My wife was flying to join me in Korea. Due to weather conditions in San Francisco, she missed her connecting flight. (The airline was less than helpful; when my wife finally got to talk to a ticketing agent after standing in line for an hour, the employee had the gall to say, "well, you'll just need to be more pro-active; here's the phone number you should call!" So, the actual live person in the airport wouldn't be able to help?! Argh!!) The next available flight wouldn't be for two days, my wife was told--what a fiasco!
On the other side of the Pacific, instead of greeting my wife at the airport, I had some solo time on my hands in Seoul...What else to do but wait? So, with a beautiful early summer day and nowhere I had to be, I decided I may as well enjoy being outside. I went to Gyeongbok-gung Palace--dating to the 1390's, in the middle of the capital...
I shadowed a couple of school-groups on field trips, testing my long-dormant Korean language skills...I ate wild berries in quiet corners of the garden...I took a nap under a centuries-old gingko tree...I attended a performance of medieval court music and dance that I hadn't known was scheduled...I wandered courtyards and reflecting pools...I enjoyed the Joseon-dynasty equivalents of 'Cheshire-cat-grins' on the balustrades of the Throne Hall...
Fortunately the flight fiasco was short-lived, and my wife arrived only a day-and-a-half late. On her first full day in Korea, I returned to Gyeongbok-gung, with her...
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reflection of morning calm in the middle of Seoul
Rush hour in Seoul can make it seem impossible that the ancient name of Korea was "Land of the Morning Calm." But within the walls of Gyeongbok-gung Palace, you can still find some peace among the Joseon-dynasty architecture and gardens.
Gyeonghoeru (pronounced 'gyoung-hweh-rooh'), one of Korea's largest remaining traditional wooden structures, was originally built in the 1400's. This 'pavilion of joyous meeting' served as a royal banquet hall and was rebuilt in the 19th century. Supported by 48 stone pillars on an artificial island, the open-air hall survived the bombings of the Korean War (1950-1953); it's one of the loveliest spots in the city to go for a reflective stroll.
To get here via subway:
Line #3--Use exit #5 of Gyeongbokgung Station.
Line #5--Use exit #2 of Ganghwamun Station
Daily tours available in English, Chinese, and Japanese, in addition to Korean.
(I recommend reading up on the palace beforehand, and then wandering around on your own.)