Friday, June 19, 2009

Day 12, South Korea

We waved goodbye to Hong Kong and to Jasi and Mel as Sita, Nopi and I make our way to sprawling Seoul, South Korea's undisputed cultural, economic and political center. Its sheer size dwarfs any other city on the Korean peninsula.

The huge city is divided by the Han River running east-west, with the older areas located to the north in Jongno and newer developments to the south in Gangnam.
It is a heady mix of ultra-modern & traditional faces of Kore a: ancient temples, palaces and parks along side state-of-the art shopping malls, Internet cafes and cinemas.

We started our tour of the city at the Chongmyo Royal Shrine, a UNESCO World Heritage site. An ancient Confu
cian shrine dedicated to the ancestors of the Choson dynasty (1392–1910), the shrine dates from the 16th century and contains ancestral royal tablets.

We were fortunate to observe ritual ceremonies of dance, music and song.

Then we went to the 15th century Changdeokgung
(Changdeok Palace) which is the best preserved of Seoul's palaces.

The Secret Garden at the back of the palace is a particular highlight. The palace buildings blend pleasingly with the surrounding landscape and is another UNESCO world heritage site.

Gyeongbokgung Palace
is Seoul's most po
pular tourist attraction.

The now restored and preserved buildings served as the main royal palace of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). The palace is spectacularly situated with Mount Bugaksan to the rear and the spacious grounds hold both the National Palace Museum and the National Folk Museum.

The first palace was built in 1395 by King Taejo and destroyed during the Japanese invasion of 1592. The 330 palace buildings were rebuilt by the Prince Regent during the reign of King Gojong in 1868. During the Japanese colonization of Korea (1910-1945) many alterations were made to the site, but these have been removed and the palace and its grounds now resemble the original buildings of the 19th century.

We then found ourselves Gyeongju (Kyongju), Korea's main historic city.

Gyeongju was the capital of the Silla kingdom and was at its height from the 7th-9th century. We decided to cycle around the area which has hundreds of delightful temples, tranquil gardens and historic sites including Seokguram Grotto and Bulguksa Temple which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Wow, this place is really pretty awesome.

our tour guides in South Korea were
I am going to bed early tonight.....last night was so "tragic" when my national cricket team, the Proteas were "whacked out" of the tournament by "boom boom Afridi" so I was too upset to get a good night's rest.

Ahn-Nyong-Ha-Se-Yo ( GO IN PEACE in Korean ) until next time when we will meet at our next destination........and party, party, party tomorrow.......

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