Historical Seoul

Seoul Travel Blog

 › entry 2 of 4 › view all entries
Dongademun Gate and Doota! (the mall) in the distance

Since we took a Philippine Airlines Swingaround package, we had a free half day city tour which we decided to take that day.  Another guide picked us up just before the morning rush hour traffic to bring us to the tour bus.  The streets were already filling with commuters, and we quickly realized that we, "Southerners", were wearing the wrong clothes and in the wrong colors. The more stylishly dressed were wearing long coats in neutral beige, black or burgundy.  Worse, I realized that I forgot to bring any film, and had only about half a roll left in my camera, and my mom had even less than that in hers.  I left about 6 rolls at the hotel!

The tour turned out to be good value, despite the obligatory detour to an amethyst factory and a ginseng factory.  At the entrance to the amethyst shop my mom was delighted to see a Lions Club seal on the wall, and she insisted to be photographed next to it to show her Lions Club chapter back home.

Gyeongbokgung Palace main entrance
The visits were pleasant since the Korean touts were never as aggressive as the Thais could be.

 

We began our tour at the Royal Palace of Gyeongbokgung.  Coming from the hotel, we already saw one monument: Dongdaemun Gate which looked less like a gate and more like a small fortress. Seoul turned out to have few historical buildings and not all were truly ancient, because many were reconstructions of originals destroyed at war.  The Japanese were especially destructive, and was credited for abolishing the monarchy. 

 

On our way to the palace, the guide pointed out The Blue House, where the embattled Korean President Roh Moo-hyun was under house-arrest.

Jo, Louie and me!
  Just behind it we saw snow-cappedMountBukhansan, a strangely serene and peaceful sight in a very industrial-looking city.

 

Gyeongbokgung palace used a lot of tasteful preppie colors: pink and green pastels, and subdued reds. I liked the roof details: the repetitive bamboo-like shapes under the eaves that seemed covered in embroidered silk, the runaway steel monkeys of the Monkey King at the top were a Chinese influence.  There were very violent stories: a few centuries ago the Queen was murdered in her sleep by a bunch of Japanese ninjas in that building yonder.

 

Within the palace grounds was the National Folk Museum.  We saw a lot of dolls and mannequins dressed up in hanbok or re-enacting village life.

The Blue House
  I liked the hooded cloaks used by the upper class women; have always liked mysterious hooded cloaks in general.  There were rows of pretty shoes and slippers behind a glass case that I wanted to try on.

 

We left the palace for Jogyesa temple, improbably located behind apartment blocks. Under renovation at that time, its façade was mostly covered.  Louie, our guide, revealed that he was Buddhist, and began to enumerate the steps to Buddhahood. Unfortunately, I had forgotten half of them before he was through. I rather liked Louie because he reminded me of my friend Leon who has an Om tattoo.  The temple was full and the people had spilled over to the entrance steps, so we couldn't go inside. Buddhism was a casualty of Confucianism. Most of the Buddhists had to flee to the mountains, so a temple that old in the middle of the city was rather special.

Reephboy says:
You write really wonderfully, Lynne! I can't wait to visit Korea one day, but I'm afraid I'll end up eating and eating and spending the rest of the time looking for the next restaurant. Oh, I might sing a little karaoke, too!
Posted on: Aug 07, 2008
Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
Street scene near Ewha

The street leading up to Ewha Women’s University seemed the most feminine street in all of Seoul.  It was lined with boutiques, cafes and tea shops, shoe stores, beauty salons, a Body Shop and its Korean counterparts. Going up to the university itself, which was on top of a hill, we were met by phalanxes of Korean girls coming from class, striding purposefully down the street.  Their heels drummed down the pavement and random wooden boards (road works were ongoing).  Since we hardly saw any men, they were free and easy in their demeanor and their actions.  They only looked at us curiously.

 

Going by foot from Ewha to Yonsei down to Sinchon we realized how hilly Seoul was.

Ewha Women's University grounds
  We cut through the universities and surrounding copse of trees and got a wee bit lost.  Just past a hospital, we found a coffee shop that served a nearby children’s school and had a relaxing tea break.  Re-charged, we finally found our way down to Yonsei University, which seemed strangely familiar.  Yonsei wasn’t just one of the most prestigious schools in Korea, it had been used as location for various Korean TV dramas and movies. We dropped by the Yonsei Global Center, which was full of groups of students.  There was a TV wall showing different channels all at the same time, while students sat on chairs with earphones on.  A girl gave us directions out of Yonsei in halting English.

 

At the end of Yonsei’s main street, which reminded me of UP’s, I felt more keenly than ever the lack of camera film (this was before I’d gone digital) when we spied this seemingly endless colorful mural at the crossing to Sinchon.

Yonsei University grounds
  On Sinchon Street, we finally found a Synnara record store. (I swore that store was in Beautiful Days. I later looked it up, and it was!). There I bought Chi-Chi’s requested Winter Sonata Soundtrack CD.  Sinchon was thronged with young people just off from school.  Jo bought a colorful pair of stockings at a street stall full of other funky teenage accessories.  The whole street catered to the students.  We decided against trying a Noraebang (Korean karaoke place), and made our way back to the hotel via subway.

 

Quick detour: Kyobe Bookstore, where we bought original DVDs of Il Mare and Art Museum by the Zoo. Both proved to be enjoyable movies.

eejot says:
Ahh.. reading your descriptions from Yonsei through Sinchon, past the record store... memories... I can't wait to get back to my home-away-from home *sigh*
Posted on: Apr 03, 2007

We met dreamy Go-san on the tour bus, and Jo had fun practicing her Japanese. Soon after, we were dropped off sans Go at Itaewon, which bordered the Yongsan U.S. Military base.  Mom, Jo and I were on our own from that time on. We quickly realized there was nothing to see in Itaewon except Americanized bars and leather-goods shops.  We found a shop where Yoda sold fake plastic Birkin bags!  We decided we might as well have lunch.

Dongademun Gate and Doota! (the ma…
Dongademun Gate and Doota! (the m…
Gyeongbokgung Palace main entrance
Gyeongbokgung Palace main entrance
Jo, Louie and me!
Jo, Louie and me!
The Blue House
The Blue House
Street scene near Ewha
Street scene near Ewha
Ewha Womens University grounds
Ewha Women's University grounds
Yonsei University grounds
Yonsei University grounds
Palace main gate
Palace main gate
the palace gate
the palace gate
monkeys on the roof!
monkeys on the roof!
guardian
guardian
Its really cold!
It's really cold!
Mom surveys the banquet hall
Mom surveys the banquet hall
some sort of a tower
some sort of a tower
at Jogyesa
at Jogyesa
That tree is supposedly very old.
That tree is supposedly very old.
Jogyesa Temple scene
Jogyesa Temple scene
Itaewon lunch
Itaewon lunch
Ewha University in hilly Seoul
Ewha University in hilly Seoul
A bit of street football at Yonsei
A bit of street football at Yonsei
Seoul
photo by: chiyeh