The Kimchi-ite: Iconic Landmark In Seoul Re-Opens 5 Years After Arson Attack

In early 2008, Sungnye-mun (commonly referred to as Namdae-mun), one of Korea’s most important cultural landmarks, was destroyed in a devastating arson attack. The shocking event was a national tragedy and has been engraved into the collective Korean consciousness. Today, people are able to immediately remember where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news that the gate, which is very much linked to Korea’s identity, had been destroyed. The attack ultimately destroyed much of the gate’s wooden roof, which at the time was the oldest wooden structure in Korea.Now, after more than 5 years of extensive restoration, the iconic Sungnye-mun, meaning “Gate of Exalted Ceremonies,” has reopened to great fanfare with a visit from South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye. During much of its restoration, the gate remained behind scaffolding, which intentionally obscured it from view, making its return to the Seoul landscape all the more welcome.

Originally built in 1398, its intended purpose was to control access to the capital, welcome foreign diplomats and protect the city from Siberian Tigers. During Japanese occupation, from which the gate received its controversial “Dongdae-mun” name, the surrounding walls were destroyed as the Crown Prince of Japan saw himself as too honorable to pass under the gate. Today, it sits in the middle of a grand intersection in the heart of the metropolis, dwarfed by surrounding skyscrapers, symbolic of South Korea’s constant struggle between its modern aspirations and ties to tradition.

Getting to Singnye-mun is incredibly easy, just get to either City Hall subway station and go straight out exit 8 or to Seoul Station and go straight out of exit 3 or 4. The gate is roughly a 10 – 15 minute walk from any of those locations.

For more on Korean culture, food and all around eccentricities, check out The Kimchi-ite by clicking here.

[Image Credits: Jonathan Kramer, Najonpyohyeon and WatchWants via WikiMedia]

Photo of the Day (1.2.11)

I like the optimism of today’s photo, courtesy of Flickr user JasonBechtel. It’s a great way to kick off a brand new year. Jason snapped this photo out in South Dakota – a land you can imagine inhabited by limitless blue skies and crisp grasslands, gently swaying in the breeze. What really pulls the image together is the framing of the wide-open gate. The open door seems to beckon the viewer forward, inviting them into a land of new opportunities, adventure and promise: the perfect sentiment for all any travelers hoping to start the new year off right. Bring it on!

Taken any great travel photos of your own? Why not add them to our Gadling group on Flickr? We might just pick one of yours as our Photo of the Day.

Could you handle a gate agent’s job?

Running a travel blog and working with twenty wonderful writers, thousands of media and industry contacts and maintaining a dozen side projects keeps my stress level remarkably high, but I could never handle what an airline gate agent goes through.

Airfarewatchdog‘s Ramsey Qubein spent a day working as a Delta gate agent recently, and his experience was as dramatic as I had expected. In one day, he experienced the full spectrum of travelers, from crazy, angry and delayed passengers to the nicest people in the world. Among the experiences that he collected in one single day were passengers who handed him boarding passes with their teeth, decrypting the archaic booking system and angry flight attendants offloading from Detroit. You can read about them all over at Yahoo news.

Needless to say, I now have further respect for a vocation that I already thought was pretty darn dramatic. I’m amazed that anyone can handle that job every day without developing an ulcer.

[flickr image via cote]

Cockpit Chronicles: How to park a 757

So you just bought yourself a 757. Congratulations are certainly in order. But when you approach the gate in Aruba for your well deserved vacation, you find no one to guide you in. They’re all just standing around waiting for you to line up your shiny new ride.

Fortunately you’ve read this blog just in time. Usually when you approach a gate, you’ll have someone from the ground crew who will guide you into the gate with wands and tell you when to stop. But let’s take a look at how to self park at a gate with an automated parking system. The version seen here in Aruba is one of the earliest types used. But this tip will also come in handy in Miami and soon JFK where they’re installing even more advanced versions. These things are popping up all over the country.

As you can see in the pictures below, there is a small box right in front of the airplane with two vertical lights (A). If you’re centered, both lights will be green. Move off to the right and the right light will turn red. So you simply position the airplane until you see two green lights that indicate you’re on the centerline.

To stop, look over to the right at the black board (B). Now just line up the lighted florescent tube (shut off in the photo below, after the jump) with the line that notes the airplane you’re flying.

How to:

Today’s flight was just a one day trip, also known as a ‘turn.’ Leave Boston in the morning for a 4 1/2 flight down to Aruba, sit around for an hour and then fly home. The total flight time is 9 1/2 hours. Any flights over 8 hours in a day requires a relief pilot which allows for each of us to get an hour break on each leg of the flight. We take the breaks back in the first class cabin which usually results in some strange “who’s flying the plane?” looks.

Oh, and for the ‘photo of the trip,’ it’s a sunset shot off the left side of the airplane that we often get while on the way home from the Caribbean. I usually take a nice picture of the captain when this happens, but I was sitting in the left seat at this point in the flight while el Jefe was back resting. So I had to be the one in the picture. Thanks to Dave the co-pilot for snapping this.

For the next trip, I’ll show you how to go to London and back without experiencing any jet lag whatsoever.