For the last Korea-related post, I will be showing off a little bit. On our last day in Seoul, I had the urge to go to Gyeongbokgung…in a hanbok.
Gyeongbokgung (경복궁) is the largest of the Five Grand Palaces built during the Joseon Dynasty. Serving as the home of Kings, the Royal households, and acting as the seat of the Joseon government, Gyeongbokgung was built in 1395. Mostly destroyed in the first Japanese invasion, the palace was restored under the reign of King Gojong in the 19th century…only for much of it, along with other major palaces, to be systematically destroyed by Imperial Japan during the Japanese occupation. After the Korean liberation however, the palace is continually undergoing reconstruction, and is now considered the most beautiful of the Five Grand Palaces. In addition to the vast gardens and ponds, the grounds also house the National Palace Museum of Korea and the National Folk Museum.
As Gyeongbokgung has become such a famous landmark for tourists, the surrounding businesses have started to respond to this new demographic by offering new services, targeting foreign visitors. One of these services, hanbok rental, has also become wildly popular with younger Korean females, especially among those in middle and high school. An initiative by the Korean government that grants free palace entrance tickets to those wearing hanboks only sweetens the deal.
You can choose to borrow hanboks for various lengths of times, from 2 hours to an entire day. I chose to borrow mine for about 4 hours, for a total cost of 12,000 Won. This includes an extra hour to get dressed and adjust your makeup/hair, a petticoat, the hanbok itself, a hair accessory, and a matching handbag. Not a bad deal if you ask me.
While I wore my hanbok by myself, it was not uncommon to see gaggles of schoolgirls and couples on dates wearing matching hanboks. It made me think that in the future, I would like to bring my fiancé to a palace in Korea to wear hanboks together as well.
Despite the many layers, it was not uncomfortably hot, wandering around the palace grounds. The weather was cool and breezy, so it was bearable.
After our walk around the palace, it was time for lunch! I still had almost 2 hours left until my rental time was up, so I just ate in my hanbok. While eating, two tourists approached me and complimented me on my garb. Upon discovering that I was more than proficient in English, we struck up conversation. Coincidentally, their next destination was Taiwan, from where I had just returned a few days prior. They hadn’t really planned out their trip in detail yet, so I was able to offer them some tips and suggestions on places to visit and things to eat. I didn’t get their contact information though, but I hope they enjoyed their last day in Seoul and their Taiwan trip as well.
For the remainder of the day, we visited the National Folk Museum. Not having visited this museum for at least 10 years, it was enlightening and fascinating to go back in time and witness the lifestyle of my ancestors. It was interesting to see how shamanism and Confucianism merged to give birth to life customs that I, along with my extended family, still practice, such as Jesa (a form of ancestral worship).
However, my favorite part of the exhibitions was the displays on how cloth was made, and the various colors that were achieved through natural dyeing. Korean spinning wheels, unlike the Western wheels that I am more familiar with, are operated by a hand-crank. I hope that I will get a chance to use one of them some day.
And that’s it for my holiday in Korea! I hope you’ve enjoyed these posts, and I’ll see you again when I write about my other trips!