Korean Historical Landmark, Seoul
While trying to find a path through to take pictures of the buildings along the river I came across this shrine. Although of relatively recent construction (1984), the building is of pleasant traditional Korean architecture. Where many holy sites in Korean charge admission, this site offers free admission. Check their website for a history. Check the Vist Korea site for detailed directions.
Seolleung Royal Tombs houses the burial mounds of King Seongjong (1469-1494), his wife Queen Jeonghyeon, and King Jungjong (1506-1544) of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910).
The burial mounds are surrounded by small sculptures called Japsang. These are carved in the shape of animals and were believed to exorcise evil spirits.
The king's burial mound is surrounded by sculptures of sheep and tigers. These act as guardians for the dead King. The queen’s tomb is simpler, but it also has stone sculptures.
The area around the tombs is green and wooded. People come here to relax and enjoy nature.
Amsa Prehistoric Site is an ancient settlement along the Han River and contains several reconstructed huts, a museum, and many artifacts from the area. This is one of the largest settlement sites ever discovered on the Korean Peninsula from the Neolithic Era (4000-3500 BC). In this period of time, the people lived in circular dugout huts with the floors 2-3 feet below ground level. The roofs were made of logs and straw.
During my visit the place was full of school children, but a wonderful tour guide who spoke English gave me a personal tour of the museum.
Amsa Prehistoric Settlement Site is located in Amsa-dong at the end of subway line 8, Amsa Station. From the station, continue to walk northeast for 15 or 20 minutes until you see the signs for Amsa, or take a taxi.
Entrance is just 500 Won for adults and 300 Won for children.
Haenjusanseong is a beautiful park with a great view overlooking the Han River. This ancient fortress was made famous as the site where Korean General Gwon Yul defeated 30,000 Japanese soldiers with only 2,000 Korean defenders in 1592.
In 1950 following the Incheon Invasion, US Marines first crossed the Han River near this location on their way to liberate Seoul. There is a small monument near the parking area documenting this event.
Today this is a wonderful area for a walk along the fortress's earthen walls. Be sure to visit the Victory monument at the top of the hill as well as the two pavilions overlooking the river.
During my visit, I brought a book and just relaxed and read for a few hours. This is a very quiet spot!
To get to Haenjusanseong, take the Gyeonguison Rail Line from Seoul Station to Haengsin Station, then catch bus 85-1 to the fortress.
The Baekje kingdom was one of three monarchies that divided up Korea before the peninsula was unified for the first time in 676 CE by the Shilla Empire. The Baekje controlled an expanse of territory in the central part of the Korean peninsula and used Seoul as their capital for a time. To bury their monarchs they built terraced mounds such as the ones you see behind me -- these mounds date from around 470 CE
I found these mounds by taking a bus south from the Jamsil metro stop and noting the sign that opinted towards them. No one had ever told me about them nor had I read about them in a guide book, though I was aware of Baekje burial sites in Seoul due to my recent visit to the National Museum. Putting two and two together, when I came back via the metro's pink line, I got off at the Sokcheon stop (just south of Jamsil) and checked the neighborhood map they post in every subway station. Sure enough, on it was marked a park with Baekje graves. When I arrived, it was walled in traditional stone and beautifully landscaped, filled with local children and their families. I wouldn't go out of my way to come here unless I had an unhealthy fascination with tombs, but it was a pleasant visit given that I was in the area and I've seen most of Seoul's other sights.
In wandering around te graves I met a guy who claimed to be a retired police officer despite the fact he was sleeping in the dirt and would cock his leg while farting loudly every 100 meters or so (though he never stopped talking or seemed to consider this an etiquette issue). Though bizarre, he was nice enough so I chatted with him until he walked me right to the subway turnstile. His picture is shown here next to the only mound tomb in the park.
Many a disappointed traveller to Korea has lamented about the "Chinese-ness" of the palaces and halls. That's because they haven't looked past the ancient architecture...discover instead those silent, natives of the past that guard those palace walls. Yes, yes, I meant the mythical creatures and not the old pensioners who jog around those places to kill time. There are hundreds of these strange creatures ( Bulgsari, Haetae , etc ) that inhabit the palaces and temples of Korea.
To find out more about them, read my travelogue, Silent Guards
bpacker's Seoul Searching page
If donning a hanbok in Seoul isn't your cup of tea, force junior to wear one. Chances are, he'll look cuter than you and everyone, including the locals will want to make friends with him. Just take look at this picture. If you look carefully, the guard is actually holding hands with the kid and... maybe asking him if he wants to take over .
bpacker's Seoul Searching page
Ok, so this is cheesy, but you'll amuse lots of bystanders like myself so what's the harm? For a fee, you can borrow a hanbok from a small shop in Gyeongbokgung palace and pretend to an ancient royal in Seoul. Think twice before doing this is winter as the costumes are wafer thin. The HongKong tourists in the pictures are trying very hard to smile in the 5c weather.
bpacker's Seoul Searching page
Here's Korea version of London's Hyde Park . The only difference is that speakers here don't stand on soap boxes and they're a lot older. Enthusiastic, politically minded pensioners make fiery speeches almost daily at this place. Interesting to note that years ago in 1911, a revolution took place here pretty much the same way. You can read the fiery declaration of indepence on the walls of the Park as it's printed in Hangul and English. If not, click here to read it.
bpacker's Seoul Searching page
Just a few steps away from the Jogyesa Temple entrance is a small museum on the history of postal communications in Korea. Just one room, in a small elegant building, the history of the Korean post office and its royal predecessors is explained in simple term. Plenty of old documents, uniforms and sets of the very first stamps used make this a good educational stop on the way to the temple.
The building has been nicely preserved - this was the first post office in Korea - and it is surrounded by a small garden which will form part of the extended Jogyesa Temple when renovations are finished. Some of Korea's interesting stamps have been recreated on tiles laid into the brick paving.
There is also a small memorial statue to one of Korea's independence martyrs from he Japanese occupation period.
Geumwiyeong means are Capital Garrison.
it was one of the five army garrisons located around the capital area during the late Joseon Dynasty.it had its western camp here.
located by left side front of Changdeokgung Palace.
Ok, it may just be the Political Science degree I wasted 4 years of college on, but there is something about a Presidential Home which I just can't pass up. The Blue house is the Korean version of the US White House. It is not quite as big, but the blue tiled roof is more attractive than the white marble mansion in Washington DC.
Unfortunately, it is just as hard to get into. But it can be done. The tickets are free, and can be obtained at the information booth. You will have to go between 10 am and 3 pm on Fridays and Saturdays durring select seasons. The last time I was in Seoul, I took the tour and managed to get a look at past President Kim (the 2001 version of a President Kim.) It is a very nice tour and one that surprised me as to how the President lives, compared with his US counterpart.
The highlight of the visit was not the many interesting dwellings. The best part was the traditional dancing and acrobatic presentation. This are held daily. It offered an insight into dances you can rarely see these days in Korea. Some of the decorative costumes are similar to those I had seen elsewhere, particularly the high Altiplano of Bolivia. It?s always interesting to see how two distinct cultures can develop similar dances!
A good way to immerse yourself on the Korean culture is to visit the Korean Folk Village. Now, I usually don't like cultural amusement parks of sorts, but this one is an exception. The park has a vast array of traditional Korean dwellings, including a Buddhist temple, a Confucianism temple, a bakery house, a pottery house, a silk weaver house, a bamboo weaver house, a blacksmith, a market, a governor?s house, and much much more!
Lastly on this tour, we got to drive through Freedom Village, a town in Sth Korea where people actually live a very lucrative life (earning over $82,000 tax-free per year in farming alone) among the sea of chaos.