It has been months since I posted my last travel blog. Actually a lot of travel stories are ready for writing in my mind so lets start my first travel story since my stay in South Korea – A country of Tradition, Modernism, and fun!
In this post, I’d like to share adventure at Soul, the capital of South Korea. The trip was done in last December 29th to 30th 2012. I had the honor of having my YSEP friend from South Korea to accompany me during this trip. Thanks Koo, Minyoung and Sunna 🙂
It took around two and half hour of KTX train travel from my city of resident, Ulsan, to Seoul. KTX is a super-fast train which operated at 200 km/h of speed operated by Korail – Korean national rail company. Since I only stayed for two days, choosing this super-fast train was the best solution to me.
The travel from Ulsan to Seoul ran very smooth. The train was very comfortable and the sceneries along the way were gorgeous. Since I was traveling during winter, I could see all white winter landscape of Korea. From a quite mountain to a modern city, the snow covered them all in white – Very beautiful!! After arriving at Seoul Station at 11.00 AM, I was greeted by Koo, my fellow YSEP friend. We had a very fun chat about how the things were going after we graduated from YSEP. Such a fun reunion!
The first place I went to was the Namsangol Hanok Village. It is a restored traditional Korean house that is well located in the city. You can find 5 types of house and pavilion complete with home appliance and furniture that represent the life during old Joseon dynasty. During my visit, there was an ice carving exhibition nearby the village. It surely added more fun in this trip.
The second place I went to with Koo was the Gyeongbokgung Palace. The palace was built in 1395, and also commonly referred to as the “Northern Palace” because it is the furthest north when compared to the neighboring palaces of Changdeokgung (Eastern Palace) and Gyeongheegung (Western Palace). It is said that Gyeongbokgung Palace is arguably the most beautiful and remains the grandest of all five palaces. One of the interesting things is the presence of The National Palace Museum which exhibited many items related to life and history on the palace.
The Gyeongbokgung Palace is such a very big complexes. I spent more than an hour to explore and took pictures inside the palace. One of the main attractions in the palace was the “Guard Change” ceremony. It is a reconstruction of old palace tradition where palace guards was changed by other guards as the shift ended.
Visiting the palace in winter and snowy time is just as amazing as visiting during other season. It is off course depending on which season you like but to me, the scenery of snow and frozen lake surrounded by walls and traditional building was very calm and beautiful.
The adventure were continued to visit the statue of King Sejong and Admiral Yi Sun-Shin. Quoted from Korea Tourism Site, King Sejong is best remembered as the inventor of Hangeul, the Korean alphabet. During his reign, he consolidated the basis for ruling the Joseon Dynasty by incorporating Confucian philosophy of politics. Furthermore, he led the nation’s great strides in agriculture, literature, science and technology. Admiral Yi Sun-Shin Statue represents protection and patriotism of Korean people. The two statues stand greatly in front of Gyeongbokgung Palace main gate and are a very cool spot to take good photographs.
The next place was the Cheonggyecheon Stream. It is a water spring that was transformed into a nice and cozy park to hang out and enjoy the cool environment of the stream.
Just after finishing exploring the stream, Koo and I meet up with Minyong and Sunna, also fellow YSEP friend from Korea. We headed to a traditional market for lunch – late lunch – and enjoyed the different way of ordering meals. The traditional market provided a unique way of lunch experience; we bought several replica of traditional coin and exchange that with foods that are sold in the market. In a special facility inside the market, we then gathered an enjoyed the meal.
In a snowy day, after finishing our lunch, we went to Insa-Dong, a popular spot for shoping and hanging out in Seoul. The surrounding in Insa-Dong reminded me of Jiyuugaoka in Tokyo where small and unique shops became the main attraction in the area.
Next one, the N Seoul Tower! Quoted from Korea Tourism WebSite, Seoul Tower opened to the public on October 15, 1980 and has since become a major tourist attraction. The 236.7m Seoul Tower sits atop Namsan Mountain (243m), Seoul Tower offers panoramic views of Seoul and the surrounding areas. The view is so stunning that many consider Seoul Tower the best tower in Asia. Thirty years and countless visitors later, as the structure was renamed ‘N Seoul Tower.’ The letter ‘N’ stands for the tower’s ‘new’ look, which resulted from a 15 billion won remodeling in Dec 2005. With the new lighting system and changes to the tower’s overall color scheme, event coordinators can now decorate the tower for each new season or event. It was snowing when we visited the tower. We weren’t going to the top of the tower with such low visibility. I will visit the top of the tower again in the latter chance. However, we tried the N Seoul Tower cable car on the way down the hill. Although it was a bit snowy and low light, the scenery was still gorgeous! I got to realize that the tower was very tall when the cable car slides down the hill.
The day trip with fellow YSEP friend was ended in Myeong-Dong – a stunning shopping district with countless shops and restaurants. It is like Insa-Dong, but in a larger scale. We had our stop at a nice coffee shop in Myeong-Dong – I forgot the name, but it was a pleasant and warm place to rest and chat. After another fun talk and jokes with my friends, we visited Myeong-Dong Cathedral with nice brick architecture.
To me, Visiting Seoul in winter and snowy time was so memorable. I really liked how the city landscapes were covered in snow. I’ve never seen snow in a city this thick before, so this adventure will surely be engraved in my mind as an unforgettable moment in my life. Great appreciation to Koo, Minyong and Sunna for their warm accompany on my visit to Seoul. Look forward to visit Seoul with my beloved wife soon 🙂
– Korea Tourism Organization : http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/index.kto
– Korea Rail & KR Pass information (English available) : http://www.korail.com/
– Thanks to Koo as the official photographer of the trip 😛
– Thanks to Koo, Minyoung and Sunna for the fun reunion 🙂
PS: The Second day trip was to Seoul War Memorial Museum and Seoul Mosque in Itaewon. As this post is already very long, I’ll try to write it in another post. See you!