Wednesday, May 22, 2013


Last week I was let out of school early for Buddha's birthday, so I decided to visit Unhyeongung (운현궁) Palace in central Seoul. Although it isn't one of Seoul's true five palaces, it was the housing of Prince Regent Daewon-gun who ruled the Joseon dynasty during the 19th century. After paying 1000 won, I entered into the courtyard.
You can see how the city is right outside the palace's walls
There were four main buildings: Norakdang, Noandang, Irodang and Sujiksa. Honestly, they all looked kind of the same. Norakdang and Irodang were residences for women, while the guys would hang out at Noandang. Sujiksa would house the servants and guards.



 Irodang was my favorite building because of the elevated room. So, I took a selca that turned out surprisingly well.
For more information about Unhyeongung, check out the Visit Korea website. Here are the websites directions:

Anguk Station (Seoul Subway Line 3) Exit 4
50m from station
Jongno 3-ga Station (Seoul Subway Line 5) Exit 4
Go 300m towards Anguk Station

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Jeongneung Tomb

On Wednesday, May 15th I was let out of school early for the long weekend (thank you Buddha!). As most of my friends needed to work, I ventured out alone to Jeongneung (정릉) which is a tomb close to my workplace. Along with other Joseon dynasty tombs, it is  a UNECO world heritage site. Score.

 After following a bunch of signs up and down hills, I finally found the entrance to Jeongneung. I paid a small entrance fee (1,000 won), grabbed a map, and walked around. As it was a Wednesday afternoon, there were few people in the park: mostly ajjumas and ajjeoshis. A quick walk brought me to the tomb. Well, within sight of the tomb.

As you can see, the tomb is at top of the hill. I saw no way to get up to the tomb, so I imagine it isn't possible to get a close look. The tomb houses Queen Consort Sindeok, who was the second wife of King Taejo (the founder of the Joseon dynasty). Her place in history is a bit interesting, so to learn more, check out the Korean Cultural Heritage website for details.

I imagine the surrounding vicinity rather than the tomb itself gives reason for the locals to visit. Smack dab in a very apartment-heavy neighborhood is a very green and walkable area. One walking course goes around Jeongneung's land, and takes about thirty minutes.  If it was a little closer to my school, I would visit often to go for jogs. Peaceful, if a bit hilly, Jeongneung can be seen in about an hour.

Jeongneung was a bit difficult to find... here are the directions from Visit Korea:


In front of exit 6 of Sungshin Women's University station (Donam station / Seoul Subway Line 4), take city bus No. 1012, 1014, or 1212 and get off at Arirang Market. Walk 5-10 min.

Operating Hours

6:00-18:30 (Mar-Oct) / 6:00-17:30 (Nov-Feb)
Yeonsangunmyo 09:00~18:00

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Jongmyo Shrine

Last week, we were let out of school early for Parent's Day. To celebrate, I went downtown to see Jongmyo Shrine before my Korean class. Earlier this year, I saw Dongmyo, but Jongmyo is much more impressive. Located in central Seoul (right next to Jongno 3 Ga), I feel kind of silly for never having visited the shrine. Especially since it is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Jongmyo was commissioned by King Taejo (the founder of the Joseon dynasty) and is the shrine for all of the past kings and queens (plus some other honored guests). I almost didn't go last week because there weren't any English tours available, but I decided to suck it up and do a tour in Korean.

My Korean level is decent (I'm starting the advanced level at the Korea Foundation next week!), but historical words are hard. I probably understood some 80% of the words, but all of the important ones were lost. Since some of these words were difficult for Koreans as well, the tour guide did explain them quite well. For example, she started the tour by explaining the word Jongmyo (종묘) as there is confusion over the difference between a tomb and a shrine. 종 means ancestral and 묘 is normally a place to do ancestral rites. Nobody is buried at Jongmyo.

The first building we looked at (behind the tour guide in the picture above) was Hyangdaecheong. This building acted as storage and a waiting room for those coming to the shrine.

We walked along a road that had an elevated strip in the middle. This elevated strip was for the king, while the strips on the left and the right were for other high-ranking officials (rankings I didn't know). Women weren't allowed to perform the ancestral rites (제사), but a queen could have her tablet (신실) enshrined after her death. Equality after death.   
 Next, we saw Jaegung. Here, the king and crown prince would prepare before doing the rites. There was a building for the king, a building for the crown prince, and a bathing facility. The picture below is the king's room (Eojaesil).

After walking through Jaegung, we stopped in front of Jeonsacheong, where the food was prepared. I had 제사밥 a while back in Andong, and it was delicious, in a very plain way. 냠냠.

The next building was the most impressive: Jeongjeon. Jeongjeon is te main hall of Jongmyo. While it started off as a small shrine, when a king or queen died, a new hall was added. This continued until there were 19 chambers (and had to be stopped or it would rival the size of China's royal shrine... I think).  

Under King Sejong, a second shrine, Yeongnyeongjeon, was built to accommodate more tablets. As you can see in the picture below, there are four shrines with a raised roof. These shrines house King Taejo's ancestors.

If you want to visit Jongmyo, the English tours are at 10, 12, 2, and 4pm (but closed on Tuesdays). On Saturdays, you can visit the shrine without a guided tour. With the English booklet, that might be the best way to enjoy the shrine. The entrance fee is 1,000 won.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Seoul Bucket List

I've accepted the admission offer for UC San Diego, so unless I get a full-funded scholarship to a school in Korea (and decide a program in Seoul would be better), I'll be leaving Korea on August 24th. I LOVE Seoul. I'm going to miss it a tons. So I've decided to be quite pro-active during my last days. I'll be trying to do something interesting/new/unexpected everyday until the 24th (oh, and re-visiting favorites). Although I want this to be a lot of randomly cool things, there are some things I have on my bucket list. When I've seen these things, I'll write a post on this blog or over at my Korean diary. This list is by no means exhaustive and there is a good chance I'll add to it as I go along.

Achasan: Very simple mountain that can be done on any given afternoon.

Andong Jjimdalk: This used to be one of my favorite dishes my first year in Korea. I haven't eaten it since 2012! (Ate it with Cali and Catie on May 14th near Korea University).

Banpo Bridge fountain: I've never seen the rainbow fountain! And I wanted to visit this before I even came to Seoul!?! I imagine I'll be disappointed.

Bugaksan fortress wall: The mountain behind the Blue House has a pretty cool wall. But I need my passport! (Thursday, June 6th)

Bukhansan: While I've climbed this peak before, I've never reached the top. Lazy me. Part of this mountain is literally at the back door of my school.

Cheonho Dong Jjukkumi Street: On one of these upcoming hot summer days, I want to cool down with spicy baby octupus

Chimaek: I hardly ever have chicken and beer. This should change! (We had some Chimaek in Gunsan on May 17th, 2013)

Chu-eo tang in Pyeonchang dong: One of the oldest restaurants in Korea is on one of my jogging routes. And I love this eel soup!

Coex: I've never really explored Coex. I've only been to a couple of exhibition halls in the building. 

Dobongsan: I'm going to be doing this mountain on the 26th of May with my Korean class. As long as I wake up on time. Update: I didn't wake up on time. Must do later...

Everland: I kind of feel like I should go to Everland but also won't be completely upset if I don't make it.

Garak Wholesale Food Market: I love food and markets! Woot!

Gwanaksan: Nice big mountain in southern Seoul. 5/5/2013

Han River Cruise: Though it isn't the nicest river, I still want to take a cruise on a sunny day.

Hamilton Hotel Pool: I wanna soak in the sun with the fabulous

Hwagyesa: This temple was so near Suyu but I never went. Because I'm stupid. (August 13th, 2013)

Hwangudan Altar: This altar is in a garden in the Westin Chosun hotel. Looks really cool.

Imo chip: I must visit my auntie and her great restaurant in Itaewon again. And again. And again.

Inwangsan: The large mountain in western Seoul.

Jeongneung: The tombs near my school are just a hop and skip away. I visited them on 5/15/2013.  

Jongmyo Shrine: I visited Jongmyo on 5/8/2013. Great time. Highly recommended.

Jogyesa: I walk around Jongno all the time in Seoul, but I've never been to Jogyesa. And my family has! 헐.

Kimchi Field Museum: Enough said. 

Korea Furniture Museum: Looks pretty fantastic. The building housing the furniture is beautiful too.

Korean War Memorial Museum: Just minutes from my house and I've heard that it is a great museum.

Magpie Brewery: Located in my neighborhood. I've heard they have really great beer. (Visited in June for an awesome event for the season finale of Game of Throne).

Majang Korean BBQ Street: Meat street!

Namhansanseong: A fortress at the top of Namhan mountain from the Joseon period.

National Museum of Korea: I've been here for twenty minutes. I should go for a bit longer... (Visited August 17th)

Noryangjin Fish Market: Sure, I've been here before. But I want more fish! 

Ojang-dong Naengmyeon: Apparently they have the best Naengmyeon. AND I LOVE NAENGMYEON! *Update* I went there on 5/7/2013, and yes. It is amazing. I will be back!

Random buses: C and I jumped on random buses before to enjoy the destination. We need more of that in our lives.

Samsung Museum of Art: Ten thousand won has always looked like such an expensive entrance fee for a museum, but that is just me being stupid.

Sarangchae at Cheongwadae: I like political history, and this museum focuses on the presidents of Korea and Seoul history. Nice.

Seokchondong Tombs: Never even heard of these before, but..

Seoul Museum of Chicken Art: I forgot this existed. I wanna see it!

Seoul Museum of History: I love Seoul and this museum is free.

Sillim's Sundae Town: Yum yum yum.

Sindang Ddeokbokki: Although I once hated ddeokbokki, I now crave it. Especially Sindang's ddeokbokki.

Suyu Dalkgalbi: Best. Dalkgalbi. Ever. (Ate some more for Magaly's going away dinner on June 16th. Definitely still the best).

Suyu Toast: Best. Toast. Ever. Yum. This is still the best.

Time Square in Yeongdeungpo: A bit of shopping! 

TUM: SK Telekom's Ubiquitous Museum. A museum about future technologies. 

Unhyeungung Palace: Not really a palace, but a rich person's house from the Joseon dynasty. Saw it on 5/16/2013