I keep my blog as a personal record of what I'm up to, which might be seen as working towards "An elegant sufficiency, content, retirement, rural quiet, friendship, books, ease and alternate labour, useful life"

I'm certainly not there yet.  There is quite some way to go!










Entries in South Korea (2)


To the Palace


The Deoksu Gung Palace to be precise.




It wasn’t so much of a palace as a series of brightly painted pavilions, set in an area of parkland.  Sam, our guide, explained that on this occasion, it was going to be easier to stick in a group, to follow him and he would take us to the spots where there was something worth seeing.  That was fine with us.




Before we’d even entered the gate, we were already overwhelmed with colour and pattern once again, and this time, it wasn’t overlaid with anti-pigeon netting.  I apologise for it being so hard to tell which way up the photographs are supposed to be – most of them were taken at strange angles, in order to capture as much of the colour and pattern as possible.




These first three were looking almost directly up at the ceiling within the gatehouse, whilst Sam bought our tickets.




The richness of the palette and the variety of pattern was simply marvellous and many of us stood, open mouthed, trying to take it all in.




Actually, the outside of the buildings was rather simple in comparison.  The plain red outer walls of the buildings and the slate grey roof tiles contrasted well with those brightly coloured interiors.




We took countless photographs of every section of each building we visited, though really, one was much like another.




The main throne hall of the complex was approached by a three-lane pathway with a line of stelae demarkating where each level of nobility or civil service stood.  The central pathway was for the king, naturally – and guess where Sam suggested we walk?




At first glance, the interior of the structure was dark and dull, but a closer look in the gloomy light revealed a rather more decorative throne setting




and a very elaborate ceiling!




What intrigued me was the juxtaposition of this traditionally built palace compound with the modern day Seoul beyond, in particular that curvy glass structure of the City Hall.




I just loved the colours, though!  Look at those eaves, where the repeating pattern results in so much more than the sum of the parts, don’t you think?




Another peculiar arrangement was of the western-style art gallery and the Seokjojeon right there in the midst of all the traditional buildings.  This had been built in an effort to modernise around 1910 and to me, it looked really out of place.




Lastly, there was the concubine house, finely detailed and rather resembling a band pavilion in places, but by now, I was getting a little blase about those colours and was finding something new to interest me.




How about these lovely soft shades in the wall alongside?




Or the fascinating patterns just the other side?  Really, the wealth of detail in this small area alone was something to treasure and I was happy to be able to record it in a few – well, perhaps more – photographs, whilst the group were still discussing concubines!




With a few more colourful pictures to round off the visit, we made our way back to the gate where we had entered.




As we did, we spotted something happening.  We ran to find out what was going on…





We’d passed by some similarly dressed guards at one of the other gates but had driven by so quickly, there had been no chance of taking a photograph.  Here was our chance.




This fierce and serious looking chap gave off scary vibes until we spotted him sneakily adjusting his (fake) moustache!




His colleagues were similarly stern but had somewhat softer countenances.  Mind you, I was curious about those peculiar toggles on the top of their hats.




These four guards held the attention of the visitors for quite some time and they stood still whilst photos were taken and people approached them for a closer look.  Until, that is, they were upstaged.




Suddenly, no one was interested in the guards any more!


Actually, it was time for us to return to the ship and to end our whistle stop tour of Seoul.  I think we’d had a reasonable glimpse of the city – certainly enough to whet our appetite and encourage us to find out more.  We realise that we knew very little about Korean history, that I had never even heard of the main historical figures and that there was a large gap in my general knowledge about the country as a whole.  Even a short visit such as this one has highlighted a few details and I am very much the richer for having been here.  Isn’t that a great benefit of travelling?


Tonight, we’re rocking and rolling again on our way over to Dalian, China.  The Captain has recommended we take care and secure everything overnight.  Never a dull moment, eh?


An nyoung ha seh yo Seoul!




Well, it was really An nyoung ha seh yo Incheon when I opened the curtains at 5am this morning and yes, it was raining.  We were negotiating a lock, I believe, though having opened the curtains to see some people working in an office right outside, I pulled them quickly shut again!  Being at sea does make one a little casual about looking outside in a state of undress Winking smile




A couple of hours later, we were able to look outside properly, to see we were berthed in a place which might have been Gloucester…just because a city is half way around the world doesn’t necessarily make it interesting or attractive!  Incheon is the port for Seoul and we’d chosen to take a “glance” at the city, rather than visit a folk village or venture into the DMZ and peer at the North Koreans over the border.




First, we had an hour or so on the motorway, speeding past large apartment blocks with huge identification numbers on them.  At this point, South Korea wasn’t exactly proving to be how we imagined – I expected it to be high tech glossy, my hero thought it’d be more like Taiwan; a diluted version of China.




Sam Kim, our guide spoke most of the way about the country and the booming businesses which are boosting the economy here.  Hyundai, Kia, Samsung, LG..the list of familiar brands was a long one and I imagine most of us had something of Korean origin about our person in one way or another.




I had been intrigued by the script, which is totally different from Chinese and Japanese.  No clue here about what warning to heed…except perhaps a reminder to wear a seat belt?




One surprising sign out of the coach window though.  A little incongruous don’t you think?

Now, we knew this was going to be a glance at Seoul and nothing like a detailed and comprehensive tour, but we’d driven at speed past a couple of likely looking places and were getting a bit antsy.  You see, the coach had anti-glare film on the windows ,making photographs through them virtually impossible and really, we didn’t want to just ride about on a bus all day.




Fortunately, we drew to a halt outside a Buddhist temple and before any of us could utter a word about being “templed out”, our eyes fell on this gateway.




In we went, to the inner courtyard.  You can tell by the light that the rain had stopped by now and the day was brightening, though it was chilly.




How about this for the inside of the eaves?  A pity it was covered in netting to protect it from the pigeons, but all the same….what colour!




This dear little figure oversaw the proceedings from a distance.  What a sweet expression.




The brightly painted pavilions were a joy to behold, absolutely covered in the most detailed patterns and pictures, all in the same palette of colours.  People went about their business, entering the temple leaving their shoes outside, many of them dressed in the same grey quilted clothes.




Interesting shapes and a charming small motif on the front there, adding a little individuality.  I didn’t quite see if that was printed or pieced, but I did like the quilting, for sure.




Given half an hour to wander around, we were happy campers, snip-snapping away, oohing and aaahing over the details and enjoying being out and about, free to wander.




We loved looking in the odd corners, where there might be an interesting wall or different style of building.  This was such an interesting place and suddenly, our glance of Seoul was beginning to take shape.




The next stop was at “Mary’s Alley”, described to us as the old antiques area, where we could do some shopping.  Hmm.  I’m ok about shopping but not so hot on antiques…but hey ho, let’s enjoy the opportunity to take a look around anyway.




Look at the first stop in that street (well, next door to the 7-Eleven where we started).  Does it look interesting?  Tempting?




Look inside?  Paper.  The most wonderful selection of oriental papers imaginable, in every colour and texture, some with metal flakes, others with leaves embedded, but almost all a great deal finer than we see at home, unless we go to a specialist shop.  At 2000 Won per sheet, I had to choose a selection, didn’t I?  (1000 won = 60p)  Who knew that this street would prove to be the handmade paper centre of the trip?!




Other stores were selling socks…




Little bags and sets of notepaper.




Beautifully coloured pottery such as these lidded teacups.




And my favourite, these lovely tassels in all colours of the rainbow. 

We spent another happy hour mooching around and returned to the meeting spot with our little treasures.




Before we did, we took the opportunity to visit the best maintained public loo I have seen in ages.  Not only did each cubicle have a charming piece of artwork inside, the washbasins and surrounding areas were spotless.




The hand drier was interesting, too!




Fortified by the cutest little bar of chocolate from the 7-Eleven, we climbed back on the bus and did a quick show and tell on the way to the next sightseeing spot.

I’ll share the details of that in the next post.