Thursday, June 12, 2014

Back to Seoul: Day 1

After my day off at Songnisan, it was back to school for one day, then I had a long weekend due to Memorial Day.  It was hard to believe Megan and Nate's time in Jeomchon had already come to an end, but after I got back from school Thursday we caught a bus to Seoul for the final part of their time in Korea.

We got to our hostel in Hongdae around 9, then went out to explore and find some street food.  We didn't have too late of a night because we had a lot planned for the next day.  Lots to do and so little time!

Friday was a beautiful, but really hot day.  We began our day with a trip to Gyeongbokgung Palace.  Although Gyeongbokgung is one of the most famous place in Korea, I hadn't been there yet during any of my many trips to Seoul.  I was happy to FINALLY make it there, and our timing was quite perfect because we made it just in time to see the changing of the guards.  After the changing of the guards, we then caught a tour of the palace which was offered for the wonderful price of FREE.  Being the history nerd that I am, I love these kinds of tours, and I really was fascinated to learn more about Korea's all too tragic history.  In the middle of such a modern and fast-paced city, it's amazing to see the palace, a reminder of Korea's past before invasions and war took a hold of the country.

One of Korea's most historic sites, with the city in the background.  I can't think of a better way to represent Korea. 

Really beautiful view in the garden of Gyeongbokgung

After finishing the tour of Gyeongbokgung, we made our way to Bukcheon, an area in Seoul where there are tons of traditional hanok houses.  These traditional houses are quite the contract to Seoul's skyline, and serve as yet another reminder of Korea's past.
More old/new juxtaposition

By this point it was REALLY hot, so we decided to make our way to another one of Korea's famous palaces.  This time we went to Chandeokgung, which was also full of impressive architecture.  Whenever I look at pictures of Korean temples or palaces, I never feel particularly moved. However, I always feel that seeing them in person is a totally different experience.  They don't have the gold/metallic details of Thai temples, or really, many of the world's famous palaces, but I find them powerful nonetheless.  I always want to capture them in a way that conveys them the way I see them in person, but so far I haven't really been able to figure out how to do that.

While at Changdeokgung, we went to check out the "secret garden" part of the palace, and we were just in time for yet another tour.  This tour was actually way longer than it needed to be, and although I was interested in seeing the garden and hearing about it's history, we were all really tired by this time in the evening and ready to be on our way.

One of the parts of the garden at Chandeokgung

After finishing the tour of the garden, we walked to Insadong, where we met my friends Ji Young and Doug.  After walking around for a bit, we got some dinner, and did some souvenir shopping.

After resting for a bit, we decided to make our way to North Seoul Tower.  The view from the tower was amazing, with lights as far as our eyes could see.  Unfortunately, the wait to go to the very top of the tower was 90 minutes, and we couldn't wait because we would have missed the last subway back home.  All in all, the view was still fantastic, but I'll have to go back again another time to go all the way to the top!

Seoul's lights just go on and on!


After we got back to Hongdae we were all exhausted with tired feet and plenty of layers of sweat.  We got some street food, and then called it a night.  Laying in bed has never felt so good!

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