South Korea

Wearing Hanbok to Explore the Palaces of Seoul, South Korea

Our flight from Taipei to Seoul was at 4:35 PM so we had enough time to try another famous beef noodle soup place called 老牌牛肉拉面大王. It was hard to locate it as it is hidden in between the streets inside a local tucked away outdoor market but we managed to find it. It just opened and we were the first customers! The little shop only has 3 tables and it brought back memories of the local market in the village that I grew up. It might not feel clean but the food was definitely “homemade” feel.

The beef flavor was rich and the noodle was cooked just right. It was a great beef noodle soup but I think Niou Dien Beef Noodles (牛店) was better.

Jason ordered a dumpling soup and the dumplings were definitely full of yummy meat fillings.

Once we finished our breakfast, we walked back to Taipei Main Station underground mall to purchase extra carry-on Duffle bags so we can pack all our pineapple cakes LOL. We did it!!!!

Luckily our hotel was right next to Taipei Main Station so lugging all our luggage to catch the airport express train wasn’t doable. We arrived at the airport and use our Priority Pass to enter the Plaza Premium Lounge to have some snacks before our flight. The food selections were pretty good, I really like the lounges in Asia!

You can even “order” beef noodle soup too, of course, not as great as the ones we had but not bad for a lounge:

After we finished eating, we left the lounge because it was so cold inside! I have no idea why they turned up the AC that much!

Our Cathay Pacific CX430 Taipei 4:35 PM to Seoul ICN 8:15 PM flight was enjoyable and decent food! The flight was only 15,000 British Airways Avios + $49.66 per person compared to the cash price of $280!

We landed on time but our luggage took some time, then to the ATM to take out 100,000 won ($89) and we proceed to the airport train station to catch the Incheon Airport Express KTX to Seoul Station. However, at that time of the day, the staff told us to take the normal train because of the next express train will be another half an hour and for more than half the price – 4,150 won. The normal train stopped at each station and took 58 minutes. Seoul Station is huge as well but at least it is clearly marked with exit number so we followed the direction to exit 12 where it’s connected to our hotel – Four Points by Sheraton Seoul, Namsan. Due to the size of the station, it took at least 10 minutes to walk to exit 12 and by the time we checked into our hotel, it was already 10:30 PM!!! All the restaurants and food court inside Seoul Station already closed but we found a Korean BBQ restaurant across the street from the hotel that was still open. We only saw locals dine here so must be authentic right?

It was really authentic; it was our first time seeing boiling sauce on the grill and the sauce was so good! Our dinner was only 28,000 won (~$25) for both of us that we paid with our credit card. After the late dinner, we walked to the convenient store located right across the road to get drinks. Then, we went back to our hotel and on the desk, it has information about the hotel including coin laundry! Photos of the room later in this post as we were so tired that we showered and jump to bed!

Early in the morning, we went to the convenient store to purchase the T Money Card for bus and metro and also breakfast – Korean’s version of o-musubi (rice ball). The T Money Card cost 2,500 won.

The rice ball only cost 1000 won (less than $1) and they have different fillings…I got the stir-fried sausages and vegetables. It tasted pretty good too!

Unlike the Easy Card in Taiwan that includes some balance upon purchase, the T Money Card doesn’t come with any balance so when we entered the bus, it showed 0 won yikes! Luckily, I have a 5,000 won bill to pay for our bus ride of 1,300 won per person and the change machine inside the bus dispense only 100 won coins so our change was 74 coins haha!

Speaking of navigating in Seoul, Google Map only gives public transportation direction from the nearest train or bus station. It doesn’t provide walking or driving direction due to “security reason”. I read in TripAdvisor that people recommended KakaoMap. This Korean app has “English” version but guess what, the directions were in Korean only LOL! I had both apps open to double check and we made our way to Oneday Hanbok (http://www.onedayhanbok.com/en_hanbokrental/) by the time it opens at 9 AM!

We didn’t make a reservation in advance because there were limited reviews on Hanbok rental stores so I wasn’t really sure until the last minute.  There were a lot of customers there already when it opens at 9 AM 🙁 I walked to the staff to ask for the next available slot and she said about 15 minutes so we waited. Most of the customers were Chinese and the staff spoke good Mandarin! I found out from my friend that it’s easier to navigate around Seoul with Mandarin rather than English! A lot of Koreans chose to learn Mandarin as their second language because the majority of the tourists are Chinese.

After 15 minutes of wait, it was our turn and Jason decided on the spot that he wanted to wear the Hanbok as well so both of us went in to pick our Hanboks. It was more chaotic and crowded than my peaceful kimono fitting, it was not 1-to-1 personal service. We were in this room filled with Hanboks ordered by size, the staff said I am a size 6 so I went to the size 6 racks to pick out a Hanbok. There were so many to choose from but I couldn’t find my favorite lilac/purple so I picked this light pink set. It was super easy to put on, literally, it took no more than 5 minutes unlike the one hour with a professional dresser to put on a kimono. The Hanbok is two pieces – a tank-dress that you can tie to adjust and then a cardigan on top. You can wear your clothes underneath the Hanbok as it completely covers them so super easy!

The store also sells cute Hanbok miniature postcards that I couldn’t resist but to buy a few as the souvenir!

After I was dressed, there’s a “make-up” room with all the accessories that customers can lend for free. For simplicity, I picked the hair band and the ribbon (Daenggi) and braided my own hair. Ta-da done! Jason was done too! We walked out to the counter to pay (it was only 18,000 won per person so around $28 for both of us, it was super affordable compared to the kimono rental) and got a receipt that listed the time (we need to return in 4 hours), the number of accessories lent, and the deposit of 10000 won. She photocopied my passport and gave it back. After the quick process, we walked to Gyeongbokgung Palace where they have a changing of the guards at 10 am. We arrived just when it started!!!

I think this changing of the guards are more fun to see than in Windsor, London with more colorful costumes and traditional musical instruments. My Hanbok:

It was very crowded in Gyeongbokgung but it is big enough that people can scatter out so you can find spots with no one like this one 😀 The palace made great backdrops for photos like we were traveled back to time! I really like how South Korea promote their culture by free admission to palaces if you wear a Hanbok!

With a selfie stick for a photo of us!

The main buildings were very crowded and as you can see many tourists are wearing Hanbok.

Go to the side and you’ll find peace.

A closer look to the colorful rooftop:

The main palace building was super crowded but not as crowded as Japan so we got used to it!

A peek of the interior:

Again, off to the side and we have the place to ourselves!

The palace complex is quite big with buildings after buildings that have similar architecture. Aren’t the photos looked like we traveled back time?

It was really a good experience going through buildings after buildings within the palace complex to take photos in traditional costume!

A library that we can enter to have a closer look at its interior architecture and decors.

This one was closed for visit so can only have a peek from out the doorway.

Then across the pond to have a photo of this building.

 

It was less and fewer crowds as we kept walking toward the inner of the palace complex.

We spent a good 2.5 hours in Gyeongbokgung and haven’t visit every single building in the palace complex and we were sweating in our Hanbok already! We decided we should return our Hanbok so more comfortable to explore more places in Seoul.

On our walk back to Oneday Hanbok, there’s a pagoda that we took some quick photos with:

We went back to Oneday Hanbok, returned our Hanboks and hair accessories, showed the staff the receipt and she examined the Hanbok to make sure no damage and gave back the deposit. Next, we went to a convenience store to load our T Money Card with the heavy coins in my purse haha. With the app, I was able to match up the Korean characters to figure out the direction of the bus at the bus stop and got on the bus to the famous restaurant for Korean ginseng chicken soup – Tosokchon Samgyetang. There was already a line but it moved very quickly as the restaurant is very large inside.

We were seated in a traditional low-wooden table that you had to kneel or sit on your feet and presented a menu. Only a few selections of ginseng chicken soup – white or black chicken and with or without extra doses of chopped ginseng. A few side dishes are also available.

Jason ordered the black chicken with extra chopped ginseng (29,000 won) and I ordered the white chicken soup (16,000 won) as well as a side order of the seafood pancake. The soups are here!!!

This bowl of chicken and ginseng essence was really flavorful and yummy. The chicken was stuffed with sticky rice to absorb the flavors as well, it was so good!

It was like hunting for treasure, I found a full-sized ginseng inside the stuffing woahhhh!!! Jason has it too so each chicken is stuffed with a full-sized ginseng!

I never have soup that filling!

After the lunch at around $65 for both of us, the restaurant also sells ginseng wine (at around $10 per bottle)…with a longer sized ginseng inside! We bought it for Jason’s dad as souvenir.

We pay a visit to the convenience store for cold drinks and to be honest, their drinks selections were disappointing compared to in Japan or Taiwan. I picked this drink made with rice water and it tasted pretty good, too bad, we couldn’t find it in another convenience store again -.-

Next, we took the bus to Bukchon Hanok Village, another famous sight in Seoul for its well preserved ancient houses that locals still live in. Example of the ancient house architecture:

However, the reality was really lots of tourists and the locals were fed up with the noises that you can see signs everywhere to discourage tourists from visiting the “village”. Signs clearly said no loud noises but not all tourists respect it so you understand why the locals aren’t welcoming.

Beautiful houses, I wondered how it looked inside?

The village only covers a few streets so at some spots were packed with tourists that it was hard to get a good photo especially we visited there afternoon time. If you want good photos be there early!

It was near impossible to wait for people to pass to take a photo without tourists in it…

I had to crop and not capturing the entire street.

I found Bukchon Hanok Village to be pretty but I didn’t have the mood to photograph it more as it was too many tourists and many unwelcoming signs. Given that, we walked to Changdeokgung, another palace complex in Seoul. Changdeokgung has fewer tourists than Gyeongbokgung so it was super easy to have one building all to yourself for photos!

 

The standing location depending on the officer’s ranking…with higher ranks closer to the emperor.

Similar architecture style as Gyeongbokgung with green as the main color.

A peek in the palace of the emperor’s seat.

The palaces were dominated by red columns and green rooftops.

A closer look of the colorful painting actually with flower patterns:

I prefer Changdeokgung more as it was more compact and fewer tourists! After visiting two palaces, it was time to get back to the “modern” world haha! We took the bus to Myeongdong to shop for skincare products that South Korea is famous for 😀

There are a lot of food stalls on the main street and we felt the food looked much cleaner than Taipei’s night markets….at least the street looked cleaner and no car nor motorcycles passing through.

It was packed and both sides of the street are filled with cosmetic stores, some clothing stores, and restaurants!

I had my shopping list and went in store by store to make the purchase. Whenever I have a question, I asked “excuse me,…” and then the sales lady will respond in Mandarin LOL so it was definitely easier with Mandarin! They also offer tax refund right at the store so no need to do it at custom and to deal with all those forms, you just give your passport and the total will deduct the tax amount so convenient!

It was so crazy that if you make 200,000 won ($177) in a purchase, you’ll get a free luggage so you don’t need to worry about not having space in your luggage LOL!!! I bought different brands of products so no way to make that amount in one store! See toward the end of the post for my shopping list and review for each product!

After shopping, it was time to fill our tummy at Sinseon Seolleongtang Myeongdong which opens 24 hours and famous for their ox bone soup. We ordered the bulgogi and the ox bone soup.

I was a little bit disappointed with how light the taste the ox bone soup was! The bulgogi was just okay and nothing special. The meal was cheap only 23,000 won ($20).

Skincare products that I bought:

  1. Banila Co’s Clean It Zero Purity for sensitive skin – a cleansing balm that melts into oil as you rub on your face and leave your face hydrated and smooth after. I have very sensitive skin and this one I did not have any allergic reaction so highly recommended! It cost 22,000 won per bottle.
  2. The Face Shop’s Natural Rice Water Light Cleansing Oil – it smelled so good but too bad I am allergic to it 🙁 It was 60,000 won for 6 bottles so 10,000 won per.
  3. Tony Moly’s Seedless Strawberry Seeds 3-step Nose Pack – the 3 step process takes 45 minutes to complete but it really pulls out more blackheads than previous nose strips that I had used! It’s expensive though at 60,000 won for 20.
  4. Innisfree’s My Real Squeeze Masks and Volcanic Clay Mask – so many choices with sheet masks and I picked aloe and New Zealand’s Mānuka honey. I love the honey sheet mask, it has a good smell and keeps my skin hydrated! I haven’t had a chance to try out the volcanic clay mask yet! Each sheet mask cost 1,100 won and the volcanic clay mask cost 13,000 won.
  5. A’Pieu’s Daily Sheet Mask and Calming Cream – I haven’t tried the daily sheet mask yet but I am allergic to the calming cream 🙁 The box of daily sheet mask was 13,000 won and the calming cream was 9,000 won.

Also note that they give out free masks and samples on purchases so I got extra sheet masks!

 

When we got back to our room, we had a lot to figure out how to pack it all into our already full luggage! We ended up having 2 big check-in luggage, 2 carry-on Duffle Bags, our backpack, and purse. When we checked in, the staff said one of the luggage overweighted (even though we can have 2 free check-in bags per person but they don’t add up the weight) so we had to pull some stuff out and created the 3rd check-in luggage with our spare Duffle Bag. Our room, sorry for the mess, when we had to repack all our 2.5 weeks of vacation clothings and souvenirs…yea that 30 lbs of pineapple cakes hahaha!

I really don’t like the body wash, shampoo, and conditioner the hotel provides, those dried out my skin so fortunately, I packed my own. Also, those dispensers don’t look locked so who knows what people put in there and how long ago!

The restroom was decent size and very modern and clean look! For $234 for two nights (I booked through Orbitz during a sales) and located conveniently connected to the Seoul Station, I highly recommend the Four Points by Sheraton Seoul, Namsan. Our flight home departed at Gimpo Airport which is closer to Seoul Station, we took the A’REX train and took only 22 minutes for 1,450 won only.

6 thoughts on “Wearing Hanbok to Explore the Palaces of Seoul, South Korea

  1. The post I was really looking forward to. Beautiful pics as usual. and you look pretty in the hanbok. Your trip to SK and Taiwan were really short, dont you wish you had a couple of days more in each location? More reason to return right? The palaces are so wonderful, the details.. the colors! And so sad the Hanok village and their anti-tourist messages. But so understandable… I heard the same in some areas of Norway and Croatia too. Too many people are travelling and really causing a havoc in the everyday lives of people. We just have to learn to be more mindful before stepping out of our homes.

    1. Actually, I thought it was about enough…I saw what I wanted to see the most – ancient architectures and palaces. We are not big, modern city people, and definitely not use to the crowds. We love to eat but can only eat 3 meals a day so the rest of the time is not much to do if we stay for a few extra days. Need to save the vacation days to see more places, I much preferred cute small villages. I would go back to Japan to explore the other regions and of course more flower festivals 😀

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