Posted by : Ruby Escalona Sunday, March 11, 2012

While I was researching for this Korea trip, one of the hindrances I had was trying to remember (and write down) the names for all the sites I wanted to see. Just trying to write down and remember the names of the five palaces was a tongue-twister in itself.

On my first day in Korea, February 18th, after lunch at Itaewon (a Subway sandwich), we took a subway to Gwanghwamun. It was a large square, dominated by two statues. One of the statues was of the King of Korea who pioneered the Korean alphabet. My new friends and I were amazed at the structures and got a group photo in front of the statue of the King. There, a young Korean child waved to one of my new friends and we fond it so endearing!

Fter getting our photo fix and tiring of the square, we walked to the entrance of Gyeongbokgung. THis is the largest of the five palaces in Seoul, and it has a changing of the guards timed almost every hour (check the site for time schedules) - we were a bit too late for the 1:00 changing of the guards schedule, so we just paid the 3,000 Won entrance fee and went in.

I never thought that these new friends would like palaces: seriously, as they were all boys, but then again, we are all toursits so they must also be curious about what the inside of a Korean palace would be like. One of the new friends has been to the Forbidden City in Beijing and said that Gyengbukgung looks like one of the Chinese palaces. We then had this theory that since Korea is connected to China, there are certain influences within the Chinese culture that would have rubbed off in Korea.

We saw the top of a pagoda somewhere in the distance and we all mutually agreed to find a way there after we have explored the grounds first!

Saw the throne room, where hoards of people were gathered around, taking photos. Eventually explored other parts of the palace, where there were other rooms or houses of sort, which we thought would house some of the servants (or concubines!)

Then the best part: there was a man-made island and lake within the palace and it was iced over. In that man-made island is another house-type structure. It was so beautiful and amazing. With al the trees around (with no leaves, of course, it was the dead of winter) and that iced lake, it certainly was worth the admission fee.

Of course, I can't help but wonder how beautiful the grounds would also be if I went there in spring and winter - with all the changing colours of the leaves!

Entrance to Gyengbokgung is 3,000 won. It's open from 10AM-5PM (during winter)
Best way to go there is to alight at the Gwanghwamun subway station and walk a few metres to the entrance.

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