Monday, September 23, 2013

Chuseok - Thursday: The "Ch" Palaces

[Last Wednesday - Saturday I stayed in Seoul during the Chuseok holiday, Korean Thanksgiving. The following post is day two of four.  Day one can be found here.]

Our first stop on Thursday was the Changgyeonggung Palace, which happened to be just minutes (walking) from our hostel.  To make it even better, entrance was free thanks to the holiday that day.  Double score!

Korean palaces are sure different from the European castles I saw while living in Spain.  Take a look at the entrance gate:


We were mostly walking around the grounds outside, since you couldn't enter any of the palace buildings (you could just peek through the open doors/windows).



There was a structure that reminded me of the "glass palace" in Madrid's Retiro Park, but this one was more of a greenhouse.  It was super hot inside the greenhouse, as you might imagine.  I was sweating enough outside as it was, so I just took a quick walk through the "glass palace" to see some of the plants, and then I fled out a side door:


All of our eyes were drawn to this sight (pictured below), as the contrast between ancient and modern was unavoidable:



Next we visited the Changdeokgung Palace, which was on the other side of the first palace.  Again, no admission fee.  Yay!  Here's the first main "palace".  Notice the open doors and "windows" where visitors could take a look inside.  The bottom picture is the inside of that building.



Here are a few more images from these royal grounds.  Again, below you can see visitors looking through the open windows into the palace buildings:


And one more outside/inside shot from the Changdeokgung Palace:



It was well into the afternoon at this point, so we left the palace in search of lunch.  We stumbled upon a festival while searching:


However, we were not seeing any food at this festival -- just shops and crafts and such.  It was hot and we were hungry, so we parted from this main pedestrian street to look for food on some side streets.  Guess what?  On a big national holiday, restaurants are closed!  We ended up in a touristy café, the only open place we found.  The AC and sitting was nice though.  During lunch we decided that all of us were palaced out for the day, and didn't mind if we skipped out on the third palace we had originally planned to visit.  We were exhausted from the sun/heat, all of the walking, and the lack of sleep the night before.

After lunch we headed back towards the festival, but much farther down the pedestrian street than we'd been before.  And guess what we found?  Food stands.  Lots of delicious, cheap, authentic Korean food.  Whoops.  But we were full and now sleepy.  And it was past 4 in the afternoon (I think).  So we took the metro back to our hostel and took naps.

I was woken up at 20:00, but didn't realize I had ever fallen asleep.  Guess I slept for a while!  We got up and went to a nearby market.  I felt pretty terrible -- my ill body needed more sleep and the cough drop I had before my nap upset my stomach (as they always do... but I can't sleep with a scratchy throat!).  It was a strange, strange feeling.  It felt like so much work just to stand up.  I was not hungry, but thought I should probably eat something while we were out.  We had some delicious chicken on a skewer from a street vendor for around $1.25.  It was great!  We came back to the hostel around 22:00 and I was happy to go to bed.
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