Escape to Seoul Day 2 (Part 1 of 2)

MARCH 24, 2011. ALMOST, BUT NOT QUITE. 

Our DAY 2 itinerary:

  • Gyeongokgung Palace
  • Cheongdokgung Palace
  • Ginseng Store
  • Jewelry Store
  • Namdaemun Market
  • Hongdae

Day 2 is maybe the busiest day in this trip. And it almost didn’t happen. Why? Because we didn’t know we’re supposed to wake up early for the City Tour that came in with our package. We woke up with a phone call at 9 AM and they told us that they’re already downstairs, waiting for us at the lobby for the tour. We didn’t know what else to do! Good thing our tour guide, Nana, suggested that she’ll have us picked up in an hour so we could prepare, get dressed etc.

So we hurriedly showered, dressed, put on make up (YES, I WORE MAKE UP IN KOREA, and that week is the longest week of make up and contact lenses in my life) (and yes, we had time to put on make up) and waited for our ride to come.

OUR FIRST STOP: GYEONGBOKGUNG PALACE

Gyeongbokgung Palace

So here’s what I learned from the tour (and well, I did some research too):

  • Gyeongbokgung was built in 1395 and is the grandest among all the palaces in the area. It’s also called the Palace of Shining Happiness.
  • The main gate and the entrance to the Palace is the Gwanghwamun Gate or the South gate. From there, you will enter two inner gates: Heungnyemun and Geunjeongmun.
  • And my favorite fact: The floors/walkways are at different levels. The King should only step on the middle walkway. He alone could walk on it. The Queen walks along the second level. And the lowest is for the other people, with lower status than that of the king and queen. I got to step on the king’s walkway. Awesome!
  • There are different buildings for the King’s quarter. A different quarter for different seasons (during winter, he stays in one room, and during summer he stays in another). There is also another room for the King’s study or office. The queen had a different room too. There are also different rooms for different occasions and for different number of guests.
  • and… If you look closely, the buildings have mini-statues or icons on the roof. These small statues represent the importance of each building in the area. The more statues on top, the more important the building is.
We also met a wonderful group of Filipinos who joined us in the tour.
Kizia and Me with other Filipinos in Gyeongbokgung Palace

They all assumed we drank Soju the night before that’s why we were late. Pssshhhh.. Can’t blame them. Two pretty young adults in Seoul – what else could they do but party? Haha! What they didn’t know is that we were up all night having fun with our facial masks. (^o^)

More turista shots:

at the gates
random location. look at the space!!

You can also explore the National Folklore Museum inside Gyeongbokgung Palace/Area to travel back in time and witness South Korea’s juicy past. You also might get hit on by some high school dude and get teased by his classmates (psh.. kids. on a field trip probably). True story.

BECAUSE YOU ARE ON TOUR, I WILL SELL YOU SOME GINSENG.

After the Gyeongbokgung Palace, we went to a Ginseng Store (they tried to sell some to our group but, sorry, no one bought even a single pack). Expect a stop over at some store and expect your guide to sell you some. That’s normal if you’re on a package tour or if you got a city tour from the hotel.  Apparently, ginseng is very popular in Korea. They don’t export a 5-year old ginseng (or was it 6?). After the Ginseng Store, we dropped off our fellow Pinoys somewhere (can’t remember where) because their flight’s that afternoon.

Nana also brought us to a jewelry store (was it?) where they tried to sell us jade. I think it was jade. No matter how cute the stones may be, Kizia and I got each a mobile phone accessory from our friend (her sister worked in Korea for a long time, and the stuff came from her).

TRADITIONAL KOREAN RESTAURANT FOR LUNCH.

Nana brought us to a Traditional Korean Restaurant where we can “sit down” on the floor with a traditional Korean house ambiance. She ordered Bulgogi for us and it was one heck of a meal. 🙂

Bulgogi

We were weirded out by the fact that Kizia and I were sitting across each other with another couple of girls sitting right beside us. It looked like we are all eating together. We are so used to having our “personal space” but eventually, we got used to that setting after a few days. 🙂

After the hearty lunch, we headed to Changdeokgung Palace.

CHANGDEOKGUNG PALACE.

Changdeokgung Palace

The literal meaning of Chandeokgung Palace is “Palace of Prospering Virtue.” It was built after Gyeongbokgung and is one of the five grandest palaces in Seoul. It became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997 because of its incredible architectural and garden design.

I instantly fell in love with the palace the moment we stepped inside the area. Here you will see several buildings, again, for the King’s study, bed chambers etc. but what struck me most was the building/chambers of the King’s (at that time) concubine. He loved her dearly but unfortunately, they didn’t have any children.

I also learned that the last in line or the last king of the royal family died in 2005 in Japan. The sad thing here was the Republic of Korea didn’t allow him to go back to Korea fearing the empire or another dynasty will rise again. His remains were brought back in Korea though.

At this point in the tour, the only people left were me, Kizia and Nana. And instead of learning more about S. Korea’s history through this beautiful palace, we asked Nana for tips and tricks on how to survive 7 days in this amazing country. You’d think our guide will just go back to discussing history, right? Wrong.

Nana was very nice to answer all our questions. She also gave us a very wonderful tip when picking up talking to Korean boys and how to approach them inside a bar/club.

You say: (in a deep low sexy voice) Hey… let’s party!

She was hilarious.

Nana, our tour guide

After the boy tips, we rode a…… BUS (from Van in the morning to a BUS in the afternoon. And yes, we were the only people inside, plus the driver = 3 people in one big bus) to Namdaemun Market. 🙂

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