Last May 21st was Buddha’s Birthday. Being Buddhism the majority religion in Korea, this day, as in many other countries in Asia, is celebrated in a very special way. During all the week before this day, several parades take place around the most touristic areas of Seoul. We decided to take a walk around Gwanghwamun and Insadong during the first day of the celebrations.
As in Chinese culture, the dragon is a very important figure in Korean culture, and it is very present in all Korean celebrations.
Chariots were made of a kind of paper with light inside, which made them very colorful at night.
View of another chariot.
Lanterns are everywhere in the city during the Budda’s Birthday previous days. All Buddhist temples, as well as the busiest areas of the biggest Korean cities are adorned with lanterns like these during these days.
More lanterns 🙂
View of the Jogyesa Temple, with all the lanterns for Budda’s Birthday.
A couple of weeks ago, taking the chance after Kim Yuna’s win in the Winter Olympic Games, we went skating to the ice rink in Jamsil. This ice rink is inside Lotte World, but you do not have to pay the entrance to the theme park if you only want to skate. You can skate as much as you want (there is no time limit) for 13,000 won. Wearing gloves is mandatory (I guess they don’t want cut fingers on the ice rink…), but you can also buy them there for 1,000 won.
There were two things that surprised me. One is that there were many children skating, and many of them taking speed skating (the boys) or figure skating (the girls) lessons.
View of the ice rink right after being cleaned-up (every hour more or less everybody has to go out during 15 minutes so that the ice rink can be cleared of scratches in the ice).
People skating. On the left you can see the children learning how to speed-skate.
The second thing that I saw was that there were many couples wearing “couple t-shirts”, a trend in some Asian countries by which couples wear the same clothes to show their love in public. This is not just limited to t-shirts (or hoodies in this case). You can also find “couple pants”, couple shoes, couple cups… and some couple even dress totally the same, from shoes to cup…
It is all about some cabinets that have been installed at the the line 1, 2, 3, and 4 Seoul subway stations (what about the other lines?). These cabinets have an interactive map of the surroundings of the station, and a touch phone that allows paying phone calls using the T-money card.
A different view.
Touch phone that allows paying using T-money.
I am not sure whether or not this will change anybody’s life, but I think it’s a great idea. These new booths have, on one side, a public telephone (during the testing period you can make free national calls, including cellphones!). On the other side there is room for an advertisement that I guess they will use to finance all the operation. In the center there is the main device, a huge touchscreen that very much reminds on an iPhone, showing information about the subway station’s emergency exits, nearby restaurants and interesting places, news, and even a Google Streetview-like interactive map of the subway station’s surroundings. They have called this map “Digital View”. I recorded a small video so that you can view the “device” in action:
Since a few weeks ago, they have installed these boxes in all the subway stations of Seoul. The cover says in Korean, literally: “In February 2010 life changes”. I wonder what’s changing my life in February…