Korea

Here there are some things that have impressed us most while travelling around Korea. I would highly recommend you visiting them, if you have a chance.

Seoul

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“A megacity with a population of over 10 million, it is the largest city proper in the OECD developed world.[6] The Seoul National Capital Area is the world’ssecond largest metropolitan area with over 25 million inhabitants, which includes the surrounding Incheon metropolis and Gyeonggi province. Almost a quarter of South Koreans live in Seoul, half of South Koreans live in the metropolitan area, along with over 275,000 international residents.

Located in the Han River, Seoul has been a major settlement for over 2,000 years, with its foundation dating back to 18 B.C. when Baekje, one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea, established its capital in what is now south-east Seoul. It continued as the capital of Korea during the Joseon Dynasty and the Korean Empire. The Seoul National Capital Area is home to four UNESCO World Heritage SitesChangdeokgungHwaseong FortressJongmyo Shrine and the Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty.[9]

Today, Seoul is considered to be a leading global city, ranking among eighth in the Global Cities Index of 2012 and seventh in the Global Power City Index of 2011. The metropolis is involved in many global affairs, exerting rising influence as the host of the fifth most international conferences worldwide in 2010. It is one of the world’s top ten financial and commercial centers, home to major multinational conglomerates such as SamsungLG andHyundai-Kia. In 2008, Seoul was named the world’s sixth most economically powerful city by Forbes. Seoul was voted the top travel destination by Chinese, Japanese and Thai tourists for a third consecutive year in 2011.

Hwaseong Fortress – in Suwon

Hwaseong Fortress is a part of UNESCO World Cultural Heritage. The construction period of Hwaseong was between Jan. 1794 and Sept 1796. The walls of the fortress surround the old part of Suwon and go high up into Mountain Hwa. While walking the steep steps up to the top watch tower (“Seonodae” and “Seojangdae)”, one can’t help but wonder how people were able to erect this remarkable structure using heavy stones at such heights without using heavy machinery and yet within such a short period of time. One can’t help but wonder, how many masonries, builders, welders, woodworkers, carpenters, etc. were put to hard work to create this “Flower of Castels.” Along the fortress walls they also established Yongjusa Temple to pray for the souls of the dead. All government offices and private houses that had been located under Mt. Hwa were moved to the lower part of the Mt. Paldal, which became current Suwon city. Hwaseong is known as a masterpiece in the history of fortification. It consists of 41 facilities, but 7 of them were not restored.

Steps to the top of Mt. Hwa
Yongjusa Temple
Hwaseong Fortress – walking the walls
Mt. Hwa
Gongsimdon – lookout for soldiers
Janganmun – one of the four main gates

Korean Folk Village – in Yongin city

If you are looking for the Korean equivalent of Western Renaissance Fair, you can find it at Korean Folk Village. With the admission ticket of W15,000 ($14) per adult, one can experience life of Korean folks going back hundreds of years. There are numerous vendors, coffee shops, tea places, food courts, souvenir stors, street performers (nobility, royalty, beggars, signer), horse riding show, Korean traditional wedding, plays, dance, and miles of picturesque walking paths to enjoy the nature. It is really worth your day.

Korean Folk Village
Korean Folk Village – Horse riding show
Korean Folk Village

Korean Folk Village

Everland, Yonging-si

Everland is a theme park that belongs to Samsung. Everything best in Korea belongs to Samsung. This park is no exception. It reminds very much Disney park. The park is huge with five different sections: Zoo-Topia, European Village, American Adventure, Magic Land, Global Fair with souvenir shops. It is a great way to spend a day with family or friends. However, one day is not enough to see everything. Enjoy photos.

Everland
Everland
Everland
Everland
Everland
Everland

Seoul Grand Park

If you decide to visit Seoul Grand Park, be prepared to walk all day and still leave many things unseen. This is an immense park system that hosts Botanical Gardens, Rose Park, Seoul Zoo and an Amusement Park. The territory on which these examples of modern civilization are located is so vast that these four sections do not seem to cover more than 20% of the park. Mountains, lake, and forest – all seem to engross the four fenced areas where people are congregate in massive numbers. Truly, this is The Grand Park, in all senses of the word.

Zoo keepers in their silk uniforms
Zoo animals – some of them are running right above you. Watch out!
Walking for 30 minutes from the subway station, and still there is no zoo entrance in sight… We do not mind having the running shoes. However, the beauties in 6 inch platforms must be hurting. (I am serious, they wear high heels everywhere)

Korea, Gyeongbokgung Palace, Seoul

Built in 1395, Gyeongbokgung was the main seat of government activity of the Joseon Dynasty, which ruled Korea between 1392 and 1910. The palace was devastated through tumultuous times of the Japanese Invasion of Korea in 1592. The restoration began in 1990. The arrangement of the palace consists of official quarters, living quarters and resting place for the king, queen, queen mother and the prince or princess – future kings. Along the central axis there is entrance gate, the throne reception hall, reception hall, king’s and queen’s residence. Other buildings stood asymmetrical, creating unity and variance at the same time.

Main Entrance Gate
Reading Room for the King
Banquet Room and Relaxing Room
Korean National Museum (former servants rooms)
Throne
Changing of the Guards

Korea, Deoksugung Palace, Seoul

Deoksugung palace is located next to the City Hall, right in the heart of modern downtown Seoul. It was the main palace during the Daehanjeguk period of Joseon Dynasty. After the Japanese Invasion of Korea burnt down all other palaces in Seoul, the king took over the then residence of a crown prince to stay. Deoksugung are embellished with spring cherry blossoms and yellow leaves in fall.

In Seoul there 5 main royal palaces. Each palace’s name ends in “Gung,” which means “residence”. Every building within the palaces walls has a specific purpose, therefore bears a specific name. However, should a king ever use a particular building for pleasure or business, that building would bear the ending “jeon”. For example,  “Junghwajeon” – the main throne hall, and “Daehanmun” – the main gate.

Jeonggwanheon (a pavilion in the garden)

Korea, Insadong, Seoul

A place to walk, shop and eat.

Insadong is an area of antique shops, street vendors of Korean souvenirs and what-nots, paintings, art galleries, exhibit halls, paintings, art supply stores, restaurants, coffee and tea shops… Oh, tea shops! I have had a divine experience of drinking the most delicious tea at a tea place in that street. I ordered Six Taste Ice Tea, it did not look nor tasted like anything any American would expect an ice tea to appear. The tea was chilled and yet had only two cubes of ice; one of the ice cubes was frozen tea itself. The ice did not dilute, but underlined the crisp taste of the tea, which had a hint of sweetness to it. My husband ordered good and old hot Lemon Tea, which again was a visual surprise of a faint yellow color and a cup half filled with a shredded lemon. Rice goodies almost turned the tea drinking into a full meal, and we had to walk before we could stop at a restaurant for a Round 2 of eating.

You will be surprised to discover treasures hidden at every back alley. This is where we found and tried traditional Korean style food: Bulgoki and Korean Beef Ribs… Eating modestly at a local student cafe I began to think that Korean cuisine is almost vegetarian. What a nice question to be wrong about. Bulgogi is rated 23 on World’s Most Delicious Foods list, and this was an excellent place to try it at.

 Lotte WorldLotte is a family owned business, which includes a large chain of food stories, department stores, hotels and a theme park. Lotte World theme park is located in the heart of Seoul. More than half of the park rests inside an enormous building complex, which makes it a favorite family destination in winter and during the rainy season. Lotte World has a variety of rides for people and children of all ages, as well as numerous cafes, restaurants, souvenir shops, Korean Folk Museum, and an outdoor island with more rides. The entrance fee is a bit pricy, so it is best to head out to the park for the entire day to make it worthwhile. However, after 4:00 pm entrance tickets get some discount. Lotte theme park is very popular with families, which brings large crowds. Yet, crowded places in Seoul are more of a regular routine than exception. Still, if you have a restless child and it has been raining or freezing for weeks, Lotte World is the right place to give it a try.

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Garden of Morning Calm

In Korea hiking is a national pass time, and as a result there are hundreds of picturesque walks, trails, parks, mountains, and botanical gardens. Professional and armature photographers can capture stunning images of nature during any season. However, winter landscapes may get a little sad, and to combat that, as I have noticed, many botanical gardens enlist in some help from decorative lightning. For example, check out the images from the Garden of Morning Calm located in Gyonggi-do province, where a Festival of Christmas lights is taking place from December to March. As you can see, a tourist can find places of interest during any season to make the trip to Korea worthwhile.

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