Visiting Seoul


A view of Namsan hill and its tower from across the Han river

The Namsan tower (or as much of it as I could get in before falling off the hill!)

A pavilion on Namsan hill

Seoul at night

Look closely - these are locks! From unearthingasia.com: “Thousands of locks adorn the fences [at the Namsan Tower], hung by couples both young and old, with the keys thrown away to ensure that the sweethearts’ vows to never separate are kept forever.  Now, the idea of a lock as a symbol of love is a double-edged sword.  Its a promise and commitment to being together, a vow to never separate.  At the same time, it is also the end of freedom, a symbol of being caged in prison for the rest of your life.  Fortunately for us, Seoulites has embraced the former much more than the latter.  This idea originated from local tourists a few years ago who saw the same thing at Tokyo Tower.  Recently, it’s enjoying a renewal after two stars dated there in a popular reality show.  Since then, locals flock the site, and international tourists have similarly embraced this novel idea.  Most of the locks are decorated with writings, drawings and stickers while some cannot even be called locks.  Some used chain locks for bikes shaped as hearts, as well as pink and red heart-shaped ribbons on their locks.”

I can attest to this quirky custom’s popularity--there's no space anywhere on the fence!  In fact, all the locks make it hard to see out unless you’re (a) right next to the fence and (b) tall enough to see over it.

In June, my family came to visit and we spent a week up at the Dragon Hill Lodge on Yongsan Army Garrison.

Just down the road was the War Memorial of Korea (see that page for more pictures).  Here are two brothers at the Statue of Brothers.

This is the Peace Clock Tower; one clock is frozen at the time the Korean War started, while the other is the current time.  There is a third clock, which will be added (and frozen) when the two Koreas reunite.

The Korean War Monument, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Korean War cease-fire.

Next to the monument are two sculptures representing all those involved in the war, from soldiers to civilians.

The front entrance steps to the Memorial

This drum, in the main entrance atrium, is my favorite--it's the only one with a tiger on it (most have dragons).  It was made for the 60th anniversary of the founding of the ROK forces and the tiger represents their dauntless courage.

On our way to the Seoul Fortress Wall, we stopped by the Tangun Shrine, commemorating the founder of the Korean nation.  This occurred on Oct 3, 2333 BCE (I believe it was a Tuesday).

As the wall was built, the Koreans went from piling natural rocks to using cut stones.  The white stones are where the wall has been restored.

Part of the wall with Namsan Mountain and the Seoul Tower in the background

The changing of the guard ceremony at Deoksugung Palace

You could dress up in costume and take pictures with the guards.  (Kinda like a Renaissance Ferstival!)  We are wearing general's outfits.

This locust tree, at Jogyesa Temple, is ~90 feet high and around 500 years old.

The temple was decorated with thousands of colored lanterns in honor of Buddha's birthday (celebrated May 17th this year).

The gate guards at Gyeongbokgung Palace, ready for the guard-changing ceremony

Geunjeongjong, the main throne hall

More of the palace guards

The seven-toed dragons on the ceiling of Geunjeongjong.  Most imperial dragons only had five toes; unfortunately, I didn't hear the explanation of why these have seven.

The Hyangwonjeong pavilion in the rear garden

Inside the palace grounds is the National Folk Museum of Korea.  Outside the museum are these statues representing the twelve signs of the Chinese zodiac.

We lucked out--that day was the weekly performance of traditional Korean folk music...

... and dancing.  Note the ribbons attached to the hats; the dancers would twirl the ribbons around while playing and dancing.

I was impressed they could do all this without falling over or getting dizzy!

Facing Gyeongbokgung Palace was a long pedestrian walkway containing a statue of King Sejong, creator of the Korean alphabet Hangeul.

Underneath the statue was a museum about the King, where tourists can pose in front of the royal mural.  There was also a museum about...

...Admiral Yi Sunshin, creator of the Turtle Ship and defeater of the Japanese navy during the war of 1592-7.  Fittingly for an admiral, his statue is surrounded by water.

The Namdaemun Gate, Korea's first National Treasure.  Or, rather, the rebuilt Namdaemun Gate--the original was burned down in 2008 by a disgruntled citizen.  It was completed only a few months ago.

The Bosingak Bell Pavilion, originally built in 1395.  The bell was used to announce the opening and closing of the city gates.

Every day (except Monday) at 11 a.m., there is a bell-ringing ceremony with the guards from Deoksugung Palace.

This is a replacement bell, which is 19cm thick (the length of my hand from heel to tip).  The original bell, built in 1468, is in the National Museum and was 30cm thick.

You can actually sign up to ring the bell (with the help of one of the palace officials)!

We met these young ladies in Insadong.  They gave us some yakgwa, a traditional Korean dessert made mainly from honey, sesame oil, and wheat flour.  They (the cakes) were very sweet but hard to chew.

The 63 Building (so named because it has 63 floors), Korea’s tallest and most recognized building.  It has an aquarium and observation deck (more on those later).

We took a Han River cruise from Hangang Citizens Park.  As it was Korean Memorial Day, lots of other people were enjoying the activities!

Our sister cruise ship on her return voyage

Along the way, we passed some oddly-shaped buildings...

...and went under a colorfully-decorated bridge.

In the 63 Aquarium, they have several displays based on the name of the fish.  This is what they came up with for the lionfish.

A view up the Han River from the skydeck

In the Shopette at the Dragon Hill, they have wine for people who are too stupid to remember "red meat, red wine; white meat, white wine"!

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Last updated 3 August 2012