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Changdeok Palace

October 5, 2008

Of Seoul’s five ancient palaces, my book recommended Changdeok Palace in Insadong as the best to visit, especially since it includes the so-called “Secret Garden,” Biwon. So that is exactly where Tanja, Melissa and I set off to on my first full-day of sightseeing in Seoul.

One of the things I love most about living in a large city is the ease of public transport and Seoul’s subway system is MASSIVE, the biggest and most complex I’ve ever encountered but also incredibly user-friendly.

Everything is well-marked in English so it’s easy to get around and find your way–and if you even stop momentarily and look confused, it’s almost guaranteed someone (not an employee, just a man off the street) will stop and try to help. I live near the top of the map on the light blue line at Suyu. The subway is also much cleaner than any other I’ve seen, although there is much more pushing and aggressiveness — no “excuse me” or gentle nudging, just a full-out body slam from young and old alike. Different culture.

I was so excited to see Seoul’s version of Piccadilly Circus — reminded me of my London days!

Okay, not exactly the same…

Changdeok Palace is gorgeous. Originally constructed between 1405 and 1412, Korean leaders lived and ruled here until the late 19th century. Parts of the palace burned down in 1592 and so the “new” buildings date from 1609. Today Changdeok Palace is a designated World Heritage Site and can only be visited on a guided tour — although many places offer English-language tours, guides often have only a basic grasp of the English language and can be difficult to understand, so luckily buildings and important sites are usually well-marked with English explanations.

Donhwamun Gate, the oldest gate still standing (1412)

Seonjeongjeon Hall, an office for ruling officials (1647)


Random picture, but THESE are the mountains behind my school — this is what I see every day over campus:

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