decorations, too.
Remember what I said about evenings being calmer in the hanok village? That doesn't apply at all on top of the hill - it's as busy as ever.
I started in the hanok village, but my goal was to finish at Sookmyung university station, so I chose a different path to descend from the hill.