Sunday, February 19, 2012

Exploring Sincheon with a side of Seoul- Part 2

Having a lovely time in Seoul!
I apologize for the misleading title, I am still getting used to the way the cities and areas are named. Sincheon is actually part of Seoul. The second part of this journey takes place in the Northern part of Seoul, also called the Joseon Dynasty city (heart of Seoul). 

1st Haechi statue

We arrived in the heart of Seoul and explored the train station for a little bit before continuing on to the palace. This station was also the location of the Haechi Seoul Shop. 

Seoul has recently made the Haechi their city's mascot. (One article said they wanted it to become as popular as the Statue of Liberty for NYC). Haechi is a mythological fire-eating dog from Korean mythology. He is said to protect a city from fires, and disasters. He represents justice, integrity and good fortune. This creature has existed as a guardian of Seoul for a long time. 

Haechi Seoul Shop
I bought some postcards at the Haechi Seoul Shop, they had lots of cute stuffed animals and other Haechi items. I also happened across my first Haechi statue. Many tourists find it a challenge to see how many Haechi statues they can find around Seoul, for there are many. 

In front of the station's exit, there was a beautiful, multi-colored Haechi skylight that I took a snapshot of. 

Hyper picked the exit that we came out of (there were like 7 to choose from). This is the first view we received at the exit... absolutely amazing! (See picture below.)

As we walked closer to the statue, we came across some interesting mini-statues. One is a replica of a solar model, I assume it was the first model that Korea came up with. Another was an aquatic clock. It resembles the sun clock in many ways. 

Water Clock
Solar Model

Close up of the Joseon statue
 As I looked around I noticed the change in architecture right away. To the right of the Joseon statue, there was a gorgeous theater. I'm sad I didn't get to see the inside, I'm sure it would have been wonderful. I especially loved how there was a historical walkway in the middle of a busy traffic zone. Hyper told me we need to come back in the spring once they have the fountains turned on and the flowers planted. I'll make sure to do a follow-up post once I have pictures of it in the spring. 
The Heart of Seoul

It was getting late in the afternoon, we knew that the palace closed before dark so we knew we would never have time to visit it during this trip to Seoul. Instead of turning around and going home, we walked to the Gyeongbokgung Palace anyways. After all, I didn't need to see the inside to be able to appreciate the outside. 

Outside of the palace walls, we found a map of historic places in Seoul. (Yes, the 'map song' from Dora the Explorer was sung by yours truly, which resulted in some strange stares from people passing by on the busy street.) We took a picture  of the map so we could follow it on our return journey and hit up all the interesting places. 

I'm a map, I'm a map, I'm a map
Part of the palace's beauty was the background of gorgeous mountains. It was interesting because if you look in one direction you see the huge, tranquil mountain landscape, while in the other direction you see the city's tall skyscrapers. 

Gyeongbokgung Palace walls with mountain background.
Palace walls view from the main road.
Same palace walls as the pictures above,
but from the inside looking towards the city. 
 Although the palace had closed for the night, we were allowed inside the first walls where it's mostly just parking areas and security buildings. I got some pretty good pictures in this area.

Pure unedited beauty (inside the first layer of walls)

There were a couple people left walking around 

 Being the history buff that he is, Hyper stopped to read the story of Gyeongbokgung Palace. It was quite interesting. I found out that the mountain that took my breath away was named  either Mount Bugaksan or Mount Namsan. The palace is under constant rebuilding to restore it to it's traditional glory from before the Japanese invasion. I took a picture of the stone with the history on it in case my blog readers were curious about the story. Not many people seemed interested in learning about Korean history according to the poll, so I won't go into further detail. 
Hangul (Korean writing)

The story of the palace

By the time we had finished looking at the stones, and talked about the history a little, we were the only people left in the area (besides the security guards).  It was surreal to be alone by the ancient palace, the solitude increased it's grandeur.

After the last of the tourists left (besides us)
Near the Palace, there were two magnificent buildings. They were constantly changing because of the way the glass reflected the sky, simply breathtaking. I have no idea what purpose the buildings have, only that they were a joy to look at.

This is my edited version of the duo-buildings to see the original,
 please see Exploring Sincheon with a Side of Seoul- Part 1

A great mixture of old and new architecture!

One of the buildings solo-style
I look like such a tool, but I'm having so much fun
 in this pic I had to share. 

At the base of the buildings, there were some interesting artsy statues decorating the sidewalk. I took this picture so you could get an idea of how tall these slanted masterpieces are! 

As the sun started to set, the colors of the sky mixed with the colors of the ancient Imperial Palace, were just spectacular! The cold air was becoming cooler as the night approached, so we took one last look towards the Palace as we headed back to the train station. 

On the train ride home, it was super busy and there was barely room to stand this time. Hyper almost got pick-pocketed. It was impossible to tell who tried to put their hand in his pocket that's how many people were standing around us. Once we transferred to the second train, it was much more spacious. We even managed to nab two seats! I was so tired and sore from spending the entire day walking around in the cold; I almost fell asleep listening to my IPod with my head on Hyper's shoulder. 

All in all, I enjoyed my adventure in Seoul very much! I can't wait to return to Seoul in the Spring to see the inside this palace as well as the other ones in the city. 
I wonder how many Haechi statues I can find....