South Korea: Ihwa Mural Village

A village covered entirely in art is a sight out of a dream. Ihwa Mural Village was my favourite place to visit in Seoul. It was truly remarkable to be surrounded by so much creativity. The local Art Committee carried out this art project to improve the environment of the village. Which in my opinion was a success! Everyone is welcome to visit the village and enjoy the beautiful murals, artwork and sculptures.  It was really fun capturing and viewing the several murals. At everyone corner there was something new and interesting to look at. I really enjoyed my stay.

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South Korea: Bukchon Hanok Village

After visiting the beautiful Changdeokgung Palace, I visited the historical Bukchon Hanok Village which is nearby. Bukchon village consist of traditional houses, called Hanok. You can explore the village with a guided tour but I decided to explore the village on my own. There’s such an overflowing serenity through the village, it felt for a moment I was really in the Joseon time period. Time stood still. It really kept me wondering how people lived their daily lives back in those days. I’ve got the impression that they must have lived very humble lives back then. It warms my heart and I’m glad I got to see it with my own eyes. As of today, most of these buildings operate as tea houses, guesthouses and cultural centers. Walking through the village is an unique experience I will never forget.

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When I finished exploring the stunning village, I went to relax at a restaurant. I ordered Bibimbap, a famous Korean dish. You have many variations but I went for the vegetarian option. It’s basically served with a bowl of warm rice, vegetables, egg and Gochujang. You only have to mix those ingredients together and your dish is ready to eat.

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Changdeokgung Palace & The Secret Garden Huwon

Changdeokgung Palace is my favourite palace I visited in South Korea. Although it looks similar to other palaces, it has a beautiful palace garden.  You can enter the palace grounds without a tour guide and wander aimlessly around. The palace grounds consist of a public area and a royal family residence building which is the most reserved of the other five royal buildings. The grounds are massive and there’s much to see.

Huwon garden can only be entered with a guide. It’s known as a resting place for the king and royal family members. The garden is provided with lots of pavillions, greens and has even a tree that’s over 300 years old. Although, you have to stick mostly with the group it’s still a wonderful place to visit.

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South Korea: Han River

After days that consisted of shopping and sightseeing, I decided to take it easy and spend a day relaxing at Han river.  A lot of people come her to enjoy the beautiful park. I saw many people jogging, cycling, fishing or just taking a relaxing walk. Some passerby caught my eye because their faces were covered with masks and sunglasses. The person I was with told me that some Korean celebrities/Kpop idols visit this area. They’re covered up to protect their privacy. I’m not sure if that’s true. I rather think that they’re just protecting their faces from the bright sunlight.

I brought a few snacks, so I could have a little picknick along the coastline. I just had a  with meat filling inside, some crisps and Binggrae flavored strawberry milk. I actually drunk a lot of those flavored milk drinks.

I wish I could have beautiful relaxing moments like this every day.

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South Korea: Achasan mountain hike scenery

Although I already did a lot of walking in South Korea, I really wanted to hike through the mountains. In my country I don’t have mountains or hills. So, I wanted to take this opportunity. I decided to take it easy and decided to hike at mountain Achasan, which is suppose to be a 30-40 minute easy breezy walk. But…ok…first, I got lost. I couldn’t find the damn mountain and walked aimlessly throughout the city. Secondly, when I thought I actually “found” the mountain…it wasn’t that fucking easy as they promised. The tour map promised  an easy hike with lots of stairs but instead I was walking on slippery rocks and landed in the “jungle”. I wouldn’t be surprised if an actual beer would pop out and attack us! Later I discovered that I actually took a very difficult route on mountain Yongmansan which eventually connects with mountain Achasan. When I arrived at the top I saw another path with lots of stairs and it became clear that was the “easy Achasan route”.

Although I was dying and trying my best not to fall. It was all worth it in the end. At the top, you have this really beautiful view overlooking Seoul city and Hangang river. The photos don’t do it justice. It’s so much more stunning in real life.  

Oh yeah…after succeeding in not falling, on my way down…reaching the ground, I fell out of nowhere.

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When I went home I ordered pizza at the Korean Pizza Hut and chocolate oreo boba tea. Very deserving for our hard hiking accomplishment. If I remember correctly I ordered a bulgogi pizza, with cheese, green and red peppers. The pizza was of course was very delicious, I could eat the whole thing just by myself.

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South Korea: Jongmyo Shrine

Jongmyo Shrine was the only shrine I visited in South Korea. I had a hard time remembering it and had to look it up. It slowly came back to me when I recalled seeing the racoon dog scavenging around the shrine grounds. One of the few instances I saw wildlife in Seoul. Although the shrine was impressive, it still felt a bit underwhelming compared to the other attractions I have seen. To be honest, I regretted skipping Jogyesa temple for this. It still haunts me that I didn’t went to see the pretty colorful lanterns at the temple.

Anyway,  Jongmyo shrine was a place of worships for the kings throughout the Joseon Dynasty. Here is where they performed the oldest ceremony and still reenact it to this day. Our tour guide also told us not to walk on the stone footpath. It consists of three separate pavements and the middle one is only meant for the king. If you would disrespect this, the king would come and haunt you. So, she made us jump over it! Haha!

After the tour I went and explore the city for a bit.

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South Korea: Gyeongbokgung Palace & Cheonggyecheon stream

Visiting the beautiful palaces in Seoul was one of my highest priorities of my trip. One of the first palaces on my list was Gyeongbokgung Palace Also known as the North Palace. The premises were once destroyed during the Japanese Invasion. Thankfully, they were later restored and made it possible for us to admire it today. Although, restorations are still ongoing, there are still a lot of beautiful things to see. You have Gwanghwamun Gate, which greets you and welcomes you inside the palace. Geunjeongjeon, which is the Imperial Throne Hall where the king was greeted by ambassadors. Gyeonghoeru, which is a pavilion surround by water like an island. And, Hyangwonjeong pond which is truly one of my favourite. A pavilion which is also surrounded by water but connected to the ground by this picturesque bridge. It made me feel like I was in a fairytale.

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What I really love about the Korean palaces is that they are really colorful. This traditional decorative coloring art is called Dancheong (단청) and has various symbolic meanings. The function is not only decorative but also had the purpose to protect the buildings surface against hot and cold temperatures and to make the material less noticeable.

After visiting Gyeongbokgung Palace I traveled to Cheonggyecheon stream which is nearby. This creek is about 8,4km long and eventually connects to Han river. In 2005 it has been restored and transformed into a lovely and calm stream. I had a nice leisurely stroll following the stream. Afterwards, I rested and relaxed for a bit while putting our feet in the water. A quiet moment amidst the buzzing city life.

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South Korea: Hongdae (Hongik University)

Travelling throughout Seoul is pretty easy. You have three transportation options, by bus, subway or taxi. I mostly travelled by subway. I also recommend getting the T-money card. T-money is a transportation card you can use for any public transportation and taxi fares. This card makes travelling through Seoul so much easier and it also offers travel discounts. You can recharge the card at a T-money vendor or recharging devices inside the subway stations. You can purchase the T-money card at most convenience stores.

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Hongdae (Hongik University) is one of the most vibrant regions in Seoul. If you love shopping, urban lifestyle, art, indie music, street performances and a bright nightlife, then this is really the place to be. Hongdae is also known for its variety when it comes to shopping. Reasonable priced street fashion shops, to higher end boutiques and unique accessories. The prices may vary from store to store. Don’t be surprised. A lot of shops have the same item in stock but often with a different pricing. So, it’s better to explore to find the best deal. Also there are plenty of restaurants and cafés. I suggest checking out the newly openend Hello Kitty café.

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In the main shopping district I came across a lot of familiar shops. I visited the LINE STORE and ARTBOX. These stores mostly sell stationary, home supplies and miscellaneous items. They really had a lot of cute products, which made it hard for me to choose. Looking back, I’m kind of dumbfounded why I didn’t buy more supplies. I guess, I will never know. Also there are some cosmetics stores, like Etude House, Watsons and The Faceshop. But I highly suggest to shop for makeup and skincare in Myeongdong. I will elaborate why in another blogpost.

There is a bakery called Chocolat Yum. They sell the most adorable bake goods I have ever laid my eyes upon. The store’s interior design is very beautiful and feels so comforting. I wanted to buy everything in the store. I planned to come back another day because I was already carrying a lot of bags and was afraid that the pastries would break. But in the end I never got the chance to revisit. It still haunts me in my sleep!

After a while of exploring we came across a street full of cute boutiques. I never saw so many cute clothes at once in my life. The prices are bit higher in comparison but the quality of the fabric is much better. The STYLENANDA flagship store is also located in this area.

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When night time was upon us and it was close to dinner time, we decided to go for Korean BBQ (Gogigui). You can eat relatively cheap in Hongdae and there are a lot of restaurants/cafés to choose from. Thinking about all the Bulgogi, Galbi and Samgyeopsal make me drool. What I love about Korean culinary are the many side dishes that goes along with the food (banchan). The Korean side dishes that are served the most are kimchi, guk, gochujang and jjiggae. There’s also a Korean way to eat grilled meat. Korean BBQ always comes with sangchu. You’re meant to wrap the grilled meat like a decorative present. The savory juicy taste of the Galbi goes well with the green leaves. I mostly just add garlic and spices and wrap it together and just cram it into my mouth. Yeah, I’m not really ladylike while I’m eating. But I just really love Korean BBQ after a nice long day of shopping. It was a successful day. A day I will always keenly remember.

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