Other Place to Go, Seoul
On our first visit to Seoul we did a day trip to Suwon on the underground. We found people here really helpful. At the information stand near the station they wrote me down bus information, gave me maps and free postcards. None of them could speak English but they called out to passers-by until someone who could speak English came to help.
We walked from the station to Sowon's Hwaseong Fortress. We walked right round the fortress walls. We were the only people there. It was peaceful and pretty. The fortress has stretches of wall, gates, a picturesque pond, a bell tower.
Hwaseong Fortress was built by Jo Sim-tae. He was the county governor of Hwaseong. The construction of the fortress was based on the theories of fortress design of Yu Hyeong-won and Jeong Yak-yong, scholars of the Practical School. The fortress is made of stone and mud bricks. The construction of the fortress was completed in 1796.
Hwaseong Fortress was registered as a World Cultural Heritage at the 21st General Meeting of the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO, held in Naples on December 4, 1997.
Before leaving Suwon we had an excellent Korean BBQ meal.
If you have an afternoon free in Seoul, wander around the Bukchon area to look at the wonderful traditional Korean houses. Most of these residences have tile-covered wooden roofs and stucco-type walls. This narrow-alley residential area is located just north of Anguk Station on Subway Line 3.
There are about 900 traditional houses in the village, including many that are several hundred years old. As just one example, former President Yun Bo-Seon's residence is in this area at 8-1 Anguk-dong, and is a Korean National Historic Site. It was constructed in the 1890s.
The area just recently gained fame with tourists. In the early 2000s, the Seoul City Government estimated the number of tourists visiting Bukchon to be just 30,000 per year. By 2012, the number had increased to over 600,000 visitors each year.
Bukchon covers the neighborhoods of Gahoe-dong and Gye-dong.
I am writing one tip here for two separate locations. I do this because they are located close to each other (about 5 minutes walk), and you can buy a discounted ticket that allows entry to both.
The Silk Road Museum:
Korea was near the far east of the ancient Silk Road, with only Japan stretching further east. This museum has a respectable amount of artifacts and displays dedicated to the old road. The items on display do not particularly relate to Korea, but rather to any location on the old road. There are ancient weapons, clothing, animal bridals / saddles, etc.
The museum is located in a small building and has displays on three floors. The stairs are rather steep and do not offer access to wheelchair or handicapped.
Contact information for the Silk Road Museum is listed below.
The Tibet Museum:
The Tibet Museum is a humble amount of artifacts. They displays are limited to clothing and robes, photographs and several Buddha statues.
Both museums have limited information signs in English, but are obviously well documented in Korean. Thankfully the artifacts mostly speak for themselves.
Both museums are open 10am ~ 7pm. Closed on Mondays.
Tickets for each are 5000won (adult), 3000won (student).
Discount ticket for both museums are 6000won & 4000won respectively.
Please see my tip on "Bukchon" for further information about the neighborhood these are located in. From the base of the Jeongdok Public Library, there is an Tourist Information Desk, with maps, or from there, there are street signs pointing the way.
Samcheongdonggil Street is home to many art gallaries. I think there were at least three. There was also the Korean Traditional Folk Dress Museum which featured many colorful and beautiful Hanbok's.
In addition to the museums and art gallaries, there are many cafe's, craft shops, and the Jeongdok Library nearby.
My favorite place on the street though is Dongsipjagak. Dongsipjagak was a watch tower at the southeastern corner of the Gyeongbokgung Palace wall. The stone base structure was built during the early Chosun period, while the structure on the basement is believed to have been built by the Prince Regent Daewongun when he rebuilt the Gyeongbokgung in 1867. Originally there was a flight of stone stairs on the inner side. Unfortunately, as can be seen in the picture, this reflects both the ancient and modern history of Korea. The structure itsef may reflect the Chosun period, but the bullet marks i the tower reflect the Korean War, which technically still has not come to an end.
I'm not sure which pronounciation is correct...perhaps free market and flea market both apply to this little bazaar. Each Saturday (1pm -6pm) college-age artisans gather outside the main gates of Hong-Ik University (near Hong-Ik University Entreance Station, Line 2) to sell their wares.
Everything is handmade by the sellers and includes, clothing, jewelery, leather-bound notebooks and other things artsy. The participants pay 10,000 won (USD 8) to be there and apparently the pricing is not going to make them rich anytime soon. Many simply see it as a way to put their talents out there.
The market is a little hard to find. Go to the entrance and stand with your back to the university. You'll see street going to the left, right, straight ahead and veering off to the left on an angle. Take the angled street. (If in doubt ask around for the free/flea market.)
There are tons of eclectic stores in the area as well, with things you won't find in the touristy areas of Seoul.
OK, I crossed the road, headed East and encountered some interesting patch shops (ready while you wait!) and ran into more tools and all the forbidden video tapes you can imagine.
Suddenly the first TV-sets at the side of the road appeared and I stumbled upon a walkway record vendor. I found a few records I liked and was given a price a factor 10 too high. It took some negociation to come in terms and I went into some side streets to explore some of the real record stores.
And yes, they excist. I was amazed by the huge collection of classical records and the very well stcked Jazz section.
All in all, this surely is a place to revisit.
While you are at the Nakseongdae area, do visit the small but lovely Nakseongdae Park located on the road leading to the Seoul National University. Many local people can be seen in this park, which is especially beautiful during the autumn season (see photos) in October and November every year.
The Nakseongdae area is located south of the Hangang river, near to the Seoul National University. This is a cosy suburb of Seoul, with shops and eateries. There is a sub-way station by the same name here, in case you want to explore it while in Seoul.
I was here in Nov 2008 while staying at the Seoul National University for a meeting. More photos are at part 2 of this tip.
More photos taken during my stay at the Seoul National University during Nov 2008. This is a lovely place surrounded by mountains with fresh air. However, it is quite far away from the city centre located at the northern side of the Hangang river (the university is on the southern side).
Seoul National University is located at the hilly area south of the Hangang river. I was staying there in Nov 2008 to attend a meeting and enjoyed the big campus and fresh air due to the surrounding mountains. Also, the autumn foliage around the university is very beautiful.
More photos are at part 2 of this VT tip.
For a sight/taste of Old Korea, head to the old-style market located at Moran.
Everything for sale, from dogs and cats (both to eat, and for pets), to clothes, to tools, to vegetables and seeds.
Only on the 4, 9, 14, 19, 24, 29 of every month: dates ending with 4 or 9, if you didn't notice ;)
Moran station, exit 5. Walk 100 meters, you'll see the market on your right.
Every Saturday and Sunday the horses run at this track which is located just south of Seoul. (check the website below for specifics) It draws a pretty large crowd and some of the folks take their betting strategies pretty seriously - which of course makes for some fun people watching. There are information desks with English pamphlets on how to approach the betting cards and how to place bets - very helpful.
*Take Subway Line 4 to Seoul Racecourse Park and follow the signs.
The Heyri Art Valley has a large volume of interesting and unique galleries, museums, a bookstore, exhibitions, cafes, shops, restaurants and public spaces. Much focus has been put on the architectural uniqueness of all the buildings, so for those of you who enjoy architecture this will be a treat. This is a good day trip for getting out of Seoul and into some scenic landscape.
*Find directions at the links below
While this tip might not be for everyone, some people may enjoy a brief stop at the Korea Stamp World. This is a free museum / exhibit hall in the basement of Seoul Central Post Office.
The displays show Korean postal history, complete the stamps, courier uniforms and other anecdotal information.
For stamp collectors, they do offer a wide selection of individual stamps, sheets, and books. Particularly for the hard to find stamps that are not available in the general Post Offices, this may be the only location to find them.
Located in the basement of the Seoul Central Post Office. Opposite the Bank of Korea Museum, on the north-east side of Namdaemun Market. Open weekdays 9am ~ 6pm. Cost is free.
Went to visit our son who is in the Army stationed at Camp Casey (north in Boson). Life outside a military base is quite interesting: many bars, drinky girls, pawn shops. We walked around during the day only.