Since I spent some of the afternoon and all of the evening studying Korean with my new friend, this post will focus on the morning and my visit to Gyeongbokgung.
Gyeongbokgung is the palace where the kings of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1897). The palace was built in 1392. But, there’s an important detail I need to mention, so let’s backtrack.
As I was coming out of the Gyeongbokgung station, I was approached by a young man in school uniform who offered me a free tour of the palace. Naturally, I accepted. Brian told me he was studying at a foreign language high school where he was learning English and Chinese. He spoke very good English and definitely enhanced my experience of visiting the palace.
The grounds of the palace looked familiar – I had seen them on a Korean TV drama, 해를 품은 달 (Hae Reul Pum-en Tal, Moon Embracing the Sun), where the results for the Confucian Civil Service exam were given out.
There were heaps of people visiting the palace. Some had dressed up in hanbok, traditional Korean clothing worn in the Joseon Dynasty. There were quite a few Malay-looking women wearing the hanbok along with their headscarf, which looked quite out of place historically. After paying the ₩3000 (around NZ$3.80) entrance fee, Brian led me to the throne hall of the palace.
As you can see, the place was swimming with hordes of people.
Brian explained that in the picture behind the throne, the sun symbolised the King and the moon symbolised the Queen (hence the name of the TV show). He also explained the five mountain peaks, but I’ve forgotton that part.
When we reached the Gangyeongjon, the king’s main living area, Brian explained that there were (I think) 9 rooms and that the king slept in a different one each night (presumably to thwart any assassins).
At the Queen’s residence, the Gyotaejeon, Brian explained that it was laid out similarly to the King’s living quarters.
This last building was used for royal feasts and banquets.
While much of the palace has been rebuilt, it was still amazing to see. I’m glad I went there
I filled in a form evaluating Brian’s tour, thanked him and then went out to the front to get some photos of the main gate, Gwanghwamun;
At the gate there are guards dressed in clothing from the Joseon Dynasty. I managed to get this video of them: