I woke up this morning with a driving sense of purpose. I made my coffee in a semi-conscious state and focused on going to National Museum of Korea. The snow was still on the ground from the previous day's flurries and the air was crisp and cold as it often is in winter. As I continued walking out of the station and on to the museum, little dustings of snow drifted down swirling around like the little ice fairies in Fantasia. Soon, however, I approached the steps of the massive building with the escort of dancing cotton puffs.
My first appointment was with the third floor: Asian Art and Sculpture and Crafts. I started with the Indian and Southeast Asia gallery, quite to my liking as I have been reading about the Indian gods and goddesses in a yogic/Shakti sense. I moved along then through Central Asian art, Chinese, the Sinan Shipwreck Collection (which was quite an interesting find in its own archaeological right), and Japanese art. I paused a moment for a break before moving on to the next half of the third floor at the 'Traditional Tea House' next to the Japanese art gallery.
After debating for a moment over what winter drink I would like, I asked for a green tea latte and chose a seat by the window. The miniature Zen-esque patio garden was layered with snow. I took a few photos from the warmer side of the glass pane but opted to enjoy the simplistic beauty of it all without the interference of a lens. I savored the latte and the moment, dragging it out as long as I could, the snow once again falling in large swaths.
Unsure of how tired I was becoming (it is after a large museum), I decided I should make my way down to museum store to buy Christmas presents for my family back in the States. I knew what to get my siblings but my parents were more difficult. The museum store was vast in quality and selection and I finally chose something quite fitting. If I am honest, I was having trouble not picking out something for myself.
Satisfied with my purchases, I decided to see the other half of the third floor. Ironically, the first gallery I was to preview was the Buddhist Sculpture exhibit. It was a large, magnificent series of rooms that was as inspiring as it was breath taking. The sheer size of some of the statues was incredible. I sat for a moment in the larger room and contemplated over the many followers who would have sat and meditated or prayed in front of the massive structure when it was in its original temple home.
Afterwards, I moved on to metal crafts, which were as interesting as they were intricate and ended at the Buddhist Bell from Cheonheungsa Temple. With just the Celadon, Bunchdong War and White Porcelain left, weariness set in and I resolved to save the remaining three galleries for another day.
It was still snowing when I exited the building. Enamoured by the beauty of the white-draped gardens I decided to take photos of the winter scenery. I took several, impressed with the quality of my phone's camera and quite aware of my lack of gloves before I was waved away by security. I can only imagine that the other photographer there was professionally hired by the museum and the guard was concerned I might interfere with the man's shots.
I continued on my way home, a journey requiring an hour or so and a transfer, on a crowded train glad that I had gotten a seat when the train was empty and was in possession of a newly started book. Instead of getting off at my usual stop, however, I chose to ride one stop further to the shopping section of the city—home of Lotte Department store and Shinsegae. Before I go further I must mention that, especially during Christmas, I can only liken Lotte Department store to Macy's in New York City. The first floor (entry-level) is laden with designer goods, including a Burberry shop, a Swarvoski shop, a Prada shop, etc. Seeing as there was a fantastic pre-Christmas sale going on and my hands had earlier nearly turned to ice, I decided to buy some nice leather gloves for a steal.
As I left Lotte, I heard the ever-present ding-a-ling of Salvation Army handbells. On instinct I reached into my pockets for whatever loose change I could find and slipped it into the red bucket to words of thanks.
With the Christmas spirit upon us, and needing to replenish my supply of coffee, I stopped by the Starbucks between Lotte Department Store and Shinsegae to grab a bag of their Christmas blend (a holiday tradition of mine) as well as a warm drink. Though they do not have Peppermint Mochas here, they have Christmas Cookie Lattes, Mocha Pralines, and Toffee Nut Lattes. As chocolate was in my list of desires, I chose the Mocha Praline.
Eager to continue my holiday consumerism, I attempted to hit up a sale at H&M in Shinsegae. As I got there and tried to look at sweaters, I realized that it is nearly impossible to finish a Mocha Praline, carry two bags (one quite large) and try on clothes at the same time, so I resolved to return the next day, free of previous shopping and fill my closet with much needed winter necessities.
I crammed onto the bus and tried my hardest to stay upright around street-corners and not spill my coffee. Successful in this endeavor, I made my way home to nestle my bags under the Christmas tree. Continuing on with the holiday feelings, I started "A Wonderful Life" and began dinner. The evening was lovingly ended with a warm cuppa and a familiar Christmas tune humming through my head.