Seoul, the soul of Asia

Remember my trip to Seoul, South Korea in June 2011? Here’s the complete article about my visit there. I hope it can be a guide or some kind of reference for you to read prior to your visit there. Pardon me for the heavy loads of images.

It was great visiting Seoul. I wish I could extend my stay and truly feel the soulfulness.

Arriving at the airport, my husband and I were greeted by the rain. I just love rain, the fresh smell it brings out. This is true you know, not just to comfort myself for not traveling during the spring.

Really.

Ok, that was partly to comfort myself. The smell of the rain part is purely true, I did not make that up. Try go running or dancing or walking in the rain, you’ll understand what I’m talking about.

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You see, we were dying to travel to Seoul in the Spring (earlier June) but due to some circumstances, we had to travel at the end of June. And that was during the rainy season. We could not travel on any other months as we were bound by MAS’ terms and condition.

The rainy season or Jangma as the local people call it, lasts from the end of June till the end of July, for about 30 days. The taxi driver told me this but according to other sources, sometimes it will rain until the end of September. Come rain or shine, the locals seem to enjoy the season. I enjoyed watching them walking in rain with style.

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And boy, the wind was quite heavy that it almost blew me away. It turned my umbrella inside out.

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Nonetheless, the rain did not stopped me from discovering Seoul. I visited Namsan Park, Itaewon, Namdaemun Market, Gyeongbokgung Palace, Korean Folk Museum and Korean Folk Village.

Our second day in Seoul was quite productive. We went to Itaewon and Namsan Park.

Itaewon is a city district, in Yongsan-gu, Seoul and it is a popular area for residents of Seoul, tourists, and U.S. Military personnel. Many restaurants serving international dishes are found in this area including cuisine from India, Pakistan, Egypt, Turkey, Thailand, and Mexico, foods that are not widely available in Korea. The Seoul Central Mosque is also located in Itaewon.

Local landmark Hamilton Hotel can be found here as well as dozens of shops and services aimed at tourists. High quality leather products in Korea can be found here at reasonable prices as well as various types of traditional Korean souvenirs.

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And the visit to Namsan Park was great! I get to capture flowers in the form of photo as well as drawings.

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Namsan Park is one of Seoul City’s largest green spaces and is the first Botanical Garden of Korea. It is a home to a numbers of species, which include foliage, fleshy plants, cactus, dwarfed potted plants, and orchids.

There are also exercising spots and walking trails and many Seoulites come here for their daily walk. From up here we can capture panoramic view of the city of Seoul.

If you are in Seoul, do drop by Namsan Park. Attractions include the Seoul Tower, National Theater, Namsan Public Library, and statues in memory of Korean patriots, etc.

Namsan Park is facilitated with a cable car that leads to the Seoul Tower. A tour in Namsan Park is completely free, except for the cable car ride for which a ticket has to be purchased. I did not get on the cable car as it was closed due to strong winds however there is a bus number 02 at the bottom of the park to take you up to Seoul Tower.

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Visiting the Gyeongbokgung Palace, Korean Folk Museum and Korean Folk Village was more like it. I got to learn about Korean culture and traditions.

Gyeongbokgung Palace

Gyeongbokgung Palace is a symbol of majesty for both the Korean nation and the Korean royal family. Gyeongbokgung Palace or Palace of Shining Happiness was originally constructed in 1394 by King Taejo, the first king and founder of the Joseon Dynasty. But the majority of the palace was burnt down during the Japanese invasions of Korea between 1592 and 1598. Palace buildings that survived the Japanese occupation and Korean War include Geunjeongjeon the Imperial Throne Hall, Hyangwonjeong Pavilion, Jagyeongjeon Hall, Jibokjae Hall, Sajeongjeon Hall, Sujeongjeon Hall, and Gyeonghoeru Pavilion.

Amongst buildings that I explored were: Geunjeongjeon (The Throne Hall), Gangnyeongjeon (The King’s Quarters), Gyotaejeon (The Queen’s Quarters), Jagyeongjeon (The Late Queen’s Quarters), Gyeonghoeru (The Royal Banquet Hall) and Hyangwonjeong (small, two-story hexagonal pavilion).

 

Officials at the Gate

 
The main Gate

Hyangwonjeong

After visiting the palace, I visited the Korean Folk Museum.

Korean Folk Museum

This museum is located in the palace area, so if you visit the place, do drop by the museum.

The museum uses replicas of historical objects to illustrate the folk history of the Korean people. The museum has three exhibition halls which illustrate ‘The History of the Korean People’ from pre-historic times to the end of the Joseon Dynasty in 1910, ‘The Lifestyle of the Korean People’, and ‘The Lifecycle of a Korean from Birth to Death’. It also houses a children’s museum and an outdoor exhibition.

The museum was originally sited on Mt Namsan, and moved to Gyeongbokgung in 1975. The current building was built in 1972 and housed the National Museum of Korea until 1986. It was remodelled, and reopened as the National Folk Museum in 1993. The building’s design is based on various historical buildings around South Korea.

Entrance to the main hall


Folk painting

Here’s a slideshow and video to sum the visit to both place:

 

Korean Folk Village

The Korean Folk Village has over 260 traditional houses set in a natural environment occupying approximately 243 acres of land. Houses in the folk village not only include typical houses of commoners, farmers, and noblemen from the southern, central, and northern parts of Korea including island areas, but also buildings for special purposes, such as the shrine of scholars, the provincial governor?s office, a private school, a Buddhist temple, and shaman’s house.

Many of the buildings and houses were relocated to the folk village and restored according to the original lifestyle of the Korean people in the late Chosun period. Approximately 30,000 items of daily life have been collected from diverse regions and placed in each room based on their characteristics and period.

Various traditional lifestyles are also reproduced in the exhibit houses and crafts workshops for tourists to experience the culture of traditional Korean life: crafts include bamboo weaving, yarn spinning (out of cocoons!), silk making and many more. Crops like rice, barley, wheat, cotton, ginseng, sweet potato, radish, and sesame are cultivated in a traditional way so that visitors can observe the whole process from seeding to harvesting.

 


The main entrance

Silk making

Here are more picture from the village:

 

Namdaemun Market

If you need to go shopping in Seoul, consider visiting Namdaemun Market.

Namdaemun Market

Namdaemun Market is one of the oldest continually running markets in South Korea, and one of the largest retail markets in Seoul that covers over 10 acres. It is filled with over 10,000 shops, stalls, retailers, street vendors, and has several department stores nearby. Here you can find clothes, shoes, fabrics, tableware, flowers, vegetables, ginseng products, toys, and watches. Newly designed Hanboks (traditional Korean costume), blankets, and bed sheets can be purchased at great bargains. You can get a t-shirt here for the price of 2000 won instead of buying elsewhere with the price of 7000 won. Cheap, right? I was a bit frustrated as I already bought few t-shirts at Itaewon for the price of 7000 won each.

Namdaemun Market opens from 11:00pm to 3:00am, and is crowded with retailers from all over the country. It is closed every Sunday. Daily visitors here exceed 400,000 people.

Namdaemun Market first started under the reign of King Taejong (1367 – 1422, the third Joseon king) during the Joseon Dynasty (1392 – 1910), when the government built shops around Namdaemun and rented out the shops to traders. The market began to take its form as a trading marketplace during this era and continued to prosper until the Japanese took over management of the market in 1922 during the Japanese occupation. This went on for several years until the liberation of 1945 when the Koreans took control again, but the market continued to have a rocky history due to the onset of the Korean War and it was not until 1954 when the Seoul Namdaemun Market Co. Ltd. was founded that the market began to take hold again. In recent years, the market has undergone massive renovations and there are plans to renovate the market even more in the future.

To visit Namdaemun Market you need to take Seoul Subway Line 4 and exit at Hoehyeon Station (Exit 5).

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54 Comments

  1. hana: korea is worth it. you should fly to it 🙂
    and and namdeamun was the best market place to shop..korean style for half the price. seriously! huhu..nak pegi lagi 🙂

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