Wow, we’re at Part 5 already, looks like this Seoul series is going to take forever to blog about. Anyway, in this post, I’ll be showing you the many sights of Gyeongbokgung Palace as well as the shopping in the traditional Insadong district. Oh, and I also watched a musical, “All Shook Up” on that day as well, more on that later!
Getting there: Myeongdong Station –> Chungmuro Stn (Line 3) –> Gyeongbokgung Stn
Just follow Exit 5 (and your fellow tourists), and you won’t be able to miss the palace.
Entry to the National Palace Museum of Korea was free, but it happened to be closed the day we went, which was a Sunday. 😦 It showcases thousands of artefacts from the Joseon dynasty, that famous dynasty that every Korean period drama centres around.
There isn’t much for me to write about in this post, so I’ll let the pictures do the talking. The palace grounds were extensive, and you could easily spend 2-4 hours here, depending on how much of a Korean history buff you are.
After spending a good hour walking around the palace grounds, we stopped to rest our feet at an area that was crowded with many tour groups. Turns out there was a museum located within one of the old buildings, and the entrance fee was free, so we decided to venture in.
The National Folk Museum of Korea was very large, with many different exhibits to gawk at. According to the website’s description, the museum features over 4,000 historical artefacts that were used in the daily lives of ordinary Korean people, and also offered visitors a chance to learn about Korea’s cultural beliefs.
Outside the museum, there was a small recreation of a farming village from the Joseon era, complete with real farming plots, water wheels and traditional ancestral stone statues.
When we were done with our palace adventure, we began walking in the direction of Insadong, which is around 1km away from the main entrance of Gyeongbokgung; a very walkable distance.
We stopped for lunch at a cozy second-floor restaurant which served Jeonju bibimbap, arguably the best I’ve ever tasted. There was delicious acorn jelly, and the ahjumma who owned the place knew that we were tourists, so she gave us more side dishes! We met so many kind people on our trip, and it was so heartwarming. 🙂
Getting there: Anguk Station (Line 3, Exit 5)
While walking towards Insadong, we encountered a lot of Caucasian tourists wearing hanboks and heading towards the palace. Turns out that at Insadong, you can rent hanboks for a few hours just for photo-taking at the palace! I wish I had known about this, because I would most certainly have loved to wear a hanbok on the palace grounds like a Joseon peasant (because I’m not rich enough to be royalty).
Ssamziegiel Mall is the main shopping attraction in Insadong; the rest of the shopping options are just small shops that sell traditional souvenirs. In this mall, there are a lot of small independent shops selling quirky artsy items. The prices are reasonable, and if you see something you like here, don’t hesitate to buy it because these shops can’t be found outside Insadong!
This stall was selling Korean (red bean-filled) pancakes shaped like poop; they looked seriously cute!
There were 3 floors of shopping to cover, and the architecture of the mall was simply stunning! The floor is inclined, so instead of taking stairs to get to the next floor, you’re constantly walking up a gentle slope. You have to see it for yourself, it’s an amazing piece of architecture and a shopping haven all in one.
This is the only Starbucks outlet in Korea with its name in Korean! It reads something like “seu-ta-beol-seu-ko-pee”, excuse my poor attempt at romanising Hangul. If you can’t read Hangul, you could very easily miss the narrow building that this Starbucks is housed in.
‘All Shook Up’ Musical
However, what made it one of the most memorable days of my trip was the musical we watched that evening. My favourite singer, Kim Sunggyu from the 7-member male group INFINITE, was the male lead in an Elvis Presley musical “All Shook Up”, and the experience was surreal. The musical was staged at Hongik Arts Centre (Daehagno), and the venue was crowded with fans.
I had booked the tickets to this musical via Interpark (a Korean ticket-buying website) 1 month before the trip, because I was worried that they’d sell out.
The musical was amazing, the set was beautiful and the cast was so painfully talented (and attractive), gotta love the Korean theatre scene!
Stay tuned for Part 6, which covers my visit to the ‘big 3’ Korean entertainment companies!