Posts Tagged ‘Gyeongbok Palace’

Sightseeing Seoul

Since I’m not a big city person, I had allotted just two full days for Seoul, one at the beginning and one at the end of my time in South Korea. The palace that was top of my list was closed on Mondays, so I started at the Gyeongbok Palace. It took me quite a while to get there from my hotel south of the river – did I mention that Seoul is a big city?

Inside Gyeongbok Palace

Interior at Gyeongbok Palace

Ceiling at Gyeongbok Palace

Cultural similarities with China were evident: the south-to-north, public-to-private

Chests at the craft exhibition

layout matched the Forbidden City in Beijing, although fewer buuildings remained. The Japanese colonial era and the 1950-53 war were both devastating to Korea’s historical heritage. Although I initially admired the buildings, whether original or reconstructed, eventually they all started to look the same, and I appreciated a temporary display of contemporary Korean crafts at least as much.

I was about to leave when the hourly changing of the guard ceremony got under way, and I had a prime viewing position – an actual seat, in fact – on the steps in front of the first interior gate. The costumes were, I believe, authentic. The drum and other instruments presumably were too. But the whole affair felt contrived. That didn’t stop me taking plenty of photos, though.

Waiting for the ceremony to start

In full flight

I lunched in the highly touristy Insadong section nearby, in a small restaurant just off the main street. At least at lunchtime, they provided a traditional Korean meal for solo diners, at a very reasonable price, and I recommend their beef and mushroom bulgogi. (It’s on Insadong Gil 12, first place on the left.) After lunch I skipped the souvenir shops and instead visited the nearby Jogye Buddhist temple. A volunteer English-speaking guide explained that the women filling the main hall were praying for their children’s success in upcoming examinations. She also said that the temple practiced Korean Zen Buddhism, which I found surprising, as the temple and the ceremony in process seemed very un-Zen to me.

I finished the afternoon in a French patisserie just north of Insadong, called, I believe, Armandier. The coffee was good, but the brandied pistachio macarons were to die for.

The main hall at Jogye-sa

The drum and bell tower at Jogye-sa

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