Saturday, December 14, 2013

Autumn in Seoul: Opa Gangnam Style

The Gangnam-gu (Gangnam District) in Seoul is undoubtedly the trendiest and the undisputed home of all brands expensive. Bespoke.

If you're looking for high-end shopping, this is the place to be. 

This is a district where people shop, leisurely. On the other side of the city, tourists go there to shop but the queue at Prada and Louis Vuitton are long and can be crazy. But here even time is a luxury they all can afford. 



Thursday, December 12, 2013

Autumn in Seoul: Gyeongbokgung Palace

My friends associate the Gyeongbukgong Palace with the Korean novela, Princess Hours. I don't remember having watched it but I can understand how this was chosen as the setting. 

It is magnificent. It is grand. In a modern city like Seoul, one would wonder how significant the place is given the scale of its size right in the middle of a metropolitan city. 

Historically, it holds much significance. In 1935, three years after the founding of the Joseon Dynasty by King Taejo (Yi Seong-gye), the new main palace, Gyeongbokgung Palace was completed after the capital of the new dynasty was moved from Gaeygeong to Seoul (then known as Hanyang). The palace was destroyed by fire during the Japanese envasion of 1592 and was not reconstructed until 1887, the fifth year of King Gojong. During the Japanese occupation from 1910 to 1945, most of the palace was torn down; only a few buildings including Gyeonghoeru Pavilion and Geungjeongjeon Hall were left standing. An effort to fully restore Gyeongbokgung Palace to its former glory has been ongoing since 1990. The Japanese Government General building was removed, making way for the full restoration of Heungnyemun Gate at its original state. The royal quarters and the crown prince's quarters were also restored their original state. In 2010, restoration of Gwanghwamun Gate, the main entrance to the palace, was completed. (Source: Gyeongbokgung Palace ticket)

So, there it goes.  The Gyeongbokgung Palace is the grandest of all five palaces to be found in Seoul. No wonder it is teeming with tourists.

And then, we witnessed the changing of the guards. Quite a ceremony. 

Forgive the hair. It was really windy!

As I said, the place is massive.

This gate led to such a beautiful lake, it makes you suddenly yearn for romance. 


Here's a close up. The devil is in the detail.

You need to buy a ticket to get into the inner grounds of the palace.
The tour will take you about about 2-3 hours of walking and gawking at the immensity of the place. The architecture is awesome. 

You can also feel like a royal for a few minutes. You can don the hanbok in one of the houses. This we skipped because I was already a princess the day before when we were at the Namsan Park. Ha ha ha. 

While we were enjoying the scenery and the weather around the palace, thoughts were swirling in my head -- it's awesome to be a member of a royal family but it can also be daunting. And then, I remember all those scenes in Korean telenovela's where the prince or princess gets away from the palace to meet with a girlfriend who's not of a royal blood. I realized that indeed it's possible. The palace ground is so huge, anyone stealth enough could slip from the royal guards. 

And here they are standing guard... albeit only ceremoniously. 

Thank you, Seoul for a royal experience. Anyeong haseo!



Sunday, December 1, 2013

Autumn in Seoul: Dosan Memorial Park

Seoul is teeming with beautiful parks strategically located in the different parts of this peninsula. One of those we had the pleasure of seeing is Dosan Memorial Park, set in the fashionable district of Gangnam-gu. 

From our point of origin which is Myeong-dong, we took a train that took us to the Gangnam station. Travel time is about 15-20 minutes. We passed by so many stations, I lost track of time and promptly lulled to sleep. Ha ha ha. 

By the time, we arrived at the Gangnam Station it started raining again with the wind furiously blowing in all directions, I was afraid my fake-suede boots will fall off even before the end of the trip. As we got off the train station, Anne and Vien were in a bind. How do go to the Rodeo Street again? They've been there on two occasions the past two years. 

They pored over the map to no avail. So, Anne and I volunteered to go inside a grocery store and ask for directions while Vien and Tyrone took shelter in a bus stop. Well, the Koreans are very friendly so they accommodated us. They took their time looking at the map we were holding. But trying was not enough; with their limited command of English, the best that they could advise us was to take a cab. And that it would probably take us five minutes to get there. 

We got a taxi pronto. Let me tell you the cabs in Seoul are clean, smell good and driven by very respectable looking cabbies. We told him we wanted to go to Rodeo Street and just like that he drove. That drive lasted for ten minutes with hardly any traffic, we only stopped at the traffic lights on red. Far! It cost us 6,000 Korean Won. About P240. 

It must be said that in Seoul they have a different system of naming a street. In the Philippines, a whole short stretch is normally what constitutes a street like Paseo de Roxas in Makati. Avenues of course are longer than the streets but then they're one whole stretches. In Seoul, a street has one whole stretch with so many auxiliary roads. It baffles me but am determined to find out how its urban planning works before our next trip. 

But am digressing. The point is it took us a circuitous route to get to this really pretty park. It's like the Salcedo Park of Salcedo Village in Makati. But way better and bigger. Apparently, the park is surrounded by luxury condominiums which are home to the stars and gazilionaires of Korea.

On foot en route to the park, we passed by a seemingly public showroom of Aston Martins, Porsche, Benzes and other top-of-the-line cars parked on the streets. But these sights were all eclipsed by the beauty of what greeted us in the park. 

Dosan Ahn Chang-ho.
The park was erected in his honor for his patriotism and for being at the forefront of the Independence movement.


What a pretty sight to behold. It would be incredibly satisfying to take long walks here in between office hours. I bet one could get his or her own little nook her to contemplate or just de-stress. 

Thank you, Dosan for a lovely afternoon walk in the park. 

Photo Credit: Tyrone Arreglo