We had a great last day in Seoul. We went and visited a palace, then an interactive museum, then dinner with friends...a fantastic way to end our first visit to Asia!
The Changdeokgung Palace is another UNESCO world heritage site. We were a little hesitant because they wanted 8,000 won ($8.80) each to see both the palace and the "Secret Garden". But we were pleasantly surprised when we got to the ticket booth and found out that the last Wednesday of each month is "cultural day" and there is free admission to the palace grounds. That meant we only had to pay the 5,000 won ($5.50) each for the secret Garden tour.
Main building at Changdeokgung Palace.
Nice wandering around the grounds, but we've seen so many palaces and temples over the last four weeks that they all begin to look the same. And part of the problem with this particular one is that everything was burnt to the ground during the Japanese invasion of 1592. Rebuilt and burnt again several times over the next few centuries, with the most recent fires being in 1917. So there's not much in the way of original structures or artifacts here. In fact, most of the rooms are empty.
Did find this room with some sparse furnishings.
And this neat looking mother of pearl couch.
Lots of these little statues decorating some of the roof structure.
Another part of the palace. Like I said, most of the buildings are empty.
To get into the Secret Garden, you need to buy a ticket and you can only enter as part of your tour group. So of course we signed up for the English language tour at 1:30pm, and entered with that group. But then as soon as we entered, the guide said that we were also free to explore on our own so we're not quite sure why you can only enter as part of the group.
We stayed with the group for the first four or five stops of the hour and a half long tour, but figured that we weren't learning much and so we went off on our own.
The Secret Garden.
The Secret Garden isn't really a garden, it's actually a park. But, it's a nice park for wandering around for an hour or so.
Our tour group. We didn't hang around with them very long!
Still some beautiful fall colors.
So we left the palace and walked to Tong-in market where we had read that you could buy 5,000 won ($5.50) worth of special coins that could only be used to buy lunch at different stalls in the market. So you could eat a buffet style meal of some of the different foods being sold.
But as we were walking, we went past another palace, and they were doing the changing of the guard!
Changing of the guard at Gyeongbokgung Palace
This vendor had a lot of choices!
So you go around to all of the different vendors, and they take one, two, or three of your special coins depending on what items you choose. Your 5,000 won doesn't really go very far, but there is a lot of choice and you end up with a decent lunch. We were going for dinner with June and Park, so we shared a lunch between us.
The only problem was the "gluten free" thing. Really difficult to figure out what might have wheat flour and what might not, so I used google translate and got the Korean translation for the question "does this contain wheat flour" and used the iPhone to pose the question to the different vendors!
Nope, no gluten here.
So on the bottom left it's some kind of egg and seafood dish, and the bottom right is like a pork stew of some kind. Then roasted eggplant (we think) in the one cup, and pineapple in the other. And on the left is five rice cakes for dessert!
The, we went to meet June at the Alive Museum. This is a franchise attraction that lets you become part of a 3D art display. The idea is to get interactive with the display, and then take a photo of it! Best visited with a group of three or four people!
There are probably 50 different displays, so we have a lot of pictures. We'll show you a few of the better ones here...
Ruth, doing Mona's hair.
June, still in the womb!
June, with the puppeteer.
Kevin, going through the gears!
Ruth of Arabia!
Kevin, crossing the rickety bridge.
June's boyfriend Park joined us there when he finished work...
Park, proposing to June. She said no because the diamond isn't big enough!
Kevin and the last straw.
Ha ha. Park.
These Korean parents don't look very impressed with their child!
Park, in outer space.
Definitely a fun way to spend a few hours. Wouldn't want to have been there when the place is really busy because it takes a fair amount of effort and set up time at each display to ensure that the picture turns out the way it's supposed to. But if you can get there at a quiet time of day, then it's a lot of fun. We were there on a Wednesday evening between 5:30pm and 8:30pm, and it was okay. Weekends would probably be too busy to be worthwhile.
Afterwards, we went out for dinner. Had a huge pot of spicy chicken stew...it was really good and we enjoyed the company!
Park,. June, Ruth, and Kevin.
Thanks so much to June and Park for making our stay in Korea so memorable. And of course to all of the other people we interacted with during the last four weeks. We had such a wonderful time with all of you. It was a great trip!
Next post will be from Seattle, Washington, USA!