14 July 2014
We're leaving Seoul tomorrow, so this is our last report. We've enjoyed our five or six weeks here, but there are places to go and things to do and we're moving on.
So, we visited one of the palaces, the Gyeongbokgung Palace. The original palace was built in the 1300s, at the beginning of the Joseon Dynasty, which lasted into the 20th century. The original palace was destroyed in the 1500s during the Japanese invasion, but was rebuilt during the 1800-1900s.
So, this palace. I don't know what we were expecting, it looks so wonderful from a distance. (This is the palace that we see from the US Embassy, with a huge hill looming over it.) It somehow was kind of a letdown. It's a beautiful and huge building, don't get me wrong. All kinds of gates and wings and pagodas, with intricate painting.
Maybe it was the lack of grounds - the palace complex is set in a field of dusty dirt. Not even grass. No trees. No flowers. Just lots of empty yard. To the point of being empty dry dusty fields.
Maybe it was because the palace is in the middle of the city, with skyscrapers in the background. Not even in the distance, just kind of across the road.
And even though things are sort of colourful, well, it's that "sort of" colourful - there's definitely an austerity to the colour scheme. It isn't fun and exuberant the way buildings are in SE Asia. The colours are muted and sedate by comparison. Which leads to a feeling of stateliness in the grand palace look, but also feels, well, austere. Remote. Unfriendly and unwelcoming. Maybe even unhappy, if a building complex can look unhappy.
So it was interesting, and we walked around for a while, but didn't spend a long time looking at everything.
Here's a link to the official Korean website, if you want more information about the palace:
We walked around the area, and then took the subway to the casino, which is near Seoul Station.
And I found this wonderful series of flat metal sculptures by David Gerstein - these colourful figures were mounted on the wall of a food court. The bicycle figures were set up outside around the building. And the tree of butterflies was in a little courtyard by the food court.
I just loved how whimsical the pieces were, and I found them to be so much cheerier than the palace!
Anyway, we're heading to Japan tomorrow, but we're not staying there.
So - cliff-hanger time! Tune in some time during the week to see where we end up!