Thursday, March 29, 2012

Seoul Day 3

Thurs 29/3

Palace visit

We started our day earlier today at 9am, after breakfast at the pantry. Our destination today is nearer, just around the city centre to Geongdokbung Palace. We took the subway to Gyeongbokgung Station (Subway Line #3). Admission is KRW 3000.

Some facts about Geongbokbung:
Built in 1395, Gyeongbokgung Palace is also commonly referred to as the “Northern Palace” because it is the furthest north when compared to the neighboring palaces of Changdeokgung (Eastern Palace) and Gyeongheegung (Western Palace). Gyeongbokgung Palace is arguably the most beautiful and remains the grandest of all five palaces. Although so, it is not a Unesco Heritage site, but its sister palace - Changdeokgung (which we later visited to verify why it is chosen instead) is. Unesco site or not, it is totally worth your visit.

The premises were destroyed by fire at the time of Japanese occupation from 1592-1598. However, all of the palace's 7,700 rooms were later restored under the leadership of Heungseondaewongun during the reign of King Gojong (1852~1919)
The National Palace Museum of Korea is located south of Heungnyemun Gate, and the National Folk Museum is located east within Hyangwonjeong.
Tickets for Gyeongbokgung Palace are also valid at the National Palace Museum and the National Folk Museum. Unfortunately for us, the National Palace Museum was closed during our visit. You can also buy the Integrated Ticket of Palaces which will give you access to the Four Palaces (Changdeokgung Palaces (including Huwon, Secret Garden), Changgyeonggung Palace, Deoksugung Palace, Gyeongbokgung Palace) and Jongmyo Shrine(also a Uneso heritage site). The ticket is 10,000 KRW and may be used within a month after purchase.
I would suggest you to just buy the integrated ticket as it is cheaper than purchasing individual tickets for each of the Palaces (which we did for Gyeongbokgung + Changdeokgung + Secret Garden which cost us KRW3000 + KRW3000 + KRW 5000 = KRW11,000).

Facts excerpted from here.

Gyeongbokgung main gate

Pak guard

The main gate

The main hall

There is also a folk village setup in the compound of Gyeongbokgung Palace, which is admissable via your Palace ticket.
The folk village

Old barber shop setup

A quaint village setup

A comic shop

Just when we were exiting the Gyeongbokgung Palace at 1pm, they had a guard changing ceremony (just like Buckingham Palace), so we stopped by to watch it.

Guard changing ceremony

As I am a Unesco Heritage Site hunter, I decided to check out Changdeokgung Palace which is a walking distance away, so we walked there for about 15 minutes. I also wanted to know why it is a Unesco Heritage site, despite Gyeongbokgung being reputed to be more beautiful. Admission is KRW3000 for the palace only.

Changdeokgung Palace : A UNESCO heritage site!

Changdeokgung Palace was the second royal villa built following the construction of Gyeongbukgung Palace in 1405. It was the principal palace for many of the Joseon kings and is the most well-preserved of the five remaining royal Joseon palaces. The palace grounds are comprised of a public palace area, a royal family residence building, and the rear garden. Known as a place of rest for the kings, the rear garden boasts a gigantic tree that is over 300 years old, a small pond, and a pavilion.

Changdeokgung’s rear garden was constructed during the reign of King Taejong and served as a resting place for the royal family members. The garden was kept as natural as possible and was touched by human hands only when absolutely necessary. Buyongjeong, Buyongji, Juhabru, Eosumun, Yeonghwadang, Bullomun, Aeryeonjeong, and Yeongyeongdang are some of the many pavilions and fountains that occupy the garden. The most beautiful time to see the garden is during the fall when the autumn foliage is at its peak and the leaves have just started to fall.

Please note that for access to the garden (called Secret Garden), you have to purchase another ticket for KRW5000. I would say it is totally worth it to visit the garden as you'd feel like you are being transported back to another ancient world. So I reiterate for you to purchase the Integrated ticket to cover at least Gyeongbokgung Palace and the Secret Garden. I'd also say Changdeokgung earned the Unesco Heritage status due its Secret Garden and the harmonization of the Palace structure with the environment surrounding them (Mt. Bugaksan)

Facts excerpted from here.

Let's go to the Secret Garden!

We continued our journey today to Insadong street as per Tammy's suggestion (the Korean girl we met on the plane to Seoul). Insadong Street is one of the most memorable attractions in Seoul and represents the focal point of Korean traditional culture and crafts. Stores in Insadong specialize in a wide variety of goods that can only be purchased or appreciated in Korea: hanbok (traditional clothing), hanji (traditional paper), traditional teas, pottery, and folk crafts. There are also souvenir stores here, so we bought some here.

Facts excerpted from here

Insadong street

After shopping we went back again to Itaewon for prayers at the Seoul central masjid and had dinner at Murree Korean Muslim restaurant. We had bibimbap and bulgogi. Since we were famished from all the walking, we walloped everything! They are delicious anyway, and healthy.

Bibimbap and bulgogi

We went back to our hostel, refreshed ourselves, then ventured a bit around Dongdaemun area to check out the markets. We found out that the markets here mostly sell clothing and hot stall food, which looks very tantalizing in the cold weather. Drool... No souvenir stalls here though. We also noticed that there is a plethora of shopping malls which operates from 10.30am - 4.30am! Quite crazy. After that it was time for rest.

Dongdaemun at night



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