Sunday, April 20, 2008

Changdeokgung and Insadong

Well, we finally did it. We made it out of our apartments! We decided to take advantage of the sunny day by visiting a palace and then strolling around Insadong for awhile. We went to Changdeok Palace ("gung" means palace) which is a huge complex of buildings and gardens.

All of the eves are brightly painted and so pretty to see. The different colors all have a meaning, but I can't remember now what those meanings are.

This is the part of the palace that the last of the royal family lived in until 1989. The palace has been destroyed and rebuilt many times. Construction first began on the palace in 1405 and the Japanese burned most of it down in 1592. Things have always been tense between Korea and Japan and it seems that there is not a single building that has not been destroyed and rebuilt because of conflicts between the two.

These flowers are blooming all over the city and they are gorgeous! There were huge bushes of them on the palace grounds. Thanks, Jordan, for the picture! It proves that Sam and I are actually in South Korea together :)

Our tour guide was very knowledgeable and spoke great English.

Unfortunately, all of the ponds had been drained for cleaning, but the "Secret Garden" or "Forbidden Garden" was still gorgeous. It was fun to imagine what it must have been like hundreds of years ago with kings and queens strolling around.

After the palace, we decided to walk around Insadong. Insadong is a bit of a tourist trap, but its a fun place where both older Korean traditions and the present are on display everywhere you look. Here, a woman makes traditional tteok cakes.

Here, a man dressed as some sort of animal sells balloons.

We also stopped at "The Old Teashop" for some cold tea. I had quince tea, a favorite of the Joseon Dynasty royalty. It was delicious. My guidebook had promised birds would be flying around the shop, but alas, we only saw a few in a cage.

After the tea we happened upon the Knife Gallery, where Sam and Jordan had a great (nerdy) time viewing the Lord of the Rings paraphenalia that was on display. They declared it the best 1000 won they've spent in the city... hmmm.

Afterwards we headed back to Olympic Park and ate dinner at a Chinese food restaurant there. We also attended the grand opening of the Cold Stone Creamery in the shopping center. We also discovered that the palace is open on Thursday mornings without the tour, so we will definitely be going back to practice our photography skills. We hope you all had a great weekend, too!

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