Annyeong-haseyo and welcome to Seoul, South Korea, the hidden gem of Asia! Step through these wooden doors with me and journey to a place known only long, long ago.
As with most Asian countries, Seoul blends thousands of years of history seamlessly with the modern day in an explosion of color and sounds that dominates the busy streets. For most of my colleagues, Seoul holds the promise of upcoming fashion trends and an unlimited supply of beauty products. But when I saw Seoul on my roster, I knew instantly that I would be taking an incredible journey where the past and present melt together to form something intensely unique. It was time for dinner when we landed so we decided to conquer one of the Korean Barbeque restaurants near our hotel. For the first thirty minutes our table was nothing but appreciative glances, hungry mouths, and flying chopsticks. Once our hunger slowed down the laughter kicked in, out came the Soju (rice wine) and Bokbunjajoo (black raspberry wine) followed by kimchi and second (and third and fourth) orders of beef and pork. These are my favorite moments after a long flight, when the crew can come together and just be ourselves. We learn more about each other during this intimate time when we bond over food and laughter. For me, it’s one of the most anticipated moments after a long flight is finished. The following day my trip to Goguan Studio in Insa-dong can only be described as a series of unfortunate events. My taxi driver dropped me off eight stops away from the studio and after an unexpected expedition through the metro, I still came out of the wrong entrance. Finally, when I found the right entrance, I pulled my map up on the studio website only to discover that the directions were in Chinese and completely useless. To this day I still have no idea how I made it to the studio in time but I arrived exactly at 11!
Walking into the studio was like taking a step onto a sound stage straight out of a Korean costume drama. The proprietor greeted me and handed me a menu with photoshoot package prices. Once we sorted out the costume changes, I was whisked to the ladies changing room where I was given free reign over costumes, wigs, and jewelry. The first costume I chose was an outfit in the traditional Korean style called a Hanbok. The entire silk gown was covered in beautiful embroidered flowers. For this outfit, I wore my hair in a more natural style bun. The second costume I chose was of the Gisaeng (this is the Korean equivalent of a Japanese Geisha or a Western Courtesan). These women were highly educated in politics, musical instruments as well as dance and conversation. This outfit is complimented by the huge braided wig (which was actually one of the smaller ones!) adorned with hair sticks and flowers.
When the professional photoshoot was complete, I was able to break out my own selfie stick. I was given free reign to browse about the pre-staged rooms and there was no time limit to the stories you could play out on the scenes already set for your imagination.
My favorite sets were the receiving chambers for members of the ruling class. Mirrors, fans, and hair ornaments were set about, which gave you the feel of being in the actual bedroom of a member of the aristocracy.
The staged sets also included a small Korean style shop and a quaint little tea room. Venturing out from there, I discovered another room with a set made to resemble an antique rickshaw draped in silk from which you could peer out as you rode past your imaginary adoring public.
My absolute favorite set was nestled in a large corner where a number of pillows lay in a decadent sprawl of brightly colored silks, reminiscent of the pleasure quarters of the Gisaeng.
I enjoyed my immersion into the past so much that I didn’t want this adventure to end, but as with all good things, I started to run short on time. I had to exchange my heavy wigs and silks for normal hair and jeans. In the dress down room of the studio (brightly lit with hair dryers, hair curlers, brushes, makeup and mirror after mirror) I said goodbye to my period makeup and repacked my bag. With a heavy sigh, I pushed the studio door ajar leaving my dreamworld behind and quietly entered the crowded, bustling streets of the real world. So far, Seoul has been one of my top layover destinations I look forward to the day I can return to explore more of what this enchanting city has to offer!
For more information you can visit http://www.goguan.net/?ckattempt=1 In the meantime, safe travels and happy landings!