Monday, June 27, 2011

South Korea: Seoul: Gyeongbokgung Palace

2011 June:

We arrived at NAIA Terminal 3 a little earlier than we planned, the check-in counter for our 1:20 flight opened by 10pm. They are a bit slow due to excess baggage of some Koreans in front of our line. We finished the check-in process passed 11pm, when there are only few food stalls open at the upper level.

There is no queue on the Immigration, the officers are too strict, they requested for a company id (which I do not have, because I included it in my check-in luggage) and a returned ticket. As she saw that we will be there for 8 days, she told ‘Why are you staying there for too long?’. Then, we can hear her talking to other officer, “But, they also have a lot of stamps from their previous travels”. Good thing, it ended with a stamp on our passports and allowing us to pass the Immigration Check.

The trip lasted for almost 4 hours and 30 minutes, we were 15 minutes ahead of the expected arrival. Due to weather, we had experience some turbulence. We arrived in Incheon, greeted by the sun flashing brightly from the window panes.

Before landing, we got to filled-up the Custom Declaration. We missed to complete the Arrival Card, I’m already in front of the Immigration Officer, when she told me that I need to complete that other form (haha, how can I miss that one). Then, after 2 minutes of running through the pages of my 2 passports (without any questions), finally the Korean Officer stamped on my Visa. We got our things from carrousel #16. “Cracked, oh no”, after 6 years of travelling over 8 countries on 9 outbound flights – I broke the handle of my luggage – nah!

There is one foreign exchange counter before the arrival gates. But there are more than 3 counters outside the meeting area. We have exchange 200usd for 1055won/usd. Bought our Seoul City Plus card from GS25 and had a top-up of 10000won each.

We asked the Information on how can we reach the Airport Train –near Gate 08 is the elevator, go to the basement and walk on the other side.
You will see the signage below, left is going to the Commuter train while the right is for the Express train.

We bought a single journey ticket for the Commuter train (when I thought that Seoul City Pass still could not be used – wrong move!), and it took us almost an hour to reach Seoul Station.

We had a very long walk before we find our way to Line 04. From Seoul Station we dropped off at Hoehyeon Station and mistakenly took a wrong exit. It should have been Exit 04, turn left and another turn on the second street. I must say, the uphill direction before we can reach the Seoul Backpackers is too stiff and requires much energy to pull your luggage. The street going there is a little bit scary, looks unsafe - but as you get into the house, I assure you that will feel better.

Since this guesthouse is not our personal choice, but due to sudden room unavailability in Zaza Backpackers, they helped us move temporarily to Seoul Backpackers. We arrived at around 9am and since the room will be available by their check-in time at 2pm, we decided to proceed with our itinerary.

Breakfast? Oh yeah, we have no food intake since the night before the flight. It was hard looking for an open restaurant or café during Sunday morning at Namdaenum area. We tried to stop at one station, but every store we saw are still closed. Until we reach Gyeongbokgung Station, we saw this coffee shop near National Museum – we had this very expensive cold beef with bean sprouts for 15000won (600php).

Then, we find our way for the tickets (we though, that we can buy it cheaper with the Seoul City Pass Plus, but we did not get any discount). We were able to attend the English Tour in the palace – it was a good learning experience.

In Summary, the kings live on their own palace separate from his queen. The queen takes good care of all the servants and other wives of the king. The heating system of the palace does not use woods due to the smoke it produce, instead they use charcoal. Most of the buildings and arches found in the place were restored pieces due to the destructive invasion of Japan. The uneven flooring in the courtyard is for it not to be slippery in winter.

If you notice, the roof are already covered with nets.  This is to prevent the birds from building nests in between the roof design.

We were able to watch the exchange of guards in the palace at 1pm, the ceremony lasted for 10 minutes. They use big drums and old flutes before the guards do their marching.

Hours of Operation:
- Changing of the Royal Guard Ceremony: 10:00, 14:00
- Gwanghwamun Gate Guard on Duty Ceremony: 11:00, 13:00
- Royal Guard Costume Experience: Before and after the Changing of the Royal Guard Ceremony
- Gatekeeper Military Training: 9:30, 13:30 (running time 15 min.)

We were also able to visit National Palace Museum of Korea.

Since we are still hungry, and to satisfy our craving – we need to look for McDo or KFC (yeah, nothing beats that type of food), we decided to have a quick visit at Myeongdong – and near Exit 07, we had fish sandwich from KFC.

Back at the guesthouse, we waited for 30 minutes for them to finish cleaning-up our room. The room lock looks secure, have clean sheets, soft bed, hair dryer and few hangers. The guesthouse has mini bar, where you can get hot and cold water, a microwave oven, a common refrigerator, 2 computer units with internet connection, it has an elevator until 5th level. Maps are available in the front desk, Philippines is not included in the free international call that they offer. What is lacking? They do not have cabinets, TV has no English channel. They do not provide towels nor toiletries.

After sleeping for around 2 hours, we were able to freshen-up ourselves. We had a quick check on what to see in Namdaenum Market – my sister describes it more of like a Chinese Market. There are food stalls in the middle of the street. Some of the stores are for winter clothes, Hallyu memorabilia, and beauty products.

We tried to look for food that something we like, and we ended up with this store that offers beef and rice for only 4500 – 5000won and a self-service water.

After dinner, had to call it a day. We need to get some energy for tomorrows’ Nami Island.

Updated with photos taken on 2016 November 10 (for your autumn color reference):

We normally take the Orange Line Gyeongbokgung Station Exit 5, when going to the palace.  This time, we took Purple Line Gwanhwamun Station Exit 9, to roam around the square and meet Admiral and King Sejong.  Crossed the street to go to the palace gates.

Upon buying a tikcet, please present senior citizen card to get discount (this is applicable for foreigners).  You can either join the english tour or watch the 10:00 exchange of guards, every after 15 minutes.

I just finished watching my first full length traditional drama, Bogum's Love in the Moonlight, and it made me appreciate seeing the interior of the main hall.  

Good thing, we are still able to chase the ginkgo leaves and able to watch the exchange of guards.

Then we moved to Insadong, it is just so quiet in the morning just like Myeongdong. Don’t go there early, better to visit after 3pm to taste the street food as well.

Drama Location:
Goblin (aka Guardian: The Lonely and Great God; Gong Yoo, Lee Dong-wook) Episode 2 (19:50-20:49th minute, aired December 2016)
The scene when Kim Shin and Eun Tak return from Canada to Seoul.

Last updated: 2017 September