Seoul, Korea Day 1: Gyeongbokgung Palace & Insadong

Friday, May 3, 2013

I'm baaaaack from Seoul, Korea!
Although the heat is quite unbearable in Manila, the fact remains that there is no place like home. It's always comforting to know that you're in a place wherein people understand you (literally and figuratively). You get to a point where you find doing overly dramatic hand gestures and slow talking a little bit exhausting. Well, that's just a teeny downside to a phenomenal trip! And although I'm no expert travel blogger, I'll do my best to write a vivid story of Seoul, South Korea.
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Our last trip abroad (Bangkok) was devoted in shopping so this time we wanted to make sure that we'll allot some time to immerse ourselves in the culture therefore leading us to our first stop - the Gyeongbokgung Palace.

How to get there: Alight at Gyeongbokgung Station on Subway Line 3 then take exit #5. Follow the corridors and stairs up to street level and you'll eventually see the palace to your right. Admission Fee: KRW 3,000 (Php 120) or KRW 2,400 for groups of 10 or more (Php 96)
The palatial grounds served as the center of power, politics, economy and culture for many years so when the palace was destroyed during the Japanese occupation, the Koreans knew they had to restore the halls one by one until everything is back to its original state. According to the tour guide, the restoration is still in progress so she suggested to keep coming back to the palace whenever you visit Korea so you'll see the newly restored palace halls.  
The Changing of Palace Guards Ceremony happens thrice a day (10 am, 1pm & 3pm). Try your best to arrive on those time slots because even though you can't understand what the drumbeat orders meant, it's nice to revel on palace guards marching in unison. IMG_0052 IMG_0072
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There are free guided tours in the palace grounds.
We arrived at the place at around 1:20 pm so we just waited for the 1:30 pm English guided tour. The tour begins outside the information office inside the Heungryemun Gate. (Wait there until a hanbok-wearing tour guide exits the office) The guided tour takes about an hour and she'll tour you around 2/3 of the palace.
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The Gyeongbokgung Palace experience was truly fascinating and eye-opening. I grew up into thinking that kings and queens in real life are very much like the kings and queens in storybook fairytales -- their job is to dress up in fancy robes, delegate tasks and enjoy the finer things in life -- but the tour made me think otherwise. Here's an interesting story on why I had a complete change of heart. "Back in the day, King Sejong held meetings every single day at Sajeongjeon from 3 am to 5 am. Despite the burdensome schedule, Kind Sejong is said to have never missed a meeting. One day a minister told the king, "Your Majesty must be tired of attending a meeting every day. How about attending the meeting every other day?" The king rebuked him, saying, "If you come here to say such a thing, you need not come." Well, that's one heck of a story that can help me wake up early without even complaining!

After the tour at Gyeongbokgung Palace, we decided to visit Insadong next. Insadong is a well-known street for tourists and locals alike because there are a lot of cutesy cafes, handicraft stores and art galleries located in the area. If you're planning to purchase a painting on your trip, I suggest that this place may be the best place to scout.
Some say that Insadong is just walking distance from Gyeongbokgung but we didn't want to risk getting lost so we took the subway again then hopped off at Anguk Station then took exit #6 (where you'll see painted tiles like the ones shown above). Walk straight for 500 meters then you'll see Insadong on your left.
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Ssamziegil is a known hub in Insadong. It's a place full of shops selling artsy and unique souvenirs like handmade jewelries, bohemian bags, etc. There are also coffee shops and what I call a love declaration-slash-cheeseballs center for couples at the topmost floor. A couple may write a note declaring their love to the whole world. It's very similar to the locks of love at N Seoul Tower. The only difference is that they don't use locks but instead they write on circular plastic cards.
Once you enter Ssamziegil, you'll instantly see a store selling odd-shaped breads. And once you look closely at the "odd-shaped bread", you'll notice that's it's actually shaped like a poopie. Don't worry though cause it tastes nothing like poop! It's tastes like a waffle with soybean filling inside. KRW 1,000 (Php 40)
After touring Insadong, we headed to Hello Kitty Cafe'. I'll make a separate post on that.
We then took the subway to Myeongdong to drop off our bags then went out again for dinner at Yoogane, Myeongdong. Yoogane is a popular restaurant in Korea that's why in Myeongdong alone, I was able to come across 2 branches already. We ordered the Chicken Galbi with Marinated Vegetables KRW 5,500 (Php 220). If you go there in a group, you must order one flavor only since they will put four orders or so in just one hot plate.
That's the end of my Korea Day 1 post, stay tuned for Day 2. I hope you enjoyed reading my travel diary!

1 comment :

  1. Thanks so much for posting this article as it is useful for Korean travelers..
    Words are less to explain the beauty of your Seoul trip...I am Korean culture and food lover..