During a work trip way back in August, I was fortunate enough to have two free days to explore Seoul on my own. This was my first time traveling alone so I was curious about what it would be like.
Excitedly, I planned out a jam packed day where I would mostly walk around Seoul without use of public transportation. Being in Singapore, it is way too hot to walk for more than 30 minutes outside (locals say more than 10 minutes is already too much). So while in Seoul in beautiful 20 degree Celsius temperatures, i chose the walking path instead of the subway.
This is what I did on day one in Seoul on a Friday!
Gyeongbokgung Palace and Gwanghwamun (Gates)
From my hotel in City Hall i walked out to Gyeongbokgung Palace which was about 15 minute away. Along the way i noticed alot of protesting activity, which was happening on a Friday also. Most protesters were protesting about Donald Trump’s increasingly volatile comments about North Korea and war, or about corporate abuse by LG. I couldn’t read the signs but I recognised the distinctive round logo.
On a more sombre note, there was a booth commemorating the tragic loss of life of South Korean students on a school excursion by Ferry. A real sad sight to observe and read about during the walk
On lighter news, along the way there are other monuments and statues to observe that describe parts of Korean history.
I managed to catch the morning ‘Changing of the Palace Guard’ show at the palace gates known as Gwanghwamun.
Shots of the palace itself is kind of tricky because of all the tourist buses zooming past!
When in Seoul its worth visiting at least one palace. There is a ticket you can buy for 10,000 Won where you can visit all four palaces in one day to save you some money. I can see value in it for some but for me, similar to temples in Japan and Thailand, theres only so many temple or palaces I can see on one trip before they start to look the same. It’s probably my own ignorance and lack of appreciation, my fault. But here is a beautiful shot inside the Palace itself.
Bukchon Hanok Village
Next up, the historical village that has been preserved by the government as a keepsake of the pre-modernisation of Seoul.
It was just nice to walk along the streets and observe the old style buildings. Interestingly there were a lot of office workers looking for a meal at the same time.
I did stop by the Bukchon Cultural Centre for a seat and to observe some of the local artwork. The Centre has some interesting exhibits to describe the preservation efforts of the Bukchon Hanok village.
This was followed by a quick meal of Korean Blood Sausage, and Toppoki with hot soup.
From Bukchon Hanok, it was only a short walk to Changdeokgung Palace. By this point I was getting tired but I had to push on!
Some interesting snaps below. I like the look of Japanese vending machines over western ones. something about displaying all of the drinks at the front looks appealing to me.
The famous stream that cuts through the city in half horizontally. Its a nice way to spend the morning or afternoon with a coffee. I walked from Changdeokgung Palace south towards the stream, which was a little far to be honest. Once i started at the stream I headed west until i found Insadong, a tourist market place.
By this point I was pretty exhausted but determined to keep going. This street is lined with beauty stores and tourist shops selling your usual Korea souveneers like shot glasses, magnets and all that. On road itself there are food stalls and toy shops.
I didn’t take alot of photos here, but here was a stall that sold Hotteok, a deep fried red bean pastry. Food photos are posted in this blog post
Again I didn’t end up taking a lot of photos of this market except for this thing called Hoodie Ryan. Its a beauty product and I think its the most random looking mascot.
Anyway, come to Myeongdong for the fashion stores, beauty products, and street food! Link earlier has my posts on what I ate in Myeongdong.
Seoul City Walking Tours (FREE!)
One thing i always do when im researching for activities in any city i visit, is to check for free walking tours. I’ve done free walking tours in Tokyo and Ho Chi Minh and have thoroughly enjoyed them. You get to meet some new people, get a guided tour with an experienced guide, and best of all, its free. Its also a good way to tick alot of boxes of the list for tourist things in a short amount of time, so that you can spend more time doing the things you want. I attended one of these at night, but I’ll cover in another post!