Yangnyeongsi Herbal Medicine Market
The guidebook described this street as a place to go for all sorts of strange old remedies, to find antlers, magic mushrooms, and lizard tails. We weren't quite sure what to expect, but I think we all had it in our mind that it would be some dusty backstreet with cauldrons and witches. It was surprising, then, to find that it was a very well organized road with regular store fronts and regular people. There were also traditional clinics on this street, for herbal treatments as well as acupuncture.
Although that's not to say there wasn't oddities to be found for sale. Deer antlers, seahorses, turtle shells, and dried frogs. Andrew tried to ask one shop owner if he had any "secret" items that can't be sold on the regular market, but I think both the translation and the joke were lost on him.
And the smells leaping out of these shops and following us down the street were intoxicating; so many that I couldn't possibly figure them all out. Ginseng, certainly, but also a number of fragrant herbs and wood smells; they all blended together to become something unique and distinctive to the street as a whole.
We were a little lost out in the street. Apart from the obvious language barrier, I'm not even sure the average Korean would know what all of this stuff was. However, we did find a museum at one end of the street. It appeared to be recently built, with the latest in technology and fresh, clean carpet. It spanned over two floors, the top being for dioramas and videos, mostly, with a few display cases.
Although I'm still not sure what instruction on medicinal properties some of the items on display might offer.
The videos had four language options, and were actually very well done. The latest animation, and perfect English- I was surprised by them. They mostly detailed life and the process of diagnoses in the past, when this was the standard of medical treatment. A lot of the practice is still alive today, with the health benefits in Korean food. They are still using many of the same herbs for cooking; where they originated to prevent and treat ailments, they also happened to be tasty supplements.
The next floor offered a more hands-on experience, ending with a room where we could check our blood pressure and BMI. This floor was devoted to learning about the body from a traditional perspective. I learned the hours of the day that each organ is at its strongest, and what should be done. For example, between 5-7am it is the time for the colon, so that is the best time to have a bowel movement.
But not all of the hugs of the day were found on the streets...
There is a restaurant called the "Holy Grill" with a picture of the Holy Grail on the sign, and in going it did indeed feel like coming to the end of a great quest. It is owned by two Canadian guys, and I'm convinced has the best burritos in Korea. Not that I've had many burritos in Korea. The whole place is devoted to the food expats miss so much, and all for a very reasonable price inside a classy place.
After dinner, we went in search of a a hookah bar we'd caught wind of, located next to a bar made from an old bus.
When we finally piled into a taxi, all five of us, we expected it to be a long hour back home being crushed together as we were. In the end, it took 40 minutes. We hadn't the opportunity of movement until we got home, but as soon as we emerged gasping for air and thankful for the gift of life, we translated on our phones what 140-160km translated to in mph. We knew it was fast, as the speed limit was posted at 100, and his GPS speedometer would give protesting beeps every time he crossed 160. The man had been going 90-99 miles per hour the entire way home.
But, since my mother is probably reading this in horror, I'll leave off with a photo of relaxing ginseng.