Friday, May 29, 2009

Korea - Day 7 - Gyeongbokgung, Myeongdong, Bukchon, Namdaemun

Day 7 in Korea and we were ready to hit some of the palaces in the city and also eat lots of food. I saw someone apologize on their blog recently for including too many "food shots". HA!!! If there's anyone who appreciates the food shot, it's us! Speaking of which, above is a picture of the red bean fish snacks called bungobang (no clue the spelling of that) that we got on the road outside of Gyeongbok Palace.So, today we visited Gyeongbokgung, one of many palaces that still remain in the heart of the city. There we saw the changing of the guard ceremony and took plenty of pictures of the dudes with fake goatees.Not sure why I found that amusing. Wanted to touch one (fake goatee) but some of those dudes looked pretty intense...didn't wanna get a finger bitten off.The gates of the palace were most impressive and there were rooms that showed how the royal family would live.Here are Pae and I in front of the main entrance to the palace.
We took a lot of pictures of the walls, doors, windows, roofs, tiles, etc. as they were very ornate, colorful and basically different from home.There was a museum within the palace walls as well. We bee lined it through the museum, but I did take some pics of a digital display showing many of the different outfits that Koreans have worn through the years. Here are a few of those...I thought they were pretty cool.Here is the museum from the outside. Outside there was a Chinese astrology "sun dial-esque" circle of animal statues, signifying the twelve astrological symbols. Got one of me and my pig "Year of the Pig" and Pae and her mouse "Year of the Rat" (Mouse sounds cuter)My favorite place within the palace walls was a pavilion called Gyeonghoeru that jutted out into a man made pond. It was used for royal banquets and entertaining foreign dignitaries. I thought it would make a great place to spend a picnic on a breezy spring day myself!Outside of the north gate of the Palace is a big blue building...called "Cheongwadae" or the Blue House. The Blue House is similar to the White House in the states, in that it is where the Korean President resides.We snapped a couple quick pictures then went hunting for food! We found a place that serves Samgyetang, a chicken stew made with ginseng, nuts, berries and rice.This place was pretty popular, the samgyetang was okay, but the thing that was the best was the giant bowls of kimchi given to each table with your stew. Normally you are given a small dish which is refilled upon request. Here they just give you the whole vat-o-kimchi!As we walked around the area between several palaces, we happened upon a place called Bukchon, an area in the city that has been preserved to keep the homes and little alley-way living of the past alive. The area is technically called Bukchon Hanok Village, hanok being the traditional houses from the past. It was mainly to show tourists and school groups the way that Koreans lived a long time ago, but they boasted a much larger area than was open to the public.The village open to the public actually had residents and the tourists were told that we could go look in any room we want as long as we knocked first to let the residents know that someone was coming in. The rest of the Bukchon was residents only. Here's an even better picture that we were able to get, from wikipedia, showing the tops of the houses in Bukchon, pretty awesome picture.After lunch we headed to Namdaemun Market. Namdaemun is another of the city's great gates.Namdaemun was burned to the ground by a disgruntled drunken dude in 2008, so we weren't sure what to expect. The city pretty much wrapped the site in a photo of the actual gate while they rebuilt it. We only saw a little of the actual structure through little cracks in the wall.The market itself was pretty cool, with people selling anything from jewelery and souveneirs to clothes and herbs. We walked around in a very hot shop that had about a hundred people sitting gluing fake gems on earring settings, rings, even headbands for girls. It was only a few minutes until we realized that this was a wholesale place where people came to make orders and even have jewelery custom made. I walked out sweating...from the literal "sweatshop".Lots of touristy places have underground shopping areas as well. I found this underground sign amusing. It was a sign pointing to the different underground exits for certain above ground shopping places. The English translation should say "Way out information". Perhaps they were trying to say, "We have everything you would ever want to buy right down here...why leave!!"Again, we headed for food! Here is the scrumptious omelette rice concoction that we ate in Myeongdong...fried rice inside, wrapped in a three or four egg omelette, topped with three tempura prawns, and smothered in sauce! MMMMMMMM!It may take us until next week to get Day 8 up, but it'll get there! Our last couple days finds us heading to the zoo and Nami Island. Fun! See ya soon!

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