Tag Archives: Jongmyo

Secret Garden Fit for a King

Many kings, actually. Yesterday we visited Changdeokgung Palace, built in 1405 and — second to the Gyeongbokgung Palace — the palace from which many Joseon dynasty emperors ruled, including the last reigning one, Emperor Sunjong, who ruled until 1910. Like the Jongmyo Shrine, this palace is also a registered UNESCO World Heritage Site due to the way its buildings and design are integrated with nature. It was Will’s first palace visit in Seoul.

The palace grounds are immense, 110 acres if I remember correctly. Many different areas and so many buildings — whether housing quarters for queens, concubines, princes, or staff, or meeting halls, ceremonial halls, horse stables, storage rooms, etc. — it’s easy to get lost looking around. We were there for hours and I still don’t think we saw everything. Once you pay admission into the palace, you can explore freely. If you want to visit the palace’s Secret Garden, however, you need to pay a separate admission fee and go in with a guided tour group. They give the tours in various languages, several times daily.

The Secret Garden (aka Rear Garden) is even larger than the main palace grounds, taking up almost 60 percent of the entire area of the Changdeokgung Palace. Its acres and acres are filled with ponds, streams, gazebos, pavilions and many beautiful walking paths. The garden was meant as a place for the kings and their royal family members to relax, but also used for military exercises, archery contests, banquets and growing certain grains. Since it is also located next to the Changgyeonggung Palace, it was used by members of both palaces.

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Indulging in Myeong-dong treats and visiting a Confucian shrine

Heading to Myeong-dong yesterday — a cold, cloudy day — was just right. We knew it was a popular area for shopping since you can find many major international brands there (Zara, H&M, etc.). People love their shopping here! And we’re not even past Thanksgiving yet. But I digress. There’s a main street, if you will, and it was packed with shoppers, tourists, and … street food vendors. YES! We warmed up at Hadongkwan restaurant with some gomtang, a traditional, rich beef soup with rice in it, which was served very simply with salt, pepper, green onions and kimchi, of course. Not bad. That triggered my sweet tooth, so I tracked down where all the people were getting their tall ice cream cones from, and we also indulged. My vote for best bang for your buck! Then we ventured into the Noon Square mall, eight levels of shopping with a food court and rooftop garden. Oh my gosh I forgot the cat cafe! You’ll just have to see the pics below. All in all, nice shopping area, plenty of restaurants, more variety of street food than I’ve seen in other areas, and there are also two movie theaters there. We both agreed we’d be back. It’s cleaner and less sketchy-feeling than other parts of town.

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