Helen (heleninwales) wrote,

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.

The palace seemed really popular with Koreans, including school parties and we did have the misfortune to leave just as a swarm of young teens had descended upon the metro station. For some reason, though they were travelling as a group, they were all buying their tickets individually. Some of them also seemed even less au fait with the machine than we were, so a couple of the girls were getting tickets for their friends. Anyway, eventually they all moved away and we could buy tickets and find the train to the Dongdaemun History & Culture Park.

This turned out to be a bit disappointing. There was supposed to be an exhibtion hall and a museum of ancient exhibits, discovered during the excavation of the ancient bit of city wall, that is preserved and we did manage to see. However, the promised exhibition space appeared to be closed and there was scaffolding all around. There was no sign of a way in, other than a cafe, so after leaning over the low modern wall to examine the short stretch of exposed ancient city wall, we decided to call it a day and head back to the hotel. Checking on the internet afterwards, it was a bit vague about whether it was open or not, but one of the attractions of the area was the giant department store across the road. However, as G has a phobia of shops and spending money :) that didn't count as an attraction in his eyes.

After relaxing for a while, I left G resting while I went to explore the Shinsegae department store in search of a tiny suitcase padlock. (Somehow I managed to lose the one from my case between Seoul and Busan. Presumably I hadn't clicked it shut properly.)

It was an impressive store and if you like designer clothes, it would be like heaven. Sadly I was not there for serious shopping, so I wandered around, failing to find what I wanted. There were plenty of brand name suitcases, but none were the zippered kind, so perhaps that's why there were no padlocks? After exploring all the floors apart from the top two (children's wear and the restaurant), I headed back down into the Central City shopping area, where I equally drew a blank, though I did find a Smile Mini-Mart that had a display of travel things, like sewing kits, scissors, USB memory sticks, travel sized toothpaste and shampoo etc. If anywhere was going to have one, it would have been here amongst the other travel paraphanalia, so I gave up and returned to the hotel.

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. :(

[Cross-posted from Dreamwidth by way of a backup http://heleninwales.dreamwidth.org/53183.html. If you want to leave a comment, please use whichever site you find most convenient. Comments so far: comment count unavailable.]
Tags: what i did on my holidays

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