By Shamsul Bahrin Zainuzzaman on April 6, 2012
Continue my travel to South Korea where I ended my trip in Seoul, Gangneung, Sunkyojang, Ojukheon, Jeongdongjin, Gyeongbokgung, Dongdaemun and Insadong.
Here comes part 2 of my trip to Korea.In part 1, it ended with my trip to Nami Island. Besides being the spot to film the scenes for the internationally acclaimed Korean drama “Winter Sonata”, I was also fascinated by the design features such as creative sculptures and artworks that inundate the island. I also enjoyed the UNICEF exhibit that displays Korea’s UNICEF projects.In the final part of my trip to the Republic of Korea, I visited Gangneung and Seoul.
According to the poet Heo Gyun in Haksanchodam (a collection of critical essays by the poet himself), Gangneung is where the spirits of mountains and rivers come together. Located to the east of Baekdudaegan Mountain range and facing the East Sea, Gangneung offers wide-open forests of pine trees, clean sand, clear waters and beaches that make it a popular tourism destination.
Located north east from Seoul in Gangwon province is the 300-year old Sunkyojang, considered as Korea’s most beautiful traditional house. Hundreds of years of white pine trees surround the house. A beautiful lotus pond can also be found on its grounds.With its 120 rooms, ‘Sunkyojang’ is famous for being the first traditional house to be gazetted as a cultural heritage, helping to teach and inspire visitors towards the beauty of the traditional Korean architecture.
Ojukheon is Korea’s oldest residential building and was the birthplace and home of Lady Shin Siamdang (1504-1551), a scholar, artist and poet who also excelled at sewing and embroidery-making. It was also the birthplace of her son Yi Yulgok (1536-84), a renowed philosopher, scholar and statesman.A typical upper-class home of the period set in a beautiful natural setting, Ojukheon comprises many pavilions such as men’s quarters, women’s quarters, servant’s quarters, library, kitchen and storage rooms, among others. It is located on a slight hill that shields its grounds from the city and the highway that have sprung up around it.
This city was named so for being located east of Gwanghwamun, Seoul. Jeongdongjin Station is the world’s closest station to the sea. The sea train shuttles along the beautiful 58km seashore six times daily (80 minutes each way) between Gangneung and Samcheok. Interestingly, all seats on the sea train face towards the window so that everyone can enjoy the beauty of the East Sea without having to crane their necks.Jeongdonjin Station became even more popular for appearing in the popular Korean mega-hit drama The Sandglass, quickly turning the sandglass and pine tree at the station into symbols of love amongst Korean youngsters.High above a cliff sits a hotel resort designed in the shape of a cruise ship. This ‘ship’ is located close to Jeongdongjin beach where local and foreign tourists go during vacation to catch the waves, beautiful scenery and the remarkable sunrise. This cleverly crafted resort attracts visitors from all over the world. The gardens and statues on the grounds look stunning during Spring and Summer.Being someone who hailed from the ocean-side city of Miri, Gangneung made me feel at home.
Seoul has a deep sense of history since it was already declared as Korea’s capital city 600 years ago. Though Seoul may not be considered as one of the most beautiful cities or visited spots in the world, the city’s history, natural environment, food and people make this destination worth visiting.
Gyeongbokgung Palace, the former imperial palace of many Korean emperors, is huge (though our tour guide humbly reminded us that it is not as large as Beijing’s Forbidden City). There is one special thing about this palace: there is empty space below the base of the palace floor specifically designed for ventilation and heating purposes. It is amazing to see that even though the Korean palatial buildings do not match the Forbidden City in terms of size, they still possess ingenuity that rivals other ancient palaces.
Taking photos of this place is the highlight of my trip to South Korea. With its beautiful detailed roofs and elegant uncluttered interior, Gyeongbokkung Palace is indeed one of the must visit landmarks that travellers should never give a miss.
DONGDAEMUN NIGHT MARKET
Another destination that travellers should not miss is the Dongdaemun Night Market in central Seoul. The market specialises in cheap buys and great selection. It encompasses 30 shopping centres totalling 30,000 stores, with more than 50,000 wholesalers on site. Some shops here sell items at fixed prices but many don’t, therefore visitors are required to bargain.
Trade is conducted 24 hours a day in textiles, clothes, shoes, sporting goods, stationery, toys, pets, household goods and accessories. If travellers are looking for something unique such as pet pigeons, fright wigs or bathroom plumbing, Dongdaemun Night Market is indeed the place to source such items.
Don’t leave Seoul without shopping for gifts and souvenirs for your loved ones. Insadong is the great place to source that out. Here, visitors can find many souvenirs and tourist shops, including one-off boutiques, cafes, bars and restaurants. Insadong originally comprised two towns with names ended in syllables ‘In’ and ‘Sa’. Insadong was founded 500 years ago as a residential area for government officials. It is recommended for those who are interested to learn about the history of Korean culture through its architectural vestiges. The majority of the traditional buildings originally belonged to merchants and bureaucrats. Some larger residences, built for retired government officials during the Joseon period, can also be seen here. Most of these older buildings are now used as restaurants or shops.
Among the historically significant buildings located in the area are Unhyeongung mansion, Jogyesa (one of the most significant Korean Buddhist temples) and one of Korea’s oldest Presbyterian churches.