Jared and I have a list of all the places we want to go in Seoul. It’s a long list, but we have been slowly working on it. Our number one site, N Seoul Tower, has been put off again and again in the past few months. We actually wanted to visit it during my first week in Korea, but we finally made it there this weekend!
N Seoul Tower is a large communication tower located in the exact center of the city. The tower is atop Namsan Mountain, making it a perfect spot for panoramic views of Seoul. The legendary view of the city called to our photographer hearts, and we just needed a clear day for our visit. That need for a clear day is why it has taken us so long to visit the tower. When I first arrived, Korea was experiencing “yellow dust.” This is basically a dust storm that starts in the deserts of Mongolia or China and hurtles across Asia, gathering pollution as it goes. It’s just nasty. I would sweep our patio, and within an hour there would be a new coating of dust/dirt/grime. There were several days when visibility was extremely low; I couldn’t see high-rises that are just a few blocks away. Therefore, the yellow dust prevented us from N Seoul Tower for a few weeks. Luckily, the dust began to minimize! Just in time for the monsoon season! I’ve seen sunshine once or twice in the past month. I don’t have other monsoon seasons to compare this experience to, but it isn’t that horrible. Every day is cloudy with at least one or two bouts of rain throughout the day. Sometimes it rains all day, sometimes it rains just for a few minutes, but it is always cloudy. When I heard about the monsoons, I thought there would be torrential downpours every minute for the entire month. Not so. There are strong rainstorms, but they aren’t continuous. I didn’t mind the monsoon season too much; it was an excuse to buy purple rainboots. However, rainboots or no, the cloudy weather was not conducive to panoramic picture taking.
On Saturday, the rains had stopped, there were fewer clouds than usual, and we felt a twinge of hope. To the tower! We took the subway and then the bus to the tower, but you can also access by hiking up the mountain or riding a tram. We elected not to actually go up the tower; you can pay to take an elevator to the top and view the city through windows. However, there is a large observation deck below the tower, and we were quite happy to enjoy the view (for free) from there. We arrived just in time to see the sunset, which was obstructed by clouds that had moved in. Can’t win ‘em all. (It was around this time that I realized I haven’t seen stars in at least three months.) It was still a beautiful view, and I had fun pointing out landmarks I knew. I have a fairly horrible sense of direction, so I was pleased that I was able to recognize a few things. From our vantage point we could see Bukhansan National Park, Yongson Army Garrison, Gangnam, the 63 Building and the Banpo Bridge. It was neat to see how much we have traveled around the city (and how much there still is to explore!)
However, my favorite part of visiting N Seoul Tower were the love locks! We have seen these memorials in every country we have visited, yet had not partaken in the tradition until now. There is a fence all around the observation deck, and for years lovers have placed a padlock on the fence. Their lock remains forever, like their love. Awww. Throughout the years, so many locks have been placed on the fence that it appears to be a wall of locks. More recent couples must resort to attaching their lock to a previous couple’s lock. I loved looking at the lock wall. It was so colorful, happy, and hopeful. And also quite rusted and grimy, but love isn’t always perfect. Though I enjoyed looking at all the locks, I found the non-lock mementos the most entertaining.
As I mentioned, we’ve seen these displays all over the world, but have never had a lock of our own. I decided that since Seoul is going to be a big part our story, we should be a part of Seoul. I purchased one of the many locks sold at the gift shop (it also sells commemorative Seoul Post-its!) I wrote on the lock our names, the date of our first date, our wedding date, and “Sweet Dreams,” one of our few cute couple traditions.