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On Friday this week, I embarked on my first field assignment with Sharon, an intern from New York University – what an adventure!!

Me at the hanbok (Korean traditional dress) rental place. Photo: Jamie Lee

The idea was for us to head around Seoul, recording our experience and observations as we toured the city and its tourist destinations. Apparently, we were going to start a new tradition for future interns. We also planned to do the whole thing dressed in a hanbok (traditional Korean dress).

Many hanbok rental places are scattered around the Palace Quarter. Entry to the palaces is free when dressed in a hanbok, so this is a popular tourist activity. At 11am, the place we visited was already chock full of tourists, each picking out their piece over the K-pop music playing in the store.

Feeling queenly. Photo: Sharon Tak

Dressed in hanbok with our hair up, our first stop was Gyeongbokgung, the biggest palace in the Quarter. Although we had planned to spend the most time there, the size of the palace and the temptation to take photos at every photo-worthy spot meant that three hours passed quickly. We grabbed lunch and got out of our hanbok, not keen to stay in a sauna suit for the rest of the day.

Next stop was the Namsan tower. In the 30+ degree heat, we hiked up 1.3km of unrelenting slope. The trail was empty except for us, so other people must have booked tour buses. Lesson learnt for future reference. I am still impressed we made it and did not die from heat stroke.

After stopping at a traditional archery place in the Namsan park (which we discovered was not for tourists), we finished off at the Gwangjang market. In a magazine for expats, a local was quoted as saying “I think Korea was more attractive when it was poor.” It struck a chord with the author, and I think it did with me, too. Gwangjang is a traditional market selling fabrics, dried food, vintage clothes, and a huge food section selling hot food. It was exactly the type of local, raw, unrefined scene I look for when I visit any new country. By the time we reached the market, I – and our audio recorder – were out of batteries. In our state of exhaustion, we ordered sliced raw octopus but forgot to record while we were eating. Alas, there would be no record of our reaction to eating still-squirming octopus tentacles - though it was very delicious.

About the Blog

Parallax records the experiences of final year students of the B.A. (Media & Communications) degree who have won competitive overseas internships to work in Asian, Indian and Latin American media organisations.