Hanbok Time at Gyeongbokgung

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!

Signing off,
Marie

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Ihwa Mural Village

And it’s back to Korea! Today I’ll be showing you around the picturesque Ihwa Mural Village (이화 벽화마을), located in Ihwa-dong.

In 2006, as part of the Naksan Project, approximately 60 artists were commissioned to paint walls and install artworks around the Ihwa neighborhood. As a result, the area was reborn as a tourist attraction – visitors can come admire the many galleries and small stores selling handmade items among the prettily adorned concrete walls.

The neighborhood boom was not without its controversies, however. Many residents, constantly disturbed and harassed by the noisy tourists (and the trash they leave behind), have protested against the Naksan Project by painting over landmarks with grey paint. Wandering around the neighborhood, angry red messages spray-painted onto walls were not uncommon either. I could understand why they would be protesting, though – many tourists were blatantly ignoring numerous signs posted asking them to respect private property and keep noise levels to a minimum.

In spite of the controversy, there were still many murals left untouched, thankfully. I do hope that in the future, tourists are more considerate of the people who make their homes here.

One store that I really enjoyed visiting was Suga M, located at the bottom of one of the many hills. A small leather-working store, the owner was very friendly as she talked us through all of her pieces. Her store had not been open for too long, but I hope that she gets a lot of visitors (and business) soon!

We passed by a small wooden bench under some pieces of dyed fabric. I’m not entirely sure what they were there for, but they were quite pretty all the same.

There were a number of tiny museums dotted throughout the Mural Village. It was a shame they weren’t advertised more clearly; the only reason we found out about them was because we accidentally stumbled into one. One of them was showcasing traditional Korean embroidery, used in traditional Korean weddings. I loved looking at the intricate details of the richly embroidered dresses and bed-covers.

We also stopped by a small cafe, occupied by two adorable Siamese kittens that I played with as I sipped my iced cappuccino.

Despite the sweltering hot weather, we had a lovely trip to Ihwa Mural Village. I hope that in the future, some sort of agreement is made between the residents and the tourist board, to ensure everybody benefits equally from the Naksan Project.

Signing off,
Marie

Coffee Break

While in Korea, I went to a number of lovely cafes with delicious coffees. I thought it would be a nice break from the usually (overly) wordy nature of my blog and just share some pretty pictures.

The first place was Alex the Coffee. Located in Yongin, the cafe was built almost entirely out of glass. Beans were purchased directly at the source by the owners, who also had installed a top of the line stereo system so you could enjoy lovely music with your cuppa.

The second place was Somethin’ Else, a tiny cafe located in the quaint artisan district of Yeonnam-dong. Flanked on one side by an old railroad track that has now been converted into a neighborhood park, we enjoyed our delicious coffee and blueberry muffin that was roasted in-store to some smooth jazz.

The next cafe was actually just a gift shop for the LINE characters located inside a mall, but the packaging and interior decorations was just so cute! One side of the cafe/gift shop was even lined with character plushies wearing adorably knitted sweaters. The coffee was so-so, but the green tea and cream flavored roll cakes were delicious.

And last of all was a small cafe located at the top of the Ihwa Mural Village. Being an extremely hot and sunny day, the small air-conditioned house and the ice-cold coffee was a welcome escape from trudging up the hilly paths. I loved the little floral motifs on the cups and saucers. ♡♡♡

Coffee, glorious coffee. Hope you enjoyed, and I’ll see you all later!

Signing off,
Marie