Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Seoul Part 2

I only had time to see one Palace so I chose the Changdeokgung Palace where I started with a guided tour of the buildings before moving on to the ....Secret Garden. These buildings are rather impressive, although the ground around them always seems to be strangely bare. This is one of many ways they definitely differ from Japanese buildings.
Changdeokgung Palace
The colour scheme for this Palace was repeated on all the buildings and was said to be partly to ward off insects that would eat the wood and partly for decoration. I felt it went above and beyond pest control.
Changdeokgung Palace
The beautiful roof tiles were mostly grey except for the King's special building where they were a beautiful dark blue which apparently looks amazing when the sun shines on it.
Blue Roof at Changdeokgung Palace
Sadly it was very overcast when I visited. Not that that stopped me for getting my photo fix.
Door Lock at Changdeokgung Palace
Changdeokgung Palace
Tiles at Changdeokgung Palace
Changdeokgung Palace
The Secret Garden was the private one of the King and Queen and only they and their invited guests could use it. Access was via guided tour only and there was a bull dog type guy who stayed at the rear of the group and growled at anyone not keeping up with the Guide. The Autumn Foliage was at peak perfection.
Secret Garden at Changdeokgung Palace
Secret Garden at Changdeokgung Palace
Secret Garden at Changdeokgung Palace
Secret Garden at Changdeokgung Palace
The gardens were huge. The 90 minute tour kept up a good pace and involved many extremely steep hills.
Secret Garden at Changdeokgung Palace
It then ended with a 750 year old Juniper tree.
750 Year Old Chinese Juniper Tree at the Secret Garden at Changdeokgung Palace
Fairly impressive when you think about everything that has happened to Seoul while that tree has been growing.

I had spotted another impressive looking place from the taxi window (taxis were amazingly cheap) so I wanted to go and have a nose about. It turned out to be the Jogyesa Buddhist Temple and it was in the midst of some sort of celebration.
Jogyesa Buddhist Temple
The outside was beautifully decorated with paintings and carvings.
Walls of Jogyesa Buddhist Temple
I went in, took a cushion, and had a little meditate. It was beautifully decorated.
Lanterns inside the Jogyesa Buddhist Temple
I have always loved Buddhist lanterns and there were shops nearby full of everything your practising buddhist needs.
Buddhist Shop with Lanterns
Sadly the lanterns do not fold flat - if they had done my suitcase would have been stuffed with them.

I had been to one market but it was discussion of Dongdaemun which had got me started on the idea of visiting Seoul in the first place. Can you guess why?
Dongdaemun Market
There are two buildings, each with basements and about another 5 floors on top of that. Each building is huge and each is stuffed with stalls. There may be 50 - maybe more - stalls for the same sort of thing in one area of a floor, be that buttons, yarn, ribbon, fabric or anything else you can think of.
Dongdaemun Market
Every knitting stall had its own mini knitting group sat around or within it. 
Dongdaemun Market
Dongdaemun Market
Dongdaemun Market
With my sense of direction I was instantly lost as soon as I made my first left or right. Stalls seemed to go on for miles. It was a tad confusing for me too because we are returning to England so I knew I couldn't really buy anything as I'd just need to pack it - and I already have enough to pack. Yet everything seemed pretty cheap. A conundrum.

My final visit was to the National Museum of Korea, which is kind of like the UK's British Museum and the V&A combined. It was mahoosive.
Inside the Main Hall
The collection went from prehistoric flints to current day design and was extremely impressive. A few things stand out in my mind, all Buddhas as it turns out. This one is from the 16th Century. Only the head had survived and the shiny nature of it really creeped me out (I'm so cultural in my descriptions).
Shakyamuni Buddha Head, 16th Century
This painting is about the height of a three story building and a couple of hundred years old. The condition of it was amazing.
Huge Buddha Painting
This 10th Century iron Buddha has the casting marks still on it.
10th Century Iron Buddha
The audio guide I had rented (for less than a pound) explained that bronze or copper had been the preferred metal for statues like this but a war had caused a scarcity and so this was one of the early iron ones which had to be cast differently because of the weight of the iron. I find those casting marks mesmerising. My absolute favourite piece was this though.
Pensive Bodhisattva
An early 7th Century bronze "Pensive Bodhisattva" which is apparently what this pose of one crossed leg is referred to as. Isn't he amazing? He was only about 30cm tall but I spent ages looking at him.

I did enjoy my time in Seoul, despite the heavy rain of the final day, but it was overcast by the uncertainty of what Pooch and I will be doing next as we prepare for returning to the UK. I certainly could have done a lot of damage to my wallet at the Dondaemun Market had the situation been different!

1 comment:

Farm Quilter said...

I went to every place you mentioned (my daughter planned an awesome time in Seoul) and I totally agree with all of your observations!! When we were in the museum there were school children who shyly practiced their English on me (I guess since I'm older I was more approachable) - did you have any of them try their English with you? Everything in Seoul struck me as more of much too much! The colors of the palaces, sizes of the museums and the shopping...overwhelming, but oh so much fun!!!

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