Thursday, January 2, 2014

fam bam in korea - gyeongbokgung

The first thing we ate when we arrived in Korea was unfortunately not barbeque but food from the convenience store and fried chicken. The only restaurants opened so late at night were fried chicken restaurants. I've had enough of Korean Fried Chicken - I swear that's the only thing I ever eat here in Korea. The chicken was so spicy that none of my family could really eat it and of course they had ordered a huge ass box of it. Haha.

We stayed at an airbnb apartment that had those famous Korean heated floors! After a late start to the day I brought the family to the grandest and probably the most beautiful of the five palaces in Seoul,
Gyeongbokgung or Palace Greatly Blessed by Heaven. My family isn't into cultural things so I basically had to choose one thing to show them. I had a hidden motive in bringing them to this palace because I didn't get a chance to see its entirety when I was here last time. Hehe

We took this picture right in the courtyard right in front of the main throne hall, Geunjeongjeon. After this picture Mal will disappear from all other pictures because she stayed behind in this area to rest. Luckily we ran into an English tour that had just started so I was all for joining them and listening to the interesting stories about the place. I highly recommend visiting the palaces during tour times because you get a lot of facts and anecdotes that aren't mentioned in the paid guidebook.

In Geunjeongjeon, the main throne hall, there sits a folding screen with the sun, the moon and five peaks. The sun symbolizes the king, the moon the queen and the five peaks a mythical place. This irworobongdo, folding screen, always sat behind the royal throne and served to show the majesty of the Joseon royal court.

Also located in the throne hall is the famed seven clawed dragon. Did you know that Japanese, Chinese and Korean dragons have different number of claws? Chinese dragons had the most claws at five but these were reserved for the Chinese Imperial Family. To have a seven clawed dragon built in the rafters of the throne room implied superiority over China's five clawed dragon. However this dragon isn't out in the open and cannot be seen from the front entrance but only from the side ones, implying that although ancient Koreans realized it as more superior they also knew it would be offensive to the Chinese Imperial Court.

the fam bam minus mal in front of the gyeonghoeru pavilion
The founders of the Joseon Kingdom were devoted Confucians that believed that record keeping kept the living to adhere to good principals in order to keep their legacy unmarred. This especially applied to the kings of Korea who had scribes that followed and recorded their every movement. By law the kings couldn't tamper with their writings or with the scribes. The tour guide told a story about how a king fell off his horse and embarrassed that it would be recorded in the Sillok, the record of the history of the Joseon Dynasty, the king asked the scribe not to document the fall. The scribe wrote down both the fall and the king's request and it lives to this day in the Sillok. Another interesting tidbit the tour guide told us involved how the king could only visit the queen on auspicious days to ensure that a great prince would be born. Sometimes a king would have to wait a looonnngg time before they could visit their queen and finally when such a day finally rolled around, this one king was denied his chance due to the rain, which was seen as a bad omen. Haha dang what bad luck!

If you look on top of certain buildings, you'll notice these figurines which actually come from the story Journeys to the West (aka The Monkey King). The more figures a building had the more important the building was. I love Journey to the West so it was cool that I was able to recognize this before the tour guide told us about it! I really enjoyed following the tour but we slowly lost members of the family as we went. In the end only Evo, Edmund and I made it!

The Details
22, Sajik-ro 9-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Access: Gyeongbokgung Palace Station (Seoul Subway Line 3), Exit 5 or
             Gwanghwamun Station (Seoul Subway Line 5), Exit 2
Hours:  January-February, November-December: 09:00-17:00
             March-May, September-October: 09:00-18:00
             June-August: 9:00am-6:30pm
             Last admission: 1 hr before closing
             Closed on Tuesdays
Admission Fee: Adults - 3000 won ($3) Children - 1500 won ($1.5); guide book - 500 won
Integrated Ticket of Palaces - 10,000 won includes entrance to the four palaces and Jongmyo Shrine
Tours depart in front of the Information Center at Heungnyemun Gate (흥례문).
Duration: 1hr - 1hr, 30min
Tour Schedule:
            English: 11:00, 13:30, 15:30
            Japanese: 10:00, 12:30, 14:30
            Chinese: 10:30, 13:00, 15:00

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