I had my first day of sightseeing in Seoul. Going to many places I understood why it is so big. I could say it is divided into two parts, modern where people live and work and traditional where they preserve the cultural heritage.
At night I slept only 2 hours then couldn’t sleep back. At 7am I went down to eat breakfast and only ate 2 slice of toast with peanut butter and jam and a bowl of cereal. It wasn’t really enough, but I was thinking I would eat in Namdaemun anyway. I left the hotel around 9am. I walked to Sinpung station but got lost again, so I had to ask for the right direction. The distance wasn’t a joke. It was around 10 minutes walk to the metro station. I wanted to buy T-money card, which needs to be charged with money and then tap when you get on and off the public transport. But unfortunately the vending machine didn’t sell the card, so people I asked for help told me to buy single ticket and then buy the card at the store.
My plan was to see SM and YG Entertainment companies, Dongdaemun, Namdaemun, Myeongdong, Sodaemun, Bukchon Hanok Village, Kyeongbokgung, Cheongdokgung and Jongmyo Shrine.
So I took metro line 7 to Cheongdam station and going up to the surface I already saw the company. I guess it was still early, as there weren’t a lot of people out on the street, only few old people. But I was shocked when I got on the metro around 9:15am. Almost everyone slept. It felt like as if they worked overnight.
Meanwhile I bought the T-money card and GS25 store. The card itself costs 4000 Won and then I put 10.000 Won more to use it. It was more expensive than buying from the vending machine. From the vending machine it is just 2500Won. And of course in another metro station there was a vending machine that sells the card. Only my station didn’t have. I took metro line 7 and went back 2 stations and changed to metro line 2 to Hapjeong station. I wanted to find YG company but when I went up I only saw cars on the highway-like roads. I couldn’t cross the road to get to the other side to approach the river as the company is near to the river. I already got fed up due to the hot and humid weather, so I left for Dongdaemun.
During Joseon Dynasty, the city was surrounded by 8 gates through where the capital could be accessed. They were all built between 1396 and 1398. The gates can still be seen, but the function of the area has changed. Dongdaemun became a big shopping centre. The shape of the building is really unique and huge. Near it you can still find the gate of the old times.
Then I took metro line 4 to go to Myeongdong. It is a shopping district as well. You can find many clothes shop, such as Forever 21, Zara and restaurants. I wanted to walk to Namdaemun, but I couldn’t find a way, so I took metro to Hoehyeon. Namdaemun became a market with stores, where you can buy bags, clothes, souvenirs, and many street foods. I ate Omuk and kimbap there. It cost 3000 Won and it seemed to be enough, due to the hot weather I already felt full. I thought it should be crowded with people, however, it was bearable. Maybe because it was daytime not nighttime.
Then I hardly found the bus no. 471 to go to Seodaemun. In Seodaemun a Prison History Hall can be seen now. It’s where Japanese soldiers tortured and later executed Korean Independence Movement followers. Seodaemun Prison History Hall was built in remembrance of Seodaemun Prison, and to salute the Korean patriots. I felt hot and was fed up, so I decided to find Gyeongbok palace. I took metro line 3 from Seodaemun to Gyeongbok station.
When I arrived there I felt much better. There weren’t too much building, it felt as if I’m in different part of Korea, not in Seoul. But the sun killed me and there wasn’t a lot of tree either. The Palace is closed on Tuesday and of course I went there on Tuesday. But the museum, next to it, wasn’t. And the entrance was free. So I went in to see the things from Joseon dynasty. It was interesting to read the explanation and see their traditional clothes in real life. Before I only learned it from book and from teachers, now it felt so good to see them in real life as well. Palaces follow geomancy (Fengshui), which means a palace needs to be surrounded by mountains and it needs to have water in a form of lake, river. Behind Kyeongbok Palace there is a huge mountain that looks really beautiful. I couldn’t go inside so I couldn’t see the water.
After maybe 40 minutes I left to see the Hanok Village. I had to go up the hill and that’s where I was surprised. In Seoul you can see the traditional Palace that has a long history and modern, crowded buildings as well as the mountains, all in the same place and at the same time. Everything is all in Seoul, so there is no wonder why it is so big. Personally I find it impossible to sightsee on foot.
The Bukcheon Hanok Village was really nice. Hanok is a traditional house where people lived in old times. Today some people still live in that house but it is very expensive. What I don’t like is that the road wasn’t that wide, but cars still went on it. From the Hanok Village I went to Changdeok Palace.
To get in there I had to buy ticket. 3000 Won for general admission and 8000 Won is to see the palace and the secret garden. But the secret garden can only be seen with tour guide. I didn’t want to wait and follow the tour guide so I bought the general admission. There wasn’t that much things to see, besides the buildings. However, I really liked the architecture and its design. It is colourful, mainly green and different colours are drawn on it with a shape of flowers. I took a bit of rest, since I was really exhausted by the heat and hunger. The worst part was I didn’t feel like eating. Whatever I looked at, I felt bad. It was already 6pm so I went home. I walked along Jongmyo Shrine, but the place is surrounded by walls, so it could be only accessed at the entrance. I had no patience for another sights, so I went home. I took metro line 3 until Express bus terminal, then changed to metro line 7.
I was so exhausted and my body was full of sweat so I took a shower. For dinner I only ate fruit. I felt hungry but didn’t want to go out to eat, since it was hot and humid outside.
However I really want to try to eat in Hanok Village in traditional house. Hopefully tomorrow I will have energy and appetite to eat there.
Seoul is filled with many cultural heritage and sights that has its own history. They are really interesting as they formed the today’s Korea. It is advisable to read about them before you go there.
Outside of Gyeongbok Palace and near to Bukcheon Hanok Village there are many place from where you can rent and wear Hanbok to walk around and take pictures.
Seoul is divided into two parts by Hangang River. I crossed the river by metro and the view was amazing. I will visit it on other days.
If you use T-money card, you need to tap when you get on and off the vehicle. So you can benefit from transfer discount if you transfer 4 times a day in 30 minutes. The system will calculate your transfer from the time you get off one vehicle and transfer to another. If you don’t tap and transfer you will be charged for extra fee. I was charged extra 200 Won by transfering between metro lines without tapping.
Place to eat in Namdaemun: http://www.namdaemunmarket.co.kr/03_eat/list.php
Seodaemun sights and informations: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/ATR/SI_EN_3_1_1_1.jsp?cid=268143
About the Palaces: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/ATR/SI_EN_3_6.jsp?cid=2433993
Bukcheon Hanok Village: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/ATR/SI_EN_3_1_1_1.jsp?cid=561382
Stay in Hanok house: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/AC/AC_EN_4_5.jsp
About Hanok in general: http://www.antiquealive.com/Blogs/Hanok_Traditional_Korean_House.html
About the ticket system: https://www.korea4expats.com/article-tmoney-seoul-transit-smart-card.html
Tickets, fares and how to have transfer discount with T-money card: https://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/TRP/TP_ENG_8_1_1.jsp
Survival tip: http://blog.trazy.com/korea-subway-t-money-card-guide/
Map and guide books: http://english.visitseoul.net/map-guide-book