Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Nami Island (Seoul Trip Day 2)

Nami Island (Namiseom) was formed because of of the construction of Cheongpyeong Dam. It is a small half moon-shaped island, named after a grave which believed to be the resting place of General Nami. The general led a great victory against the rebels in between 1455-1468, early in Joseon Dynasty.

Nami Island started gaining tourists' attention due to the filming of several K-dramas, such as Rosy Lovers (2014), King of High School (2014), and of course, the one that brought the island into the eye of the world- Winter Sonata (2003). It is famous for its picturesque tree lines plant along the small pathways. The trees- ginkgo, cherry, pine, birch, and several more fill the island with beautiful colours in autumn.

The island is around 63 km away from Seoul. We can go there by bus, by car, by MRT, or ITX train. ITX train was our choice because it took us only 60 minutes to travel from Yongsan Station (in Seoul) to Gapyeong Station. From there, we took a transit bus to the jetty. The bus trip was about 10 minutes. The trip from the jetty to Nami Island took us around 10 minutes. We reached Nami Island at around 11:15 am and left  the island at around 2 pm.

Yongsan station is big. It can be reached by MRT Line 1.

We can buy ITX ticket online from Korail Website (Choose the normal type train, and key in the date, destination, and number of passenger to get the information about available trains). The frequency of ITX train is one per hour. If we cannot secure a ticket with seat online, we can always buy our "standing ticket" at ITX counter in Yongsan Station (upper left). There was no limit for "standing ticket". We bought standing tickets from Yongsan to Gapyeong at 8:52 am. We had no problem standing in the train (upper right). We reached Gapyeong Station at around 9:50 am (lower right). The transit bus station is located in front of the station. The queue was long. We took around 30 minutes to get into a bus.

The shuttle bus stops at the place with special bus stop signage (red arrow, upper left). From there, look for a tall metal tower (upper right). The tower is used by the zip-line to travel from mainland to Nami Island. The ticket counter (lower right) and the jetty are located beside the metal tower.

Nice view from the ferry.

Once we reached the island, we can see a convenient shop on our left and tourist information center on our right.

There are several attractions scatter around the small island, including fountain (upper left), stone artworks (upper right), ostrich farm (lower right), and a few rows of eateries and souvenir shops.

There are small hut resemble the "kimchi hut". Kimchi hut is the traditional storage place for the clay jars fill with kimchi. 

Picturesque Korean tea house.

The main attraction of Nami Island is its nature beauty- colourful foliage in autumn.

Walking paths with visitors busy taking their photos.

Trees are planted along the path.

In fact, the whole island is filled with numerous paths with trees line up beside them.

Stunning view with trees in different colours around the area.

Some of the trees are starting to shed their leaves.

It is not easy to take a photo like this elsewhere.

We can either walk, rent a bicycle, pay for an electric train ride, or take a electric cart to tour around the island (upper left). The filming site Winter Sonata is marked with signage (upper right). Food and drinks are sold on the island. We tried the sausage (lower right) and ice cream. Nothing special at all beside the food were more expensive.

While other people are rushing to Petite French and Morning Calm Garden, we took an afternoon walk at Gapyeong Town. We tried to get a ride at Rail Park (upper left). However, the departure time couldn't match with our plan (upper right). Anyway, if you plan to go to this place, booking in advance at Gapyeong Rail Park is recommended. We decided to roam around the local market there (lower right). There were stalls selling local fruits, snacks, clothes, fishes, and vegetables there. The things there were not cheap at all. Anyway, we saw the whole garlic plant for the first time in the market. 

We don't really watch Korean Drama or movie, therefore Nami Island is not a big attraction for us. The biggest attraction to us was the foliage with autumn colours there. We reached Yongsan Station around 5:30 pm. We  visited Namdaemun Gate and Namdaemun Market before we went back to our hotel. We will share our experience in our next post.

Palace in Seoul - Changdeokgung (Seoul Trip Day 1)

Changdeokgung (昌德宮) was built in 1412 and served as the secondary royal palace after Gyeongbokgung. It is sometimes referred as the East Palace. The palace was burnt to ground in 1592 but then fully restored in 1618. The palace was served as ruling palace before the reconstruction of Gyeongbokgung in 1800s. It is the most well-preserved royal palace in Seoul. It is currently an UNESCO Heritage Site.

Unlike Gyeongbokgung which was built on a leveled ground, Chandeokgung was built with better landscape design. If Gyeongbokgung gives us a feeling of "huge and elaborative", Changdeokgung gives the feeling of "calm and beautiful". According to some records, there are trees that grown over 300 years in the palace compound. 

Changdeokgung is near to subway Anguk Station (line 3 exit 3). We need to walk for five minutes to reach the main gate of the palace. The entrance fee for an adult is KRW 3000. Secret garden is a part of the palace, but we need to pay extra KRW 5000 to enter the garden (the ticket can be bought only at the entrance). More information about the entrance fee and open hours are available at Imagine Your Korea website. Useful information can be obtained from the official website of the palace as well.

We reached the palace at around 3:15 pm, and spent around 1 hour and a half there. Due to the time constraint, we didn't visit the secret garden. Changdeokgung is smaller compares to Gyeongbokgung, and we are using the same way to go in and and out. Thus we won't miss out any of the hall in the palace.

Donwhamun (敦化门), the main gate of the palace. The ticketing counter is located on the right side of the gate. The ticket to the secret garden is sold at the counter as well. We queued for less than 5 minutes to get our tickets. 

Beautiful walkway behind Donwhamun. We can go straight to see the officials' office, or turn right to enter the palace.

 Shrubs and trees are everywhere within the palace compound. 

 Jinseonmun (进善门), the first gate within the palace wall.

 Long passage behind Jinseonmun. The throne hall is on the left.

The throne hall, Injeongjeon Hall (仁政殿) is smaller than the throne hall in Gyeongbokgung. However, it looks nicer with the proper stone tiles and colourful foliage.

The throne hall is extensively decorated. The electric lamps were fixed in 1894.

 Seonjeongjean Hall is the place for the king's council. The hall is located beside the throne hall.

The residences for the king and queen are located next to the council hall (upper left). The residences are well-maintained (upper right). The rooms are connected by corridors (lower right) or by sliding doors. 

 The crown prince study hall is located beside the king's residence.

Another side of the study hall.

The entrance to the secret garden is next to the crown prince's study hall. There is a ticket checkpoint there.

We can see many visitors moving around the entrance to Changgyeonggung. Changgyeonggung is located beside Changdeokgung. We need to buy the ticket at the entrance of Changgyeonggung.

Nakseonjae complex was the last building that we visited in Changdeokgung. It was built in 1847 for the concubine named Gyeongbin. The concubine bear the king's child on behalf of the queen, thus being given a nice place to live in the palace. 

A part of Changgyeonggung can be seen from Changdeokgung.

We left Changdeokgung around 4:45 pm. It was getting dark early in autumn. However, we still managed to visit Bukchon before our dinner. Bukchon traditional village is not far away from exit 3 of Anguk Station. We spent around 10 minutes walking along Bukchon-ro to reach there.

We went to Buckhon information center to get information about the traditional village (upper left). The road to the village is smaller compare to the main road (upper right). People are still living in the traditional hut called hanok (lower right). The narrow alley, the hanok, and the village have been preserved in Bukchon for more than 600 years. 

Our photo at Bukchon.

After a tiring day trip to Gyeongbokgung, Changdeokgung and Bukchon, we took some street food on our way back to our hotel. Next on our trip- Nami Island.

Palace in Seoul - Gyeongbokgung (Seoul Trip Day 1)

Gyeongbokgung (景福宫) was built by King Taejoin, the founder of the Joseon Dynasty, in 1395. The palace originally consisted of 330 buildings with more than 3000 staff serving the royal family.

The palace was burnt in 1592 during the Japanese invasion, rebuilt in 1867, but again almost completely destroyed by Japanese during their occupation from 1910 - 1945. Only a few buildings such as Gyeonghoeru Pavilion, Geunjeongjeon Hall, and Sajeongjeon Hall were spared. The major reconstruction of the palace is again started since 1990. Many palace buildings that we can see today are accurate replicas. To date, Heungnyemun Gate, Gwanghwamun Gate, the royal quarters, and the crown prince's quarters had been restored to their original state.

Gyeongbokgung is really huge. It took us 2 and a half hours to walk around the palace. Wearing comfortable shoes can ensure a good time walking through the ground with sand and uneven stone tiles. There are a few stairs to climb as well. Checking the weather forecast is important so that we can bring an umbrella in case of raining. We found only one cafe available at the souvenir shop. So we need to bring enough water to keep us hydrated if we are planning to stay long in the palace.

The ceremony of changing palace's guard is conducted in front of Gwanghwamun. The ceremony is held every hour starting from 10 am until 4 pm. The best spot to watch the ceremony is at the middle of the gate. We watched the ceremony at 11 am, before we started our tour around the palace. The ceremony however is a bit simple compare to the ceremony at Deoksugong.

The admission fee for an adult is KRW 3000 (around MYR 12). The detail about the opening hours and admission fees are available at the official site of Imagine Your Korea. A very informative map is available at The Soul of Seoul. We took subway Line 3 to Gyeongbokgung Station, and took exit 5. We could see Gwanghwamun on our left.

Gwanghwamun Gate was restored to its original state in 2010. The gate can be seen from Gyeongbokgung Station (upper left). The gate was beautifully painted with royal imaginary beasts (upper right). The royal guards attracted many visitors outside the gate (lower right). The ceremony of changing palace's guard starts at 10 am. We reached the gate around 10:40 am, and watched the ceremony before we continued our tour around the palace. The ceremony took around 10 minutes.

Heunghyemun (兴礼门) is the first front gate inside the palace's wall. There is a large square in between Gwanghwamun and Heunghyemum. The square was heavily guarded in old time. The ticket counter is located on the right side of the square. Click on the photo for bigger panoramic view.

Geunjeongjeon Hall (勤政殿) is the biggest and most magnificent building in the palace area. It is the throne hall in the palace. There is a gathering courtyard for the officials in front of the hall. The officials were arranged according to their ranking there. The higher their rank, the nearer their waiting position to the throne hall. Two rows (left and right) were assigned for the first three grades, the rest were one row each. This hall was built in 1867 to replace to one that was burnt in 1592.

Exquisite craftsmanship is exhibited on the top of Geunjeongjeon Hall.

The officials had to gather at the place designated for them, according to their ranking in front of Gyeongbokgung (upper left). The hall was built on two-stage stone platform with animal sculptures around located around the platform, including animals such as lions (upper right) and cat (lower right). We can see fine wood carved decoration in the throne hall, especially on the ceiling. 

The wooden throne of the king.

Sajeongjeon Hall (思政殿) is located behind the throne hall. It was the main council hall for the king- the meeting place for the king with the highest ranking officials. This hall was built in 1867.

Inside of Sajeongjeon Hall- the main council hall.

The halls such as Gangnyeongjean Hall, Gyotaejoen Hall, Donggung, and Sojubang Kitchen were restored after 1990. We walked around these halls through the passage beside the buildings (upper left). We could see the restoration work in progress in some of the buildings (upper right). The building patterns and craftsmanship are getting more simple (lower right). There are two structures that worth seeing- centralized chimney outside of Jagyeongjeon Hall with relief that symbolizes longevity, and the chimney behind the Gotaejeon Hall. These chimneys were used as the outlets for the smokes generated by the heating systems beneath the halls.

The backdoor of Jagyeongjeon Hall lead us to an open space with yellowish ginkgo trees. Click on the photo for bigger panoramic view.

The garden was beautiful in autumn mood.

Hyangwonjeong Pavilion.

This is a special structure at the back of the palace- Geoncheonggung (乾清宫), as it was built  by the mixture of stones, bricks, and wood. This structure was restored in 2007.

Jibokjae Hall is located beside Geoncheonggung. It was once the private study room for the king. It is now a public library with around 1000 books in collection. We started to walk back to the main entrance via the left sidewalk, where we could see Taewonjeon Hall, Gyeonghoeru Pavilion, and Sujeongjeon Hall.

Beautiful scenery of Taewonjeon Hall, which was restored in 2005.

Gyeonghoeru Pavilion was a place used for royal events. The current building was built in 1867.

Sujeongjeon Hall was built in 1867, served as the resting area for the king. The hall was built on two-stage stone platform in respect of the king.

Gyeongbokgung is really a place that worth a visit. The palace is huge, and really look nice in autumn. There are other places of interest nearby- Bukchon, Changdeokgung, Deoksugong, and several other places are within walking distance (10 - 30 minutes). 

We took a lunch break nearby Sejong Center of Performing Art, and then continued our journey to Changdeokgung.