Saturday, September 27, 2014

Seoul-searching Day 3 of 6

Day 3 was a full-day itinerary of cultural immersion, modern structures, views of palaces from afar, book-hunting and late-night shopping. Although we weren't able to leave on time (early morning), we were still able to catch up on our planned itinerary.

Here were the places we visited for the day....

A restaurant and performance hall rolled into one. You can opt to make reservations for lunch or dinner and enjoy a sumptuous Korean buffet while watching cultural performances. When I called the day before to inquire about their reservations, we were turned down as it was fully booked. Although we missed the dining opportunity we still visited the place even just to see the building facade and the craft shop. 

Just a stone-throws away from Korea House is the Namsangol Hanok Village. It is a recreation of a village with traditional Korean houses called hanoks. Although the village itself is not as vast as Bukchon Hanok Village, I still recommend going to this place because there are exhibits of traditional games that visitors can try. Our kids were curious about the new games and got their hands dirty playing. This was also a way to interact with other local visitors who have an idea of how to properly play the games. From the village, visitors can walk up to the Korean gardens and further away is the Time Capsule Plaza. With the right weather, a good stroll while the kids use up their energy in the gardens is one way to enjoy the scenery.

A tour of the palace itself adds to the cultural experience that many visitors yearn for. But what makes Deoksugung Palace different from other palaces is the Changing of the Guards ceremony. This is the main attraction and comes very highly recommended. Likened to the Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace, I definitely wanted the kids to be able to watch a rare traditional scene up close and personal. This is an experience any visitor to Seoul shouldn't miss. Another free experience in Seoul.

The starting point of the Cheyeonggyecheon Stream, the Plaza can be stopover point after a stroll from the Deoksugung Palace. It has fountains and artificial waterfalls to entertain visitors. While parents sit and relax for a while the kids can actually play in the miniature replica of stream or explore along the walking path. The whole area symbolizes gathering, harmony, peace and unity. Strolling along the stream at night is another way to enjoy the view as the area is lighted up.

Continuing along the road from Cheonggyecheon Plaza is Gwanghwamun Square overlooking Gyeongbokgung Palace. It is divided into five sections representing historical events and modern features. The section that can be enjoyed by families with children is the Downtown Plaza which has water facilities like the pond and jet fountains. A perfect escape during a hot summer day.

Just across the square is Korea's biggest bookstore. I've told my boys that we were going to visit Kyobo Bookstore and that they could look for books that may interest them so they were also looking forward to this part of the day. It not only houses thousands of books but has stationery items and some toys. Perfect place for the kids to spend an hour or so while tired parents sit and browse books in their preferred sections.

Who wouldn't want to go on a ride using an outdoor elevator? It's not the same as the glass elevators running up and down the sides of posh hotels. This one is the first inclined outdoor elevator in Korea and brings visitors up to the cable car station in just two minutes. I'd say this is a better way than walking for 20 minutes or so up the hill. And it's free! Visitors should definitely give it a try.  

The main mode of transportation from the foot of Mt Namsan going up to N Seoul Tower. Visitors get to have a panoramic view of the city as the cable car ascends closer to the top of the mountain. It can carry a maximum of 48 passengers so it's best to position yourself (and smaller kids) by the glass walls to get a unblocked view. We've ridden several cable cars in our travels but it always is a different experience every time.

The Namsan Oreumi and Namsan Cable Car rides bring visitors to one of Seoul's major attractions. Considered as the best tower in Asia because of the stunning view that it offers, N Seoul Tower is another one that has to be on your list. There are also restaurants and shops at the base of the tower which give visitors panoramic views of the city and beyond.

Descending from Mt Namsan, the next place to visit and spend the rest of the night is the busy shopping area of Myeongdong. There are shops after shops after shops of a variety of products to choose from. Once tummies are filled from a sumptuous Korean dinner also around Myeongdong, you can let yourselves out endless shopping opportunities - from luxury to cheap deals.

From morning till very late night, our Day 3 gave us a balanced dose of Seoul's top attractions. Just what we needed.

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