Monday, January 26, 2009

Gyeongbokgung/Gyeongbok Palace in Seoul, South Korea

This past Saturday morning Julianne and I took a taxi to the train station to get out of Chuncheon and spend some time in Seoul.

I usually do two pics of the departure . . . one of the tracks and the train . . .

. . . and, of course, my favorite shot of the train itself with blue sky for a background.

As usual to pass the time on the trip (2 hours) I took pics of the landscape.

The window I had sucked cause of some black spots . . . oh well.

The Pink Hotel . . . hmmmm . . .

It's really cold here right now. The river has a lot of ice.

More winterscape shots . . .

I wonder if it ever freezes enough here to skate on the rivers?

The mountains were well lit and the skies had fantastic clouds . . .

A new highway and I think a high speed train line are being built . . .

On the outskirts of Seoul . . .

Jongno tower . . . I love photographing this building.

In the subway . . . this guy was staring at us so I stared back--with my camera . . . oh yeah, I hadn't chosen the right shutter speed and this is what I ended up with--a cool mistake . . . lol.

Julianne enjoying the subway's wind (note to self: use flash in low lighting--argh).

Lunch at the Smokey Saloon--again, the best hamburgers in Korea. We ordered some home fries and they had some spices on them--yummy.

"The Cowboy"

Julianne and I then got into a taxi to head to Gyeongbokgung Palace, Seoul. This palace is one of the three most famous palaces in Korea, and is also a major tourist trap. Wikipedia describes it as, "the main and largest palace of the Joseon Dynasty and one of the Five Grand Palaces built by the Joseon Dynasty." So when I got into the taxi and told the driver where to take us--in KOREAN--I did not expect to have any problems . . . the guy had no idea what I was talking about . . . no freaking clue . . .

I then handed him a tourist map of Seoul with the palace name written in KOREAN--nope, still no clue. Julianne pulled out her English-Korean dictionary and looked up the Korean for "palace" and I told the driver again in Korean the destination--nope, clueless.

The guy then started trying to type in the name on his GPS monitor to get directions--this is when I just gave up and told him to take us to Insadong market which is about 50 meters or so away from the palace. He knew Insadong which was a relief because I was going to tell him to stop and get Julianne and I out of the taxi if he didn't know Insadong.

Julianne made a very apt comparison of our driver being like a cabbie in New York who didn't know how to get to Central Park--unbelievable!

He finally realized where we wanted to go after finding Gwanghwamun (the big gate in front of the palace that is being renovated) on his GPS and asking me if that was where I wanted to go--I said yes since it amounted to being the same location as the palace.

We finally arrived at the palace and walked towards the main entrance.

Some info from here about the palace,

"Built at the beginning of the Chosun Dynasty when the Yi Dynasty moved the capital to Seoul, this palace remained the main seat of power for Korea kings throughout much of the time to the present. Gyeongbok means Shining Happiness. The main gate (Kwanghwa-mun) separates Gyeongbok Palace from one of the busiest areas of Seoul. Gyeongbok Palace was built as the primary palace of the Chosun Kingdom by its founder, King Taejo in 1395, the fourth year of his reign.

It was destroyed during the Japanese invasion of 1592 and left in ruins for over 250 years. Starting in 1865, it was rebuilt to its original grandeur. When Korea was annexed by Japan in 1910, most of the 200 buildings on the palace grounds were torn down by the Japanese, leaving only a dozen structures. The map near the front entrance shows the arrangement of the complex during the latter part of the reign of King Kojong. It shows the major hails, pavilions, offices, storerooms, gates and bridges of the 419,100 square meter grounds."

I tend to think the palace is small and not all that impressive . . . but "most of the 200 buildings on the palace grounds were torn down by the Japanese, leaving only a dozen structures." So the palace I look at today probably bears little to no resemblance to what it was originally. I think that's sad.

We got there just in time for the changing of the guard.

These guys must have been really cold.

I was trying to use the manual setting on my camera, then switched to the aperture setting . . . the colors turned out well, but the images need more focus.

It was a beautiful day.

I think this is about when Julianne accidentally hit the auto/manual button on the bottom of her camera . . . we couldn't figure out why her lens wouldn't focus and she was quite unhappy. I took a look at it but because it's a Nikon I don't know the model well. (We figured out the problem later that night and it's working fine now).

Julianne enjoyed walking around and looking at the palace grounds--but I knew she'd rather have been looking at the palace through the lens of her camera while taking pictures. She still had a good time but it's just not the same when both of us can't enjoy taking pics together.

Exchanging passwords . . . I think.

The flags are interesting.

I like this shot. You get to see the side and front view of one guy, and then the back of the other. You can get a good idea of what equipment and weapons they are carrying.

Change done, time to go back to wherever they came from and warm up.

I wanted to get some crisp, colorful, closeups . . . almost, almost . . . argh.

I like the blues here.

I wish that this pic was more in focus. I really like it but didn't manage to nail it--oh well, I still like the pic.

We had to go buy tickets to go into the palace. I think it was something like 3,000won each.

Frankly, the temples and palaces in Korea are not all that much to look at once you've seen 3 or more. It's the Korean landscape that combines with the palace to give it the qualities I appreciate. I think a lot of this has to do with how many were damaged if not destroyed during the Japanese colonization and the Korean War.

This is a shot of the exterior wall of the palace next to the ticket booth (out of sight and to my right). Behind the palace are some really beautiful mountains.

Taking a few more shots outside the main gate.

Just inside the first gate looking at the second . . .

During the spring and summer the trees and plants make this area look a lot nicer. The snow and blue sky make it look pretty good too, though it's a little too minimal for my taste.

Standing on a tiny bridge looking at the second gate.

Just on the other side of the second gate.

To the left of the palace is another wall with pillars. We walked almost to the end of that wall to a door that leads to another area with a building surrounded by a kind of moat.

This is a really beautiful place in the spring and fall (especially when the leaves are changing color). With the water frozen and covered over with snow it looks good IF the light from the sun is right, and the sky is blue.

By this point Julianne pretty much was ready to get out of there because her camera wasn't working. Ordinarily we have a great time walking around and taking a bizillion pics together--but watching your boyfriend taking pics while your own camera is not working is not much fun for a photographer.

We snapped a few shots of us together here.

We walked around a bit more . . . there were a lot of tourists there too. We heard some Vietnamese, Chinese, and maybe some people from the Phillipines talking and walking around.

Julianne likes the monkey sillhouette roof decorations.

More shots of the different structures on the palace grounds.

As I said before there are mountains that lie in the background views of the palace that make for some breathtaking scenes.

Behind the palace and to the right is National Folk Museum of Korea. This is a shot of the pagoda that sits on top of the museum.

The folk museum is a great place to go to during the late spring, summer, and early fall. I've been there when they hold traditional dances in full costume and gotten some awesome pictures. I highly recommend visiting this place at least once if you're in Korea.

In the courtyard there is a circle of Chinese zodiac animals.

Julianne's animal is the Pig. I'm a tiger.

Shot looking at the folk museum building and grounds.

Outside the palace grounds and walking towards Insadong we saw this,

We headed back to our hotel to rest and eat some dinner. The next day we would head to COEX mall . . .



AM said...

Do you know what time(s) they do the changing of the guard? I think Emma (our 2.5 year old) would like to see that and I wanted to time our trip there accordingly.

What do you think? Fun place for a kid to run around and explore?

Jason said...


I think they do the changing of the guard ceremony each hour on the hour . . . I'd recommend spending an hour or two on the Net checking out Korean tourism websites and bookmarking them.

I think Emma would enjoy it. I think she'd like the national folk museum a lot because they have games and stuff there for kids. I don't know what stuff there is for her age as it's not usually on my radar so take my advice with a grain of salt.

The aquarium at COEX would definitely be a great place for Emma--but bear in mind the tickets are pricey.

Have fun,

Jason said...

Here are a couple websites to get you started.


AM said...

great thank you! Maybe we'll check out the castle and the folk museum on Monday. For some odd reason, my husband gets Monday off because of The Super Bowl...

AM said...

well, maybe not Monday, looks like the palace might be closed Mondays. I'll keep reading.

AM said...

haha- wrong palace. The one you went to is open monday/closed tuesday. The other Seoul palace is closed monday. I should really read carefully before I post something!