Korea 2008 Day Nine: Bukchon, Gyeongbokgung & Insadong

by Kara on October 16, 2008

Traditional Korean house (hanok) in Bukchon, Seoul.

Traditional Korean house (hanok) in Bukchon, Seoul.

Stephen and I had today all to ourselves. We got on the subway at about 9 a.m. and headed up to Anguk station. Once we got oriented, which can be a little difficult in Seoul, we headed off toward Bukchon. This was mostly a photo opportunity for Stephen to take pictures of the traditional Korean homes (hanok).

Next we headed toward Gyeongbokgung Palace. Interesting language note: gung means palace, so for westerners, it is basically called Gyeongbok Palace Palace. The Han river is the same, I often see references to the Hangang River. Gang means river, so they are really saying Han River River. When you see it written in Korean, it is just Gyeongbokgung and Hangang.

Changing of the guard at Gyeongbok Palace in Seoul, South Korea.

Changing of the guard at Gyeongbok Palace in Seoul, South Korea.

The palace and the other buildings on the grounds were beautiful, but once again, one of the most interesting parts of the day was interacting with school kids. There were thousands of them at the palace today, so I talked to quite a few kids. One group had a project they were doing for school and they were interviewing people (using the movie recording feature on their digital cameras). I was interviewed by two separate groups of girls. I disappointed the first group, because they wanted to know what Korean movie stars I knew of and I couldn’t remember any names. I was a big hit with the second group. They asked me if I liked Korea, and they were so pleased when I said I loved it. When they asked me why I was visiting Korea, I pointed to Stephen and said, “my husband is Korean and we are visiting his father.” They all got excited when I said my husband is Korean. It was really cute. When they were done interviewing me, one of the girls said, “this is my gift to you” and gave me a pack of gum in the traditional Korean way of holding out the gift with both hands and bowing her head. When I said thank you in Korean, they all squealed again. Kids seem to love it if westerners say anything in Korean. We also had several other fun little interactions with various groups of kids. One group of little boys were quite talkative. I thought they were very bright kids because they kept telling me I was pretty. I don’t know about their taste, but even at about eight years old, they know what women like to hear! Smart boys!

A couple of the many kids we befriended at Gyeongbok Palace.

A couple of the many kids we befriended at Gyeongbok Palace.

One of the buildings on the palace grounds was where Hangeul (the Korean alphabet) was developed. Friends have heard me wax poetic about Hangeul in the past, but prepare for another waxing. In my opinion (and it is shared by many), Hangeul is the single most important linguistic invention in history. Because it is so logical, it is a very simple alphabet to learn. Of course, that simplicity won’t help me memorize huge amounts of vocabulary, but my ability to read Hangeul has been an immense help to me during my trip.

After the palace, we headed over to the Insa-dong art district. The first thing we did was get some food because we were starving – it was nearly 2 pm. I had dubu-jjigae, which is a tofu stew. But I asked for it to not be spicy, and the waiter said it was not spicy at all. Apparently, he is not aware that the western idea of spicy is quite different than that of the average Korean. But at least it was edible.

Insa-dong was a little disappointing, because it was more touristy than I had hoped. So I didn’t buy anything although we wandered around quite a bit.

Wongak Pagoda in Tapgol Park is covered with elaborate carvings.

Wongak Pagoda in Tapgol Park is covered with elaborate carvings.

Next we went to Tapgol Park, which has a pagoda that is over 500 years old. It was beautiful, although they had it encased in glass to protect it from the elements and human hands. There was also a series of murals depicting the Korean struggle for independence from the Japanese occupiers. They actually made me get a little teary-eyed, they were so sad.

Finally, we went to Myeongdong and wandered around. It is an area very popular with teenagers and young adults and is always very busy. I think Stephen got lots of good pictures there. Then, exhausted, we headed home.

The second we walked in the door, Stephen’s Dad ran to make sure hot water was available and told us to take our showers right away before the hot water ran out. Water temperature is always the first thing he checks when we get back each night.

Check out more of Stephen’s pictures of South Korea.

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: