Korea Diary
May 22:Culture & Commerce



We had a full day of sightseeing and lots of different experiences today.

We started with a walk past the large Gyeongbokgung (경복궁) Palace, where we just happened to hit it while a guard changing ceremony was taking place. Pretty cool! After the ceremony there was a place where you could don the gorgeous robes of the guards and get your pictures taken, so Henry and I couldn't resist that. Hopefully we'll figure out how to download our pix to Carey's Apple later today and can send you one of these priceless illustrations! [continued below]



Palace guards

Gyeongbokgung Gate behind the guards

Here is the promised photo of us in costume:

tourists in costume

And more of the changing of the guard:

preparing for ceremony

preparing for the ceremony (note the mountains nearby)


ceremonial band

ceremonial music


marching music

a marching band, traditional Korean style


marching guards spacer marching guards

More changing of the guard pictures, as well as others from this brief, and our second, longer, visit to the Gyeonbokgung Palace, are in this Flickr set.

Palace buildings

beautiful Korean rooflines


We didn't stay at G-palace too long, though, since Hal &Carey had already seen it. We went on a little further to Changdeokgung (창덕궁) Palace and took a tour of it.

An amazing place, most of the buildings dating from the 600's. The site was a palace even 300 years earlier, but it was burned during one of the many invasions Korea has experienced. Beautiful buildings and peaceful grounds, with a lot of interesting history from our English-speaking guide. There are tours in Korean, Chinese, Japanese and English at most of these places, so the English gets all of the western tourists, no matter what the nationalities. I think I heard at least 5 or 6 different languages in the crowd! It's a demonstration of how quickly we've adapted to life here, I think, that seeing so many Caucasians all together looked odd to me! We haven't been stared at too much (Hal warned us about this) except by kids, occasionally.

[continued below]



More pictures of this amazing Palace (and even more are in this Flickr set):

Palace Library

the Palace Library [I could enjoy working there!]


Palace detail

details of the complex


man square

large main square of the Palace


family resting

happy tourists taking a rest break


Palace buildings

view through a doorway


flowers and buildings

lovely flowers, lovely buildings


Palace buildings

through a breezeway


roof detail

amazing roof details

After the C-Palace tour we walked through Insadong, a sort of super-La Villita full of an amazing mix of souvenir shops and high-end clothing and pottery/art stores. On Sunday it's pedestrians only there and was very pleasant in spite of occasional showers. The people here are obsessed with not getting rained on; I've never seen so many umbrellas! So walking on the crowded sidewalks was occasionally a problem.

Highlights of the Insadong (인사동) excursion: lunch in a beautiful little restaurant with lovely wood everywhere—furnishings, ceilings, floors.

The food was ... interesting. I have decided that kimchi (김치) and I don't exactly get along, but Henry likes it ok. Sally and I shared an enormous vegetable/potato pancake that was very tasty, Hal had a huge plate of incredibly spicy meat, veggies and tofu, and Carey and Henry each had bibimbap (비빔밥), a veggie/rice dish that you slather with red pepper paste to taste.

Personally, I have accepted my wimp status regarding Korean food, and will stick to the blander items.

Second highlight: Henry was approached by two different groups of Korean schoolgirls who had assignments for their English classes to interview English speakers. The kids thought this was hilarious and Sally got a picture of one of the interviews. [concluded below]

Henry with English students

Henry speaking perfect English


Kathy at restaurant

Kathy outside the "wood restaurant"



Kathy outside an Insadong shop


interior of the beautiful restaurant

We crashed upon return to the apartment, Henry actually asleep for the night at 6 while the rest of us watched DVDs and TV for a while. Henry's early night allowed him to get up in time to follow the entire Spurs game online (it started at 4:30 a.m. here). We just got thru "watching" it via yahoo.sports and were thrilled that they were able to win one in Phoenix.

The plan for tomorrow is a hike and some more shopping and sightseeing. We're on our own, though, since Hal and Carey will both be at work. I think we're ready for it!

More photos are in these Flickr sets: MiscellaneousGyeongbukgung PalaceChangdeokgung Palace