Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Shining happiness in Seoul

The sun is out and the sky is blue but the temperature is still below zero as I step out to visit the Gyeongbokgung Palace in Seoul. Luckily the modern subway is not too difficult to navigate and the locals are happy to help with directions.

Out of the five great palaces of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), this was the most important one. ‘Gyeongbok’ means ‘shining happiness’ and was built as a tribute to the happiness and blessings of Korea’s royal families as well as the people of the nation. They seem to be a happy lot – job done.

I watch the changing of the guards before I buy my ticket. Their colourful outfits and flags remind of a parade or a festival, not a serious matter such as security. It is beautiful and I cannot wait to go inside, although my fingers are becoming more and more reluctant to click my camera for fear of turning into ice.

The architecture and Zen gardens inside the palace remind me of former visits to China and Japan, although the Korean version is a lot cuter. In fact, most things are cute here in Seoul – from the en masse Hello Kitty type phone jewellery and hair accessories to the paintings on the palace walls.

This place is filled with harmony, although it suffered the destruction of war, having been completely burned down during the 1600’s. I immerse myself in the history of this place and then turn around to see the skyline glittering beyond the tiled roofs. Seoul has indeed become one of the great cities of the world, with enough depth and life to compete with the best of them.

Once I exit the palace gates I walk through Insadong, a traditional area, towards the modern centre of the city. The tea shops lure me inside – ah, the East kindled in me a passion for tea that exceeds even my love for red wine. I enjoy the cup of warm brown rice roasted green tea that the shop owner offers me while looking at handmade ceramic tea cups and other tea accessories.

Then, just like that, the glare from the modern office buildings stings my eyes and I am filled with a shining happiness for the moments I share with Seoul.

1 comment:

yen said...

this is a great blog and I enjoy reading your travel experiences.