Monday, April 27, 2015



I like staying at the Hotel Ibis - the room rates are reasonable and they are normally in a good location (near to a train/subway station and yet a bit away from the busy shopping area) and their beds are so cosy  and rooms are clean, and best of all hearty breakfast buffet is available(not included in the rooms rates) but it overcome the problem of having to go hunting for breakfast in the early morning when most of the shops does not open till after 9-10 am. I guess their breakfast food is regional ie in Paris we got those lovely croissant/breads and here in Seoul......

we have kimchi (it is alway available for all meal times!) and Korean food as well as the usual cereals and breads.  Each pax costs Won 11,000 with a 50% discount if we booked the night before.!

Outside the hotel...
Further down to the left and around the corner is Dondaemun shopping area

all dressed for the cold and ready for the day ahead.... 
As we were waiting for J & E to pick us up, I saw this staff of the hotel, an ajumma (older woman) cleaning the outside.  She not only was sweeping the floor area but what surprise me was that she even sweep the road and picked up the rubbish as well!  What a good attitude.. I found that these ladies do really take their jobs seriously. Another time in Jeju Island, the ajumma was squatting down to sweep the lobby of the resort manually no vacumn cleaner!  And just a note to say that the public toilets in the attractions and eateries are always clean, so are the streets-no litterbugs around!  I am sorry to say but I just can't help to compare!!!.  

Our first stop ....
Gyeongbokgung Palace

Gyeongbokgung, also known as Gyeongbokgung Palace or Gyeongbok Palace, was the main royal palace of the Joseon dynasty. Built in 1395, it is located in northern Seoul, South Korea. Wikipedia

The original palace was destroyed by fire during the Japanese invasion of 1592 and also during the Japanese occupation from 1910 to 1945 most of the palace was torn down.  So most of the palace was reconstructed and restoration to its former glory.

the main entrance known as Gwanghwamun Gate was restored in 2010. 

We were lucky to be able to catch the "changing of Royal Guards"  - 

very colourful flags...

the huge courtyard before entering to the numerous King's/Queen's Halls 

Budding plums trees 

As we were wandering around, we caught up with a Korean lady giving a free guided English tour of the Palace... how lucky.  We were  told by Eunice that these ladies are all voluntary guides. The main hall of the Palace... noted the elaborated architecture ceiling and there are a pair of golden dragons sculpture on the ceiling as well ... Chinese influence?

The Gyeonghoera Pavillion - the royal banquet hall where the king entertained his important guests. It sits on an island on this artificial man-made lake.  The wood and stone building is supported by square stone columns on the outside while inside the columns are round and this represents the Yin and Yang in the building.   

the living quarters of the queen and concubines..

See those planks hanging up.. they are actually the doors for this queen's palace

Below the palace are these fireplaces - this is how they keep the palace warm during the winter... ...

and the smoke from the fire will pass out beneath the ground and out through this chimney...

another fireplace beneath the palace 

A Korean traditional painting with the "Ship-Jangsaeng", the 10 symbols of longevity.
The guide explain "to enjoy a robustly healthy life in wise harmony with nature" is the key for culture and there are the 10 symbols that represented use to for immortality.  So can you spot them?

Answer:  the sun (source of light gives and nourishes life); mountains (unchanging as it keep its shape forever); water (flowing as rivers, waves, waterfall can avoid harm and destruction and overcome earth and stone) clouds (heavenly form of water) rocks/stone (hardest and most enduring things in nature); pine trees (can lives for centuries and remain evergreen in winter); mushroom (mythical - can bring eternal life to those who eat them); turtles (again can live for centuries) white cranes (messengers that can communicate to and from Heaven) and deer (gentle animals and medicine made from their horns increases human health and vitality)  

This is the garden behind the queen's palace and those orange coloured columns are the chimneys

We come to the end of the tour around this garden and beyond is the museum which we did not go.

Map of the Palace and its surrounding attractions. 

Next we walk towards the Bukchon Hanok Village..

This area is Samcheong-dong- filled with art galleries, small unique shops and restaurants

our first street food.... yummy.  

The traditional  houses are called "hanok: and are clustered together.  It is a living village inhabited by the Seoul people  but some of these have been converted into arts and craft galleries and museums too.

As we climbed and meandered through the steep alleys, we came across this 

site of Bokjeong Well which supplied water only to the royal palaces in the past.  Only on full moons in the year, the common people were allowed to use the water    

"Bok" means good fortune and they believe that boiling rice with the water will bring good fortune that year. 

This area is not only a tourist attraction but also a residential area.  There are signs requesting for some quiet and peace during certain hours.. but I just can't help go near this house to look at their ancient doors.   

another popular street food - grilled octopus with lots of bonita flakes - delicious!
Walking towards Insadong ....

Korean Cuisine Restaurant-Doodaemoon

Lunchtime.... place your chopsticks and spoon this way.... 

I have to thank Eunice for taking us around, we are ensure of the best of Korean foods this trip and not the touristy restaurants.

My first bowl of Bibimbap... 

the gochujang sauce is served separately and you can add how much or less as you like 

hot boiling spicy  beef stew/soup with rice 

sizzling hot plate too 

Enjoy and 맛있어요. Ma Sit Sso Yo. (its delicious!)

Beautiful plum tree outside the restaurant.. 

what's next?