Just in case anybody at home has been wondering what I’ve been up to for the past week since arriving in Korea, here is a quick update. And because some of you have sent me messages about the recent NK nuclear test, don’t worry, I wouldn’t even have known about it if you hadn’t told me. The chance of being run over by a truck/car/scooter/angry old lady is real, North Korean threats have nothing on that.
Bukchon Hanok Village
For my first sunday in Korea, I decided to do the touristy stuff and visit Bukchon Hanok village (북촌한옥마을), one of the remaining traditional quarters in Seoul. Apparently, the area is protected by law in order to preserve the old structures and buildings. Most of them have been converted into small tea houses, Hanbok (traditional Korean dress) rental shops and guesthouses. What surprised me was that quite many of them seem to be inhabitated by regular families who probably make a fortune of the masses of tourists filling the small streets.
Since I am not too fond of climbing up steep hills in 30+ degrees weather, I decided to leave Bukchon behind and walk directly to another famous sightseeing spot in central Seoul: Gyeongbokgung Palace (경복궁). It was built in 1395 and it is the largest of the 5 Grand Palaces built by the Joseon Dynasty (shout out to wikipedia). The admission fee is a very reasonable 3000 won (about 2,50€) and it is, indeed, beautiful.
The first thing you see when entering the huge palace area, are those beautiful temple structures, rich in detail and colors. After you pass a few temple gates, you get access to a wide spread garden, full of small bulidings and hidden corners to get lost in.
I can’t wait to go back in October, when the leaves turn all kinds of incredible colors. Of course, being tourist central, dressing up in a Hanbok is almost mandatory. It does make for great photo opportunities if you don’t mind being a creep.
I stayed for about two hours, including a brief visit to the adjacent Korean folk museum. After that, I decided surviving on iced coffees sounds like a good idea only in theory and ventured on in search of food. Without a map and Wifi access I ended up at Seoul City Hall and the closeby Lotte department store. Luckily, Korean department stores tend to have a big food court with a variety of different local and foreign meal options. They are usually reasonably priced and have menues with pictures of the offered food – great for people who either can’t read korean or don’t know the dishes by name.
I’ll defnitely return to Bukchon and Gyeongbokgung once the weather clears up a bit. The recent cloudy skies (who am I kidding, it’s not clouds, it’s pollution) have made everything look grey and gloomy.