This travel had a lot of firsts. This was the first time that I went out of the country for leisure. This was my first time in a country with a winter season. This was the first time (since Saudi) that I traveled with my family. And the list goes on…
My trip to Seoul, although cut short, had been fantastic. Since I had no official conference or seminar to attend, I had the entire stay for touring around the different cultural and shopping places in the city. For more, I had my family as a company meaning I did not have to spend a single Won.
Day 1: Namsanggol Hanok Village, North Seoul Tower, Nanta Cooking Show
We arrived at Incheon International Airport at around 6:00am Korea time (one hour later). After which, we used the Airport Monorail to reach the guesthouse where we’ll stay. We stayed in Namsan guesthouse for the entire trip. It’s relatively cheap compared to other hotels or hostels but its facilities are pretty nice. For three rooms and seven nights, we only paid a total of KW154,000 (around USD 154).
After settling in, we went to our first destination. From Myeongdong Station (where Namsan was located), we walked to Chungmuro Station to reach the Namsanggol Hanok Village.
Hanok Village was a traditional Korean village preserved by the government. It was announced as a UNESCO World Heritage site given its old infrastructures and traditional themes. There are still families living in this village. They wear the traditional Hanbok, live in the traditional houses and work using traditional handicrafts. There are no entrance fees required to enter the premises.
The village gives a feel of how it must have been like during the ancient times in Korea. It’s amazing how something like this was preserved at the heart of a buzzing city like Seoul.
After Hanok Village, we trekked the Namsan mountain to reach the cable car station going to the North Seoul Tower. This is the highest point in Seoul. At the top of the mountain is a view overlooking the entire city. The cable car ride costs around KW 8,000 per person back and forth at any time during the day.
Aside from the beautiful city view and the very cold weather, there are also souvenir and food shops located at the feet of the tower. One very interesting spot are the tower fences, where tourists hang padlocks with the names of their special someones as a symbol of their love. I couldn’t resist but hang a few padlocks of my own (LOL).
Unfortunately, we did not have the time to wait until evening to go down the tower and witness the beautiful city lights of Seoul. The winds were also getting too cold for us so we decided to go to our last destination for the day.
We culminated our first day in Korea watching the Nanta Cooking Show. At first, I was worried since the dialogue of the actors might be Hanggol and hence, impossible for us to understand. As the play went on, however, I realized that there were no actual dialogues. The story revolves around chefs making music with their kitchen utensils. The play was very interactive and fun. The KW 40,000 we paid per ticket was really worth it. It was a great way to end our first day.
Day 2 – Lotte World, Myeongdong Market
For our second day in Seoul, we decided to lay low on the walking and just stay in one place. And so we went to Lotte World!
Lotte World is somehow like the Disneyland of Korea but with a relatively cheaper price than the latter. For KW 30,000 per person, we had the whole day to experience the different rides and attractions of Lotte World.
There are two parts of Lotte World, the indoor park and the Magic Island. In the Magic Island, we rode the different rides like the Atlantis and the Gyro Swing. We also entered the 3D Horror House.
The Adventure, the biggest indoor theme park in the world, follows a medieval European village theme. We rode different rides like the Pharaoh’s Fury, the World Monorail, the Sinbad and of course, the Carousel.
Our day in Lotte World culminated with its famous parade, a K-Pop themed concert and the laser light show. We left the theme park at around 9pm and had dinner in the Myeong-dong shopping district.
Day 3 – Palaces, Jongmyo Royal Shrine
For my last day in Seoul, we went to the different palaces of the Chosun Dynasty located in different parts of Seoul. We paid some KW 10,000 for a combination ticket for all the palaces.
For our first destination, we went to the Changgyeonggung Palace, which was first built as a secondary palace of the Joseon Dynasty in 1405. It had very old infrastructures, some of which were the actual abode of the concubines of the kings of Joseon.
The second place we visited was the Secret Garden. This was a very solemn and respected place since it used to be a retreat house of sorts for the royal families of Joseon. Tourists cannot enter the premises without any tour guides.
The Changdeokgung Palace itself was very elegant. It had different infrastructures with the King’s court as the main attraction.The King’s court was also the highest building in the palace compounds.
While on our way to the entrance of the palace, we passed by this tree which was heavily supported by wooden posts. According to the tour guide, this was one of the oldest trees in Korea and that it was a symbol of Korean history and culture. The 750 year-old tree had been there since the Joseon dynasty was founded.
After lunch, we went to the Jongmyo Royal Shrine, where the spirits of the Kings and Queens of Joseon reside. The compound had two houses, the bigger one housed the spirits of the most important kings and queens of Joseon while the smaller one held smaller kings.
Since Jongmyo was a royal shrine, there were pathways which was prohibited for humans to step on. These were only for the spirits of the kings and queens. According to the tour guide, filial piety was something they got from their long history of Confucianism as influenced by China.
Our last destination was the Deoksugung palace. This palace serves as the symbolic seat of modern Korea and the heart of Seoul. It was the main palace of the short lived Han Empire.
After an entire day of walking and touring around the different palaces, I ended my day with some last minute shopping in Myeong-dong before my departure. Being a fashion capital, Seoul has a lot to offer in terms of designer clothes and shoes. Shopping in this city is quite exciting.
After shopping, I was on my way to Incheon International Airport since I had an early morning flight schedule. I had to say good-bye to the cold weather, the busy Koreans and the kimchi.
I was only in Seoul for three days but this did not stop me from experiencing the beauty of Korean culture and tradition. Like Bangkok, this city has the right mix of tradition and modernity. Definitely, this city deserves a second visit.