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  • Day29

    Changdeokgung Palace & Jongmyo Shrine

    September 25, 2019 in South Korea ⋅ ☁️ 25 °C

    So after a little sight-seeing, it was time to begin our WHS journey across Korea in earnest. First up today was Changdeokgung Palace, located in the centre of Seoul. This was a medium-sized palace built by the Joseon dynasty, who ruled Korea from 1392 - 1910. They actually had two palaces right in the middle of the city, this and another with a huge name; that one was more formalised in style while this was a bit off-kilter, buildings flowing with the terrain and so on.

    So we grabbed a quick breakfast and headed over since it was just a short five minute walk from the hostel. The last Wednesday of every month is Culture Day in Korea, and all attractions are free - lucky us! Though we didn't save much money, the entrance fee was only 1000 won each which is about $1.20.

    Spent about 90 minutes wandering around taking photos and videos of the buildings which were quite impressive. Although the palace was originally built by one of the first Joseon rulers, it was destroyed at least once and then burned down accidentally in I think the 19th century, so a lot of what we were looking at wasn't that old.

    At 10:30 we headed out into the highlight of the palace, the Secret Garden. This was the 100% off limits area during royal times, where there were pavilions, buildings and shrines scattered amongst beautiful gardens. Very Chinese in style, though with Korean twists here as well. This area is only accessible via guided tour, so we stuck with the microphone lady - at least she was speaking English! It was quite interesting though, and we really enjoyed it.

    We emerged from the palace complex around 12:30pm, grabbed lunch at Paris Baguette (again!), and then walked over to Jongmyo Shrine, the second of today's World Heritage sites.

    The Joseon rulers were Confucians, so a central tenet of their faith is the worship of ancestors rather than gods. And since every Joseon was descended from the previous kings, there was a lot of worshipping to do. Here a large shrine complex was set up, just near the palaces, where the current kings could worship their ancestors on the appropriate day.

    It's not where they were buried - those were in various tombs around Korea, but every Joseon king (and queen) has a spirit shrine in the complex, containing tablets (similar to headstones I think?), and various other spiritual offerings. They weren't doing any offerings today which was a shame, as it looked like quite an interesting and elaborate ritual. The site was interesting enough, but it wasn't that big so by 3pm we were basically done.

    We headed back to the hotel and got stuck into some work and planning. Later in the evening we went out for Korean BBQ, where you buy raw meats and vegetables and cook them on a grill in your table. Fun, though very expensive for our budget!
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