Friday, October 9, 2009

Chang Deok Gung/Palace in Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea -- Part 1

During this past Chuseok (Korea's harvest festival holiday) weekend Julianne and I headed out to Chang Deok Gung (Gung means 'palace'). I walk past the palace every day on my way to work, and the only reason I hadn't visited before was because I don't like guided tours. Apparently, Thursdays are the only day you can walk around by yourself . . .

Anyways, when we walked out of the apartment it was a beautiful day. This is a 'wedding castle.' Wedding castles can be seen all over Korea. They're really wedding halls, and seem to be a combination of Disney and Las Vegas aesthetics. If you're in Korea and get an invite to go to a wedding GO--it's a rather surreal experience, lol.

Every time Julianne and I walk by this wedding castle there tend to be a lot of street vendors out in front selling last minute gift items and accessories like belts and bling to spruce up your look for the wedding.

This is one of the main streets near my apartment--the blue sky was really nice.

The light and shadows were creating really cool images on the wall that runs along Chang Deok Palace, so I started taking pics as we walked towards the main gate.

I haven't done all that much black and white photography so I'm posting the color and monochrome pics together . . . some of the shots I took look really nice in both styles.

From wikipedia's entry,

"Changdeokgung, also known as Changdeokgung Palace or Changdeok Palace, is set within a large park in Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea. It is one of the "Five Grand Palaces" built by the kings of the Joseon Dynasty and because of its location east of Gyeongbok Palace, Changdeokgung, with Changgyeongung, is also referred to as the East Palace(東闕, Donggwol). The literal meaning of Changdeokgung(昌德宮) is "Palace of Prospering Virtue".

Changdeokgung was the most favored palace of many princes of the Joseon Dynasty and retained many elements dating from the Three Kingdoms of Korea period that were not incorporated in the more contemporary Gyeongbokgung. One such element is the fact that the buildings of Changdeokgung blend with the topography of the site instead of imposing upon nature.

Changdeokgung, like the other Five Grand Palaces in Seoul, was heavily destroyed during the Japanese occupation of Korea. Currently, only 30% of the Palace structures remain."

This is the main gate of the palace.

I took a series of shots of the main gate . . . here they are.

Julianne went to buy tickets while I got a place in line with the next group waiting to go for a guided tour. When she came back she told me that we'd have to go with a group that would be getting the tour with KOREAN commentary . . . lol. I think there are also tours in Japanese, English, and maybe a few other languages. Julianne and I didn't really care what the language was because we had already decided to 'lag behind' the group and do what we came to do: take pictures.

This is the view standing under the main gate and looking into the palace grounds.

One of the giant doors in the main gate.

Inside the first part of the palace are these huge trees on the left. They looked really amazing and I got some nice shots.

Looking back at the main gate from inside the palace.

Dad waiting for mom with the baby.

Julianne had to wait for our group to finish the first stand around and listen to the tour guide spot . . . so we killed time taking tons of pics of the area . . .

Our tour guide could speak fluent English too, and was really nice. She apologized for the tour not being in English, and asked if we were okay with that-wow.

A few more shots of the amazing trees just inside the main gate.

Finally, the tour group moved on to the next part of the palace and Julianne and I slowly followed after while taking pics.

In this shot I was trying to get the little stone statue on top of the post in focus with the rest of the picture slightly out of focus . . . I need to practice this type of shot more, lol.

The palace grounds have a lot of really nice trees--it might seem odd that I'm pointing out trees and not palace buildings, but the trees really add an element of beauty and history to the place (they're probably not that old, but still, they add something).

I'm not going to add all the names of the gates and areas of the palace . . . suffice it to say this is another gate--one of many.

Here's a map of the palace grounds that I took a pic of . . .

And another gate further inside . . .

The little ankle-biter on the left was funny--he kept racing around having a great time.

I liked how the shadows were lying across the stone path . . .

Julianne and I hit the palace at just the right time--3:30pm. The sun was still high enough in the sky that the surrounding hills and mountainous terrain weren't blocking it out, and the shadows that the buildings were making with blue sky in the background were great.

And yes, another gate . . .

I seem to be catching couples in poses within the frame of my picture a lot lately . . .

I really liked this stone courtyard . . .

I decided to lie down on the ground and take some shots to see what kind of effect it would produce with my 10-20mm Sigma lens--I like the result.

Black and white shots of blue skies produce some interesting shades of gray . . .

The 10-20mm lens is the ultimate for any kind of building/structure shot. You can get really close to the structure and yet at the same time not lose any part of it.

At this point a Japanese tour group arrived at this location, and our original tour group was way off in another part of the palace. There were individuals and pairs/small groups of people just wandering around on their own so Julianne and I weren't too worried about palace workers telling us to stay with our tour group. We just took our time and walked around getting the shots we wanted to take.

The view inside . . .

A lot of the palaces, well, actually pretty much all of the palaces I've visited in Korea all seem to be missing the items and artifacts that you'd think would be inside a palace. Cheong Deok Gung was no exception to this rule, although I will say it is one of the best palaces I've been to. I think the absence of these objects must have a lot to do with the destruction that took place under the Japanese colonial rule . . . but I also think a more informed answer would have to include some research about pre-colonial times and what palace decor looked like and what was actually in the palace life culture.

Another shot of the stone courtyard . . .

Moving on to the next area of the palace there were more cool trees--and a sexy girlfriend standing under a tree . . .

I'll finish Part 1 of this post with these shots . . .

Part 2 coming soon . . .


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