I’m back on the boat, everything’s fine so far. And to keep busy I started to paint a bit, but it seems to be quite a big project!
In between I had to clean the boat from an overflowing holding tank and before that I was busy cleaning pretty much everything, it was quite moldy because of the rain.
And I buy some interesting ‘nuts’ in a very nice bag! They taste a bit like chestnuts but a bit too boring for my taste, might be good in a curry though…
On my last day I can’t go far as I have to head to the airport in the afternoon, so I just walk through parks, along the stream and to my last palace. And at the end I find the restaurant I was looking for all the time, an English menu and a display with all the dishes, and cheap. A Korean style fast food place, I wish I’ve found it after arrival!
Mostly you find places with plenty of fatty meat dishes, pork belly etc. and Ribs on BBQ, those smell fantastic but are out of my price range.
Well, I didn’t starve, and I really want to come again and spend more time. Also go countryside and visit some national parks!
The sights of day 4:
Tagpol Park: Korea’s first western style park, designed 1897 on the site of Won’gak-sa Temple, home to Won’gak-sa pagoda, erected 1466 and nowadays behind glass
Jogyesa Temple: see day 2
Cheonggyecheon (Stream): 10,8km long stream, it was covered and used a sroads, 2005 it was changed back into an ecological stream with promenades on both sides
Cheonggye Plaza: modern art at the well of the stream
Gyeonghui-gung Palace: 1616 erected near the western gate, long history of tearing down and building up differently, since 1990 renovation is going on with building replicas of old buildings
The day is about the same as the one before, with different sights, walking around, hiking up to the city wall trail, instead of a museum I visit the new City Hall. And plenty of sunshine!
The sights of day 3:
Bukchon Hanok Village: preservation zone for traditional style houses, over 900 mostly private residences can still be seen
Samcheong Park: a huge park with fitness areas and playgrounds leading up to the city wall trail
Mt.Bugaksan city wall trail: this part of the trail leading up to Mt.Bugaksan (342m) is a military zone, entry only allowed with passport
Deoksugung Palace: built as private residence in the mid 1400s, the only villy that was not destroyed 1592 and was converted to a temporary palace 1593, restored and opened for the pulblic in 1933
Seoul Plaza & City Hall: the former city hall, constructed 1926, is now the Seoul Metropolitan Library, the New City Hall is an ecofriendly building with the world’s largest indoor green wall and is open for the public with miniconcerts, exhibitions and markets
The day starts with a visit to Jogye-sa Temple and then I continue on to the palace.
I’m just in time for the changing of the guard ceremony which is colourful with drums and music.
The palace area is vast and there are two museums worth visiting. I visit both and try to fit all the buildings into my stroll.
Entry prices are very reasonable, at the bigger palaces it’s 2€, most museums are free.
Around lunchtime I head towards the city wall trail that climbs Mt.Inwang-san.
Before hiking I have my daily noodle soup with a view in the sun, I’m getting used to this!
The trail follows the city wall and is very well maintained. During the week it’s quiet but on weekends it get’s overrun. Korean’s are very much into hiking and very well equipped. Good shoes, GoreTex jackets, hiking pants and hinking sticks, everything good quality.
I feel very underdressed with my old shoes and not high tech pants, good thing I’m wearing a North Face Jacket at least!
There are ropes on difficult parts and staircases on others. It’s even possible to climb the boulders on the peak. Another peak is one giant boulder with a trail going over it that ends in a different area.
I’m following the wall to the valley and head back downtown. There’s military checkpoints along the way, no photos allowed.
At the bottom I take a wrong turn and end up on a fitness parcour, steep up and down, my I’m tired! But I do find an interesting neighbourhood with traditional old houses from famous people and a market, so the detour was worth it!
Just lucky! I love walking through those small alleys without any plan.
Because it’s still early I visit the History museum, interesting! After that I’m so tired I head home.
It’s sunset already and the modern buildings including the Jongno Tower are pretty. It gets really cold after sunset so another pot of noodle soup and into bed.
The sights of day 2:
Jogye-sa Temple: founded 1910, headquarters of the Jogye sect of Korean Buddhism with trees over 400 years old and the ‘Buddhism Museum’
Gyeongbokgung Palace: the first palace ever to be built during the 500 years of Joseon dynasty, construction began in 1394, in original form over 500 buildings, destroyed 1592 and left abandoned until 1865 when it got finally recontructed.
During the Japanese occupation most of the palace was torn down, only a few buildings remained, in extensive renovation since 1990
National Folk Museum of Korea: history of Korean livelihood, traditional items of Korean culture
National Palace Museum of Korea: articles of the royal families
Mt.Inwang-san city wall trail: 338m high Inwang-san was the western border, the trail follows the wall and climbs up to great vistas over the whole city
Seochon Hanok Village: an area with a some traditional houses and small markets
Gwanghwamun Square: a plaza facing Gwanghwamun, the main gate of the Gyeongbokgung Palace, statues of King Sejong the Great and Admiral Yi Sun-shin
Seoul Museum of History: sketch of the 600 years history, life and culture in the early days of Seoul and a 1:1.500 scale model of the modern city
Jongno Tower: very modern building, a great landmark as you are able to identify it from every place in town, the guesthouse is very close by, very useful!
The first day starts with nescafé and toast, it’s cold so I stay in bed until 9am!
I head to the nearest sight, Jong-myo shrine. One is only allowed in with a tour and I just missed it so I continue towards Changdeokgung Palace finding a small and pretty temple on the way.
I have to take a tour there as well, it lasts 1,5 hours and is very interesting.
After that I stroll around a bit an take the back extit that goes directly into the Changdeokgung Palace area.
It’s a big park but not too many buildings so I’m not tired and head towards Naksan Park.
I can’t find the alley where the steps start so an old lady brings me there. She’s so fast running up and down small roads to put me right at the bottom of the stairs. People are very fit and every few minutes inside the park there’s fitness area with plenty of work out machines, and they are in use!
Following the city wall I end up at the Eastern Gate and the Dongdaemun Shopping Complex. It’s a huge market full with fabrics, I nearly get lost in there and find a coffeemachine with 20 cent coffe and a bench outside. Nice break!
I walk towards Namsangol Hanok Village with a stop at a 7eleven for noodlesoup in the sun and the building site of the Design Plaza.
The village is intersting, it’s an open air museum with everything still in place as it used to be.
In the back of the park there’s an exit and the trail climbs up through Namsan Park towards the tower.
Weather’s not great, drizzling and higher up even snowflakes, but still, the vistas are fantastic!
You get a feeling how big the city is, it’s spreading just everywhere! Skyscrapers and hills.
As it’s getting late I’m taking a direct route home making a detour to Myeong-dong cathedral.
Dinner’s another noodle soup as I’m much to tired to hunt for a place with an English menu!
The sights of day 1:
Daegaksa Temple: close to Changdeokgung Palace
Changdeokgung Palace: constructed 1405 to 1412, destroyed by fire during the Hideyoshi invasion, restored 1610, renovated 1907 and home of Korea’s last king, Sunjong.
Members of the royal family lived here until 1989, since 1997 it’s an UNESCO world cultural heritage
Changgyeonggung Palace: built 1484, destroyed by fire 1592, restored 1616, again destroyed 1830, restored again 1834 and renovated 1986
Naksan Park city wall trail: the eastern border of the old town the Naksan hills now feature a great park, viewpoints and fitness areas, the wall was originally built 1396 is 18.6km long in total and many times renovated
Heunginjimun Gate: the eastern gate of the 8 gates from the old town, originally built 1397, this one’s from 1869
Dongdaemun Shopping Complex: the world’s largest market of fabrics and clothing meterials, I nearly got lost in there!
Dongdaemun Design Plaza (not open yet): a brandnew landmark designed by Zaha Hadid, will be home to a design museum, fashion design center and space for exhibitions
Namsangol Hanok Village: traditional Joseon dynasty residences (built 1860 to 1910) have been moved here from other spots in the city, complete with every day utensils and tool
Namsan Park & Namsan city wall trail: 273m Nam-san (South Mountain) was formerly Seoul’s southern border
N Seoul-Tower: 236m high, the 10th tallest tower of the world, finished 1975
Myeong-dong Street: famous shopping area
Myeong-dong Cathedral: gothic style cathedral, 110 years old
After an eleven hours flight I land on Incheon Airport. It’s a very modern airport, no queues at immigration and my bag’s already on the belt as I arrive there.
Very fast! The Insa Guesthouse, where I booked a room, is downtown so I have to get there.
There’s two possibilities: first directly with the airpost shuttle bus for 8€, second with the fast train and 2 different subways for 3€.
I’m feeling adventurous and take the second choice but I didn’t know that changing trains makes you hike up and down staircases and through tunnels with no end. The trains are pretty full also and my bags are getting heavier and heavier.
With a good description from my guesthouse hosts I find it easily, nice place, small room and very clean with a private bathroom. There’s a lounge and a kitchen for common use.
It’s really downtown, I don’t have to take any transportation during my whole stay, everything’s in walking distance, well, sometimes it does get far!
I really like it there and the young people who run it are just great.
On my first evening I head out to hunt for food. The neighbourhood’s full with shopping streets and the Insadong market where you find paper, brushes, pencils, handicrafts and art.
No food to be found in English or too expensive so I end up shopping at 7eleven and having a noodle soup at the guesthouse.
It gets chilly fast, night temperature goes down to minus 2 but there’s heating in the floor so I sleep warm and well!
The best food I find on my last day!
All dishes are on display, great!
Those who make this fooddisplays are real artists, it does look like you can eat it but it’s artificial.
I spent 4 days in Seoul which is a great city in an interesting country that’s worth visiting!
And like me before most people seem to know nothing or very little about Korea.
So here’s a short summary, sorry if it’s not complete or you find something that’s wrong.
South Korea is the lower half of the Korean peninsula, around 100.000 square kilometers in size, about the size of Hungary.
It’s 70% mountainous, the average elevation is low but the hills rise up to 1000 meters, some peaks even more than 1.500 meters, the highest one at 1.950m.
The climate’s like in Great Britain with 4 distinct seasons, summer averages 26°C, winter just below freezing with plenty of snow.
Latidude is about the same as southern Spain or northern California.
OLD JOSEON: late Bronze age
THREE KINGDOM PERIOD: 1st century B.C. to araond 500 A.D., those were the Goguryeo, Baekje and Silla dynasties
UNITED SILLA: Silla absorbed the other two with help from the Chinese Tang dynasty in 660 A.D. and ruled till the 900s
JOSEON DYNASTY: 1392 – 1910 it was the nation’s longest lived, 1443 a formal treaty was signed with Japan, before that raids along the coast were common
IMJIN WAR: 1592 – 1598, the most disastrous period of history. Japanese general Hideyoshi decided to invade China and wanted to get passage through Korea.
The king refused as he had strong diplomatic relations with China so Japan attacked to teach a lesson.
Korea was nearly defenseless and troops made it to the capital in two weeks.
King Seonjo fled and the Japanese slowly retreated only after the arrival of the Chinese Ming force.
1596 the second great invasion, the Korean navy under admiral Yi Sun-shin crippled the Japanese supply lines.
In 1598 Hideyoshi died and Japan decided to end the war.
From the early 1600s trade continued between the two countries until the 1800s.
1905 Japan concluded a treaty with Korea after the Russo-Japanese war and took over internal affairs, foreign relations and external matters. They formally annexed the country 1910.
Japan ruled until 1945 with strong military force and suppression. Defeat in WWII ended Japan’s 35 year occupation.
U.S. and Soviet military governments were set up and they split the country in two, never meant to be a permanent measure. The Soviets stayed North, the U.S. South.
1948 the ‘Republic of Korea’ was officially founded with an elected president and one government for all of Korea, but North Korea set up their own government.
By mid 1949 all foreign troops were withdrawn.
KOREAN WAR: In June 1950 North Korea invaded the South. Their military was much stronger as they were Soviet trained and equipped. Seoul fell after a few days.
They were stopped in the far South by U.N. troops and those pushed North but got defeated by Chinese troops who came to the help of North Korea.
Since then peace talks never got results (2007 both countries desired a peace treaty).
At least one million Koreans died in this war and more than 60.000 U.N. soldiers.
Two million people migrated from North to South.
In the 1990s elected presidents started to get rid of corruption and the strong military influence.
Since then the democratization took several great steps and the economy pulled itself up from total collapse to one of the world’s most vigorous and also very export orientated.
SEOUL had a population around 150.000 in 1900, today it has 10 million inhabitants!
That’s one fifth of the country’s total population that lives in Seoul with a size of 605 square kilometers.
The old town was surrounded by a city wall, built 1396, many times renovated and 18,6 km long with 8 gates.
The old town was squeezed in a bowl between 4 hills, Bugak-san (342m) in the North, Inwang-san (338m) in the West, Namsan (265m) in the South and the Naksan hills in the East.