South Korea: A Fusion of Traditional and Modern City Living

July 3, 2018 489 Views

Seoul radiates the perfect blend of their venerable old and contemporary culture. It may be a busy city, sometimes frenetic and sprawling, but it still has that charm that lures tourists to immerse into their local attractions. That certain “balance” is one of the several things I admire about this country as they still preserve their old way of life even though they’re constantly booming towards modernity.

In this post, allow me to share you some of the tourist routes that boast its unique atmosphere, formed by the stark contrast of the old and new.

On our second day in Seoul, we were joined by Juancho, my sister’s friend. It was his second time in Korea, so he’s pretty much familiar with the directions to some attractions. So yeah, before heading to our first destination, we dropped by 7-11 to get some snacks to munch on and kick start our morning. This is no stranger to those who are watching Korean dramas. Haha! Anyway, if you’re on a lookout for a cheap and convenient yet authentic Korean snacks, then try visiting some of Seoul’s convenience stores such as 7-11 or CU.

My sister sipping on this chocolate drink 🙂 How could a convenience store be this alluring?

My favorite on-the-go snack is the Samgak Kimbap. The latter is a little rice triangle and is the counterpart of “onigiri” in Japan that is usually filled with a variety of fillings such as tuna, pork belly and others. Other food you can indulge on are of course, Korean instant noodles, peel sausages (Kim Bok Joo vibes!), sparkling soju drink, Tteokbokki chips, and vacuum-packed sausages and other meat sticks or the so-called “hot bars”.

Okay, enough of those, let’s proceed to the fun parts!

Oneday Hanbok

A trip to Korea wouldn’t be complete without donning their ceremonial costumes or “hanbok”. This was my much anticipated experience and we’ve availed of Bukchon Oneday Hanbok Rental Experience (4/24 Hrs) from Klook.

The Elaborate, traditional silk dresses are currently worn mostly for weddings and Korean holidays, but some are wearing it to reminisce their kinfolks. The 1600-year-old handmade costume entitles you FREE admission to most palaces and city highlights in Seoul. Ideally, it is best to have your rental in between Wednesday to Sunday as some palaces are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Harking back, Oneday Hanbok offers an array of beautiful hanboks ensembles complete with inner and outer clothing, for both men and women, and even children. They have friendly staffs that help out and assist in putting up your hanbok. I felt I was a princess that time, haha!

They also provide FREE access to their mini salon area that contains their collection of elaborate hair ornaments (daenggi or the traditional Korean ribbon usually decorated on braided hair, headband, purse, etc.) and hair styling accessories (flat/curling iron, bobby pins, etc.). Take note that you have to do your own hair styling and make up.

And oh, before entering, they’ll hand over a tote bag for packing your valuables. With that, you can just bring with you your cellphone, wallet, and of course, camera. As for your passport, they’re going to require it from you.

Gwanghwamun Gate & King Sejong Statue

Since Oneday Hanbok is just a few blocks away from the proximity of one of the Grand Palaces. We decided to drop by King Sejong Statue that is erected in Gwanghawmun Square, just in front of the Gwanghwamun Gate.

King Sejong was known as the inventor of Hangeul, the Korean alphabet, and this bronze statue of 9.5m in height was a tribute for his great achievements such as incorporating Confucian philosophy in politics during his reign in Joseon Dynasty.

Gwanghawmun Square.

At the back of Gwanghawmun Square lies the iconic Gwanghawmun Gate of Gyeongbukgung Palace that was built in 1395. Roughly meaning “may the light of enlightenment blanket the world,” it symbolizes the resounding devotion that the people of the Joseon Dynasty had in forming a new dynasty. I’ll no longer elaborate but it was said to have a painful memory in Korean history during the Japanese occupancy.

Gyeongbokgung Palace

The Gyeongbokgung, also known as Northern Palace, was constructed in 1395 at the beginning of the Joseon Dynasty during the reign of King Taejo.

My uuma and eonni.

Back details of my hanbok 🙂

Cherry blossoms are everywhere!

Intricacy at its finest!

Gyeongbokgung means “palace greatly blessed by Heaven” is considered as the largest among the five grand palaces in Seoul.

Inside the palace lies the Gyeonghoeru Pavilion that was used for entertainment for foreign visitors. The current structure dates back to 1867. The name “Gyeonghoeru” is a reference to the king and how he can thrive and be a great leader when he is surrounded by the right people.

Check out that stunning backdrop of Mount Bugaksan.

When in the palace, spare some time to witness The Changing of the Royal Guard (Sumunjang) ceremony. It is usually held for FREE daily, except Tuesdays, at 10:00AM and 2:00PM in front of Gwanghwamun or the main gate of Gyeongbokgung. If you can’t make it to these time slots, you can also witness a Guard-on-Duty Performance in Gwanghwamun gate at 11:00AM and 1:00PM or a Sumungun (Gatekeeper) Military Training in Hyeopsaengmun Gate at 09:35AM and 1:35PM.

In ancient times, the royal guards of Joseon Dynasty were guarding the Gwanghwamun Gate, the entrance of Gyeongbokgung Palace where the king is resided. Since 1469, the ceremony has taken place even up to this day as reenactment.

On another note, the walls of the Gyeongbokgung might be familiar also to those who are into Korean dramas like “Goblin”. I failed at taking a photo of it! :<

Bukchon Hanok Village

We’ve also immersed on yet another traditional Korean culture at the Bukchon Hanok Village, a home to hundreds of traditional houses, called “hanok”, that date back to the Joseon Dynasty.

The name Bukchon, literally means “northern village,” came about as the neighborhood lies north of two remarkable Seoul landmarks, Cheonggyecheon Stream and Jongno. As of today, a lot of these hanoks operate as cultural centers, guesthouses, restaurants, and tea houses.

Many tourists swamp to this area to take their mandatory photos in their hanbok with the perfect backdrop of hanoks. Also, a lot of Korean dramas has been shot in here including “Heartstrings” where Park Shin Hye and Jung Yong Hwa lived.

However, this is still a residential area so for those who are planning to visit this place, keep your voices at moderate tone. I heard a lot of homeowners were already complaining and there were guides putting up signages to encourage tourists to “Please talk quietly”.

Insadong

Graffiti on walls. It seems like a normal thing in Korea, in fact, their government officials had legitimized graffiti as street art and a symbol of creativity.

For lunch time, we went to Insadong and dined at Miss Lee Café. This traditional cafe and restaurant has a modern twist. They serve the old school dosirak (lunch box), bingsoo, and other traditional Korean snacks. The café was known the filming location for the Korean drama, “We Got Married”.

An abundance of handwritten notes are hung all over the cafe.

EVERYTHING HERE just screams “gwiyeowo” (cute).

We ordered dosirak, “Byeoldabang’s memorial assorted box”. It’s a lunch box made of steel and is used during the old days in Korea to pack lunch.  It has rice, kimchi, seaweed strips, egg and sausage slices. I tried to mix the ingredients altogether by shaking it as instructed in their menu but didn’t seem to mix very well so I just did it manually.

For dessert, of course, we didn’t miss out on trying their authentic Bingsoo. We opted to have “Byeldabang Ice Flakes with Injeolmi in pot”. It comes in one of those metal pots you often see people boiling ramyun in Korean dramas. Oh, in case you don’t know, injeolmi is a type of tteok (Korean rice cake) that is covered with some sweet bean flour.

After having our scrumptious lunch, we strolled around Insadong. This district is located between the Five Grand Palaces of Korea and is well known as a haven for traditional goods and souvenirs. It has alleys wherein it’s dominated with galleries and traditional restaurants, teahouses, and cafes.

Speaking of cafés, we dropped by O’sulloc Green Tea Café that originated from Jeju Island and specializes in Korean Green Tea drinks and desserts which you must not miss!

Itaewon

After shopping for some souvenirs at Insadong, we headed straight to Itaewon to visit the Line Friends Store. It is a three-story building that apparently houses goodies from Line and is the largest Line Friends store in the world!

The first floor consists of toys, stationaries, plushies, and other accessories while the second floor has tones of clothes and household items.

In here, you can literally dine with the Line Friends!

The third floor is a revelation as it has the Line Friends Café wherein they offer various drinks, desserts, and food that are way too cute to consume!

The Line Friends Store also offers BTS’ BT21 collab merchandise featuring eight characters spearheaded by the popular Korean boy group.

Check out their REAL signatures!

Namsan Seoul Tower

Passed by one of the shooting locations for the Korean drama, “Legend of the Blue Sea”. It’s just near the passage way to the Namsan Tower!

A trip to Korea wouldn’t be complete without going to N Seoul Tower or Namsan Seoul Tower! There are two options to get to the tower. First, is through climbing all the way to the top and second, is taking the shortcut cable car. Even though I’m a non-fit person, I opted for the latter.

The N Seoul Tower is considered as the highest part of Seoul and was the first tower-type tourism spot in Korea. During the 1969, it was used as a broadcast tower to send out TV & radio signals. But now, it has become one of the iconic landmarks and multi-cultural sites in Seoul.

Ahh~ I find it refreshing to see this chaotic beauty.

Of course, this tower houses love tiles and love locks! Koreans aren’t against PDA at all and I was quite shookt to witness that during my whole trip. For the love locks, you may buy it from there or bring your own if you want. People usually scribble out their names on the love locks and throw the keys away. But if you want, you may just leave the keys in the box provided in the area and they’ll get rid of it for you for your love to endure, HAHA!

Myeongdong

Myeongdong is one of the most popular shopping districts in Korea that offers shopping for fashion and beauty 24/7. The dense grid of streets found in this bustling neighborhood are, more often than not, jampacked with people. And I’d like to apologize as I wasn’t able to take a lot of photos as we were so busy shopping! But if you’re curious, you may check some of our Korean beauty hauls in my previous post. Looking for your favorite Korean make-up brands in Myeongdong is not that frustrating because each has 10 branches in the area. 😀

Anyway, this place is the best to enjoy not just for shopping but street food, and nightlife in all of Korea.

Gyeran-ppang (Egg Bread), a famous steamed little loaf of bread with a whole egg inside and sprinkles of sunflower seeds and even almonds. This warm and tasty street food on a cool night is just perfect! <3

I’m not sure what’s this but it tastes good and you may pour on hot sauce into it.

Didn’t let pass that opportunity to visit Style Nanda Pink Hotel that apparently stood out from the other buildings with its pink facade.

It has insta-worthy decos that bring us back to the ’50s, and exudes a princess-y charm. They don’t just offer 3CE products but some fashion-forward clothes, too!

Seoul indeed left us an unforgettable impression with its extraordinary union of modernity and preservation of ancestral tradition in their society.

Saichi Montoya

Loves to share her escapades on food, travel, fashion, lifestyle and anything in between.

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