July 20th, 2012

View from study (sunny)

Day 10 -- Gyeongbokgung Palace and the Dongdaemun History & Culture Park

Today was a full free day, so we spent it sightseeing.

After a leisurely breakfast of pancakes (with a variety of toppings), we took the metro (line 3) straight to the Gyeongokgung Palace. This was definitely worth seeing. It felt both old and new because though originally built in 1394 it was reconstructed in 1867. However, the site was beautifully laid out with extensive buildings in a highly ornate style, including a pavilion in the middle of a lake.

Highlights of the visit:

* Discovering that the attendant who was watching over the huge glazed pots had lived for a while in London. Her role seemed to be to make sure that no one touched the pots and to explain the charm that was strung between the gateposts.

* Walking into a courtyard to see people sitting cross legged in the open building, rows of shoes arranged on the steps leading up to it and a woman singing what sounded like an ancient song to the accompaniment of a drum.

* Leaving the palace right on time to watch the changing of the guard. The guards wear vivid costumes and are accompanied by a band of drums, trumpets and some kind of wailing wind instrument that sounds not quite entirely unlike a bagpipe. There is also an absolutely huge drum that gets beaten during the ceremony.

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So now we are relaxing until it's time to have dinner, then I will pack ready for our 5.30 am start tomorrow when the long journey home begins. :(

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