Like in any other week, I was also looking forward to my Sunday itinerary while in Korea. It was the only day my busy friend Marj (who currently resides in Korea, and where I stayed with for the whole trip) had the whole day free.
She decided to join me on a walking tour with Trazy, an interesting travel agency website created by two Korean wanderers who want foreign travelers to get the best deals and most convenient ways to explore different parts of Korea.
In a way, it's a bonding - slash - Korean history 101 - slash - make new friends day!
When I received my receipt for the Deoksugung Palace & Jeongdong Walking Tour via email, it contains complete details of the activity: From the price (currently on sale at USD20 from USD30), places you will visit, time and place of meet up, duration of the tour, and how to get there. Very convenient! 👍
Our call time was ten minutes to 12. Marj and I rode the subway and went to the City Hall Station in advance to have brunch in the area. It's going to be a long, 3-hour walk so eating prior the tour is recommended!
Meet up point is conveniently set in front of the Deoksugung Palace ticket booth, where I also finally witnessed a royal guard-changing ceremony! This is a tradition that's similar to the changing of guards at the Buckingham Palace. They hold this 3x a day (11am, 2pm, and 3:30pm).
Deuksugung Palace carries lots of interesting stories worthy of a Korean drama, something I will not learn if not for joining this walking tour! During the Joseon monarchy, it was inhabited by members of Korea's royal family.
With Jihee of Trazy, our cool tour guide for the day!
Sharing some interesting tidbits I was able to pick-up during this tour!
Did you know that the rough and bumpy flooring leading the the main palace was intentionally created so that the guards, court ladies, etc. will be alert and not sleep in front of the king (which was a big no-no!).
Also learned from the tour that these engraved stones symbolize the rankings of the guards so they will know their positions:
Another interesting detail is how so many corners of this compound present architectures that mix western style with traditional Korean buildings.
This just shows how the King Go Jong aimed to modernize the country and establish relationship with Russia. The back of the building still has the secret passageways to the Russian Emissary where the King goes for his safety from the Japanese!
This was where the king had his coffee breaks, the design of the place looks very western:
At that time, no structures can be painted in yellow, unless it's already an empire! This building just shows Korea's pride on their independence.
The low ceiling shows the average height of Koreans at that time. Tried to walk through this structure with straight back, but I guess I am too tall! 😅
There are more stories, but I won't divulge everything in this blog!
Better to join THIS TOUR when you visit Korea! 😀
Went up the Jeong-Dong Observatory for a bird's-eye view of the palace compound, and for a short break:
They say this view looks even more beautiful when lighted at night:
We moved on to more places outside the palace compound:
Chungdong First Methodist Church
Korea's first Protestant church, with North American style Gothic Architecture.
Seoul Former Russian Legation
Although restored and now a public park, the Russian Legation formerly served as refuge for King Gojong and his crown prince during their secret escape. These events were triggered by the king's fear of a coup d'etat after his wife's murder by the Japanese ...A very intriguing time in their history!
Aside from the happenings during the Joseon Era, other significant moments in Korean history like the Cold War and the separation of North and South Korea were also included in the stories during the tour.
In photo is Syngman Rhee, the first president of South Korea, an anti-communist who lead South Korea through the Korean War.
The bloody clothes of Korean nationalist politician Kim Koo, the sixth and last Premier of the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea. He was a reunification activist, who was shot dead in his room from the window.
"I want our nation to become the most beautiful nation in the world...."
"...By this I do not mean the most powerful nation. Because I have felt the pain of being invaded by another nation, I do not want my nation to invade others .... The only thing that I desire in infinite quantity is the power of a noble culture. This is because the power of culture both makes ourselves happy and gives happiness to others."
- Inspiring words by Kim Koo
Some tips if you're joining the tour:
1) Wear comfortable shoes, it's going to be a 3-hour walk!
2) Bring bottled water, or eat before going there.
3) Take lots of pictures while you can! Most prob there will be no chance to go back to the destinations.
4) Wear sunscreen, bring your own cap or umbrella in case of rain.
5) Talk with your tour mates! Make new friends along the way. 😊
First batch (ever!) for this Trazy walking tour!
With fellow Pinoys who joined the tour:
BONUS! K-Drama Locations!
Although this is not part of the tour, I was able to spot at least TWO kdrama shooting locations during our walks! Sulit!
The wall from Goblin: The Lonely and Great God (just outside the Deoksugung Palace)
And the red flowers monument at the Seoul Museum of Art, as seen in Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo!!! ❤😍 Wasn't expecting this!
Why join the Trazy Walking Tour:
1) Interesting and fun facts that you will most probably not know about if you just drop by the places on your own. This will add more depth and story on your Instagram captions! 😉
2) English speaking tour guides!
3) The 3-hour tour is packed, including two K-Drama locations! Very sulit!
4) If ever you have questions or concerns regarding the tour and you don't have a Korean phone number, you can easily contact Trazy in their Facebook page's messenger--and from my experience they really respond right away! 👍
5) You'll get to meet new friends! Still in contact with two Ates who are also part of the tour.
A big thank you to Trazy Korea's Jihee and Kristine for the worthwhile afternoon in Seoul! It was a delight to appreciate and finally know a little bit more about this country beyond K-Pop and K-Dramas!