Streets and Shrines

Nicholas Quirke was settling into the world of Seoul on 8 February 2020 after his first day in the busy, bustling but also serene and peaceful city. When he looked out of his 16th floor window at the sights he was intrigued by how the modern and Hi tech world, with sky scrapers and tower blocks, advertising nestled so comfortably with the mountainous landscapes beyond the city limits and the traditional lifestyles of the small warren like streets. He started the day with a bath which was a great luxury and settled down to research some things to do in Seoul. He Made a list of the things that interested him and over the next week he would try to accomplish as many as he could. He had decided to take it easy, to familiarise himself with the area and see if there were any suitable dining establishments and to also try and work out the subway system. He still needed to set himself up with a SIM card and a supply of face masks, for returning to China and, as he discovered on leaving the hotel in the morning, when he asked the guys on reception why they were wearing masks, for Seoul too. Despite the uncontaminated virus air, the pollution is higH and they gave him a complimentary mask and wearing it he went explore the local vicinity. The problem with wearing a face mask all the time is that the nose, continually runs, there must be a medical reason for it but it made everything very uncomfortable for him. Nicholas had always enjoyed the fact that he had a small nose, but in this instance he cursed its minimalism because the masks would not stay up and his heavy breath steamed up his glasses which meant the wearing of sunglasses were also ruled out. As he walked out onto the street he espied a Small temple at the top of the opposite hill and he decided to go and see it it looked fairly close but as he began the climb he realised it was a lot steeper than anticipated. On the way up he noticed a couple of area where residents had their own outside gym provided as well as encountering a number of people standing on stones and balancing with a stick and doing Tai Chi. There were rest space on the way up through trees and he felt echoes of life as he had experienced it through Japanese movies, the air, the landscape all seemed to feel very familiar. When he got to the temple he discovered it was in fact Dongmanggak Shrine and a memorial to a Queen in the 16th Century who climbed Dongmanngong Peak every day to send her thoughts to her son, the Child King, who had been dethroned and was kept captive in the East. A shrine, a folly, it spoke to him. The peak was a large parkland area with some spectacular views around the city. Mountains, towers. It felt very spectacular and indeed spiritual. By the time he made his descent he was hungry, and although he had purchased a sim from the hotel, he had yet to fit it into his phone. The instructions told him he needed to unlock his phone first. He would wait to perform that complication till he was at the hotel. He stopped at a cafe and enjoyed a sweet citron tea, connected to the WiFi and sourced a vegan restaurant to eat at. Nicholas was determined to be properly fed in Seoul and not succumb to the privations he endured in Beijing. Without WiFi though it was difficult to follow on the map and the 2.7km walk and once he had taken a wrong turning into the side streets he got quite lost and found himself facing tanks of live fish waiting to be plucked from the water and cooked. His stomach turned and he gave up on his search, hoping that the ghost of his failed eating needs in China were not haunting him. Instead he found a supermarket, bought some salad and walnuts and sought his way back to the hotel to make his own supper. He was fortunate in Beijing to have discovered an online community to support him, but he could find nothing similar in Seoul and resorted to Social Network chats, where he talked with a few locals, including a Jenho who turned up at the hotel and was able to give him some detailed help and advice on getting round the area. He discovered that there was no need to unlock his phone and the Sim worked almost perfectly. Of course, the trusty Peng was on hand to guide him through the rough edges. His trip to South Korea was starting to shape and he began to look at the next few weeks and the itinerary they would hold. It was beyond 1 am before he finally got to sleep.


  1. Good to see a little nature in the city Nick. I like the orchestral music on the video too. Enjoy the change of Korea. If you’re in Seoul for a while, could you order masks online, maybe? Or find the equivalent of a POBox to get some sent? Px

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