Don’t tell people you visit Korea w/o visiting its palaces. There are admission fees but you can just walk in without paying because there’s simply too much people for the ushers to manage. Just stick behind a tour group and listen to the guide to know more about the palace.
This place was huge! I was just glad that I was in my sports shoes! From afar, it does look like a chinese temple. The signs on the boards are written in chinese characters because hangul actually derived from chinese characters. We wanted to explore the whole palace but it was really too big! I wonder if any of the King’s subjects got lost in the palace. Apparently, this palace has lasted hundreds of years and was once destroyed. To preserve the history and tradition, it was rebuild and now its a tourist attraction. We were scheduled to tour the ‘Secret Garden’ at 2 pm. This garden was sacred and only the king and selected people were allowed to enter it. Even visitors are not allowed to randomly walk around in the Secret Garden by themselves. We were informed that the Secret Garden tour would take up about 1.5 hours and 3 km walk! Since we were already there, I thought we might as well go all the way. I so loved the calmness of the Secret Garden. It was as if the Secret Garden was created to allow the king to rest and enjoy some private time.
Tosokchon - Chicken soup restaurant
We also topped the day off by devouring a bowl of samgyetang, also known as Ginseng Chicken Soup. I do not like to eat ginseng, but this chicken soup was so delicious. It's a whole spring chicken that's stuffed with glutinous rice, water chestnuts, dates, ginseng, (and other things I probably didn't notice since I was stuffing my face with it), and topped with pine nuts and green onion. The chicken was so tender and the broth so tasty. I'm sorry I take terrible food photos, but it's so delicious I tell you! Best homey comfort food. After a tiring day of wall climbing, this was such a treat. The name of the restaurant we went to is: Tosokchon Samgyetang (토속촌 삼계탕). Go during odd mealtimes, e.g. 11am, 3pm, 5pm. Otherwise you'll have to wait in line outdoors (not ideal in winter!).
Just north of Gwanhu dong is the Bukchon gallery district. The main road is lined with coaches carrying visitors, but they are not here to witness a burgeoning art scene, they are visiting the Deoksugung Palace. If they crossed the road, they had found less orthodox treasures. One is a new building for the Kukje Gallery designed by young, New York based architects So Il. The concrete shell is draped in chain mail, like an armored version of Do Ho Suh’s fabric structures at the Leemum.
대한민국 서울특별시 종로구 Gyeongbokgung - Palace
It's one of my favorite place to go, especially in summer. It's very calm atmosphere there. Gyeongbokgung (경복궁), also known as Gyeongbokgung Palace or Gyeongbok Palace -- is a first royal palace built by Joseon Dynasty. The name means "Palace" (Gung) "Greatly Blessed by Heaven" (Gyeongbok). So when you are in Seoul, you shoud never miss out this palace to visit. It's a must.
Today we decided to follow Rachael’s schedule of walking around Bukchon area. This Bukchon area is situated in the middle of Seoul but the interior designs of the entire area (including houses and shops) have been preserved the traditional way. After a late breakfast we started our walk from Angguk (where we were staying). The Bukchon Culture Centre was actually quite small and we missed it the first time we passed by it. The traditional korean designs were beautiful. I actually really loved that they used wood, I think it made it look really vintage yet classy. We managed to enter some of the shops, but sometimes we can’t really tell whether they are houses or shops. The weather was really hot and the road was steep too. Yet, we continued walking. Actually there are guest houses such as this one, in Bukchon, which are available for booking. It would be really interesting to experience staying in one, except, the prices are quite steep compared to the regular guest houses that we stay in. As we continued walking, we arrived at this massive concrete building. Its actually a high school! Apparently, a lot of tourists do come into the high school for photo taking because its situated in the middle of Bukchon too. We decided to drop by a museum in the area. It was a museum of traditional and vintage furnitures.
Day 2: Seoul City WallWe climbed the Seoul City Wall today! This is one of my favourite things to do in Korea. I'm surprised I didn't hear much about it before doing research for this trip. See, South Korea is not just good for shopping! I had so much fun climbing the wall. The Seoul City Wall was built around the ancient capital in 1396 by the founder of the Joseon Dynasty, King Taejo. The wall is built along the ridges of four mountains (Bugaksan, Naksan, Namsan, and Ingwangsan), linking them together in a big circle, and there's a walking trail on it. From the Seoul City Wall, you can find the hiking trails to climb up these mountains. There are also many historical places of importance along the way that you can visit. So much to do!