An Asian Detour to … Seoul, Part 1

I love living in Europe. The variety of architecture, food, culture – there’s so many places to explore. However, about ten years ago, my goals were in a different direction – I thought I was going to move to Asia. That didn’t work out, and probably for the better, but I still can’t forget my affinity for the Asian culture – after all, my roots are Asian. So when I was invited to the 2019 International Convention in Seoul, South Korea, I jumped at the opportunity to go.

I had been to Seoul once before, in 2007, for 2 hours (if that counts). It was a 14 hour stopover at Incheon International Airport and it allowed us enough time to hire a cab for a 2 hour tour of the city. Honestly, I wasn’t too impressed, and that’s why I had never returned. Until now. I felt that, in 2007, my trip was in black & white, but this time, meeting the people and getting a true cultural experience, this trip was in beautiful brilliant color.

Seoul not only sits on a river, but it is surrounded by beautiful green mountains all around. You can go to the top of many of the mountains to get a beautiful view of the city, but given the heat and humidity, we chose the mountain that was the least labor-intensive to get to, and that was Namsan Mountain, which is actually located in the middle of the city. You can take a 20 minute hike to the top, which we originally wanted to do. However, in a little miscommunication with our cab driver, we got dropped off in front of the Namsan Cable Car station instead. Given the heat and humidity combined with our jet lag, we decided to take the path of least resistance by taking the Cable Car up. Once we made our way to the top, we were treated with beautiful views of Seoul.

These locks are all over the rails surrounding Namsan Mountain. The legend goes that, if you lock this lock with your loved one and throw the key overboard, your love will last forever. However, to prevent too many keys littering the mountain, they have unromantic but ecological containers for the keys.
A smoke signal station (called Bongsudae) on top of Namsan Mountain which was used to warn the city of enemy invasions
Views of Seoul from the top of Namsan Mountain
Jet lagged but happy at the top of Namsan Mountain
N Seoul Tower

If the views weren’t incredible enough, we decided to take the elevator up to N Seoul Tower, which stands on the top of Namsan Mountain. At 236 meters / 774 feet tall, N Seoul Tower is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Seoul.

Looking down on Seoul from the N Seoul Tower observatory
Sadly it was too cloudy to catch the sunset, but the nighttime views were beautiful!
N Seoul Tower lights up every night. People can tell the air quality by the color of the tower. The blue light meant that the air quality was good for us, thank goodness.
Palgakjeong, an octagonal pavilion located near N Seoul Tower

Changdeokgung Palace

The Chandeokgung Palace was built in 1412 as the second royal palace in Seoul during the Joseon Dynasty. It was one of the most favored palaces by the Joseon princes due to its harmony with the surrounding environment.

Geumcheonggyo Bridge – Only the middle path of this bridge could be walked on by the king. Subjects had to walk on the sides of the bridge. If a subject walked on the middle path of the bridge, he was flogged 80 times on the rack. Yikes!
Injeongjeon, where important royal events were held, including the king’s coronation, his birthday and the reception of foreign envoys
The throne of Injeongjeon is called “Yongsang”, which means “seat of the dragon”. The folding screen behind it has a landscape painting of a sun, moon and five peaks. The sun and moon represent the king and queen, and the five mountain peaks represent the land ruled by the king.
The eaves of the roof are slightly lifted up to the sky so that the rain-soaked wooden buildings will quickly dry in the sun.
The colorful detail on these buildings was my absolute favorite!
These animal figures were placed on the roofs not only to show the dignity and grandeur of the building, but also to chase away evil spirits and misfortune.
Seonjeongjeon, where the king and his subjects would discuss national affairs. The detailing on the ceiling was gorgeous!
Daejojeon, where the queen stayed with her 700 court ladies
Huijeongdang Hall, where the king spent most of his time
The residential brown and white buildings of Nakseonjae Complex, located at the back of the Chandeokgung palace, stands out in stark contrast to the other colorful buildings of the grounds.
The palace was beautiful, but even more beautiful were the beautiful Korean friends that greeted us there. In their traditional hanboks, we were transported back in time.

Our trip to Korea was already off to a beautiful, colorful start. More to come…

One response to “An Asian Detour to … Seoul, Part 1

  1. Pingback: An Asian Detour to … Seoul, Part 2 | Je Parle Franglais·

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