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Our discoveries and Seoul’s UNESCO World Heritage Palace

Our discoveries and Seoul’s UNESCO World Heritage Palace

9th June, 2013.

After weekdays of hugging laptops at our new home/office in Seoul, our sacrosanct weekends are packed with couple quality time.

We have discovered many new things in Seoul. I am going to show you these today.

 

At Chungjung-Ro or Chungjeon-No Station. Depending on what sign, brochure or site we read, station/road/building names are spelled with surprising variation. First discovery. Smokers’ glass cubicles at the metro. To make them feel more like the most exotic (dying) human breed.

Seoul Korea

 

Second discovery. Book shops at the metro. The metro is a world of shops and underground life. You get almost anything down under.

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Even record shops with the latest K-pop tunes.

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Third discovery. Cool workout stations at public recreational green areas.

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Fourth discovery. Places of interest can be very tiring. Lucky you, sitting comfortably. If only all in life was as simple as reading this blog.

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Today, dear reader, we are going to tour Changdeokgung Palace. UNESCO World Heritage Site since its reconstruction in the 1990s. Build in 1405 for King Taejong, during Korea’s culturally prosper Joseon Dynasty which lasted five centuries (1392-1897), it stands out from other palaces due to its harmony with surrounding natural settings.

Location: 99, Yulgok-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul

Tip: If you are going to see the four palaces of Seoul+the Jongmyo Shrine (totally recommend), the cheapest way is to buy a ‘Combination Ticket For Palaces’ – for only 10,000 won per person you can see them all!

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Changdeokgung Palace was the secondary residence to the King after he had slaughtered his half brothers in his main residence, palace Gyeongbokgung – probably to escape haunting scenes of the bloodbath. Today it serves as a popular picture spot for oblivious tourists.

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Do not walk the middle path – that’s for royalty only!

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The throne hall. For coronations and grand ceremonies royal style. Floors of baked clay were pimped up in 1908 for cool and shiny wooden floorboards.

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Pick up your free info palace brochure with font-size 2 and b-w pictures or… follow me!

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The King’s bed chamber, then office. Such a futuristic concept.

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I have so gotten used to perfect perpetual travel weather. Nice and constantly sunny. Let’s grab a drink!

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Shocking prices for cold ‘lemon tea’ = spoon of Asian lemon-sugar jelly with water+ ice = 4,500 won. No vending machine alternative.

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Once a shrine of the deceased, a King’s meeting room to handle state affairs and a party room for the queen.

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All palaces in Seoul were destroyed during the Japanese invasion in 1592-1598 and then suffered damage again under Japanese occupation from 1910 to 1945. So what you see are amazing reconstructions with mostly empty chambers.

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Some have been scarcely refurbished. As with many touristy places, pictures and visualisations of royal life are completely missing. It is up to your imagination to fill in the gaps.

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I read that this, the Daejojeon palace area was the ‘scene of tragic history‘, a ‘place where the last cabinet meeting of the dynasty was held to deliberate over Japan’s annexation of Joseon‘. Same same in all corners of the world: neighbours are always the worst enemies.

Peaceful picture!

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Humanity lives in a constant cycle of destruction and reconstruction. Human kind is a paradox species.

But good looking!

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People must have been a lot smaller back then.

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The King was into science and astronomical observation. The bowl is actually a clock from 1434, in the shape of a hemisphere, it can read the sun’s movement (earth was considered round!) and some were even designed to automatically ring a bell to tell the time.

At the same time, flat bottomed jars with water were placed next to every major building in the palace. Evil spirits were believed to be scared by their reflection in the water and refrain from pyromania.

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The kitchen has a very modern look.

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With many buildings for the king to manage all state and royal affairs, you might wonder where the king did go to answer nature’s call. Well, royalty was draining the dragon (same applies for rear action as we were told), using buckets. The end product was inspected by a royal doctor.

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I have more on the topic.

All for the sake of accurate travel coverage, this is how I am flushing my university degree down the toilet (not literally!). I have seen a lot of loos during our travels but this one was a rare example of a foot-pump-yourself-to-flush mechanism.

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There was no flush button to push. I searched. Perpetual travel is fascinating.

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Just out the restroom and I was rewarded with a royal view.

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Many couples were testing effective photographic backgrounds. If it wasn’t for the suspiciously looking palace guard I would have been able to open that door, convinced to find the last living dragons on Earth. But instead…

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I liked the chimney’s decorated with bunnies!

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The precursor images to My Melody and Hello Kitty. You get the idea.

Seoul bunny princess at palace royal rabbit chimney

 

 

The place evinces the simple tastes of King Heonjong‘, says the official brochure with the same pic in b-w.

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I think it is maybe minimalist but aesthetically complex and appealing. I always dreamed to have a round, preferably omega shaped way-through.

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These cute houses look like they bumped into each other.

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Oh, yes, don’t bump the head!

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Once we walked through one of the tiny gates, another one emerged.

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Open air palaces are fun!

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As a hopeless optimist, I see light at the end of sightseeing.

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It was like back in those days, when I was running around ruins as a kid, pretending to fight monsters, meeting knights and mounting the throne, while my parents (who compensated communist oppression with travel after they had regained their personal freedom in Germany) listened to a tour guide with other travelers.

I would have checked upstairs but my size wasn’t right. Nor was it allowed. Eh, that is why I wouldn’t have checked.

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The King’s offices were located outside the palace walls.

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Decorative locks but more of an attention sucker was the peep hole. I did peek. If you see this peep hole, you got to see what I saw!

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Tomek knows. He knows. What I saw.

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Aliens and monsters!

Aliens on palace wall Seoul

 

In the countries traveled so far, souvenir shops seem to be the places for wacky stuff. Awesomely kitsch and painfully tacky trinkets that we would never buy in our home countries but once abroad, we switch off the control centre for sensible purchases, all to preserve memories of amazing vacations.

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The mentioned forces work particularly well on me. Which is why I had to strike a deal with myself in order not to buy postcards with folk dress. I am going to buy me a Korean folk wedding dress. To wear! Yes! Well, if they are affordable.

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Those wonderful, traditional dresses are called Hanbok, they have a gorgeous simple lined flow with no pockets nor frills and extend like petticoat skirts towards the trim.

Join us for a cool shopping area in Seoul and a bite to eat – in the next post!

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