Our last day in Seoul, day 5. We slept in a bit and headed out around lunchtime to Gyeongbokgung Palace. On the way we found a wall of mirrors in the subway!
Shoutout to Jansen, who is an awesome travelling companion and the chillest dude I’ve ever met! Despite not being a dad, he is the master of dad jokes. I am both curious and terrified to see him in his final form, should he ever have children.
I feel like this was our usual reaction to his jokes:
There were so many beautiful gates at Gyeongbokgung! We came from the subway, which came up next to a gift shop and cafe in the grounds, so we didn’t actually come through the front gates. Here’s the area where we could take pictures and buy tickets to get into the palace grounds.
We exited just so we could check out the guards at the front gate. At first we thought they were fake, they were so still!
It was interesting being in the palace grounds. Beautiful buildings and architecture heralding back to an older time, all against the backdrop of the modern city. (Like many Japanese temples, the palace burned to the ground and had to be rebuilt many times. Unfortunately, the Japanese were responsible for a few of those fires…there’s a reason these two countries don’t always get along!)
We bought our tickets (about $5 each) and went through the gates to see Geunjeongjeon, the Throne Hall. I can’t get over the gorgeous paintings!
There were tons of neat animal statues lining the stairs from what looks to be the Chinese zodiac.
We also saw Gyeonghoeru, the Royal Banquet Hall, across a beautiful frozen lake:
There were so many different places to visit! We were all pretty tired from the night before, so we just kind of wandered through.
There were hanbok (traditional Korean attire) rentals everywhere, and many people wore them to the palace! I think they’re absolutely beautiful. I kind of wish I’d rented one, but I’m also glad I didn’t, because it was pretty cold! I just creeped on people taking pictures instead.
Just as we left, the changing of the guard began!
We watched for a little while, but the guards eventually marched into the crowd, and none of us really felt like fighting for a view, so we went in search of a late lunch.
We found a little restaurant run by a Korean woman and a Chinese woman. They were so wonderful; though they didn’t speak hardly any English, they had a great sense of humour.
The appetisers were kimchi, pickled daikon, and some weird fish-balls. Paul got spicy pork bulgogi, and Jansen and I got bibimbap! It was much better than the bibimbap I got the day before, but I have to say, the best bibimbap I’ve ever had is from the yakiniku restaurant down the road from our apartment in Japan (that was actually our first meal as soon as we got back to Tatebayashi, haha). I guess next time I’m in South Korea, I’ll have to go off the beaten path to find the hidden gems of Korean food!
That being said, I’ve come to the conclusion that I love kimchi.
Afterwards we went back to Insa-dong to sit at one last cafe. We saw lots of neat stands on our way.
I wasn’t always sure what was being sold at the food stands, but that last picture is of a roasted chestnut stand! There were several of them around.
(We also saw a lady pushing a cart of what at first glance looked like walnuts frying in a pot of oil; then the odour hit me, and as the lady rattled past I realised she was selling bugs…the stench followed us a long ways after!)
We followed signs from the main road down a narrow alley to a gorgeous tea shop. I ordered a balloon-flower tea (sweet and a little bitter, with a hint of citrus); Paul got cinnamon tea; Jansen got ginger. We also ordered ice cream (with some kind of chewy mochi-like green things, dried persimmons, almond slivers, and I think dried jujube?) and grilled rice cakes.
After this, we headed back to the AirBnB despite it being only mid-afternoon. We were all pretty beat by this time, a combination of a late New Year’s Eve and just the whirlwind of the last few days. Our last night in Seoul was low-key and consisted mostly of naps and packing!
The next morning (this morning!) we headed out early at 6am to catch a train to Incheon International Airport. The ride was quick and easy (only an hour and a half) and not as busy as I’d expected! Security took a bit of time, but once we were in we got on our plane, flew only two hours, made it into Narita at 12:30 and zipped through customs just in time to catch a 12:45 bus back to Tatebayashi.
This has easily been the most successful international trip I’ve been on! No delays, quick and easy flights, a flawless first AirBnB experience (thank you Emma!) Except for a few…shall I say…bad reactions to some spicy food, I enjoyed every minute of this trip!
In a few days I’ll write a small post about my thoughts on the experience, the food, the city. Until then…またね！Ddo bwayo!
I’ll close out this post with one of my favourite photos from the trip. I’ve heard people say it’s a good growing experience to travel on your own from time to time, but for me, experiences are always richer when shared with a good companion. Love you, Paul!