Out of all sunny days in Seoul, our pre-last day was pretty cloudy and cold, so we decided not to go to Jongmyo Shrine and Namsan, but to Gangnam instead. The ride to Gangnam was pretty far from our airbnb flat, but since Gangnam apparently has a huge underground shopping area and a high density of plastic sugery clinics, D. and I wanted to see the “prejudiced” side of Seoul. First off, Gangnam station was enormous and the underground shopping area was crazy, so many exits that we got lost several time while attempting to find the bus to Sinsa station. Gangnam was quite like I imagined: skyscrapers and lot of ppl in suits having coffee to-go in their hands. I pretty much felt merged in with my coffee to-go, very sympathic ppl, hehehe. However, we did not see that many surgery clinics and ppl with ongoing surgeries around as expected, so either we were in the wrong streets or it is not as bad as the rumor.
Driving a car is hell in Gangnam, one basically is faster on foot, because traffic jam is insane. D. suddenly felt dizzy so she took the taxi back home while I continued walking around from Sinsadong to Apgujeong. Both parts of Seoul have many many little shops and hidden cafes. It was quite nice to walk through the alleys randomly and see where/how far I can get without being lost. Afterwards I went to Konkuk station, which is a bit outskirt but full with students and youngsters. The concept mall ‘common ground’ was nearby. Some ppl rave about common ground so I wanted to check it out. Totally instagram-worthy place. In fact, quite a number of young ppl went there to take pictures. The clothing and shops were not much of my taste, but the concept itself is pretty nice. After leaving Konkuk I went to Hongik – Hondae area with really busy streets and lots of restaurants, shops and cafes and bars and clubs. If I wouldn’t have too much to carry around that day, I prolly would have gone to one of the bars/clubs and enjoy Hondae’s night life. To my pity, I didn’t see any superstars, but a number of fancy cars and some vans… so who knows maybe stars were around just that I didn’t recognised them or just couldn’t see because of tinted-window cars.
Last night in Seoul already. Nine days passed by so quickly and this was the last chance to explore Jongmyo Shrine and the iconic Namsan Tower.
Jongmyo Shrine belongs to the UNESCO world heritage since 1995 and is the place where the tablets of deceased kings and queens are enshrined and sacrificial rites are performed for them based on Confucian principle. Now, the rituals are performed only twice a year: First Sunday on May and first Saturday in November. Before the ceremonies for ancestors were performed 5 times a year always on the first month of each season based on the lunar calendar. The Shrine has now a main hall called Jeongjeon, where the founder of Joseon is worshipped and other kings/queens that contributed to the dynasty. In that main hall: after king or queen died, and after three mournings, the spirit’s tablet was brought to the hall and enshrined there. The main hall has in total 19 chambers wherein each has three tablets in specific order. From left to right is the King – his first queen then his second queen, if the first died.
They say east is where the sun rises, so when living the east is highest, hence the crown prince chambers were always build to the east of the Kings chamber, but when they die the west is considered highest, therefore the King’s tablets is always placed on the left.
Another interesting fact is in regard to the walk lanes. While the walk-way built in the palaces consist of three lanes in which the middle is for the King and the other lanes on both sides are for royal officials, in the Shrine the middle aisle is designated to the spirits, the right aisle belongs to the King and left is for the crown prince.
The secondary hall called Yeongnyeongjeon is located west of the main hall and was later build by King Sejong to worship kings that did not stay on the throne too long (1-4 yrs) and other royals that were honoured posthumously. Secondary hall was also built to enshrine four generations of King Taejo’s ancestor, founder of Joseon. The name means long live both ancestors and descendants of the royal family in peace. This hall contains 16 chambers housing 16 kings and 18 queens.
The Jongmyo Shrine has different trees and pounds in comparison to the palaces. While the pounds in palaces were full with life, the ones in the Shrine is rather simple and deathly calm. Also incense trees decorated the Shrine complex. What I meant with incense trees are those, that are used to produce perfumed incense. It is believed that the smell of those will call back dead spirits. The tablets mentioned above where built in squares and have a hole. They believed that the spirit comes back when smelling the smell of burnt incense and will enter through the hole to stay in the tablets.
Only Korea preserved its royal shrine and continues to perform royal ancestral rites known as Jongmyo Jerye (royal ancestral rites) and Jongmyo Jeryeak (royal ancestral ritual music), both were designated by UNESCO as masterpiece of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity in 2001.
After Jongmyo Shrine we finally went to Namsan tower and got up using a cable car. The day was so beautiful and just perfect for the Namsan tower. The Namsan Seoul tower itself is approximately 236.7m tall and resides on top of Namsan Mountain (243m), making it one of the tallest in the Orient. In 1969, the tower was established as a broadcast tower to send out TV and Radio signals, however, as of now it has become one of the representative landmarks and multicultural venues in Seoul. After spending a bit time on the observatory platform trying to figure out where were all the places we set foot in, we went back down to see the cultural performance, which was supposed to take place at 3pm. Out of all the performances I really like the sword dance and funny enough, the guy who performed it was the one doing the fan dance at Sanchon Restaurant! Fell in love with his performance once again! I actually went to ask him, and he confirmed that it was him :)). Such a pleasant coincident.
The last day in Seoul :-(. I really wanted to drink Soju and have Korean BBQ again. So we took a cab to Hongdae and had a final dinner in Seoul while drinking soju and observing all the couples and stylish young Seoulaners wandering around this hip and trendy area. The soju was pretty good and fit so well with BBQ meat..yumm. When we entered the restaurant, I was starving, so beside the BBQ I also ordered cold noodle, which were indeed delicious; unfortunately my eyes were bigger than my stomach, so I couldn’t finish that bowl of noodle… haizz.. to bad we couldn’t take it home.
On the first day we started with a walk crossing the Yanghwa bridge and on the last day in the taxi to Gangnam we heard the song Yanghwa bridge by ZionT. What a great wrap up of a lovely holiday.
Seoul.. I really enjoyed you, let’s meet again soon 🙂