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Off the beaten track
Korea - The Land of Morning Calm
all data refer to year 1996

Korea at a Glance [Click this link to read the article]
Traveller's Memories: index

It is quite difficult to express using simple words what I felt, the feeling who pervaded my soul, when I have been in Korea for the first time.
From my point of view it has been like a return to my origins, I was caught by a remarkable awareness I have been there in my past life: it has been a clear deja vu.
Pagodas at the dawn I had no idea about what was waiting for me once landed at Kimpo 2, the airport of Seoul City. I prepared myself for the impact with a reality completely different from that one I was used to live in my Country, and perhaps inside me lived too many prejudices.
It has been sufficent the human warmth of the wonderful Sung Family and the affection shown by my Friend to disentangle all my possible doubt about the well known availability and hospitality of Korean People.
The time spent with Sung Family was for me the best experience I did in my life, I felt myself at home, at once, and my heart start beating to the rythm of Korean's one.
They have been particularly interesting the meeting with local people, friends I was introduced to, with whom I shared unrepeatable moments of life where two extremely different and far cultures met and complemented one another, making concrete the meaning of the sentence friendship and understanding between people... It has been a wonderful way to become more rich, inside!
During those evening meetings in front of a cup of Korean Tea I realized how much Italians and Koreans are not so dissimilar as it seems and I am upsetted that time to our disposal has not been sufficient to know and compare one another in a more deep way.
Anyway, each person I met have now a special place into my heart beacause, those meetings, iven if so short, let me grow inner.
My involving has been so strong to induce me to love the People, the ancient and polyhedric Culture, the Language and, over all, the incredible artistic expression which renders Korea so special in Asia.
Korea is rich in monument, ancient buildings (many of then rebuilt after the 1950-53 war) and museums that well explain the cultural heritage of that People. The big problem I see in those places is the lack of English explanations, as I had the chance to tell during an interview, after a Shamanic Ritual performance.
I still remember the concert of Korean Traditional Music and the Traditional Dance at the Seoul Nori Madang, Korean Folk Village and at the Sejong Cultural Center. As the music and/or dances started over I had goose pimples.
The most impressive performace I have seen has been a performance of percussion music named Samulnori. I was told by my Friend that Sa and Mul mean "four things" and Nori means "to play.". In the case of Samulnori, the name refers to the four musicians playing and dancing with four percussion instruments Chang-go, Ching, Kwangwaeri and Buk.
She also told me that the origins of their music can be traced to "farmer band" music (Nong-Ak) and ceremonial music. Their sound also includes the influences of folk and religious music (Pinari).
Samulnori: 4 incredible musicians Samulnori is a group of four dynamic musicians and percussionists joined together in 1978. I heard and saw them for the first time at the Sejong Cultural Center.
In Korea I was also introduced to the worldwide famous Korean Food. The first day of my arrival Mrs. Sung prepared for me a very special lunch, whose remember is still alive and lively in my mind, that allowed me taste a lot of Korean dishes.
Korean Food... Kalbi, Shinsollo, Mul Neng Myong, Bulgogi, Kimchi, Kujolpan, Pibimpap, Kimpap... All these names resonate in my mind and each one remembers me a special flavour and a particular instant spent in Seoul.
The name O-ching-o expecially remembers me the first time I had the chance to see the dried squid. I had to taste it, so when I have seen an hand written sign beside a dried squid vendor I written the sentence on a strip of paper. The same evening I met my friend and she took a look to that note written in Korean and she asked me why I had written "Not salty" in Korean... Sigh! I realized I did not write the Korean word for squid, but its flavour. My friend started to laugh when she understood which was my real purpose and told me the magic word "O-ching-o".
Traditional table But when I went in Korea I did not do a simple tour: first of all it has been the chance to meet again that very special woman, an angel on earth with two eyes dark like the deep sky I met the year before at Beijing Language Institute...
The travel in Korea has also been a kind of research of cultural and ethnic enrichment which has been possible visiting places less frequented by mass tourism, thank to the precious and unselfishness contribute of both Mr. and Mrs. Sung and the total availability of my beloved friend.
I felt and I still feel to have a second Family in the remote Land of Morning Calm.
I had the chance to see how Korean People lives and works, how makes business. Songp'yon, traditional rice cakes During lonely walk I met old Koreans whose English was quite good (Sigh, not the same I can tell about my Korean!) and I had quite long chat. I always met kind people along the way or in the subway.
When I back to my Homeland I have taken with me many souvenirs, but what remained inside me, in my soul, has an extremely high value, it is something that gives warmth to the heart and helps to forget the dark moments of the misfortune.
This is why I have told to people I know that when I had to leave Korea, a part of my soul remained there, forever.

Korea I love:
Beyond tourist attractions: friends, Korean People and more.
Korean experiences.
My Korean friends (1) My Korean friends (2)
Bird's eye view of Seoul (1) Bird's eye view of Seoul (2)
Bird's eye view of Seoul (3) Youido: 63 Storeyed Building
Seoul, NamDaeMun Seoul, TongDaeMun
Tapkol Park, old people Tapkol Park, a street barber
Seoul Nori Madang, Nong-ak nori Korea House, jars of preserved food
Insadong-gil, little restaurant National Theatre, Korean babies
Songp'a-gu, Seoul subway line 5 Chong-ak, a street cobbler
Ulchiro-1-ga, street food vendor Insadong-gil, fan vendor
TongDaeMun, fabric market TongDaeMun, squid vendor
TongDaeMun shops street NamDaeMun market (1)
NamDaeMun market (2) Suwon, Buddhist Monk
Traditional restaurant SanChon 1 Traditional restaurant SanChon 2
Traditional table. SanChon 3 Traditional table. SanChon 4
Array of little street restaurant Chong-no-gu, night life
Pig feet, Ginseng and Co. Young folks.
Old folks. Girls in uniform.

Korea... A mystical land.
Resonating with the deep sounds of temple bells
across the hills and valleys soaring over the mundane.

How to discover a different Asia
Learning Korean
Corée Plus Proche! (Francais et Coréen)
Korea Window
Korean Art and Culture
Korean Cultural Arts Foundation
Korea Insights
Korea Homestay
Korean Cultural Service
Organization of Cultural Properties
Korea National Tourism Organization
Seoul Subway (choose English)
List of Korean servers

Korea at a Glance [Click this link to read the article]
Traveller's Memories: index
© Paolo Botton