Last Sunday I decided to start some sight seeing adventures. I like to have a process when I move to a new place. I know I really am a tourist here for the whole year, but I like to look less touristy and feel more comfortable in a city by my 3rd month there. Seoul is a big city though so I am not exactly sure that I will ever not feel like a tourist. Plus it gives you guys some things to read about. 🙂

Anyway, I went to the Gyeongbokgung Palace which is the national palace of Korea. I went by myself because no one else wanted to get up and go with me. That’s fine. I have taken lots of adventures by myself. I like it better when people go with me, but sometimes you just do what you have to.

The palace has a really interesting history because it was bombed twice. Once during the Japanese invasion, and the other during the civil war. So it has been rebuilt in a lot of areas, though the main ceremonial hall I am pretty sure has survived all of it and been there for something like 600 years.  Anyway here is an excerpt I found on the Official Tourism Site of Korea:

Built in 1395, Gyeongbokgung Palace is also commonly referred to as the “Northern Palace” because it is located more toward the north, compared to the neighboring palaces of Changdeokgung (Eastern Palace) and Gyeongheegung (Western Palace). Gyeongbokgung Palace is arguably the most beautiful and remains the grandest of all the five palaces.

The premises were destroyed by fire at the time of the Japan’s occupation of Korea during 1592-1598. However, all of the palace’s 7,700 rooms were later restored under the leadership of Heungseondaewongun in the years of King Gojong (1852~1919) .

Remarkably, the most representative edifices of the Joseon Dynasty, Gyeonghoe-ru Pavilion and Hyangwonjeong Pond are still relatively in tact. Woldae and the sculptures of Geunjeongjeon (The Royal Audience Chamber) represent the past sculpture art which was the trend back then.

Sorry mom and dad. Don’t freak out from the story below. Clearly I am safe and fine and totally healthy.

So I was walking around the grounds because I had to wait an hour to catch the next English tour. It only costs 3,000won to get into the palace grounds and then tours and the like are free.  So I am just hanging out looking at neat stuff but really wanting to wait until it is explained to me. This Korean man comes up to me and asks if I was alone. Here is misstep number one. I tell him of course I can adventure by myself. I know, I know what a fail that was. I should have said I was waiting for friends. Oh well so then he asks if I have had a tour. I tell him no I am waiting for the next one. He then asks if he could show me around. He looked legit and he was older that me by at least 10-15 years so I wasn’t really thinking anything of it. Again geez Allison get it together. I stick out like a sore thumb here for a whole list of reasons of course people are going to single me out. So I say sure because if you tell Koreans no they get deeply offended.

So this guy who wants to practice his English is walking me around explaining the buildings to me and checking with the other guards at their posts. This set of men apparently live on the grounds and their job is literally to just run security for the palace which is kind of cool but still. I started having all these wild thoughts because of all of the stories you here.

Suddenly, I was like omg what if this guy leads me to these other people and I am kidnapped forever or, or, or what if yeah no that would be the worst thing to happen. Alas, he was pretty nice, and definitely tried to hit on me which was awkward especially since I brought up my boyfriend on numerous occasions. In the end there was no need to worry, but I am still rethinking the idea of going on any more solo adventures.

So, now for the fun and not so thrilling part, pictures!

This was one of the main gates to get into the palace.

It’s neat because you can see mountains this way, but if you turn around and look the other direction all you see are high rises from the city. It really is this crazy contrast.

Everything is separated by these gates. They have really awesome detail and are beautifully painted.

See. They are really intricate.

This is the main ceremony house. It was used when a new leader took over and such.It was also very detailed on the inside.

That is where the king would sit and then there were all of these little stations set up for different ceremonies or official seating. There is also a dragon on the ceiling with six talons, this is a symbol of power, and I couldn’t get a good shot of it because it was so dark on the inside. I really appreciated though that they didn’t run electricity in just for museum like lighting. They left it very much as is.

This is a party structure.  If a foreign delegate came to Korea this is where they would be welcomed and a party would be thrown. It is out on the water. There was also a boat over to the side where only the king could sit if he wanted.

I love this photo! I am so glad it came out well and the coloring isn’t terrible. It also finally looked like fall for a few hours which was a comfort.

This is the blue house. It is where the Korean President lives. Apparently I can email to set up a tour for free if I want one. I am going to look into it and definitely take some people with me if I go.

So there was a zodiac circle and I am born in the year of the rabbit. Side note: I am technically 24 in Korean years because they count the time you are in the womb as a year. But anyway, I really liked these stone statues and how they had them arranged. I should have gotten a picture of them all, but alas at the time I didn’t even think about it.

This is one of the areas where statues are built in memorial to ancestors and rulers of the past. It is kind of like a graveyard I guess. I really liked these guys and the next ones too.

They were these big stone statues that had very mask looking type faces. I am not sure what the represented. Nothing was really labeled in English.

See, all Korean.

Every hour on the hour there is a changing of the guards. The process takes about 10 minutes and is really cool to watch. There is a giant drum and secret showing that happens.

The men in yellow and red are the head guys. They do this part where they lift up their red fabric and show each other these cards. They have to match in order for the switching to take place. At least that is what it seemed like to me.

and this is completely unrelated but this little girl and her twin sister were the cutest things I saw all day. They were reading maps and jabbering back and forth and I was tempted to whisk them away. But I feel that way about most Korean children.