Changdeokgung Palace and the Secret Garden

 By Friday of our tourist week, we were determined to do a half day activity. We were tired and our feet were sore from all the walking and exploring. I picked a palace on the UNESCO World Heritage site list and we were aiming for an hour and a half tour set to start at 11:30am. Unfortunately, after the guidebook was printed, the times changed for this site. So, we had missed a palace tour at 10:30, but came in time for the Secret Garden tour which was new.

A kindergarten class found Landon as we were walking to the tour. They loved touching his hair
Most Koreans are more restrained when they approach him. Austin commented that kindergarten
teachers are the same everywhere!

The only way to get into this palace complex was through a tour.The Forbidden or Secret Garden was just around  the back of the palace complex right in downtown Seoul. It was expansive and hilly and green. I knew it was going to be a hike to walk around there when the tour guide explained that there were going to be lots of hills and that if anyone got tired, there was a spot where you could turn back halfway. Intense!

 Everything has symbolism here and is placed in a Korean feng shui. This little pavilion below was supposed to look like a man with his feet dangling in the water. The other elements in the pond were water and earth with an island in the middle. The king and his ministers liked to make up poetry and had lots of different games where if they didn’t make up poetry by the time they circled the pond in the boat, they banished him to the island in the middle.

By the “man” house

This was our tour guide. Loved the traditional Korean outfit, as well as the running shoes

 Another poetry game they did is that the ministers would put their rice wine goblets in the water and if they couldn’t make up a poem by the time they fell over the edge, they had to drink wine. Fun drinking game! Although, it seems like one of those that you would get much worse at as you went along…

The site of the drinking game

This was just upstream from the drinking game site, a little cute straw thatched pavilion
With all the walking up and down big hills within the garden, the tour took about an hour and a half total. Landon insisted on walking a lot of it, and fell asleep as we were descending down to the servant’s quarters. The males and females had separate housing, even married couples according to Confucianism rules. Here are my boys going under the boys entrance:

Because Korea is cold in the winter, the middle of the men’s and women’s houses were joined so that they in fact did not have to go outside to visit each other after all. Isn’t that a nice feature?
After our first tour we had a 1.5 hour break before the palace tour. Again, we are kicking ourselves because it is turning into a full day excursion, but what can you do? We could only buy the garden tickets in a pack with the palace tickets, and Austin is not into wasting money, if you hadn’t already guessed. Anyway, we decided to wander around the streets around the palace to see if we could find anything yummy to eat. We came upon a delicious looking crepe place!
While not super popular in the US as a stand-alone restaurant, Austin and I are big fans of making crepes at home thanks to a wedding gift from my old BYU swim coach, Shari. (THANKS, SHARI, WE LOVE IT!) So finding this place in the middle of noodles and rice and semi-par pizza felt like a little light from heaven. 

Austin ordered a banana and chocolate crepe with gelato, I ordered a mixed berry crepe with gelato

It was kind of like a date because Landon slept through the whole thing!

There it is in all its glory as we pass it going the other way

 Next was the palace tour. This palace was originally built in the late 1300’s as one of the palaces of the Joseon dynasty. It was burned down in the 1500s, but rebuilt almost immediately. It was well-preserved and the tour was well done, although it had many features of the other palaces that we had already seen at various sites throughout the city.

Across the street- Landon woke up right on time!

Detail from the front gate on the inside… so much detail!
We got back a little early and had to wait around for the tour to start. We perused the sign boards and Landon ran around. Some lady wanted to take pictures of him, and he was standing there posing all cute for her by all kinds of things. I think she had magic powers, or he just doesn’t want to be cooperative for mommy. All the pictures with us, he must be restrained or they are action shots!
Father and son waiting for the tour to start
One of the places of note that was different from other palaces was the throne room. It had the traditional stones out front for the ranking officials, just like the other palaces. This folding screen behind the throne is the most elaborate though of the ones we had seen, and the most well preserved. It symbolizes that the king and queen rule all the land (sun and moon are the king and queen) mountains and trees and rivers are the lands. There were many more ornate details in this palace- you could tell they used it much more than the other ones we had previously been to. Also, the throne room had a blue tiled roof symbolizing that the king ruled there. I forget why. 
There is that lovely blue roof! Also, I forgot if I already mentioned in another post, but the reason that these wooden buildings have survived so long and are painted so ornately is because the paint works as both an insect repellent and a weather protector
Outside the main throne room were these copper containers. They were filled with water to protect against fire. Although there were 4 situated around the buildings, I still don’t think that amount of water would stop a good burning fire. The tour guide explained it was more symbolic of protecting the kingdom. Landon liked them all the same.
Roof detail in the throne room
The king and queen’s lodgings. Because the dynasty was active until 1910, they had
some modern things like upholstered chairs, carpeting and a circle drive in the front of their quarters.
Sorry if this post is a little loopy, taking 4 Malarone pills a day is something I would recommend if you are designing new rollercoasters for an amusement park, or want to have some idea for a futuristic new invention, but not if you are trying to be a responsible adult. It has been fun. One more day, and I’m feeling much better, although tired and sore from shaking so much!

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