Palace tours

Back in Seoul we’ve been doing the usual tourist tour around the palaces. There are five major ones that are included on every ‘must see’ itinerary. We’ve seen two so far and while they are very well restored and in excellent condition, I have to admit that I’m a little disappointed in their perfection. It’s not that they’re not beautiful and befitting for a royal family (in olden times at least) but they look like they were cut out of some indenti-kit and assembled last week. There is no feeling of age or history about them. Unfortunately during the Japanese occupation most of the palaces were destroyed, then rebuilt, then usually destroyed again through fire or some other accident and in the end simply let go to waste until a major restoration project started in 1991 to bring everything back to its former glory.

Here’s an example from the Changdeokgung Palace we visited yesterday:

Beautiful, right? But it looks like it was built yesterday! It’s TOO perfect!

Here on the other hand is another building on that same royal property, built as a ‘practice palace’ for the crown prince.

Because it wasn’t a real royal dwelling, it was never painted in the usual colors. Doesn’t that make it look much more ‘lived in’? Here you can actually imagine people hundreds of years ago: walking, receiving guests, sitting, talking. In the other palaces I could only imagine dusty wax figures.

The ‘practice palace’ is located in the Secret Garden or Huwon (Rear Garden) behind Changdeokgung Palace. It’s a Korean style garden with many different types of trees and bushes, very simplistic but exactly like we white devils would imagine an Asian royal garden. Pagodas dotted here and there, lots of symbolism (e.g. a square pond with a round island in the middle, because Koreans believed that Earth was square and the sky was round) and beautiful craftsmanship like this arch carved from a single stone:

Our guide through the secret garden was dressed in full Korean traditional dress and started to pant quite heavily after a while since the garden is a bit hilly and we did a circuit of about 3km. But she looked very much in place with her getup:

The following has nothing whatsoever to do with the secret garden or the palaces but we overheard this conversation towards the end of the tour and it was too good not to share. Just imagine two kids from Connecticut, both of Asian heritage but probably on their first trip ever outside of the US:

He: We had a jackal in our front yard once. But it had rabies –
She: What’s a jackal?
He: It had rabies and so we called animal control and they picked it up –
She: What’s a jackal?
He: A jackal?
She: Yeah, is that like a bird?
He: No, it’s like a… It’s like a coyote.
She: Oh, like a fox?
He: Yeah, sort of.
She: I saw an opossum once. Actually, more than once. Like twice at least. At my mom’s house there are tons of squirrels.
He: I saw a bobcat once.
She: What’s a bobcat?
He: Uh, it’s like a big cat.
She: Wow, there are so many animals.

At this point we were wondering what a jackal (with rabies!) was doing in a front yard in Connecticut and trying not to piss our pants laughing. But thanks to this lovely couple we now have a new catchphrase: “Wow, there are so many animals.”

2 Responses to “Palace tours”

  1. Vicky says:

    wow, we have many animals as well as today some “fun” tourists pointed out at a wine tasting… wow you have a dog, two cats and now you have a wine with a rabbit on the label… AHA !!! good observation 🙂
    hope you are having fun while we are backbending and picking grapes

  2. Kuru says:

    Jackal in Connecticut????! Sounds like Fa and Luis Mariano thinking they were lost in Guatopo when they were probably in Lagunita….

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