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Saturday, April 21, 2018

Korea Day 2: Retracing Traditional Seoul

4/21/2018 07:06:00 PM 2 Comments
We rested so well after a long day and after downing some soju shots on our first night. We did nothing fancy. We just acquainted ourselves to the city and enjoyed our first sights of Seoul. We were so ready for our very packed Day 2 itinerary!

a serene corner in the palace

We got up early because we had a lot of plans for the day. When I woke up, our host Mr. Hong already had a message inviting us for breakfast. We got ready very quickly so we can still spend time with him despite our hectic schedule for the day.

Thank you for the breakfast, Mr. Hong! :)

He prepared some bibimbap, seaweed soup and omelette for us. It was a simple yet very filling meal. Koreans also eat rice for breakfast, yay! Mr. Hong doesn't have to do this really, but he is a very sweet host. Kamsahamnida, Mr. Hong! :)

Gwanghwamun Square

Our first destination for the day was originally the Gyeongbokgung Palace. But we arrived too early and we want to watch the changing of guards which is at 9:35 AM, so we killed some time first at the Gwanghwamun Square. This place was opened around the same time as the Cheonggyecheon Stream which I featured on our Day 1.

The first thing that will catch your attention will be the enormous King Sejong Statue. Sejong the Great is said to be one if not the most outstanding King in Korean history. His greatest contribution was his invention of Hangeul or the Korean alphabet. His reign is considered as the Golden Age of Korea because of the great cultural and intellectual accomplishments during that period.

Statue of King Sejong

Another notable figure in the square was the statue of Admiral Yi Sun-sin. This undefeated naval commander has won 23 battles in his lifetime - all against the Japanese during the Joseon era. In front of his statue is a fountain to commemorate all the battles he fought with 12 warships. The fountain is called the 12.23 Fountain.

Statue of Admiral Yi Sun-sin and Korean History Timeline

The square is surrounded by royal administrative buildings. North of the square, behind the big King Sejong Statue is the Gwanghwamun Gate which is the main entrance of the Gyeongbokgung Palace.

Gyeongbokgung Palace

This palace is one of the most iconic attractions in all of Korea. It is the biggest among the Five Grand Palaces and it served as the main royal palace of the Joseon Dynasty. It is also often regarded as the most beautiful among the five.

Geunjeongjeon (Throne Hall)

The Throne Hall is the largest hall in the palace where the King used to formally greet his audiences and give official declarations.

eye candy!

The palace architecture is a combination of ancient Chinese and Joseon Dynasty tradition. I love that they are so prettily painted.

spot the pink flowers!

I lost count on how many structures are inside the palace. It actually doesn't matter that it's crowded because the complex is so huge, you will surely find a spot just for yourself.

must have been lonely living in a palace this huge

This palace was burned down during the Japanese invasion in 1592 and was abandoned for almost 300 years. They just reconstructed it in 1867.

Operating Hours: 9:00 AM-6:00 PM (Closed on Tuesdays)
Admission Fee: KRW 3,000

Royal Guard Changing Ceremony

At 9:35 AM, we went back to the main gate to witness the Changing of the Guards. I was so looking forward to this because I really wanted to see this traditional ceremony.

Sumunjang in action

During the Joseon Dynasty, the gates of the royal palaces are being guarded and patrolled by the royal guards. They are called the Sumunjang. They were also responsible for opening and closing the gates and inspecting all the visitors of the palace.

love the royal guard uniform colors

This fascinating traditional royal court ceremony is being re-enacted exactly as it used to be held, completed with the guards wearing royal uniforms, traditional weapons and accessories. They say it is comparable to that of the Buckingham Palace in England.

just splendid

Of course, I grabbed the opportunity to take a photo with a royal guard!

feeling royal :)

The Changing Ceremony happens everyday (except Tuesdays) at 9:35 AM and 1:35 PM. Don't miss it when you're in Seoul!

time to go back exploring the palace :)

National Folk Museum of Korea

We found this museum inside the Gyeongbokgung palace grounds.

National Folk Museum of Korea

The museum houses historical artifacts mainly consisting of what the Korean people in the past used on their daily lives. Over 4,000 artifacts are on display immersing local and foreign visitors in rich Korean history.

the artifacts

The museum has three permanent exhibits: 1) History of Korean People 2) The Korean Way of Life 3) Life Cycle of the Koreans

traditional Korean people clothes

All the exhibits were interesting but my favorite was the first one.

Korean Gama

If you like museums and history, I'm sure you will also enjoy this as much as I do.

Operating Hours: 9:00 AM-6:00 PM (Closed on Tuesdays)
Admission Fee: FREE with Gyeongbokgung Palace ticket

We continued exploring traditional Seoul and headed to the Bukchon Hanok Village as soon as we finished our lunch nearby the palace. We decided to just walk because we've read it somewhere that it should only take 25-30 minutes by foot. We got a bit lost but guess what? We stumbled upon a cool neighborhood and a park with cherry blossoms and many other lovely trees!

with lil bro and the blossoms :)

We were ecstatic because we didn't expect to see cherry blossoms anymore since it's late April but we found them! We took a lot of photos at the park so our walking trip to Bukchon took more than an hour.

Bukchon Hanok Village

We finally found the village! This historic village is located between the Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung palaces. Bukchon actually means "northern village" as it is located north of the Cheonggyecheon Stream.

Bukchon alleys

This village is consisted of different alleys featuring traditional Korean houses called Hanok.

blast from the past

During the Joseon Dynasty, government officials and wealthy families lived in this village. It actually still has the same feel until now. The houses there looked like they belong to rich people.

traditional x modern

There are about 900 hanoks in the village today. Most of them have been restored still with the traditional design but now with modern materials. The alleys and streets are steep, so wear a comfortable walking shoes.

Since this is a residential village, there are no fees to visit this attraction.


I actually contemplated weather to include Insadong here or not because honestly, I did not take a lot of photos in the area. I don't know why but I just realized it when I revisited our photos at the end of the day haha.

Anyway, Insadong is still part of our "traditional" walking tour for the day. Though I don't have photos, I can still vividly remember the galleries and shops selling exquisite arts and crafts. In fact, this was where I bought my cute Korean Folk Dolls as a souvenir and bunch of "pasalubongs" for my friends. This place is also known for their old tea houses.

Shin Old Tea House

Another reason we went here is to visit one of their traditional tea houses. My friend is very keen on trying one and well, I also like that kind of stuff so we just followed him. It was quite an adventure to find the famous Shin Old Tea House as it is tucked away in an alley far from the busy area of Insadong.

we found it! :)

We successfully found the place! When we arrived, the two halmoni (grandmas) welcomed us with warm smiles and gave us their simple menu. It was quite late in the afternoon and we were the only guests at that time. It is said to be a hundred year old house and is nicely decorated with antiques and old paintings. They offer about 20 different types of Korean traditional tea.

gangjeong and tea

I opted for the plum tea which turned out to be a little sour but sweet and smooth. Our tea came out with gangjeong. A hollow rice puff coated with honey and toasted sesame seeds. It complemented the tea really well.

We had our much needed rest at the tea house after walking all day. The dim lighting and floor seating made us relax while sipping our tea. Though the halmonis can't converse in English (except for a few words), we spent a great afternoon with them. Needless to say, we loved our experience here.

Shin Old Tea House
Address: 164 Gwanhun-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Telephone: +82 2-732-5257
Prices starts at KRW 6,000

N Seoul Tower

So from Insadong, we decided we can still squeeze in one more place to visit - the N Seoul Tower! If you frequently watch KDramas, I'm sure you're already familiar with it. It is a popular dating place for Korean couples, especially at night.

Namsan Seoul Tower

I guess this was where we made the worst decision during this trip - to climb up the stairs all the way to the tower! We've been walking all day from one attraction to another since early morning and yet we did not take the cable car going up. We think we were so fit that it wouldn't matter but boy, half way through and I'm already dying haha. Just pure torture.

well hello there, Namsan Tower!

More than an attraction, the Namsan Tower is actually built as a broadcasting tower to send out signals to TV and radio. Until now, it is still broadcasting signals for companies like KBS, MBC and SBS.

Seoul city lights

There is no sense tiring yourself going up if you won't proceed to the observatory. There was just a short queue when we arrived, mostly couples since it was night time. The views from the observatory was stunning. The 360 degrees panoramic view of the entire city of Seoul lit-up is just wonderful.

Locks of Love

Why is this place famous for lovers? At the roof terrace in 2nd floor, you will find these countless love locks hanging just about everywhere. People would hang padlocks here to symbolize a never ending love. It's so romantic, right? Yes, we've seen it in so many KDramas haha. For the record, I did not hang my own padlock here. Maybe not until I find my Gong Yoo, oppa. :)

Because we were so dead tired already, we decided to take the cable car going down. That is one thing I would recommend, dear readers. Take the freaking cable car! Go for the two-way tickets. Save your energy!

Operating Hours: 10:00 AM-11:00 PM (Mon-Fri, Sun); until 12:00 AM on Sat
Cable Car: KRW 8,500 (Return); 6,000 (One-Way)
Admission Fee: KRW 10,000

We just bought something to eat for dinner in a nearby convenience store from our apartment. We were all too tired to dine out. We will be out of Seoul on our next day's adventure!

This is Part 2 of my Seoul travel series.