Seoul Day 1 – From Gyeongbokgung Palace to Gangnam night life

We landed in Seoul early morning and was greeted with heavy rain and thunderstorm as we made our way to our Hotel in Gangnam. The traffic was bad and it took us 2+ hours from Incheon airport. Our Hotel, Intercontinental Coex is not located in the touristy area and more in a business district. I didn’t pick the Hotel myself as I basically tagged along Hubbie who is going for his conference at Coex. However, Intercontinental was a very nice 5 star hotel and had outstanding review in Trip Advisor.

Hubbie immediately left for his meeting as we reached our hotel. I went to Coex Mall next door to have lunch with Bu Lucy who also tagged along his husband like me. The rain stopped as we finished lunch so I asked By Lucy if she would like to see the Gyeongbokgung Palace.

Renting Hanbok

I have read that if we wear Hanbok we get to enter the palace for free and I saw so many nice pictures of people wearing Hanbok in the internet so I managed to convince Bu Lucy that we may as well rented Hanbok as they would make nice pictures as well and blended well with the palace. There were many Hanbok rental in front on the palace. I went to the closest one albeit more expensive (18,000 Won for 2 hours) because I didn’t want to make Bu Lucy walked too long. I saw the Hanbok stores in Samcheongdong was cheaper (10,000 won for 2 hour). You could also pre book here. I didn’t pre book because I was not sure what time we’d be able to go to the palace and whether I would be renting one or not.

Renting Hanbok was very easy, we just chose the size and the color we like. Hanbok to my surprise was really easy to wear. We didn’t have to take off our clothes and just wore Hanbok on top of our clothes. Though I can imagine if you go in the summer, wearing Hanbok will be too much. But as we went late summer, the weather has gotten cooler and this afternoon the weather was just nice around 22C.

in front of our Hanbok Rental

The Gyeongbokgung Palace was just across our Hanbok Rental. So after storing our stuff in their locker we ventured to the Palace. As expected the entrance fee was free because we were wearing Hanbok.

Gyeongbokgung Palace

in front of Gyeongbokgung Palace

Operating hours: 09:00 – 17:00 (18:00 in the summer)
Entry fee: 3 000 won (Free if you’re wearing a hanbok)
Time needed: 1-2 hours

Gyeongbokgung Palace was the first and largest of the royal palaces built during the Joseon Dynasty. Built in 1395, Gyeongbokgung Palace was located at the heart of newly appointed capital of Seoul (then known as Hanyang) and represented the sovereignty of the Joseon Dynasty. The largest of the Five Grand Palaces Gyeongbokgung served as the main palace of the Joseon Dynasty. The other 4 palaces are Changdeokgung & Changgyeonggung Palace, together known as the east palace complex and are the most well preserved of all the palaces in Seoul. Then there are Gyeonghuigung Palace and Deoksugung Palace, known as the western complex and are two of the smaller palaces in the city.

The Korean government has invested much time and effort into rebuilding, restoring, and maintaining the palace for future generations. These efforts include work to rebuild and restore the buildings that were destroyed during the Japanese occupation. Visitors to Gyeongbokgung can also visit the National Palace Museum of Korea and the National Folk Museum of Korea as they are located on the palace grounds.

It was nice to visit the palace late afternoon as there were not many group tours and we got to walk slow and took many pictures with our Hanbok.

When we finished at Gyeongbokgung Palace, we returned our Hanbok and continued walking to Samcheongdong street.

Take a stroll in Samcheongdong Street

Samcheongdong is Seoul’s most stylish neighborhood, located just past Gyeongbokgung Palace’s stone wall lined street. Many artists have sought out Samcheong-dong over the years hence it made Samcheong-dong became known as an artistic area. The area of Samcheongdong is actually made up of several neighborhoods: Anguk-dong, Sogyeok-dong, Hwa-dong, and Sagan-dong and ends at Samcheong Park.

Samcheong-dong is dotted with various art museums, museums, art galleries, restaurants, cafés, and shops; some are traditional, some are modern, but all are unique and colorful. We took many stops on some of the cute shops and took far too many pictures in front of the traditional houses in some of the cute alleys.

From Samcheongdong street we hailed a Taxi to take us to Myeongdong.

Skincare Shopping frenzy in Myeongdong

Myeongdong is Seoul’s shopping mecca, but it is not just a shopping destination. Myeongdong is also a hub of commerce, banking and culture with a daytime population of 1.5-2 million. Myeongdong has a mix of street stalls and retail outlets selling everything from high fashion to casual attire, as well as many Korean cosmetics stores offering high-quality products at competitive prices.

I have browsed the stores I needed to check in Myeongdong because Myeongdong could get overwhelming. There were so many stores and you could see 2 to 3 shops for the same mainstream brand like innisfree. We both shopped till we literally could not carry our shopping bags and decided to go back to our Hotel by Taxi.

Gangnam Nightlife

Gangnam is the most affluent district and home to the city’s modern attractions, a fast-developing neighbourhood known as “the Beverly Hills of South Korea”. An economic hub for some of the most powerful companies globally, the deposit to rent a home in Gangnam costs 10 years of salary for the average Korean. The district is home to many Korean celebrities and idols, miles of luxury retail, a wild nightlife and Korea’s biggest entertainment companies.

Back to our Hotel in Gangnam, Hubby has finished his meeting and wanted to see Gangnam’s night life. Our Hotel is close to Boungensa Temple which is still open at night. Bongeunsa is a Buddhist Temple which displays Korea’s traditional past right in the middle the busy metropolitan area. A haven of Buddhist mantras and peaceful landscapes, you can also stay here on a temple stay that allows you to sleep the night at the Buddhist temple and learn about Buddha’s teachings.

From Boungensa we walked to center of Gangnam and had dinner in one of the Restaurant. Food is a big scene in Gangnam. It has plenty of markets which are ideal for sampling the local cuisine. Seoul Bamdokkaebi Night Market, which opens every Friday and Saturday, has food trucks selling all sorts of food, both sweet and savoury, and to compliment your feast there is live music of various genres, as well as beautiful handmade products including jewelry and leather goods to admire and purchase. Have I mentioned how I love Korean food? This was also one main reason why I wanted to tag along to South Korea.

Seoul’s nightlife is known to be incredible, so it’s no surprise that Gangnam as the richest district is no exception. Gangnam has plenty of choice for clubs, you can party until the sun comes up in the various venues around Gangnam, which usually play EDM or hip-hop music with separate rooms for different genres. The clubs in Gangnam are more spaced out than in other areas of the city, although relatively low taxi fares means you can still visit two or three in one evening.

We walked around until close to midnight and make it back to out Hotel for another early morning tomorrow.

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