On Saturday Paul and I decided, that as we had a non eventful day on Friday, that we should go do something. We went to Seoul on the subway, using our new bank cards to pay for everything. However, this was not the case for Paul as his card did not work on any transportation, which meant having to queue up only for the subway for a ticket. Which when you buy a ticket, it’s a card and you pay a 500 won (about 29p) deposit. After your journey, you put your travel card into a machine where you get your deposit back.

The subway is very well organised, and I wasn’t expecting it to be as clean as it was - probably because I only have the London underground to compare it to. However the subway stations have no characteristics like some of London’s stations, like Baker Street’s for example. The Subway map is also in English, which helps very much when trying to work out what station you need to get off at, there is also a handy app for the Korean subway’s called ‘Jihachul’.

We were heading towards Changdeokgung Palace, which was only a few minutes away from the subway station we got off at. We went for lunch in a small traditional Korean café, Paul had bibimbap (rice and vegetables with an egg) and I had stir-fried pork with rice which was succulent, warm and filling. Both of these meals together cost under £7.

We then headed to the entrance of the Palace. When the Palace was built; the buildings were orientated to have a hill behind them and a stream in front of them, incorporating the laws of feng shui. This Palace (Changdeokgung) was originally built in 1405 as a secondary Palace to Gyeongbokgung, but when this Palace was destroyed by the Japanese invasion in the 1590’s, it became the primary Palace until 1896. This Palace is still being restored today, after the Japanese occupation from 1910-1945, restoration work begun in 1991. The buildings within this royal complex show where the King addressed his subjects, where ceremonies took place, where he slept etc. The Queen’s bed had been restored and could be seen through the shutters of her royal bedroom. 
We had booked a tour for the secret gardens with an English tour guide. The secret gardens can only be seen via a tour (which takes 90 minutes) and these do get full quickly. Our guide introduced herself and gave us some history of the Palace and the gardens. The gardens served various purposes for the Royal family such as; composing poetry, contemplation, study, banquets, archery and even fishing. There are 4 secret gardens in total, which consist of pavilions, lotus ponds and other halls and buildings. All of which do not look out of place, they fit in perfectly with the natural structure of the landscape. To get into the second garden we walked through the Bullomun gate (a rectangular arch which had been made from a solid piece of rock). Inscribed at the top of this gate are three symbols, which translates to ‘not to age.’ Therefore whoever passes through makes their way towards eternal bliss. The fourth garden has an impressive ‘Jade stream’ (Okryucheon stream), which has a u shaped grove carved along the flat rock, known as Soyoam. Here was where the King composed a lot of his poetry, and used the stream to float wine cups to his officials. 

 In 1997, the Palace complex was added to the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage list. Whilst walking from the secret gardens to the entrance of the Palace we saw an old twisted Juniper tree, that was 700 hundred years old, and had been hit by lightning three years ago (in 2010) and was still going strong! After we finished our tour the heavens opened, luckily I bought my umbrella, and we walked to the subway and went to Itaewon. 

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