Sunday, March 23, 2014

Seoul Day 2: Gyeongbokgong Palace, Tosokchon Samgaetang Lunch, Trick-Eye Museum‏

No early move outs today as we were still recovering from the flight yesterday. We left our apartments after sleeping in around 11 am and headed to the Grand Palace Gates for some sight seeing and catch the changing of the guards ceremonies which are held every hour. 
The entrance to the King's throne. The huge parade square is also the setting for many Korean dramas.

The majesty and grandeur of it all

Much effort has been put in to preserve the palace and the items inside.

Gyeongbokgung Palace is open from 9am to 6pm daily except Tuesday. It's a 5 minute walk from  Gyeongbokgung Station exit 5 or a 10 minute walk from Gwanghwamun Station exit 2. Tickets are priced at 3000 won for adults and 1500 won for children 7 to 18 years old. Children ages 6 and under go free. 

Tradition meets Modern (in the background).

Getting ready for the changing of guards ceremony.

Drumming signalling the start of the procession

There are free one and half hour long guided tours in English at 11.00 am, 1.30 pm, and 3.30 pm. It starts in front of information center at Heungnyemun gate. Groups with 10 or more people must make a reservation. 

Our group decided to go free and easy, and enjoyed the changing of the guard at 1 pm. It was indeed a grand ceremony, and seemed to take us back to the ancient days of kings and queens. It personally reminded me of Korean dramas set in those days. A good spot to catch all the action would be near the main gates, away from the palace. Even though you would not be in the 'center' of the action, you would be able to shutter back and forth the between the outside gates and inner court. Some parts of the procession take place outside the main Gwanghwamun gates before going back into the inner court for the walk off and ending.
After linking up with Daddy who participated in the Seoul Challenge 10k run earlier, a friendly local directed us to our lunch at Tosokchon (토속촌삼게탕) at Chebu-dong for one of the most well known Samgaetang in Seoul (Korean Ginseng Chicken Soup). Get out from exit 2 of Gyeongbokgong station. Walk straight all the way to the main intersection, just past the convenient store GS25. Make a right turn and you would see the huge restaurant sign just in front of you. The queue (filled with locals and foreigners) itself was an indication of its reputation, but we were thankful it moved quickly. They opened a function room to accommodate our group and we ordered their specialties, including the roast chicken, premium ginseng soup, and black chicken ginseng soup. Both the premium ginseng and black chicken ginseng soups came with special shots of ginseng to mix into the soups. Other than that, the premium chicken ginseng chicken soup is no different from the normal ginseng chicken soup.
We're here!
Time to join the queue! This is the crowd after 1 pm! Valet parking is available and it is free for the first hour.
Inside the restaurant. Tell the usher how big your crowd is and they would prepare the table for you.
Feeling healthy already.
Generous bowls of kimchi.

Roast chicken dish.
Black chicken ginseng soup.

Dissecting the dish! Generous Ginseng root and delicious glutinous rice!

What a large seafood pancake! It's rich with ingredients such as spring onions and squid.
Special ginseng concoctions to mix into your premium chicken and black chicken soup.
On a personal note, what the place lacked in variety they made up in their  chicken specialities. However, this meant the kids had less choices, and those who didn't like chicken basically had rice. The rice was also a bit too sticky for the children's liking so feeding became quite a challenge. The ginseng flavoured chicken also didn't go down very well with some of the children. Nonetheless, we all felt a little healthier after the ginseng meal.

After lunch, we chilled at a nearby Paris Baguette cafe while some of us explored a nearby alley to let the heavy meal settle.

Charcoals being heated up. Roasted sweet potatoes will be ready very soon...

They're well worth the wait!
A roadside seafood restaurant turns into an educational aquarium visit!

Sometimes a simple back-alley stroll takes you into another land! There's just so much to see and observe in a foreign land.
The locals enjoying the time with a board game

Pig's trotters

Lots of shops selling shells.
After some post lunch desserts, we left for Hongdae, alighting at Hongik University Station exit 9 and navigated our way to the Trick-Eye Museum. (Get off at exit 9, walk straight for about 150m before crossing the road. Turn left into Hongik-ro street and walk straight for another 150m, turn right down the second side street,  between Tony Moly and Holika Holika. Continue for another 100m and you would see Trick-Eye Museum on the right) It is opened from 10am with admissions till 9pm. Last admission is at 8pm. Adult  admission are priced at 15000 won and children (18 and under) 12000 won. Infants under 36 months go free.

By this time many of us were operating on low battery. However the novelty of being here kept us going and we were rewarded with the creativity and ingenuity of the place. The entry has a complementary visit to small ice sculpture area. Those of us who couldn't brave the cold didn't take long to exit the beautiful place. However, we were pleasantly surprised by the physical tolerance levels of some of the kids. Enjoy the photos (only a small selection of the art pieces are shown here to allow you to discover it for yourself when you do get a chance to visit)!

It's been a tiring day!

Erm... isn't Christmas long over?

It got too cold for everyone after a short while and we had to thaw at the café just outside.

There is a small cafe selling drinks and sweets at the entrance.

You can make some clay figurines for 8000 won. When we were there, there was a discount of 3000won.

Samples of work on display

Ample resting area. Might not be the case on a crowded weekend.

Past the ticketing corner and turn right to enter Trick Eye Museum

Eat your meat and you'll grow taller!

Our own little puss in boot

"Save me!"

Just call me the "Night Crawler"...

I feel like Jonah!

Thanks! I'll just have one piece for dinner.

There's a mini mirror maze at the exit that was quite fun! The kids went through it again and again...

Dinner was settled back in our rooms after the train ride back with take aways from the cafe nearby. It was a long day and we needed to crash... tomorrow is a kids' day out!

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