Friday, October 18, 2013

Korea Trip Day 2 Part 1: Gwanghwamun, Gyeongbok Palace, and Blue House

Previous: Korea Trip Day 1: Incheon Airport, Garosu-gil, Insadong

I don't remember eating breakfast for day 2.. ahhaha... but anyway, we started by going to Kyobo bookstore. I wanted to go to Bandi & Luni's in Coex Mall to get my materials to prepare for TOPIK exams but they are closed as part of the whole Coex Mall renovation so I just wanted to try my luck at Kyobo bookstore. I managed to find TOPIK Guide Basic, Intermediate and Advanced at KR₩ 16,000 (around SGD 18.50) when the price in Amazon is more than USD 30 each so I just bought them all. It's hard to find these books in affordable price elsewhere!

There's also an ARTBOX corner in Kyobo and I got some cute files and sticky notes from there! Cannot resist all these cute stuff :)

Next, we proceeded towards Gwanghwamun Square where we can see 2 statues. The first one is the statue of Admiral Yi Sun-Sin. He's a very famous general in Korea but I'm not Korean history expert so you can read his story more in his Wikipedia page.

General Yi Sun Sin statue
Next is another even more famous person - probably the guy who contributed the most to Korea's success today, the Great King Sejong or Sejong Daewang. Prior to his time, Koreans were using Chinese characters for writing which doesn't really make sense because Korean language and Chinese language do not even sound the same. He created the Hangeul writing system which is what most people refer to the cute line and circle language. And because of this, now Korea has one of the lowest rate of illiteracy in the world.

I have always admired this guy ever since I watched the Great King Sejong drama. I think that he's truly a ruler who thinks ahead for his people and doesn't discriminate against anyone even if you were born a slave. I think it's kind of a big deal at that time..

Great King Sejong Statue - I wonder if he really looked like this in real life..
Behind the statue, there's a small staircase where you can take to go inside a small museum. We didn't go there though.
One of the inventions during the reign of King Sejong
After walking pass some grassy area and a bit more, we finally arrive at this junction opposite Gwanghwamun. I can now understand why those royalties wanted to be carried in palanquin. It's really quite a walk even from the statue which I supposed was part of the palace complex to the gate (not even the main palace yet!)

Gwanghwamun
Upon entering Gwanghwamun, there's a queue to buy entrance ticket to Gyeongbok Palace. You can either buy ticket to a single palace or buy a combined ticket which allows you to enter all the palaces and Jongmyo shrine. The combined ticket is valid for 1 month from date of purchase.

Gyeongbok Palace
Check out the majestic structure. I've always wondered how people managed to build all these structures without any machines last time. While inside the palace, we spotted these 3 girls wearing pretty hanbok so we just had to ask them if we can take a picture with them. I don't think normal people wear hanbok inside the palace so I think these 3 are actually tourists like us too :p

I bet these girls are tourists too! :D

The water is there to prevent another fire from destroying the palace?
Inside the palace complex, there's also a National Folk Museum of Korea where you can enter for free. There's a showcase of what noblemen and noblewomen wore in the past and even their accessories etc. Similar to what we usually see in Korean dramas :)

National Folk Museum of Korea - inside Gyeongbok Palace complex as well - Free entrance
There's also a place where you can try on the summer clothing. At first we put the inner clothing the wrong way like an apron lol.. but there's a girl who's a staff there and she helped us to wear it the correct way. The inner clothing goes around the body like one whole round, I'm not sure how people can wear it on their own.. kinda difficult..

This is supposed to be their summer clothing, but feel like someone has just died?
There are many pretty structures inside the palace compounds. I guess they needed to build all these stuff because the girls who are born into this family are not allowed to leave the premises.. imagine not being able to go shopping or watch a movie!! They really needed all these places to ease boredom man...
Another pretty structure inside the Gyeongbok Palace
At the back of Gyeongbok palace, there's a door that you can take and it will lead you to the Blue House, also known as Cheong Wa Dae which is the presidential area. I didn't take any photo of the Blue House this time because I visited it before in 2011, so was a bit lazy to take another photo :p

This post is turning into a super long post so I'm breaking it into 2 posts..

Directions:
Kyobo bookstore: Gwanghwamun Station (line 5) exit 3 or Jonggak Station (line 1) exit 1 and walk towards Gwanghwamun. They also have a website: www.kyobo.co.kr but everything is pretty much in Korean.

Gyeongbok Palace: Gwanghwamun Station (line 5), walk towards General Yi Sun-Sin statue and then towards King Sejong statue and then walk straight another 5 minutes. Or there's also a Gyeongbok Station (line 3) if you wanna skip the statues

Blue House / Cheong Wa Dae: from the backdoor of Gyeongbok Palace, or Gyeongbok-gung Station (line 3) and walk 10 minutes.

NextKorea Trip Day 2 Part 2: Samcheongdong, Bukchon Hanok Village, Hanbok Experience, and Jogyesa Temple

For summary of the whole trip, check out my previous blog post South Korea Trip Sept 2013 11D10N Itinerary (Seoul, Busan, Jeju)

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