South Korea: Seoul's Gungs, Costumes & a Musical!
Seoul Travel Blog› entry 7 of 12 › view all entries
Another day to see the sights of Seoul. This time, we wanted to see the palaces ("gung" in Hanggul) of Seoul. After a long walk the day before in search of the Coffee Prince Cafe, Karen and I planned out places we wanted to see - in a more organized fashion. We began with breakfast. This time, we were early enough to catch the meager, yet free breakfast the hostel offers. Ham, cheese, a tub of butter and jelly, bread, tea and coffee were laid out on a tile-design kitchen tabletop. A toaster was available for those who prefers their bread toasted. Not quite healthy offerings but fair enough. Free is free. I can't complain since I just love food! Also I'm not a breakfast person to begin with - that is, except when I am actually on vacation.
First off, was Tagpol Park. Why? It is located in walking distance to the hostel and we get to see the National Treasure No. 2 of Korea! Located in this park is a 12-story high Joseon-era stone pagoda built 1467. How special is this pagoda really? It is so special that to prevent its erosion and possible vandalism, it is displayed in glass! Mind you, this pagoda is in an outdoor park! The Octagonal Pavilion also located in Tapgol Park is originally built for musical performances for the royal family during the Great Korean Empire. It also represents the venue where the Declaration of Independence was first read in 1919 during the March First Independence Movement that later swept the country.
We hopped on the train to get to next stop on our itinerary for the day - Gyeonghuigung. About 6 blocks west of the train station Gwanghwamun, Gyeonghuigung Palace was built in 1616. Also called the Western Palace. Some areas Gyeonghuigung Palace was still undergoing restorations after being either torn down or relocated during the beginning period of the forced occupation by the Japanese Empire.
After leaving the Gyeonghuigung Palace, we walked down this long narrow street. It had pretty colorful lantern hanging from tree to tree that lined the street. Along this long narrow street is where, apparently, a couple well-known all girls school (grade school or high school?) is located.
Deoksugung Palace was used as a temporary palace after the original royal palace wherein Prince was burned down during the Japanese Invasion in 1592. It was called several names before it was finally called Deoksugung Palace - the Palace of Virture and Longevity, in honor of Empero Gojong, who re-established the place into a royal palace and where he stayed and died in 1919.
So we looked for a restaurant close by. Two blocks down, we found a Vietnamese restaurant filled with people and affordable price. So we went in where were were seated at the table. I ordered a noodle soup with shredded chicken while Karen went for a spicy noodle with seafood. And boy, was it spicy! Nevertheless, we liked the food. At just the right time, we went back to Deoksugung Palace main gate to watch the changing of the guards. It was an entertaining ceremony with colorful costumes and band with a big drum as they marched in. At the end, we were allowed to get a photo op with the general and royal guards, and try out the costumes for free!
After the ceremony, Karen and I walked around City Hall and noticed stages being set up.
We headed back to Gyeonghuigung Palace to pick up the tickets and found a long line already in place. Neither Karen nor I understood Korean so we had to ask someone to translate what the staff were saying while we were waiting in line. With a couple of hours before the show begin, Karen and I decided to have a light dinner around the area - not really knowing how long the show was, we didn't want to get hungry.
Interestingly enough, the musical is a political and romantic story between a drag jester, Gongkil. and a king who fell in love with each other. Scandalous, ain't it? The queen, jealous of the relationship between the king and the jester, plotted to have jester look bad in the eyes of the king - but it backfired, resulting in civil unrest which eventually led to the public overthrowing the king.
The lead character, Gongkil, in costume, could defintiely pass off as a female! Karen and I didn't even know she, I mean, he was the drag jester, until 10 minutes into the play, when it became more obvious - we noticed his Adam's apple and the plot was more evident that he was a drag jester.He sure can be and is a pretty girl. Overall, the play was marvelous.