Chicken Soup for the Traveler's Seoul

After I explored Taipei, I headed to the home of K-Pop, Soju, Hanbok and Taekwondo - South Korea! Seoul is one of the most amazing cities I have ever seen. The culture was so different from any place I have ever visited and I had good luck meeting a great group of women that made the experience fun (more on that in the next post). For now, some pictures of the city's highlights. 

One of the reasons I loved Seoul was because they seem to have struck a perfect balance between old-world traditional Korea and modern, mega-city Korea. Seoul is the second largest metropolitan area in the world, just behind Tokyo, and is home to over half of all South Koreans. With those statistics, you might think that Seoul was just another metropolis, but it is one of the few cities I have been that seems to have maintained a unique identity grounded in traditional Korean culture.

Namsangol Hanok Village - An uninhabited, restored hanok village meant to demonstrate how villages were arranged. Hanoks were built with the main consideration being the surrounding environment - how the home fits within the land. Homes were built in a square shape, L shape or I shape depending on where in Korea they were being built (the weather) and the social/class status of the family.

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Korean, or Hangul, is the official language of South Korea, North Korea and the co-official language of the Jilin Province of China, a province just North of North Korea and South of Russia. For over 1000 years, Koreans used modified Chinese Characters, which you see featured on the sides of these hanbok. Modified Chinese characters were the written language of Koreans until Sejong the Great, a King of the Joseon Dynasty, ordered in the mid 1400s that a written language be created specifically for Koreans. In doing this he hoped to create a unique Korean identity. It is said by linguistics that Hangul is the most perfectly designed phonetic system ever created, because the shapes of the letters are related to the features of the sounds they represent.   

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At the Namsangol Hanok Village I visited a traditional Korean doctor. She told me that the fire/water balance in my body was off and that my essence was low. She recommended I drink lots of hot tea and water and that I don't sweat so much. 

Trying on a traditional hanbok worn by women during special occasions

A Taekwondo showcase

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On the city's 600th anniversary in 1994, a time capsule was created and is meant to be opened in 400 years (2394) on the city's 1000th birthday. 

The view of the city from the Seoul Tower Park

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The Bukchon Hanok Village, a residential hanok neighborhood, located between the two palaces in the city center

This restored part of town was so quaint - it reminded me a bit of the historical residential area of downtown Frederick, Korean style. 

Seoul City is surrounded by beautiful mountain scenery. 

Seoul is populated with hip areas like the one pictured above where young people gather for afternoon breaks. 

Guards at the Gyeongbokgung Palace

Gyeongbokgung Palace is one of two main palaces in Seoul - the other is called Changdeokgung Palace, or "the east palace." Both palaces saw significant damage during the Japanese occupation in the 1900s but both have been beautifully restored. 

The detail on the ceilings and outer posts was astonishing - not sure you can appreciate the beauty from pictures

Hyangwonjeong - a pavilion created on an artificial island in the late 1800s on the palace grounds by the King

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Cheonggyecheon Stream - a stream surrounded by beautiful walkways running through the middle of the city created in an effort to bring nature into the city