Jogyesa is a temple few meters away from Insadong (famous traditional market in Seoul). At the time we visited the place, the lantern festival in the temple was few weeks over but the colourful lanterns were still hanged and displayed in surrounding area. Around this area the temple of the Jogye Order (one of the sect of Korean Buddhism) stands. One thing to see around the temple is the Baby Buddha which shown in the photo at center. Snapshot captured last June 2014.
Seoul Station is the major railway station in Seoul South Korea. I can say that it is the centre of all station both for Metro Seoul and regional station. From here you can go anywhere not only in the nearby cities but as well as the regional provinces within South Korea. My experiences in this station were mixed since I and my family were first time visitor in Seoul, we were a little bit confused because of the unfamiliarity of the station and it is really huge to easily get lost. The station serves different railway line in South Korea such as KORAIL, AREX and Metro Seoul. Photo snapshot last June 2014. Like other metro station where people used it as a terminal to go somewhere, a starting point of any type of trip, travel and journey, such a place that really matters to public.
On this post, I am not really going to tell a story but just to show some photos that I randomly took while walking in some areas of Seoul and other places while doing nothing or just looking for something. And this will be the last standard post that I had with the topic about South Korea unless I come back again to this country that I fall in love with. For single photo or image post, South Korea may still appear in random pictures which I usually published everyday.
1. Incheon International Airport
After we got off the plane and walked to the arrival area of the airport, there were few people around since we arrived past 8PM in the evening.
2. Nonhyeon Bus Stop
I captured this photo because we were trying to see if we were able to use the bus instead of train to go somewhere until we realized we never understand what’s the information in front of us.
3. Jeonggak Station Exit
When we were on our way to Insadong, we got off at this exit as we understand its somewhat the nearest exit in Jong-ro to the market until we found Tapgol Park along the road.
4. City Hall Station Exit
I had this photo after coming from Insadong market and we planned to go to City Hall Station to buy a discounted ticket to Everland at Hotel President. All of us were fascinated with the hanging umbrellas displayed at the exit stair we took after getting off the station. We also found a modern style of entrance/exit transportation card reader.
We had some time to walk around the area where we saw City Hall itself. We saw one of the main gate of Deoksugung (no photo captured), a palace that we haven’t had a chance to see though we have ticket for it.
5. Seoul Metropolitan Library
6. Hotel President
This was the place where we bought our discounted ticket and memory of the Philippine Tourism center near City Hall area.
7. Taepyeongno 2(i)-ga
This was the street that we passed through while we were on our way to Sungnyemun Gate. I enjoyed the short walk in this street because both lanes has Korean restaurants. After walking at the side of Sejong-daero, we saw Namdaemun Market.
8. Gyeongbokgung Station Exit
During our first day adventure in Seoul, the photos captured while we were on our way to Gyeongbokgung Palace after getting off the train.
I captured the photo above after we came from Gyeongbokgung Palace on our way to Sejong Center.
8. Sungnyemun Gate
We saw this gate while walking along Sejong-daero after we came from Hotel President where we bought our Everland discounted ticket. This gate is said to be one of the eight gate that surround Fortress Wall of Seoul which surrounded the city in the Joseon dynasty.
10. Seoul Station and Surrounding Area
Photos taken after we came from DMZ Tour, got off at Seoul Station, walked a little until we found Concos The Galleria where we had our lunch before returning to our hotel to pick-up our luggage for our flight the night of that same day.
11. Seoul City Tower
One of the building around the area of Seoul Station, captured this photo when we returned from an activity we attended in Seoul.
I captured this while walking along Gangnam-daero after our Everland adventure. To be honest, we stayed in a hotel which in Gangnam area but unfortunately we never really had time to explore it. The only chance we had after we came from Everland, we walked along the road and discovered we stayed in one of the busiest district in Seoul.
13. AK Plaza – Suwon Exit Station Mall
Snapshot captured while we were trying to figure out how to go to Hwaseong Fortress. It is one of the noticeable building as the location is both foot and automobile traffic area.
It’s our last day in South Korea and because we just had less than 24 hours, what we planned before the night of our return flight to Manila was a tour in the most heavily militarized border in the world which is the border between North Korea and South Korea called Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).
As I am aware that security is the most important factor for me for this tour, I booked the one and only tour we had during our trip in South Korea. For me even I knew that we can go to the said border by just jumping to the KORAIL train, I still planned it with a tour guide because of the main reason that we must at least knew someone who knows how to speak English and who will guide us in one of the tourist friendly but heavily guarded area and maybe dangerous place in the world. There are lots of travel company that offers DMZ tour and I just selected one of them. We got the half-day tour of DMZ as we still need to go to the market to shop a little so we can bring something when we return from our 9 days trip abroad.
The night before Saturday, we arranged all of our things in our luggage as it was our last night in the hotel. We decided to leave our stuff at the hotel before our tour the next morning so we were hands free while traveling to Korean border. And then we will return to the hotel then straight to the airport.
Even we were tired from the past days of adventures, we still woke up early because the tour was time-sensitive and we do not want to miss our tour.
From our hotel, we jumped-in again to our favorite and nearest train station which was Non-hyeon. And then, we took train going to Bupyeong-gu and went out at Isu (Chongshin University) station. From Isu, we took Line 4 going to Seoul station.
We arrived at Seoul station 10 minutes before 8AM. We met our tour guide after some difficulties of understanding where to meet at the station because Seoul Station is one of the busiest station as it is centralized to metro and provincial trains. Our tour guide bought the ticket for our train and we waited until we go down to the platform to board the train.
When the time has arrived, we go down and walked straight to DMZ train. At the back of my mind, I knew that our trip was safe but still I guarded myself as I was with my youngest sister and with my mom. As we mount the train, I was amazed at the ambiance inside the train, because outside, train color are plain white and black and some people potrait, which is opposite of what is inside. The wall color inside the train was so warm that made the passengers feels relaxing and joyful, the wall displays flowers, ceilings colorful heart shapes and the floor painted with lively color of water-lily leaves. The seat covers were flashy and vibrant flower shapes.
Our ticket has seat number and one of our ticket has gaps with the other two tickets, but our guide told us that if the seats were empty, we can seat together which what happened as the train started to desert the platform.
At the time we were waiting inside the train, I already felt the tour was quite exclusive as I can sense that the crew were most likely part of South Korean military which guarded the train with its strict implementation, one requirement on the tour is the passport, without it, you will not be able to join the tour. Within our trip, the crew that we saw inside the train, checks our passport and tickets.
It was the first train that I experienced where you can see the front or back view of the railway of the train. And while we were on our way, most of the views that I saw after we left metro area were farms in between. So I can imagine that most likely the place near DMZ are agriculture oriented places which I understand because how a government plan to developed a place which near in most threatening place in their country which is their border.
Along the way we saw few stations before we arrived at the Dorasan (tour destination station), the nearest station where the border is and the last station of South Korea, because the train line (Gyeonggi) is connected to the next station that already belong to North Korea. The following stations in Gyeongui line in Southern Korea are: Neunggok, Munsan, Uncheon, Imjingang and Dorasan.
Before the Dorasan station, we had been told to leave the train at Imjingang station for our identity check. All the passengers left the train and queued for the passport verification. After our passport validated, we returned to the train and went to the last station. Before arriving at the last station, there were some military personnel jumped-in to the train and some of them talked with tourist. One of the officer went to our table and sit together with us. I was glad he knows how to speak English. He was friendly and he asked some information in amiable way until he realized we are Filipinos. He seems happy that some foreigners are curious to their border. He actually took pictures of our passport cover and told us that was his souvenir that we came from Philippines.
After leaving Imjingang Station, we passed Imjingang Bridge and Imjin River. Here I saw structure but I was not sure during the trip but when I searched internet for DMZ, I realised that the one that I saw were the ruins of the bridge that had been destroyed because of war as Imjingang Bridge was two-way bridge before, but now it just only one way.
At Dorasan Station, we already felt the military presence as we enter the station. There were Korean soldiers assiting visitors when entering the station. At the station we waited a little as our guide arranged our seats for the bus to the DMZ. And in few minutes we hopped on the bus that will bring us to the border. At the bus, some checks has been done as well and then we hit the road to the border.
I cannot explain what I felt while we were in the road and awaiting to arrived in our destination, I thought things about the separation of Korea, as I saw its historical drama, both part of Korean peninsula contributed to its development as one country. I am familiar of their dynasties and kingdoms, even aware how it became one country. While watching historical dramas and reading historical notes of Korea, I learned how it was divided. I remembered that there is another country with similar case with North and South Korea before, I am referring to Germany. Germany had been divided into two during World War II, but now it is a united country and in our time, it is one of the country that considered progressed country. I thought Korea divided because of the same war and my mind flew of thinking what if Korea has been united like Germany? Maybe, it will be the same as Germany which is rich and fully developed country. As I saw the side of South Korea and how it is at the moment, though I am not aware about the North Korea as the news are the only medium to know about that country. I am quite sad of division happened to the peninsula.
We had two stops in our DMZ Tour: First, was the “Third Tunnel – Third North Korean Infiltration Tunnel” and last, the Dora Observatory.
There are two ways to go inside the Third Tunnel: One is using a sled rails (blue caps) and the other one is from the lobby (yellow caps) where people will walk all the way to the tunnel. Our guide led us to the group that used the sled which was really cool for us since we were just sitting in the sled until we reached the end of the rails. Then we continued walking to the tunnel which quite easy. We knew it’s not allowed to take photos but we did a little snapshots at the end of the sled rail as the tunnel trail was too narrow to be able to take photos and because the flow of people coming in and out of the tunnel was non-stop.
Dora Observatory is located at the top of Dorasan (Mount Dora) where you had a chance to see North Korea border from a distance using telescope and binoculars.
With the two places we stopped, there were lots of tourist like us that visited DMZ, I can say that most likely the reason of coming to that places were curiosity and experiencing the atmosphere of being in Korean Border.
After buying postcards which I usually does in every travel I was in, we returned to the bus and came back to Dorasan station where our train to Seoul was already waiting.
I knew that there were more to see in DMZ but because of limited time we had, the half-day tour we had in the border was really worth the time.
The last palace that we visited was Changyeonggung, though we still have ticket for our fifth palace, I knew for myself, that we will not able to visit it because the next day was our last day and we were booked for another tour. Anyway, though there were still few raindrops when we were at Changdeokgung, we were unstoppable to continue our walk. We entered in the gate of the palace from Changdeokgung which is called Hamyangmun.
–Hamyangmun (near the stair)
Since our tour did not start at the main gate of the palace, we saw the buildings in not particularly order. We started to walk in the area of Tongmyeongjeon and Yanghwadang. Based from handbook guide, Tongmyeongjeon was the queen’s bed chamber. Beside the building, there is a pond, with a bridge in the middle of it. While reading the information, I felt ecstatic because it was mentioned in the footnote in the guide that it was near the area of Tongmyeongjeon where Jang Ok-jeong (maid-in waiting become queen, deposed as consort and killed herself by poison, queen of King Sukjong in Dongyi historical drama) buried a puppet of the Queen together with dead animals which was the curse she laid for Queen Inhyeon (the current queen of King Sukjong in Dongyi). That piece of information is interesting. While the other building beside Tongmyeongjeon which is Yanghwadang where King Injo stayed.
Another area nearby Tomyeongjeon is called Gyeongchunjeon and Hwangyeongjeon. Gyeongchunjeon was sleeping quarters of King Seongjong (son of Queen Insu who become a regent for some years when his son was still young). It was the place of queens and princesses because future kings such as King Jeongjo and King Heonjong, King Jeongjo himself wrote a plaque which means “Birth Hall” and hung above the entrance. Hwangyeongjeon was the residence of kings and princes.
We moved to another area and look again what’s the building mean and the guide-book mentioned that it is called as Haminjeong which used by king to receive officials and hold banquets. Then we found as well the Sungmundang, its name written by King Yeongjo (son of King Sukjong and Dongyi in the drama) still hang. Here the king threw banquets for state affair discussions and classical literature.
–Binyangmun (near Sungmundang)
Next building we checked is called Munjeongjeon which is a council hall where king usually dealt with routine state affairs. One interesting information found in the footnote of the guide, that the courtyard in front of this building, the most tragic incident of the century happened. Prince Sado (father of King Jeongjo) was reported to be mentally ill and King Yeongjo were so furious that he ordered to put the prince in rice chest and sealed alive (where the prince died after 8 days).
–Between Munjeongjeon and Muyeongeonjeon
Then we move to another area called Myeongjeongjeon and vicinity. Here we found the main hall of the palace which is Myeongjeongjeon. Here most of the state affairs such as royal coronations, royal weddings, royal banquets were held.
–Okcheongyo(bridge) and Myeongjeonmun(gate)
Next area we passed by is Honghwamun and vicinity. Here we found the gate to Myeongjeonmun to Myeongjeongjeon. Then the famous Honghwamun, this gate where King Yeongjo went out to gather the opinions of peasants and scholars alike for Equalized Tax Law where most of his ministers opposed. Another interesting fact that I learned from the handbook guide was the footnote telling us that it was the same gate where people crowded to rally for the crown prince, he is Prince Sohyeon (oldest son of King Injo who become hostage for years during Qing dynasty but died through poison few days after returning in from Qing). I remember he is the same prince that I am currently watching historical drama right now entitled The Three Musketeers. Let’s wait and see what I am going to learn in that historical drama once it’s finished airing.
After coming from Honghwamun, we went out at the right side door and moved to Yeongchuncheon and Jipbokheon area. I learned that the area was residences of concubines. Jipbojheon building was where Crown Prince Sado and King Sunjo were born. Yeongchuncheon was unknown building before but become King Jeongjo’s study room and sometimes for handling routine state affairs.
We passed the Inner Palace site where court ladies live here. Some of the royal princesses also lived here. But currently we saw the place as wooded area full of trees and gardens. Probably the site was not yet restored. We continue our walk until we found a beautiful and large pond, and based from map, the pond named Chundangji. The large pond was not the original pond, it was the site where the king did engaged in farming while the queen engaged in raising silkworm. The original pond is the small pond which is not visible in the photo that I tool while I was at the front of the pond.
Because its getting dark and we are aware that the palace is open until 6PM, we hurriedly went back in Honghwamun area so we can exit easily. In this walking tour we missed three areas namely: Gwandeokjeon and Jipchunmun, Eastern Palace Site and Gwolnaegaksa. Those three are more on sites as of that time, probably South Korea has still plan to restore the site in due time. I enjoyed another walking tour in the palace. While inside the palace and seeing historical buildings makes me feel that I was returning in the past time of Joseon. I enjoyed the tour because I am somewhat familiar with their history, maybe to other people, these are just mere buildings but for me, they are truly treasures that South Korean must keep it for more many years to come so next generation will appreciate their history again.
It was Friday and we were set to visit two palaces in Seoul. The two palaces are: Changdeokgung and Changgyeonggung. The original plan was to visit first the Jongmyo Shrine, but unfortunately, we missed the English tour at the time we arrived at the gate and it is not allowed to go around the area on our own, tour guide is a must while inside the shrine. Because we wanted to maximize the time and not just waiting outside, we decided to go back after the two palaces.
From Jongmyo Shrine, we walked at the road at the right side of the shrine named as Seosulla-gil and then we turned left after we saw the rooftop of Changdeokgung Palace gate called Donhwamun. Same what we did in Gyeongbokgung Palace, before we entered, we bought the map guide. We have the tickets already for the said palace as we bought combine tickets (integrated tickets) when we were in Gyeongbokggung.
–Open space after Donhwamun
–Geumcheongyo and Jinseonmun
We entered the Palace via Donhwamun, as per the handbook guide, this gate is a two-story, pavillion-type wooden structure and the largest of all palace gates. After passing the said gate, what we saw was a huge space. And then we turned right where we saw the small bridge called Geumcheongyo. This bridge is known as the oldest stone bridge remaining in Seoul. After passing the bridge, the way leads to another gate called Jinseonmun. Based from handy guide, on this gate has once installed a drum called Sinmungo where anyone can strike the drum to file a petition to address grievances but striking the drum requires approval to a lot of government official and this system did not serve its purpose and been useless to many. It’s sole purpose is by the name only.
–Sukjangmun (Front) and Injeongmun (Left)
After passing Jinseonmun gate, another open space welcome us. From where we stand and looking at the map, another gate in front of us called Sukjangmun and the gate in our left side is called Injeongmun. As we reached Injeongmun, we saw Injeongjeon area. Injeongjeon is the throne hall of Changdeokgung Palace. Based from the guide, major state affairs took place here such as coronation of new king and reception of foreign envoys. Next area we visited is Seonjeongjeon, this building where king worked at his convenience to discuss routine state affairs with high-ranking officials. And this is the only building in the palace with blue-tiled roof.
–Seonjeongjeon and Huijeongdang
Beside Seonjeongjeon is Huijeongdang. Huijeongdang is the king’s bed chamber. This bed chamber became king’s workplace and become the actual main hall of the palace instead of Injeongjeon.
–Entrance to Secret Garden
As we are awaiting for the English Tour schedule to Secret Garden, we went out the area of Huijeongdang and we waited at the entrance of the garden. Time had come and the tourist guide arrived. The guide made introductions and reminders while touring the secret garden.
Secret Garden or rear garden (Huwon) was a forbidden place for the purpose of the sole use of royal family. Since the palace was built at the base of the mountain, in the rear end of the palace, the garden was placed. And after seeing the garden at the tour, I can say that the design of the secret garden is still in harmony of the nature. This kind of place, I can think that any king can reclaim peace of mind because it is surrounded of nature. Our guide led the group at first stop which is Buyongji and Juhanmu.
–Buyongji (Pond), Eosumun (Gate) and Juhamnu (Main hall at the top), Seohyanggak (library) left hall in the top
–Buyongjeong (left) and Sajeonggibigak (right)
–Seohyanggak (only roof) as I can’t go beyond where I was standing
–Seohyanggak (left most hall) , Eosumun (gate) and, Juhamnu (right most hall)
–Seohyanggak(left), Eosumun (gate), and Juhamnu (top)
–Juhamnu (second level), Gyujanggak (first level) and Eosumun (gate)
–Juhamnu (second level), Gyujanggak (first level)
–Stairs to Cheonseokjeong (not visible – not sure of the building still stand at the top)
I like the setting of the area. There is rectangular pond called Buyongji and most of the building built here surrounds the pond. The main building we saw is called Juhanmu Pavilion. Two libraries are nearby as well called as Gyujanggak and Seohyanggak, another pavilions exist are Yeonghwadang and Buyeongjeon. The said area is in the heart of the Secret Garden.
–Buyongji (Pond) and Sajeonggibigak
–Buyongji (Pond), Eosumun (Gate) and Juhamnu (Main hall at the top), Seohyanggak (library) left hall in the top
Our next stop was Aeryeonji and Uiduhap. Here we found another pond, this time, the pond shape is square. It was mentioned that it has islet in the pond with pavilion but now it was disappeared but the pavilion still there. The pond named by King Sukjong (I know he is the King in love with Dongyi) “Aeryeon” that is why the pond is called Aeryeonji. The grandson of King Jeongjo which is Crown Prince Hyonmyeong built Uiduhap Pavilion near the pond. I remember that the guide told us something about one passage way in the area, it was called Bullomun (or Bulromun) gate wishes whoever passes it will have long and healthy life which originally meant for king.
–Aeryeonji (pond) and Aeryeonjeong (pavillion)
Then, moved to Jondeokjeong area, here the landscape seems to be more natural, because the ponds looks great together with different pavilions surrounding it. There is pavilion which stands on the brim of the pond which is called Gwallamjeong, there is one near on the hill – Pyomusa, Sungjaejeong which stands on the highest ground in the area and the oldest pavilion which is Jondeokjeong.
We continued our walk in the next area called Ongnyucheon. Ongnyucheon is a brook flowing through the deep valley north to the Secret Garden of the palace. And he we found a large flat rock called Soyoam Rock. As per our guide, the story of the rock is related to poetry composition, where cup of wines are afloat while making poems, I checked the handbook guide and I learned that it was from Chinese when having parties, they composed poem by a floating wine cups in the waters and if they are not able to create poems, they drink 3 cups of wine as punishment (for me it’s not really punishment, they are still having a good time). There are five pavilions surrounded the brook, namely : Soyojeong, Taegeukjeong, Cheongguijeong, Nongsanjeong and Chwihanjeong. In that five pavilion, the one caught my attention is Cheongguijeong, because it has unique roof which is thatch-roof.
We moved to the last stop which is YeonGyeongDang. When we went inside the area, there is part where it seems one of the building is being used for shows during night-time. Then, the guide walk us around the area. Based from handbook guide, the area become an audience hall, the guide shows us separated quarters of for men and women. It was mentioned that during King Gojong, the area become a venue to received foreign envoys.
The tour ended well and for me I had a great time. I enjoyed the tour in the garden because it is like a nature trek which I really enjoyed doing. Historical sites in a natural settings is amazing for me. Before we ended the tour, while we were on our way to exit the Secret Garden we found a tree called Chinese Juniper. The tree believed to be 750 years old and aromatic which provide incense for ancestral rituals at Seonwonjeon Shrine.
We parted ways with our tour guide in the Secret Garden. Then we continued our walk in other parts of the palace. We moved to Gwolnaegaksa area. Based from handy guide, the area are mostly used as government offices.
–Gwolnaegaksa and vicinity area
Next was Old Seonwonjeon Site, it was called Old because there is a New Seonwonjeon Site, but we were not able to visit the area, it seems the area are still restricted from the public. Old Seonwonjeon was the place for royal ancestral rites performance. Former king’s portraits were enshrined here.
–Seonwonjeon and Naechaldang
–Seonwonjeon and Vicinity
Then we moved to Daejojoen Area. As per guide book, the area are the scene of tragic history. Here was the place where the last meeting of the cabinet was held to discuss the Japan’s annexation of Joseon and the bed chambers of the last king and queen are still remaining in the area.
And the last area we visited inside Chandeokgung palace was Seongjeonggak. The area was the crown prince residence and has been home of many buildings. Seongjeonggak was also used as royal hospital during Japanese occupation.
During the time of our walking tour between Daejojeon and Seongjeonggak area, it rained so heavy and we waited for sometime until rain was over. While waiting at the stair in the doorway of entrance to Huijeongdang, we met a Filipino which touring around the palace as well. And we talked to him for a while, until we discussed the next palace which is ChangGyeongGung which can be found beside Changdoekgung. He mentioned that the palace is small and can be finished in 1 hour. Because of that conversation, we hurriedly decided to visit ChangGyeongGung as well. We have at least 1.5 hours left before closing time.
It was our third day in Seoul and we planned to visit Bukchon Village since we don’t have so much choices. We learned that most tourist destination are close and most of the tour are not running every Monday. The details of the story regarding Bukchon Village tour were elaborated from previous post.
When we ended our walking tour in Bukchon, we walked again along Gahoe-ro to reach Angguk station again. At the train station we decided to buy ticket to Everland in a cheaper price and we can buy the ticket at Hotel President near at City Hall station. We took Line 3 from Angguk station and then we transferred to Line 1 at Jongno 3 and got off at City Hall station.
When we are outside the station, we saw a noticeable building and at first we did not know what building it is, until we walked few more meters on its garden. We realized that the beautiful building is the City Hall of Seoul. I never thought that a city hall will look so fabulous and modern building. It was an awe reaction (I haven’t really search Seoul City Hall building and I am not really aware). I was glad that we decided to buy things nearby and accidentally and not intentionally, we saw this modern government building of Seoul. I was really fascinated of what I’d seen.
The look of the building is like a business office building. I can say that Seoul City Hall is trying live on what’s Seoul mean. Seoul is one of the expensive city in the world. I was never disappointed on what I saw. I admired their building. I wish there is City Hall Tour available so we as tourist can appreciate more the design of the government structure.
It was Monday, most of the tourist spot we wanted to see were closed. Because We don’t have so much option to choose we decided to go to Bukchon Village, one of the hanok village in South Korea located in Seoul. Bukchon is located between two palaces, Changdeokgung on the east and Gyeongbokgung on the west. In the past, the village used to be upscale residential area for wealthy aristocrats and court employees.
From Non-hyeon station, we took Line 7 going to Bupyeong and went out at Express Bus Terminal station, then we transferred at Line 3 going to Daehwa and got off at Anguk station, ahead station before Gyeongbokgung. Our route from hotel is the same when we went to Gyeonbokgung Palace.
I was curious to visit Hanok Village because it’s the traditional residential area in earlier times of Korea, seeing these places excites me. From Anguk station, we walked at Gahoe-ru street, here we saw a building that it seems it’s a government office, until we realized it is the Constitutional Court of Korea. We continued our walk until we found Bukchon Jae-dong Tourist Information Center to inquire how we can go around Bukchon Village. Here they gave us instructions to go to Bukchon Traditional Cultural Center as start of our tour. We followed their instruction and walked along Bukchon-gil, we asked few people where is the exact location of the cultural center until we saw it on our own, it’s quite an adventure since we are not holding any map. Bukchon Traditional Cultural Center is a hanok, few hanoks are there and for me it is more of the tourist center than the first one that we inquired of. Here we were able to get maps of Bukchon Village. Every time I travel, I tried my best to buy souvenir. I always buy post cards, the lightest souvenir you can bring without any hassle. That’s what I did at the cultural center. After taking photos, we started our journey within Bukchon Village.
Constitutional Court of Korea
Corner of Bukchon-gil and Gahoe-ro
Inside View of one of the hanok at Bukchon Traditional Cultural Center
Vicinity area of Bukchon Traditional Cultural Center
We tried to follow the map. But were not able to follow it as is, because sometimes we were lost in the village until we find ourselves again based on the map. Here I will not tell the story based on the map but based on what we have seen so far inside the hanok village. From cultural center, we walked straight along Gyedong-gil (Alley) and from what I learned in the map guide, this alley is one of the original streets that already existing during Joseon period. This is one of the street that still remaining the same as before (of course the looks are different nowadays but what I am saying is the alley itself). In this street we saw coffee shop, art shops and stores in hanok which is unique, because the traditional ambiance of the place can still be felt. We found the guest houses along the alley as well. One significant hanok is the Bukchon Guest House which is before called as Bae Ryum’s House in Gye-dong. We walked up to the top end of the alley where we reached Changdeokgung-gil alley. Here we saw Choong Ang Middle and High School. Along Changdeokgung-gill alley while facing the school we decided to turn right even we saw that the alley is ascending.
Some of the hanoks that we found while touring Bukchon Village
The walk was not easy, the three of us really tired when we reached the top of the alley and from the top we saw that the end of the alley is descending. Well, all of us were laughing because we were tired and we haven’t seen so much yet. At the corner of the alley, there is hanok that seems to be interesting based on the map guide that we have in our hand. We found the Institute of Korean Royal Cuisine, but we haven’t seen much because we heard that there is on going lectures inside the hanok and we avoid to disturb the session that is running, we just took photos outside the hanok. This is the place as the 2nd view in 8 views that can be found inside Bukchon. From here we followed some smaller alleys nearby until we saw interesting modern hanok building. We realized that the building is Baek Hongbeom’s House in Wonseo-dong. At the gate, there is a guard and told us that we cannot enter in the building since its closed (because its Monday).
Institute of Korean Royal Cuisine
Baek Hongbeom’s House in Wonseo-dong
This one seems one of the wall gate in Changdeokggung Palace (though not really sure),
based from map, the area is near in historical laundry site
After walking around the area, we decided to go back at the school where we turned right so we can check what’s next to see. With the map guide we have, we followed the tracks of 8 views, though there are other tracks, but we chose the views track to continue our walking adventure inside Bukchon. 1st view was out of our current track because it is near in traditional cultural center and we were far from where we stand that time. What we found next was the 3rd view, we followed the map, we lost and we tracked again, until we found it, the 3rd view was from the Han Sangsoo Embroidery same with other hanok we never able to see what’s inside it and for some reason we were not allowed to go inside.
Han Sangsoo Embroidery
Donglim Knot Workshop
After taking some photos at Han Sangsoo Embroidery, we continue to proceed to the next site view. We used again the map to locate where it is. Until we found Donglim Knot Workshop. Then we strolled in Gahoe-saesak-gil alley until it reached the end. Next, we crossed the Gahoe-ro street. We walked again, but this time it’s along Bukchon-Hanok-gil alley. We walked until we found the 5th View which is Gahoe-dong alley. So far, from the time we started walking around Bukchon Village, this is one of the area that I like, I can really feel that we are inside the Hanok Village. And we are not the only one who enjoyed this alley, most of the tourist comes, they enjoyed it too. We took our time to take photo shots from the bottom (5th View) and from the top (6th View) of the alley, both ends offer great and different views. Before returning at the bottom of Gahoe-dong, we tried to find another way, until we found the 7th View which is the 31 Gahoe-dong.
5th View at Gahoe-dong alley (below)
6th View at Gahoe-dong alley (top)
7th View – 31 Gahoe-dong
We ended our walking tour in Bukchon and we decided to go back since we were tired walking at sunny afternoon. We walked again along Gahoe-ro to reach Angguk station again. This is how we ended our Bukchon Tour.
It was afternoon when we arrived at Insadong area because in the morning until lunch time, the three of us attended some other stuff near at Seoul station. From Seoul station, we took Line 1 and got off at Jonggak station. We planned to go to Insadong without any idea what we are really going to see there aside from one piece of information that Insadong is a market area.
First place we found was Tapgol Park because when we went outside Jonggak station, we turned right. Out of curiosity on this park we went inside until we saw Ten Stone Stored Pagoda enclosed in glass cover. We took some time for photo shots in the park.
Then we strolled in Insadong-gil, a street at the left side of Tapgol Park, and from there it seems some part of the Insadong market can been seen, we followed the street until we reached the market area. For us, it was really fun and exciting walk, we saw a lot of people and since it was Sunday, more people are enjoying the weekend like us. We spent most of the walk along Insadong-gil. And from here we saw different food kiosks and restaurants. Some are typical market products and some are traditional Korean products are being sell.
We continued our walk along the same street until we found a building named Ssamzie-gil. One of the thing that I enjoyed here is the incline walkway wherein you can reach the top floors without taking stairs and only by just walking. And the stores inside Ssamzie-gil are all interesting and quite unique because you can feel the ambiance of korean markets. After enjoying the Ssamzie-Gil, we went to Jogyesa Temple (a buddhist temple) nearby Insadong. We enjoyed many and colorful lanterns hanged around the temple.
Ssamzie-Gil (Inside View)
So far we enjoyed another walking tour for the day. But before we ended the tour, we went to Insadong Information Center and we discovered another exciting activity for the three of us, wearing hanbok, the traditional korean dress. We paid the 20 minutes to take photos of the selected Hanbok we chose. Here we enjoyed so much because we saw ourselves in Korean traditional clothing and we looked differently. The three of us tried the Joseon Queen Hanbok dress, that’s why most of our photos shows what we looked like wearing Royal Korean Dress.
It was the first day of our adventure, we had our breakfast from the hotel and went straight to our first destination – Gyeongbokgung Palace. I found this palace from the travel book that I bought when I was in Sydney. The book titled “Top 10 Seoul”. We arrived at the palace by taking metro train from hotel. From Non-hyeon station, we took Line 7 going Bupyeong and went out at Express Bus Terminal station, then we transferred at Line 3 going to Daehwa and get off at Gyeongbokgung station. We felt excited seeing some of the photos of the palace on our way. We passed the National Palace Museum and walked at the side gate (Yongseongmun) of the Palace from the Museum. We saw a lot of tourist taking pictures and I felt great to be in this place. My mom and my sister immediately posted their selves for a photo shot. I am the one who brought the DSLR camera, and most of the time I am the one who take pictures which I like because I wanted to capture a lot of things if possible, everything that my eyes see.
When we entered a small gate at the left side of the palace, we saw a ceremony that was being performed. Though I never understand what was happening at first until I learned it later of the day that it was the Gwanghwamun Gate Guard-on-Duty Performance. We enjoyed the show because of the colorful costumes the royal guards re-enacting the performance.
Gwanghwamun Gate Guard-on-Duty Performance
We went to the tourist ticketing area, we bought ticket and brochure guide that we need in our tour. From the guide in my hand, I learned that the main gate is called Gwanghwamun. Based from history this gate is the main gate and south gate of the palace. The next gate we passed is called Heungnyemun (first gate inside the palace walls at the front). This is the gate where tickets are being checked. We saw a small bridge called Yeongjegyo. We walked again until we reach another gate which is called Geunjeongmun. Finally we saw the huge hall named Geunjeongjeon. Based from our brochure, this is the main throne hall where most of the King’s official state affair is happening during Joseon dynasty.
Geunjeongjeon (Outside Snapshots)
Geunjeongjeon (Interior Snapshots)
Next buildings we saw are just behind of Geunjeongjeon is Sajeongjeon. As far as I remember, the middle of the building are still in restoration. While its side building on the west is Cheonchujeon and on the east is Manchunjeon which seems completely restored, while long corridors that connects these two side buildings to Sajeongjeon is not yet rebuilt.
Sajeongjeon (Interior Snapshot – Currently being renovated)
Some shots at west building beside Sajeongjeon called Cheonchujeon
Then we moved to the famous building near the lake called Gyeonghoeru Pavilion. This is the place where most of the banquets in the palace were happened before. This is the famous place where most of the Historical drama of Korea were shot. The settings of the Pavilion is somewhat romantic, it is great scenery where the King and its lovers (either the queen or concubine) probably had a great time for themselves.
Pond at Gyeonghoeru Pavilion
We walked outside the wall of the Pavilion until we saw another gate leading to an open space with mountain. I really like the place, I can understand why the royal family has palace located on this place, for me its a great place for great view of the mountain. We walked straight until we saw the Janggo. Here we found a lot of Jars seating on the terrace. The jars contain fermented paste and soy sauce which is the traditional way of fermentation in South Korea.
Outside View after passing Gyeonghoeru Pavilion beside Hamhwadang and Jipyoengdang
Jars at Janggo
At the front of Janggo, there is a nearby building and its vicinity called Hamhwadang and Jipgyoengdang. Based from the information of my handbook guide, that this place is the queen’s living quarters, residence known as Heungbokjeon and facilities for concubines and court ladies.
Hamhwadang and Jipyoengdang (Outside view from Janggo)
Hamhwadang and Jipyoengdang (Some internal view snapshots)
We moved on to the next vicinity in the palace until we found a square pond called Hyangwonji and we saw islet in the middle of the pond and there standing the small pavilion called Hyangwonjeong. The setting of this place for me is similar to Gyeonghoeru pavilion, very romantic. While reading the guide, I realized that this small pavilion is the place where Queen Myeongseong (queen of King Gojong) killed by the Japanese.
Hyangwonjeong (Pavilion) and Hyangwonji (Pond)
We went next to Jibokjae and its vicinity area. This the place where you can find building with the design of Qing Chinese style. Jibokjae was moved from other palace (Changdeokgung) after King Gojong returned to Geoncheonggung. Jibokjae has become King’s residence, library and reception hall for foreign envoys.
Parujeong, Jibokjae and Hyeopgildang snapshots
There is one of the two vicinity areas that we missed to visit. One is Taewonjeon. We passed this one because we thought that another ticket is needed and there are still other parts of the palace that we haven’t seen. That’s why we decided to come back there if we still have time but unfortunately, we were not able to come back.
After Jibokjae area, we went to the vicinity area just beside the pond. It is called as Geoncheonggung, they say that this building is the only building with “gung” on its name which means palace, that is why they call it as palace within the palace and this is King’s Gojong’s residence where both the King and Queen has their own quarters and library.
Jangandang at Geoncheonggung(some external snalshots)
Jangandang Internal Snapshot
Beside the Geoncheonggung, we found another interesting site which is called Jaseondang, which is a residence of the crown prince and princess. We saw the site because the building was destroyed, as per handbook the building was dismantled and brought to Japan, then returned to Korea, but the materials were not usable anymore to rebuilt or restore the building.
Aside from Jaseondang site, we also found another site which is called Gwanmungak. This is the first modern building in Korea but has been destroyed as well when Japanese invade Korea.
We continued our stroll inside Gyeongbokgung Palace, until we found another vicinity called Jangyeongjeon. This was the residence of Queen Dowager Jo. She is the queen who put King Gojong as the king, she is also a regent at that time when King Gojong was still young. From this location you can see from a far the National Folk Museum.
Jangyeongjeon (Internal Snapshots)
National Folk Museum From near Jangyeongjeon
Next vicinity we passed by are Gangnyeongjeon and Gyotaejeon. Gangnyeongjeon is the King’s living quarter, where he reads, rest and sleep, while Gyotaejeon is the queen’s main residence. In the same vicinity we found as well the Amisan garden with beautiful chimneys.
Amisan Chimney Garden at the back of Gyotaejeon
Some snapshots of Gyotaejeon vicinity area
Building besides Gangnyeongjeon
Gangnyeongjeon Internal Snapshots
And then we looked around the area of Heumgyeonggak and Hamwonjeon. This area serves as building for most of the royal household, scientific inventions can be found here during Joseon dynasty.
The second vicinity area that I think we missed to see is Donggung. I checked all the photos that I have and it seems we never been there, but I recall that there is ongoing renovation happening beside Gangnyeongjeon where Donggung is nearly located.
We went back where we started our tour and took a lot of photos. Another area we found is Sujeongjeon where there is a nearby restaurant and wash room. Based from Handbook, that Sujeongjeon was formerly known as Jiphyeonjeon or Hall of Worthies where the Hanguel, the Korean Alphabet was invented under King Sejong.
With the three of us, my mom, my youngest sister and myself, I enjoyed the whole walking tour. Maybe because I was fascinated with Korean History and I can relate because of so many historical dramas that I watched. I felt like it is a living history, though I am aware that most of the buildings are restored or rebuilt because most of them has been destroyed either by fire or by Japanese invasion. But still, the replica is so detailed that you can feel those buildings and structures are for real. I am excited to see the another palace.
We went outside the Gyeongbokgung Palace through Gwanghwamun gate and we cross the road and walked in the middle of Sejong-Daero road and there we found the Sejong Center at the ground floor. Because we are quite tired walking for long hours inside the palace, we walked a little bit to see what’s inside the Sejong Center. And there we found a lot of things about King Sejong, though I am familiar that King Sejong is the king of Jeoson where the Korean Language and Alphabet had been invented, for what I know, King Sejong is one of the Great King that South Korea is recognizing today. I remembered that I watched two historical dramas during his reign, one is Deep Rooted Tree and one is Sungkyunkwan Scandal.
One of the country that I dream to visit is South Korea. Main reason, I fall in love with their history through historical drama that I watched. I am not used to watch all Korean dramas, but if its historical, I definitely going to watch it. I can say that I am somewhat familiar with their history though I am aware that probably not all things shown in the dramas are all correct but at least some of the facts can be search online, especially people if they are real or imaginary character. These historical drama were aired as well in my country, and some seen online. I can sense that there is good relationship between my country and South Korea. One of the sign of this good relationship is the continuous visitation of the Korean actors/actress/artists in my country to either promote their albums or films.
When I came from Australia after my recent project assignment last May, there is at least two weeks left before our flight to South Korea. I booked the flight a year ago, without assurance that I will be able to visit this country. It was 1 peso sale in Cebu Pacific (one of the major budget airline in the Philippines), base fare is 3 pesos, but in reality the total airfare is not just that amount, it’s more than that.
I booked three tickets and I planned to go together with my mother and my youngest sister. And in less than two weeks, we don’t have yet the visa since I cannot apply it a bit earlier since I am not around in my country until I returned from Australia. I worked with all the paper requirements for the application of our visa and the three of us visited South Korea embassy, 5 days after I arrived in Manila. And we waited for a week for the result of our visa application. Our visa were approved released just two days before the scheduled flight which is very tight. Until we received our passport and visa, that’s the only time we were sure that we are really going to South Korea. I already accepted before, that the hotel and flight booking will be forfeited if our visa application was not approved. And we were lucky that everything went smoothly.
It was Friday (June 6, 2014), my mom, my sister and I were waiting at NAIA (Ninoy Aquino International Airport), Terminal 3. At the time that we were boarding the plane, that made me realized that my dream will come true in a matter of few hours. I just thought about traveling South Korea, but never really planned it so well because of the concern regarding our visa. I am a citizen of the country with limited visa free entries to other countries. This is one of the main reason why my travel to other parts of the world are being limited.
After four hours of flight from Manila to Incheon, we finally arrived at Incheon International Airport. It was past 8 in the evening, we were not like other travelers that all things were arranged. The only thing we booked was our accommodation because we were not really sure if we will able to get a visa. After getting off the plane and passing the immigration area, I thought it still early, therefore, we tried to figure out how we were going to the hotel service apartment that I booked. After asking something at information center, we bought our transportation card called T-money card, this money card can only be topped up by cash (not sure if there is a way to top it online via credit card). We decided to take train to go to Seoul and the plan is to transfer to metro train in Seoul. After withdrawing some cash, we took the “All Stop Train” of AREX line (“Express Train” is the other type of train, which is non-stop, straight to Seoul but more expensive than the All Stop Train). We arrived at Seoul past 10:30 PM. Looking at the time, we hurriedly transferred to one of the Seoul Metro Subways which is Line 4 going to Oido. It’s past 11:30 PM, we got off at Chongshin University or Isu station, then we transferred to another line which is Line 7 going to Jangam. At this time, we never able to arrived at the right station where our hotel is just around because the train stopped its operation even before we reach the station we are intended to.
We stopped at Naebang station as the last stop which means the next train will be coming the next morning, 3 more stations to reached Non-hyeon where our hotel is almost near, we went out at Naebang station and tried to find a cab that will bring us in our accommodation for the next 9 days and it was past 12AM in the morning and we were still outside in a place that was foreign for us, quite adventure but risky as well. There are several cabs stopped but most of the driver rejected us, either they don’t understand the way I speak since I am asking them in English or they don’t really want us as their passenger. We waited until another cab stopped and agreed to drop us to the hotel. One disappointment on that situation was, the driver never helped us to fetch our luggage to put it in the trunk of the cab. While on our way to the hotel, the driver keep on checking and looking on the map and address that I have on my hand to make sure that he’s on the right track, I keep on talking to him in English but he usually smiled at me without other words to say, in that situation I understand that he does not really know how to speak English either.
At last we arrived at the hotel service apartment at Gangnam-gu and the name of the 4 star hotel is Inn the City Serviced Residence, Gangnam. The clerk at the lobby of the hotel accommodated us quickly, we went straight in our room after we got our key. My impression to our room is nice, it has two double bed and all the necessary appliances as expected were there. After few minutes of being familiar with the room, we knew it was really late like almost 2AM, we have a big day ahead of us for adventure and because of that we crawled in our bed and fallen asleep shortly.
I will tell stories of our adventures of each places that we visited in South Korea, most of the places were in Seoul and around Gyeonggi-do province. I enjoyed all of these places in our 8 days tours in this country, though I am aware there are more tourist destination to see and I promised myself that I will go back in this country.
Here are the places that we visited in South Korea.