For our second palace viewing of the day, we made the short walk to Gyeongbokgung Palace, which is the largest of the five grand palaces of Seoul. It was built in the 14th century during the Joseon Dynasty, but most of it was destroyed in the 20th century by Japan. There has been an on-going restoration project since 1989 and about 40% of the buildings have been reconstructed.
When I see places like this in real life, it’s overwhelming to grasp just how much time has passed around these foundations and it makes me appreciate the efforts to keep it alive. Can you imagine if, say for instance, Italy was just like, “Fuck it” and let the Colosseum completely crumble?
It’s hard even for someone as unnecessarily verbose* as myself to put into words.
*(Just on here. I barely talk in real life at all anymore. Henry probably has other opinions on this though.)
I wanted to check out Gwanghwamun Plaza first though because the famous statue of King Sejong is there, and he is the creator of Hangeul. You guys know how obsessed I am with Hangeul, right? Oh my god, it’s such a beautiful alphabet system. On the way there, we got to see the changing of the guards on the side of Gwangbokdung!
King Sejong in all his glory!
In reality, King Sejong didn’t come up with Hangeul himself, but he was the one who decided that Korea needed their own language, their own alphabet, so he had his people do the rest. Basically, the only directive he gave them was, “Make it simple” and they did. Sure, Korean GRAMMAR is killer. For example, last night I sent Janna an example of the sentence I was able to craft on my own during one of my Korean lessons:
“What does it say?” she asked.
“‘Please give me a potato or sweet potato.’ I’ve finally reached Korean Baby level,” I said.
I’m much better at reading it but as soon as I have to write it myself, my mind has suddenly been erased. But yeah, my point is that learning how to at least pronounce Hangeul has unlocked some language barriers so thank you King Sejong for realizing that languages using 74083470912384b23498 symbols is kind of ridiculous.
At the base of this monument is the entrance to the Hanguel Museum, which I thought was just going to be a little one-room display of Hanguel and its history, but shit no — this museum was expansive! It took up a good bit of the underground layer of that plaza! There were several other exhibits in it too, and we spent at least an hour in there.
Chooch thought it was nice.
Literally, that’s all he just said right now when I asked him. But he did seem to have a lot of fun in there because it was very interactive, and he got to make a tracing of a ship in some kids activity room. Chooch LOVES ACTIVITIES. When we go to Pat Catan’s (craft store) on the weekend, he always heads right over to the kids craft table and makes whatever monstrosity is on the menu for that day.
There was some event going on in the plaza called “Do Dream.” I have no idea what was happening but everyone was happy and cheerful so I was too!
As always, this post is going to be a hodgepodge of photos from my phone and from my “real” camera. Sometimes, you just gotta use your phone, you know?
I found out after the fact the Seoul office of the law firm I work for was right by the plaza — can you imagine looking out your office window and seeing not only beautiful mountains but this handsome palace gate? All I see when I look out the window on my floor is stinky Pittsburgh streets, sometimes protests, derelicts, other crappy buildings. I mean, it’s Pittsburgh.
Chooch wore the right colors.
Henry is the WORST at taking pictures of us. It was so windy and dust was blowing in our faces. We look like we’re smiling here but what’s really happening is that we’re hissing, “TAKE THE FUCKING PICTURE” through our gritted teeth. Also, as expected, this palace was definitely starting to get crowded since it was a weekend, which is why I wanted to come here first but hey, Henry knows everything!
If you rent a Hanbok (traditional Korean dress) from one of the many hanbok rental shops nearby, you can enter all of the palaces for free. I didn’t do this (being accused of cultural appropriation scares me) but I really enjoyed looking at all of the other people flouncing by in all of their silken glory. I think I heard that wearing hanbok makes everyone 80% prettier.
(Maybe don’t quote me on that.)
(I just tried to picture Henry in hanbok and now my stomach hurts from laughing so that backfired.)
“This palace is nearly as old as me.”
I love the juxtaposition of old and new that you see everywhere in Seoul.
This is currently my desktop background on my work computer. I love this image so much!
We spent a lot of time strolling the grounds, taking it all in. These palaces are so quintessentially Korea, totally iconic landmarks, that I wanted to make sure we absorbed as much as we had time for. I would have liked to have toured all five of the palaces, but sight-seeing is exhausting and Chooch and I require regular feedings — we were already running late on one of those feedings and it was starting to show big-time. This is quite frankly the catalyst of 90% of our family brawls. That’s good I guess, though right? Because it means at least we like each other all of the other times when we’re not hungry.
Although, I’m hungry a lot.
Chooch had gone from, “THIS IS SO COOL I LOVE KOREA” to “IF YOU’VE SEEN ONE PALACE, YOU’VE SEEN ‘EM ALL, STOP TAKING MY PICTURE AND FUCKING FEED ME FOR CHRIST’S SAKE THIS IS CHILD ABUSE” faster than Henry could get the orphanage number locked and loaded on his phone.
THE FACE OF HUNGRY DISGUST.
“I was hungry in every single picture you took of me,” Chooch just said defensively when I accused him of looking like an ungrateful rich kid who is like, “Wow, Korea. Big whoop. I’d rather be playing tennis with Muffy.” Fine. I’ll believe it.
I was like, “We’ll eat after I take one more picture of these flowers…” while Chooch was standing off to the side willing himself to travel back in time to the morning when he was eating a Shiro & Maro breakfast pastry.
How fucking dreamy is this? Can you imagine being part of the royal family back then and being like, “BRB just gonna have my ginseng tea out by the pagoda while you guys talk about war stuff.”
Anyway, this area was under construction so this was as close we could get, so it’s a good thing I have an active imagination.
From the back of the palace, you can see the Blue House, which is the residence of the South Korean president. (Shout out to President Moon Jae In and his strong efforts at achieving peace between the Koreas!) Chooch posted his own picture of the Blue House on his Instagram with the caption, “Hey Trump, the Blue House is better than the White House because you’re not there!” TOUCHE, YOUNG ADULT!
So by this point, we were knee-deep in the lunch hour and ready to start eating Henry’s face, so that was our cue to say farewell to beautiful Gyeongbokgung and set off for Bukchon Hanok Village, where our first priority was FOOD.