South Korea 2015 Part 15 – Gyeongbokgung Palace & Samcheong-dong

This is part of an ongoing travelogue, to start at the beginning click here.

Lunch at Toshokchon samgyetang took a little longer than expected, as the haemul paejon took a long time to arrive (but was the best we had during our entire trip). Which meant we missed the guard changing ceremony at the entrance of the palace. Ah well, maybe next trip.

We did manage to get some pics with the guards.

(I find it funny the guards have to wear fake goatees)

Also, lesson #1 about these guards – don’t touch them in any way.

The main entrance to Gyeongbokgung is at the south, via Gwanghwamun Square, walking distance from the similarly-named subway station.


Gyeongbokgung is definitely the biggest, grandest and busiest palace in all of Korea. Even the line to buy entrance tickets stretched halfway the courtyard. Fortunately, we were in time for the English language guided tour. If you can, go for this – the palace visit is definitely more fun and informative. Her English isn’t great, but understandable and she’s very well versed with the history and has some amusing anecdotes.

(our tour guide giving the whole rundown of the tour)

(similar to Chinese emperors, that special stone is for the emperor to disembark the sedan chair)

(entrance to the main square)

(the throne room)

(and the twin golden dragons watching over the emperor)

One funny thing about our tour guide was her fascination with heating systems and chimneys. She always takes time to explain how each palace / building is heated (underground furnace) and where the chimneys are. This one below is her favourite – its a terraced garden behind the queen’s house and the chimneys are apparently original and the oldest part of the palace (most of the rest of the palace was extensively damaged by the Japanese during the war). She was very proud of her “chimneys!”


After the tour ended we walked to the northern end of the palace to see the sprawling gardens and lake. it was nearing closing time at 5pm, and today was a very cold day. we decided to take a look at the Blue House outside to the north of the palace. The Blue House is the residence of the president.

security was quite tight with some VIPs arriving. We didn’t go in for the tour, there’s an entrance fee and besides, they’re closed for the day. So instead we walked down the road to Samcheong-dong. This is a small enclave famous for its art galleries and coffeeshops, where traditional houses sit side-by-side with modern shops.

With the fading evening light and pretty shop lights, Samcheong-dong really looks serene and beautiful.



(hanok traditional house turned into a coffeebar)

(this gallery had a lady artist doing a live portrait of one of the customers)

After walking up to the end of the street at the hilltop, we were cold and feeling hungry, so we stopped by this quaint café for a light dinner. Their coffee came with cookies, and we ordered this flat rectangular pizza dish which was delicious.




During dinner we were deciding where to go next (at the time it was only 7pm). We basically, have done everything in our itinerary up to this point, so we decided to venture to Dongdaemun night market. We didn’t plan to come here during our trip since it was mostly clothes and we weren’t really shopping for clothes. But there was a night market there so we decided to get some supper there.

After resting our feet, we stepped out into the biting cold wind and hailed a cab.

Dongdaemun itself didn’t seem very impressive – only the large malls like Doota were open 24 hours. the other small shops in the precinct were closing up by the time we got there. We walked through the backlanes en route to the market, and we passed these restaurants that were packed with locals eating ginseng chicken soup. Next trip when we come we have to come here! The market itself wasn’t fantastic – but we did find a stall selling fried chicken. There’s something about Korean fried chicken – it just tastes great, without being greasy.

(fried chicken)

After exiting the market we found out Dongdaemun is just opposite Gwangjang market, so lo and behold we were back here again! Today, though, being Saturday, the market is really different. It is really packed and even the outer shops are bustling with customers.

When we came to Korea, we had a list of food to try. Most of them are obvious and we had the opportunity to try many times – Korean BBQ, jjimdak, hoeddeok, haemul pajeon, samgyetang and soondae (blood sausages). My wife absolutely refused to eat soondae with me, so I had to pass on that one. But one item on the list we hadn’t had the opportunity to try was tteokbokki – rice cakes in spicy sauce. we used to watch the cast of Family Outing make this frequently.

So anyway at Gwangjang we ordered some tteokbokki. Super spicy!


After our supper we took the bus back to our hotel.

Next – Last day in Korea!

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