A Korean Winter Vacation, Day 4 – Culture Hopping.

Oh my hell it has been a long time since a post. I blame it on about two months of play and travel, but I’m back! Let’s get back to Korea

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Errr, let me see if I can remember…

My friend Matt was working, so my mom and I decided to take in the sights, a bit of culture-hopping if you will. First up, the Changdeokgung Palace near the Anguk Station!

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A five minute walk from exit 3 will lead you to this gate, I believe.

Although I’m sure it would’ve been 10x better in the spring or early summer when flowers actually bloom… I really wanted to see the Secret Garden, “Huwon.” We bought tickets at the tour (about $5 USD, not including palace entry) and made sure to note the times for an English guide. Then, off we went… around the grounds in the freezing weather…

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Gorgeous structures throughout… very similar to the rest of the royal palaces throughout Korea… and maybe even Asia in general (depending on where you are, of course).

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The tour we took for Huwon was great. There are usually big groups, so during peak season, I definitely recommend advanced reservations.

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Yes, it looks very cold. And yes, it was very cold. The tour took us to areas around the back of the palace, only admissible by a guided tour.

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The guide was also great – giving you lots of history and background on each section of the gardens.

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Yes. Cold. Everywhere outside.

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The tour is about 1-2 hours and ends at the tree, if it’s the same as what we experienced. I highly recommend it if you enjoy historical landmarks.

After a few hours at the Palace and a warm-up drink in the heated cafe later, we aimlessly walked to Bukchon Hanok Village. My one peeve about Korea is the maps are nonsense! We asked for directions a few times from the tourist information people…

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Anyway, this village is a historical residential area filled with traditional “hanok” houses.

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It’s incredible for photos.

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A majestic look at the historical side of Korea right in Seoul. The streets are narrow, the architecture is beautiful; I loved walking around here even with the cold!

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So, a bit of educated guess-walking, and then we headed out. Onward towards the National Folk Museum and to the Gyeongbokgung Palace where we saw a royal guard changing ceremony.

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We opted not to go into the palace and just watched the ceremony instead. It was freezing… and most palaces are the same, eh. This was different.

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At the end, when all was done and guards were just standing around, they allowed photos with the guards. There were many colorful Kodak  moments.

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A warm snack from the street, and off to Dongdaemun Market to meet Matt.

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The market shopping was quick because everything was getting ready to close. We browsed through the claustrophobic back-to-back open stores and my mom found a stylish knit scarf. We left towards the house by way of Namsan Tower (North Seoul Tower).

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We leisurely but somewhat quickly (because of the cold) walked up to the Tower. We also had no idea if the tram was running so late in the evening, but yes, we did see it up there. Stunning night views… especially with all the lights on.

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And of course, locks from wishful, hopeful, blissful, and all-that-jazz-type couples on the barriers protecting you from falling off the edge. Then off to dinner at Chicken Baengi; we were starved.

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Fried Chicken. With mochi sticks.

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Honestly, I thought it was a tad on the pricey side for fried chicken. It wasn’t bad, but they had also run out of the best dish per my friend Matt. It served it’s purpose…. I think it definitely catered more to the fanciful crowd and I tend to love street food when it comes to dishes like these… but it was fine.

Back to the house, a bit of regrouping and slight packing and we spent the rest of the night at our very first Korean spa.

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If you have been to an onsen, it’s similar but with more options. It’s also a great way to crash for a night if you don’t have too much luggage. I think it was about $15USD per person per night?

There were hot coal rooms or sauna type spots, showers separated by the sexes and lockers, of course. You slept on a mat in a general public area and that was…. that.

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