We started the day a little later than expected after yesterday’s Myeongdong adventures. But once we managed to get off the pillows and grab some breakfast, we headed to our first spot – Gyeongbokgung palace.
I was very surprised to find Sakura trees just after the entrance. Whilst waiting for the free English guide to arrive, we snapped a few photos of the beautiful flowers. The visitors which formed the group grew from less than 5 to 15 or more in less than 10 minutes. Thankfully, our guide had a gigaphone and she spoke good English for a Korean.
The guide was really worth following because she summarized the history and unique traits of the building. Plus, she did have a sense of humor as well – always a nice thing to keep everyone’s attention. It was interesting to learn the ingenuity of how old Korea made heated floors and how their King was really inspired by Confucius. Thus, influence of Chinese design can be easily found within their architecture and culture.
Not far off from the palace grounds is the Blue House – residence of Korea’s current president. There was a designated photo zone just outside an exit and one thing you’ll notice here are the police officers standing by and what looked like secret service personnel. There was even 1 guy wearing aviator shades!
To the president, I tabit you.
Then outside of the main gate; Gwanghamun, across the road was Gwanghamun Square. On this path, you’ll find 2 large statues. The first would be King Sejong seated on his throne and the other is a statue of Admiral Yi Sun-sin. Though another spectacle there drew our attention – protests. They were happening in front of what looked like Olleh’s headquarters and another in front of the Admiral’s statue. During the time, we even saw a large amount of police force mobilized in groups. My best guess would have to be that they were going to break-up the protesters. But we decided to not stay around to find out.
Having walked a bit, it was time to hunt for food. If you’re a mobile developer reading this, please create a food finding app to be used in Korea. I tried using TripAdvisor, but found it not usable. It could list Korean food, but couldn’t filter to show only Korean food, but Asian food. Wha?!
Anyway, we were quite hungry and lucky enough to end up in a Japanese fusion shop specialized in katsu. I say lucky because there were a few newspaper articles highlighting the outlet between 2000-2005. The food was decent and price was about the expected range for Japanese food.
Once lunch was done, we decided to head down for a stroll along Cheonggyecheon stream. You definitely won’t find a similar setting in KL without murky waters and garbage afloat.
It was a pleasant and relaxing moment, until you see grey clouds and strong winds blowing. As a Malaysian, you’d know this signals the possibility of rain and it did, heavily. So we dashed to a nearby covered spot and watched it pour. Then, decided to step into a cafe called; Coco Bruni. A very elegant and classy place with coffee and cakes.
When the rain slowed, we headed towards the subway station which would take us to Seoul Station. From there, we took a exit 9 and needed to get onto the Namsan Sunhwan Shuttle Bus No. 3. But the problem was, where did we have to wait for the bus? This critical information was drastically missing from even the Namsan Seoul Tower website.
We ended walking to where we saw a lot of busses stopping. And it rained, again. Oh, I did not mention – we didn’t bring an umbrella with us. Sigh. Thankfully, we had many bus stops to provide cover. Alas, we still couldn’t find out where we had to get onto the needed bus.
Resorting to more luck, I asked the reception inside an office building – hoping they understood English. She understood and shared with me it’s a spot between their building and the police station. With this clue, we walked up and down the area she mentioned and managed to find the stop – which we thought should be right. In the end, we didn’t wait for the bus there because we were unsure whether it was the right spot – inconsistency of the map at the spot and website information wasn’t comforting either. Hence, we decided to go elsewhere to hop onto the bus. This other spot was much better and it at least referenced a building we could look out for when we were there.
Though we couldn’t ride the cable car up to the tower base, we were still glad to have made it. Walking up from the bus stop to the tower caught us a little by surprise. It was a path which felt steeper than 45 degrees. By the time we reached the top, we needed to catch a few breaths before buying our tickets.
Viewing the city on a cloudy day wasn’t fully satisfying, but we still managed to do the couple’s lock and enjoy a meal. The rain was definitely stalking us because as we latched the lock, it started to pour. Thankfully, all we had to do now was enjoy a hot meal near the window of a cafe and gaze upon the night city lights.
Tomorrow, it’s going to be another battle of rain. But this time, I’m bringing my Japan umbrella. Ha!