Sunday, August 30, 2009

Beautiful Jeju Part 2

The other day when we were in the Jungmun Resort Complex we missed out the Yeomiji Botanical garden and the Cheonjeyeon Waterfall although they were in the vicinity because we didn’t have enough time. So I thought we could do it this morning as we’re going to the Seogwipo area of Jeju. And at the same time we can explore what else Seogwipo has to offer. As some of you may know, Seogwipo is famous for two things; diving and the World Cup Stadium. The World Cup Stadium was the host to some of the matches in the 2002 FIFA World Cup.

Let's go to the Cheonjeyeon Waterfall first. One of Jeju's top tourist attractions, Cheonjeyeon Falls does not only possess a 22-meter cascade but it is also surrounded by a beautiful park. Cheonjeyeon Waterfall, named 'The pond of God', consists of 3 parts. Around the falls, a variety of plant life thrives, such as the rare ‘solipnan’ reeds. To the east, there is a cave where cold water pours down from the ceiling to create a waterfall. The water from the first waterfall becomes the second and third waterfalls and flows into the sea. In Cheonjeyeon Valley, there is the “Seonimgyo Bridge” (arch bridge that has 7 nymphs carved on the side) and the octagonal “Cheonjeru tower”. The Seonimgyo is also called “Chilseonyeogyo”(meaning seven nymphs) and it connects Cheonjeyeon with the Jungmum Tourist Complex. On the surface of the Cheonjeru Tower, there is a painting that tells Cheonjeyeon’s legend of the nymph and mountain god. Every even-year, in the month of May, the Chilseonyeo Festival is held here.
Located within Jungmun Resort, Yeomiji Botanical Garden is the best botanical garden in Asia that has a unique southern atmosphere. Yeomiji is home to a total of approximately 2,000 rare tropical and subtropical plants including Flower Garden, Water Lily Garden, Jungle Garden, Subtropical Fruits Garden, Cactus and Succulent Garden, and Observation Platform. The outdoor garden houses, Jeju Native Garden, as well as Korean, Japanese, Italian and French folk gardens.
We still have some time left before lunchtime Shall we go and see the dolphins at the Pacific Land Show? Dolphins and sea lions perform excellent shows in a pool with a transparent wall facing spectators. I just love the dolphins, they're so cute. The show is indoors, so it won't be hot. The same building has a small aquarium and souvenir shop. Then after the show we can have lunch at one of the restaurants somewhere around here. And after lunch we shall be proceeding eastwards towards Seopjikoji to the house of All In, before going over to Udo island.

The first place on our agenda this afternoon will be the Jeju Folk Village which is the island's main tourist attraction, where customs of the olden days can be explored. With a total of 117 houses and other structures, the museum has recreated scenes of village life in the 1800s from mountain villages to fishing villages. Most of the buildings are authentic and have been relocated stone by stone from their original location. Traditional folk crafts are also on display; there is even an area where you can experience what it was like to live in a traditional Jeju house.The buildings are constructed in such a way so that it retains the original atmosphere of the village. A few of the cottages, relocated to this village, are even more than three hundred years old, and which still maintains its original form today. The topography of Jeju Folk Village can be divided into three types: coastal land, plain land, and hilly regions. A number of folk crafts are available here in the Jeju Folk Village.
Since March 2006, the Daeganggeum Mini Theme Park located here in this museum, offers various things for visitors to see. Many of the scenes from episodes 27 to 32 of the historical drama, in which Jang-geum learns medicine as a maid were filmed at Jeju Folk Village. In order to fit the theme of Daeganggeum, the separate locations have joined together, and are now open to tourists. Visitors can appreciate the amazing scenic beauty of Jeju as well as experience the traditional culture of Jeju at this theme park.
We’ll be passing a few beaches on the way to Seopjikoji but we won’t be stopping because we want to spend some time in Seopjikoji, home to our favourite drama All In before crossing over to Udo Island. Just 100 meters away from the Jeju Folk Village. is the Pyoseon Beach, This beach becomes a circular sandy plain at low tide and a circular lake with less than one meter deep at high tide, creating a sort of beach playground. There’s a stretch of white sandy beach here. It is is like an arena, so children from neighboring villages play here when it is not so crowded with people. On its east side, there is a port and fishing spots where people can enjoy fresh raw fish and the lovely night scenery at full tide.
Sinyang Beach, which is nestled inside the cape of Seopjikoji. It is the last beach we pass before we arrive in Seopjikoji. . The water is so calm making it an ideal place for windsurfing. There’s even a training camp for windsurfing near the beach. Families come to this gently sloping beach for its shallow, warm waters.
Seopjikoji Beach is just ahead. "Seopji" is the old name for the area, and "Koji" is Jeju dialect meaning a sudden bump on land.

Green fields without a single tree spread beyond the cliff to where a rock called “seondol” protrudes. Also there are stonewalls along the road to block the wind on the way to the lighthouse at the end of Seopjikoji. Within the stonewalls, you may find the most brilliant rapeseed flower fields every April. Going up the metal steps of the lighthouse, you can view the whole seashore at a glance. On Koji hill, there stands a stone Bongsudae (4 m high, 9 m long and wide) that retains its original form. It looks so beautifu, it’s a sight for sore eyes! Seopjikoji is a famous location because of its amazing shore cliffs and fields of yellow flowers. But most importantly this romantic and beautiful place was also where the famous television drama series All In was filmed. Part of the set - a small cathedral atop a hill- still remains and is visited by fans of Korean dramas.
Shall we go inside the House of All In? I know I’m anxious to go in.
Until September 2003, the outdoor set location of All in included a church, convent, and daycare center on a beautiful landscape in Seopjikoji; however, that set was destroyed by Typhoon Maemi. Following numerous requests for reconstruction, the ‘All In House’ was built, this time including a casino. The new All In House is a collaboration between the All In production company and SBS Production. The reconstructed church and convent sets will be exhibited to the visitors. The All In house took 18 months to build, which included two underground floors (B1 and B2) and a ground-level floor. The reconstruction costs more than three billion Korean won. The ground floor displays include items from the drama, "making of the film", the film on the Grand Canyon set, and also the music box which served as the link between In-ha (Lee Byung-hun) and Soo-yeon's (Song Hye-kyo) love. The B1 level has a small cinema section showing an All In trailer using computer graphics, and a souvenir shop, café, and outdoor rest area. Other places of interest in Seopjikoji are the lighthouse and the signal mound called Yeondae.

From here we are going to Udo Island. Jeju-do’s treasure island is called Udo due to its unique shape that resembles a cow lying down! You have to take a boat from Jeju-do to visit it. Although it’s only a small island the scenery is so beautiful that it is often used as Korean movie settings.
Due to volcanic activity on the island, Udo’s coasts are filled with impressive black stones and rocks. Living up to its name as a mysterious island, Udo boasts many scenic views hidden throughout the area that are just waiting to be discovered. In Udo there are eight sightseeing wonders that you have to see and they are:-
• Juganmyeongwol: the "moon" during the day inside the cave.
In the southern region of Udo Island is a cave called Gwangdaegoji. There is an interesting phenomenon called the 'Dalgeurian' or the “day moon” which can be seen in this cave. This phenomenon takes place when the sun shining through the entrance of the cave is reflected on the ceiling. The reflection looks just like a moon and as it happens at 12 noon it is called the “day moon”. Visitors interested in this fascinating sight should time their visit around noon to observe this phenomenon. The cave is also known as the Kwangdaekoji and the process is also sometimes called 'Talgrian'
• Yahangobom: the sight of fishing boats at night
• Cheonjinkwansan: the scene of Halla-san from U-do
• Jiducheongsa: U-do beach seen from the peak
• Jeonpomangdo: U-do seen from the sea
• Huhaeseokbyeok: the cliffs of U-do
• Dongangyeonggul: whale cave of the East Sea
• Seobinbaeksa: white coral beach
The soft sands of Sebin White Sand Beach is a must-see as it is the only coral sands to be found in Korea. This beach's gorgeous white sands are formed by broken coral and emerald green ocean waters.
And so ends our excursion to Seopjikoji and Udo Island and also time for me to say goodbye because the competition ends today.
What impresses me most about Jeju are the beautiful beaches along its coastline and its beach roads. Perhaps its because I feel nostalgic for the place where I was born, in the island of Penang in Malaysia, sometimes referred to as the Pearl of the Orient. We also have some beautiful beaches but not that many as in Jeju.
I forgot to mention about Hyeopjae Beach which is one of the top 12 beaches to visit in the summer in the whole of Korea. The other one, Jungmun Beach I have already spoken about. So now I'm going to tell you something about Hyeopjae Beach. Located just next to the Hallim Park, the Hyeopjae Beach is a great family destination. Not only is it noted for its white sands, the Hyeopjae Beach is particularly known for the numerous sea shells that get washed up ashore. In fact, picking sea shells off the beaches is a major activity in Hyeopjae Beach in Jeju. So if you like to collect sea shells then this is the place for you. The presence of these sea shells make the sands of the Hyeopjae Beach in Jeju unique as you will find a lot of shell powder mixed with the white sand. The beach is also quite extensive, with the length stretching to around 20 meters. A bird’s eye view of the Hyeopjae Beach in Jeju is a truly entrancing sight with the pristine white sands forming a wide partition between the cobalt blue sea and the green evergreen woods inland. This is also one place where you get see for yourself how many shades of blue and green there can actually be. The depth of the waters is uniform and reaches down to about 1.2 meters. The Hyeopjae Beach in Jeju is truly a tropical haven.

Adjacent to Hyeopjae Beach is Geumneung Beach, where the scenery is similar.
Hyeopjae Beach is better known whereas Geumneung Beach is the quieter of the two.
Hyeopjae / Geumneung Beach was the location for several scenes from Jewel in the Palace. Those who saw it will recall the scene in which Janggeum leaves on a boat arranged by Min Jeung-ho and the touching moment as he looks out to sea after she left. The scene in which Janggeum rushes towards her dugout was also filmed here.
Three other rock formations I didn't talk about suddenly came to mind and I have to speak about them. Who doesn't like legends?

Legend of Seopji Koji
Legend has it that nymphs used to bathe at Seopji Koji. One day, the youngest son of the King of Heaven saw the nymphs and begged his father to arrange a marriage. The king promised him to do that if he waited for 100 days. The nymph did not show up on the 100th day because of wild waves and gusts of wind. The king told his son that his dedication was not good enough to move Heaven. The sorrowful son then became a rock, “seondol” standing upright at Seopji Koji.

"Yongduam", a rock showing a writhing dragon with a grudge
A dragon living in the Dragon Kingdom wanted to ascend to heaven, but it wasn’t an easy thing to do. Realizing that he could be a real dragon with a precious pearl of the mountain god of Halla, the dragon stole the precious pearl from the god and successfully descended to the valley of Yongyeon. However, he was discovered and shot by the god arrow while flying. He landed on the beach where he turned into petrified stone, crying and wreathing with agony and a grudge.
Yongduam itself shows a roaring dragon which is about to ascend from the sea. When the day is windy and waves are strong, it’ll make you feel like a dragon is going spiraling up to the sky. With 30 meters of the body submerged, the 10 meter high tall rock will cast a spell if you steadily gaze it at sunset.
The 100-meter point from the rock is one of the best distances if you really want to appreciate Yongduam Rock. In particular, when the waves are splashing, it is the day to watch this rock. It will make you think that the world is turning upside down or the dragon is about to rise from the sea, making roaring sound under the wrath of a god.

With the unusual rocks surrounding the Haekum River at Namju and the Chilsipri coast of Seogwipo, the 20-meter stone pillar "Oeodolgae" stands out. Standing at the beautiful beach of Samebong Peak and located 2 km from the west of Seogwipo, it was formed by volcanic activity at the same time as Jeju Island 1.5 million years ago. A group of pine trees inhabit the top of the pillar.
Oedolgae was named for its isolated location on the sea. It is also called Grandmother rock (Halmangbawi) as legend has it that an old woman waited for her husband to return from a fishing trip. When he didnt come back, she became a rock. On the tip of the rock, some trees and grasses grow, resembling human hair. It will givfe you the impression that the old woman forehead, sorrowful eyes and nose can be faintly seen on the left side of the rock. The open mouth will make you feel like the old woman is calling for her husband.
There is a rock right under the Oedolgae that looks like it is floating. It is said that the rock is her husband body before she become a stone pillar. Spreading like a folding screen, the oddly-shaped Fairy Rock (Seonnyubawi) cliff surrounds the rock as if it is trying to embrace the stone couple.
And so I end my last post here. Thank you for stopping by.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Beautiful Jeju Part 1

No write up about Korea will be complete without the inclusion of beautiful Jeju Island. I have already touched a bit on it when I was telling you about the filming locations in my earlier post. But today I’m only going to talk about Jeju-du and nothing else.
Jeju goes by many names, the most common being the “Hawaii of Korea.” But that doesn’t do her justice; Jeju is more beautiful than Hawaii! Jeju is blessed with the best of everything nature can give her. It boasts of some magnificent and spectacular scenery in her beautiful beaches, her naturally fashioned rocks, her tranquil lakes, her splendid waterfalls, her wonderful climate and her rare plants and animals. Jeju is truly the ‘Island of the Gods,’ a paradise on earth. Jeju is a land of mystic and enchantment.

Jeju is a riot of color in spring, when the horizon turns a bright yellow with the rape-seed flowers in full bloom. In summer, the golden beaches and the clear blue skies take over the scene, in autumn, the landscape changes with the red and gold autumn leaves and in winter, there’s nothing like the sight of the lovely snow flowers on snow-capped Hallasan. In fact, Jeju is beautiful anytime of the year! Its beauty is unparalleled. Jeju is more than a tourist destination; it’s an island paradise just waiting to be explored and discovered. And that is exactly what we are going to do today.
There are many different types of accommodations available in Jeju, from super deluxe hotels and traditional Korean hanok houses to homestays and camping grounds. Generally, hotels offer western-style rooms, however some may offer traditional Korean-style ondol rooms. As certain motels and yeogwans may only offer ondol rooms, it is always better to check beforehand.
The mild weather in Jeju makes it an even more ideal tourist destination. Jeju has a mild oceanic climate throughout the year with the smallest annual temperature range in the country. The island, 73km wide and 41km long, is also the largest island in South Korea, Relatively isolated from the rest of the world; the island’s natural environment has been well preserved. Especially now that the Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes have been designated UNESCO World Natural Heritage Sites, it has drawn even more tourists to its shores. This is the first Natural Heritage for Korea, the other eight being Cultural Heritages. The most visited of the Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes are Hallasan Mountain, Seongsan Ilchulbong, and Manjanggul Cave.

Seongsan Ilchulbong is well-known for its beautiful sunrises. A visit to these three sites is possible. One can either start from Hallasan Mountain, or Manjanggul Cave but one has to sleep over in Seongsan Ilchulbong if one wants to enjoy the sunrise, as it means getting up very early in the morning. Don’t forget to bring your hiking clothes and shoes, jacket, hat/cap. You’ll also need to pack some snacks like biscuits or energy bars, sunscreen, maybe an insect repellent or antiseptic cream, torchlight and of course water in your backpack. We are going to play Indiana Jones. As the sites are far apart from each other, travelling time may be extended, but then we can always do a bit of sightseeing along the way. So be prepared to stay at least 2days/1night in Jeju if you want to do this. But I think that once you’ve seen all three of them you’ll have no regrets. And you can be proud to say that you’ve seen one of the UNESCO World Natural Heritages which not everybody has the privilege of doing so. And what about the other UNESCO World Cultural Heritages you’ve seen back in Seoul and elsewhere in S.Korea. So you can safely say that your trip to Korea has been quite a fruitful one. You’ve had some fantastic sightseeing, wonderful food tasting, great shopping and even got to learn a few Korean cultural arts along the way. Not bad huh? Lucky you!
And now to tell you something about the Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes.
Manjanggul Cave, 9 meters in length, is one of the finest lava tunnels in the world, and is a designated natural monument. A lava tunnel is formed when the lava that was deep in the ground spouts from the peak and flows to the surface. Manjanggul Cave has a variety of interesting structures inside including 70cm lava stalagmites and the lava tube tunnels.
Only 1km of the 13,422m Manjanggul Cave is open to tourists.. There are rare animals such as bats living in the tunnel, which makes this tunnel valuable for researchers as well. The stone pillars and stalactites are widely spread and the tunnels show off the cave’s topographical features. The Stone Turtle is especially eye-catching because it is shaped like Jeju-do Island.
Seongsan Ilchulbong is designated on Korea’s list of preserved sites as Natural Monument 420. Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak rose from under the sea in a volcanic eruption over 100,000 years ago. Located on the eastern end of Jejudo Island, there is a huge crater at the top of Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak. As you climb to the 182-meter summit, you can have a superb panoramic view of the crater as it juts out to the plain The crater is about 600m in diameter and 90m high. With the 99 sharp rocks surrounding the crater, it looks like a gigantic crown. Now that we are here at Seongsan Ilchulbong, we must do what we purposely came here for and that is to look at the magnificent view of the sunrise. Get your cameras out and get ready to take some shots. While the southeast and north sides are cliffs, the northwest side is a verdant grassy hill that is connected to Seongsan Village. The ridge provides an ideal spot for walks and for horse riding as well. In the spring, the Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak surrounded by bright yellow colored rapeseed flowers is really awesome.
At 1,950 meters, Hallasan Mountain or Mt.Yeongjusan, is a dormant volcano formed by volcanic activities. This mountain, shaped like a bamboo hat, is located in the center of Jeju Island. There are 368 parasitic mountains called "Ohreum (peaks)" around Mt. Hallasan, the largest number in the world for a single volcanic mountain. In 1966, it was designated as Natural Monument 182 and has been protected as a National Park since 1970. On top of Hallasan Mountain is Baekrokdam Lake, 108 meters deep and 1,720 meters in circumference. The waters are so crystal clear that you can actually see a reflection of your face in it. From its warm climate to the cooler areas, Mt.Hallasan is famous for its vertical ecosystem of plants. Over 1,800 kinds of plants and 4,000 species of animals (3,300 species of insects) are known to exist here. Mt.Hallasan is a short hike up, (less than 10 km.) but the weather conditions often change and there is a lot of wind, so one should be well prepared before going up the mountain.

Perhaps we could take a look at the Green Tea Museum and the tea plantation since we are already in the vicinity. Jeju Island is blessed with optimal climatic and topographical conditions for producing green tea, and Seogwangdawon, a green tea farm, produces the popular seollok green tea of Taepyeongyang. At the farm entrance is the O’sulloc Tea House Museum (opened since September 2001) offering visitors a dual treat: an educational experience at the green tea museum as well as a culinary experience at the green tea farm. The museum building itself looks like a green tea cup making it a nature-friendly spot to relax. It features Korean tea cups used in common homes and palaces, some dating back to the 4th century. A special exhibit provides a look at the works of current ceramic artists. Visitors can also enjoy refreshments such as green tea cake and green tea ice cream. The observatory atop the building offers a view of the green tea farm. You are sure to love the breathtaking view of the green tea farm set against Mt. Hallasan.

Another place we can visit around here is the Halla Arboretum which was established for the study and the preservation of natural environment. Opened in December 1993, Gwangioreum there are 909 kinds of native trees and subtropical plants exhibited here. In the gardens there are 506 kinds of trees and 90 kinds of plants, and in the greenhouse there is the Subtropical Plant Hall (105 kinds) and the Native Plant Hall (103 kinds) with a total of 208 types of plants. There are 2,722 stumps of endangered and rare plants such as the Michelia Compressa and Euchresta Japonica, and the Chloranthus Glaber that only grows at Cheonjiyeon. At Halla Arboretum you can meet the four-season flower forest, colorful forests, and the beautiful seasons of mother nature at Halla. It's so beautiful, I don’t think I want to leave, can I apply to be a gardener here?

Located at the foot of Mt. Halla, Seongeup Folk Village has perfectly preserved its Korean tradition. With its vast amount of cultural property, this place is designated as a Folk Village. Seongeup Folk Village, Jeju, a dwelling of inumerous cultural treasures, is an example of a typical mountain village. Remnants of cultural properties like residential houses, Confucian shrines and schools, ancient government offices, stone statues, millstones, fortress ruins, stone monuments, folk plays, native foods, local folk craftsmanship, and local dialects could be found in ample in Seongeup Folk Village of Jeju. During the Koryo period, Seongeup Folk Village was the capital city of Cheju. You could see here beautiful thatched houses having stone and clay walls inhabited by the villagers. Zelkova trees and nettle trees, which are a few hundred years old, are regarded as natural monuments. Time spent here would give you a feeling of having travelled through the pages of Korean history.Hyangkyo, Tolharubang, an old government building, and tomb stones are some of the attractions of Seongeup Folk Village, Jeju. The rich cultural heritage of the village is carried forward by the folk songs, traditional foods, craftsmanship, and the Cheju provincial dialects. You can find some of the hand crafted items like tiny harubang and key chains in the souvenir shop. There is no entry fee required to visit Seongeup Folk Village, Jeju.
One of the best ways to take a tour of Jeju Island, is to rent a car. Jeju has numerous idyllic ocean roads with picturesque scenery and a well-developed highway system. Traffic is usually light in this island except in Jeju City and Seogwipo, and even there it is not really congested. The best drive course is arguably the Ilju Road (Road 12), which goes around Jeju Island along the coast. This highway connects with coastal roads right down to the shore where you can see perfect sandy beaches and rocky inlets, and feed the seagulls.
The coastal highway of Jeju extends from Yongdu-am to the airport. This road is perfect for driving, hiking or biking. As you drive on the coastal highway you can practically smell salty air of the ocean and hear the echoes of the waves.During spring, the highway is lined with bright yellow rapeseed flowers in full bloom. Summers too are pleasant with the sea birds hovering about the sea. The coastal highway is a very popular tourist area in Jeju throughout the year and with good reason to be so.
These days many quaint little cafes seem to have sprung up all along this highway. You can drink your warm coffee while looking out of the window, watching the cars go by. There are covered carts called poch'ang mach'a, that often pass by on the highway. You can also get soju, beer, and simple but tasty side dishes along this highway. This area is also very popular at night. As the sun sets, these carts seem to livelier and you can also sample fresh sea food at affordable prices.
The Jungmun Resort is an integrated tourism and recreation complex. The Jungmun Resort Complex is not only a major tourism center in Jeju, it is also the largest in Korea.
Situated in the stunning natural setting of the Jungmun coast, the complex features a variety of places to visit and things to enjoy right on the premises; Jungmun Beach, Pacific Land, Teddy Bear Museum, Sori Island Museum, Museum of African Arts, Jeju Convention Center, Jungmun Golf Club, and Jusangjeolli Cliff. The Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries conducted a survey on the status of operation, water quality management, scenery, and safety among beaches across the nation. Jungmun Beach has been selected to be the best, ranking first in the above-mentioned categories The resort is very popular with the rich and famous of the world as it boasts of a quite a number of internationally renowned hotels like Shilla Hotel, Lotte Hotel, and the Hyatt Hotel
The obvious place to be in the Jeju Jungmun Resort is the seashore of the Jungmun Tourist Complex (Jungmun Resort) that is quite famous for its pristine and exotic beach. This beautiful beach is a popular shooting location ofmany movies, dramas and commercials.
For people with comparatively lighter pockets there are a few yogwans up the main road. The area is a lively place to spend your holiday as it has quite a number of restaurants, parks and other tourist attractions. The Royal Marine Park has a huge aquarium and conducts daily animal shows. The Yeomiji Botanical garden which is said to be Asia’s largest Botanical garden and the Ch'eonjeyeon Waterfall are some the places in this area that you could visit. The Jungmun Folk Village is also a short distance away.

Let’s go to the Teddy Bear Museum. It’s been a long time since I played with teddy bears.The Teddy Bear Museum boasts of some very rare teddy bears from around the world dating back 100 years. Visitors can enjoy taking a look at beautiful, cute dolls along with teddy bears displayed in a variety of unique themes. The Teddy Bear Museum lives up to its name, boasting quite an impressive variety that have been loved for over a century, the world over. Inside the two galleries you can view the teddy bears from various countries. There is also a beautifully charming outdoor garden replete with teddy bears to create a fairy tale look. Makes me feel young again! The outdoor exhibition showcased in the gardens allows guests to actually touch the teddy bears and take pictures with them. The gallery is grouped into three sections: the History Hall, the Art Hall and the Project Exhibition Hall. In the History Hall, you can witness the 100-year history of teddy bears including famous scenes, popular teddy bears of different eras, and antique teddy bears. The Mona Lisa teddy bear and the teddy bears of the “The Last Supper” (Leonardo Da Vinci) will especially catch your eyes. In the Art Hall are the latest artworks of world’s famous designers, and you will also find animation characters beloved by children. A section not to miss is where you can find the smallest Teddy Bear in the world at the size of 4.5mm. In the project exhibit hall you can meet teddy bears grouped to suit the theme of each exhibition. You can dine or drink coffee at the museum cafe or bar while appreciating the beautiful landscape of Jejudo Island. The museum bar is a luxurious space only for adults, which is open in the summer.
The Museum of African Art, newly opened in 2005, is designed after an Islamic Mosque in Djenn’e, Malli in West Africa. From its exotic exterior design to its interesting exhibits, one can see why this recently opened museum is so full of visitors.
You may think Jejudo is one of the most unlikely places to have a museum exclusively devoted to the African arts. Nonetheless, the museum presents an impressive collection, representing art from many different parts of Africa. It features a variety of wooden, stone and clay tools and weapons and a large number of masks, including some really awesome ones from the people of Côte d'Ivoire. Go in and have a look.

Just east of Jungmun Tourism Complex on the seashore is Jusangjeolli Cliff, a must-see tourist spot in Jeju. Here stands the spectacular basalt columns which were formed when cooling basaltic lava from Mt.Hallasan contracted and cracked, when erupted and the lava flowed into the sea, forming perfect hexagonal columns. The Jusangjeolli is a designated cultural monument of Jejudo Island. The columnar joint is a pillar-shaped joint that can be commonly seen in basalt-covered areas. The rocks are hexagonal polygons. The Daepo Columnar Joint is 30-40 m high and has a width of 1 km. It is the largest of its kind in Korea. The sound of the waves splashing upon the rocks is remarkably refreshing. During high tides, the waves splashing upon the side of the cliff provide a breathtaking view of the ocean surrounding the pillars.
After sightseeing around the cliff, we can come back to the restaurant district near the entrance of the Jungmun Resort Complex and have dinner at one of the restaurants. I hear that one of the restaurants serve very delicious haemul ttukbaegi (spicy seafood stew served in an earthenware bowl) for 8,000 – 10,000 won.
Then perhaps after dinner we can catch the Volcano Fountain Show at the Lotte Hotel around eight (performance lasts 15 minutes / admission is free). Built on a budget of 200 billion won, the Lotte Hotel is a super deluxe hotel famous for its romantic landscape and atmosphere. Its outdoor space features the Lake of Love and a tall windmill set right in front of a cliff. This windmill, built in a typical Dutch style, was the most frequently appearing background for the mini-series All in. The hotel’s Volcano Fountain Show, which was also seen in the mini-series, provides great entertainment for both hotel guests and outside visitors. After the show we can relax, have a few drinks and enjoy ourselves before we call it a night.
Tell you what, why don’t we go out shopping tomorrow. We are going to shop till we drop!
Shopping in Jeju is perhaps the best form of entertainment for tourists visiting this exotic island. Looking through the wide array of artefacts and local crafts of Jeju is a treat in itself and if you take any of them home, you surely can treasure it for a long time. You could choose from some of the items exclusive to this island. The hot favorite items are the mementos which comprise of traditional art and craft. Two of the island’s long-standing symbols are the dolharubang and the haenyeo. Dolharubang (“stonegrandfather”) can be seen everywhere. Dolharubang is a black lava statue of a kindly old man. In the olden days, they were considered guardian deities, but now they are objects for visitors’ cameras. Replicas are sold in souvenir shops and are available in various sizes ranging from one inch to bigger than life size. The stone statues are usually sold in pairs, and are for protection. Many places sell small stone replicas of them made of Jeju volcanic stone. Yes, I think I’ll get a pair of these for myself, something to remind me of Jeju, you might say. Two more items on my list are the tangerines and persimmons which my parents love so much and that’s it.
By the way did any of you buy the specially grown green tea in Mount Halla when we went to the tea museum? It’s going to make some green tea lover very happy, I’m sure, and I hear green tea is good for health too. Another Jeju specialty is brown colored clothing. These have been dyed with juice from the persimmon fruit, which is the traditional way of dying clothes here. Jeju shopping would also be incomplete without buying some of the items that are normally bought by tourists, items like clothes, shoes, handbags, and accessories. Other shopping suggestions include silk, leather goods; wood carvings, jewellery, fans, dolls, toys, paintings, masks, cutwork paper crafts, bamboo ware and musical instruments. Sometimes shopping can be a very pocket-pinching thing, but not so in Jeju. The low price of the goods in the island is a very big incentive for all shoppers. You can shop in Jeju without any worries about your budget.
For a good bargain in shopping the most essential thing is to know where to shop in Jeju. There are numerous Jeju Shopping Complexes, conventional open-air markets and fascinating night shops. Some of the major shopping areas of Jeju are the Jeju Folk Arts Complex and the Tap-dong area. They bring together the best of shopping and local culture to the tourists. Here’s a tip I would like to pass on to you all. A friend has advised me to shop at the Jeju Folk Arts Complex. This place is practically a big gift shop of beautiful traditional art. Prices of items at the Jeju Folk Arts Complex are cheaper than those you find elsewhere. Here you can also have the chance of seeing the skilled artisans of Jeju at work, preparing the amazing artworks and antiques.
Another major hub for Jeju shopping is the Tap-dong, Jeju. Located at the center at the city, here you can also experience night shopping. The huge marketplace of Tap-dong houses some of the most exclusive shops in Jeju selling all sorts of wares. At the Tap-dong in Jeju you can accompany shopping with some other pleasure activities like clubbing and eating
Apart from these major shopping places in Jeju there are some other sites offering great wares like the Ildo District, in the streets in Jungjeong-ro, Seogwipo-si Hanaro Mart and many more. Thus knowing where to shop in Jeju and to have an idea about the right shops is actually half the shopping done.
Apart from the mesmerizing natural beauty another draw of Jeju is its unique shopping experience. The goods sold in Jeju reflect the island’s rich culture and exclusive handwork. Delightful artifacts, intricate little trinkets, wonderful handicrafts and absolutely fantastic traditional art are some of the hot sellers in Jeju. Thus for Shopping in Jeju, and especially for some typical Jeju stuff, the place you should head straight for is the Jeju Folk Arts Complex, Jeju.
While at the Jeju Folk Arts Complex in Jeju, South Korea you will come across another fascinating experience. Here you can actually have the opportunity to see the skilled artisans at work, preparing the amazing Jeju crafts. The indigenous items sold in the Jeju Shopping Areas make absolutely great souvenirs to take back home. These keepsakes are such that they can be treasured all through ones life, taking you back to the memories of an incredible holiday in the Isle of Jeju.
The Tap-dong, Jeju is the major hub for tourism in the island. It houses everything from small and large hotels, to restaurants of various ranges and cuisines, amusement parks, theaters, performance centers to night club. However the popularity of Tap-dong comes from the fact that it is a major shopping area of Jeju. It houses the largest marketplace in the whole of Jeju, selling everything from small souvenirs to something very expensive. The Jeju Shopping scene however focuses greatly on traditional art and goods sold here reflect the island’s rich culture. Exquisite works of art, curious little trinkets and eye-catching handicrafts are some of the hot favorites which are in high demand among the tourists. Equally fascinating is the concept of night street vendors in Tap-dong, Jeju. This goes down well with the visitors as they can utilize every moment of their vacation by sight-seeing during the daytime and shopping at night. Shopping at Tap-dong could be accompanied by a late night meal at the any of the restaurants serving fresh fish. A quick drink at the local pubs or partying at the happening nightclubs of the area is also a fun idea. At the Tap-dong in Jeju, South Korea you can shop till you drop till the crack of dawn since most of the stores are open till 4 in the morning.
There’s still so much to write about Jeju, looks like I have to continue with another post.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Seoul’s Unique Museums and Galleries

Museums and galleries are in abundance in Seoul. Some are not well known, though they give valuable opportunities to taste Korean tradition and culture. So, what say you if I take you on a museum and gallery tour today? No? Why not? You will be visiting some shopping galleries too. Rather than just buying souvenirs, how about making your own gifts for families and friends? Tell you what, let’s participate in a hands-on experience of a few of the Korean cultural arts like knot tying, fan illustration, hanji craft, kimchi making, cooking traditional court dishes, and traditional dancing You are in Korea now, so don’t let this golden opportunity of learning from the maestros themselves slip through your fingers. Or perhaps you have been dying to take a photograph in a hanbok, the national costume of Korea? Don’t worry I know just the place where you can do that. No trip to Korea can be truly complete without a hands-on experience in Korean traditional cultural arts. This will be an unforgettable experience I can assure you. So just think of the fun we’ll be having today. The museums we are going to are very unique. But I might have to include a few of the more important museums so that you can say, “I’ve seen that” should someone ask you in future.
A concentrated area of Korean traditional houses, Bukchon Hanok Village is home to five unique museums that can be visited with a 10,000-won pass. The museums, Gahoe Museum, Hansangsu Embroidery Museum, Dong-Lim Knot Museum, Museum of Korean Buddhist Art, and Seoul Museum of Chicken Art, are all within a 5-minute walking distance of each other, allowing visitors to see them quite easily.

Opened in 2002, Gahoe Museum has on exhibit, folk paintings and amulets reflecting the lifestyle and wishes of the Korean people from ancient times. Inside the Hanok gallery, visitors can immerse themselves in the traditions of Korea. You will find old paintings of the common people, paintings of religious beliefs, and roof tiles in the shape of human beings or goblins. You will also find folding screens made of amulets and see the wisdom of people in the old days to overcome difficult times through a variety of amulets. After viewing, you can participate in regular hands-on programs inside the gallery. For a small fee, you can choose a program of your liking, fan illustration perhaps since you’re such an artist? Some of the Regular Hands-on Programs here include:- Peony T-shirt making, Character painting, picture frame making Fan drawing, Cup saucer drawing, and Dancheong (Colors) card making,
Hansangsu Embroidery Museum has on exhibit embroidery-related relics and the works of Han Sang-su, who has been named an Intangible Cultural Asset. For a small fee of 3,000 won visitors can make an embroidered item. The one-hour program starts with a demonstration by an instructor, after which participants then embroider a handkerchief following the steps of the instructor.
At the Dong-Lim Knot Museum, visitors can not only look at the various knotted works on display but also learn how to make one. The museum displays paired jade butterfly knots symbolizing conjugal harmony; amber knots symbolizing wealth and prosperity; and the pepper knot symbolizing fertility and the birth of sons. There are also eggplant and bat knots. Take part in a knot craft program after viewing the exhibits. It takes only an hour to complete a project. The knot project requires silk cord, so the price of a kit is slightly more expensive than ready-made items that are sold in Insa-dong.
Currently, the Buddhist Art museum does not offer any hands-on programs but you can look at the exhibits here which consist of about 6,000 relics related to Buddhism, including statues, paintings, ceramics, and folk crafts.
Bridging together the spiritual beliefs of both East and West,, the Seoul Museum of Chicken Art exhibits a unique selection of crafts symbolizing both culture and art through animalistic expression. Currently, there are no hands-on programs available.
The Jonginamoo Gallery is a cosy and comfortable space where you can drink traditional tea and take part in a hanji craft experience. The gallery is decorated in muted tones and traditional style with wooden antique furniture and hanji crafts. The one-day hanji craft programs are held outdoors. Classes are available only in Korean, so come with a Korean-speaking friend. The gallery is especially known for its calm, leisurely ambience. If you are not taking a hanji class, you can enjoy a cup of traditional tea and look at the antique furniture and hanji crafts.

Yoo’s Family’s cooking classes teaches visitors Korean dishes like kimchi, bulgogi, pajeon, and tteokbokki, which are popular among foreigners. A minimum of 2 people is required per class. English and Japanese interpretation are provided.Boasting over 600 years of history, Yoo’s Family is situated inside Bukchon Hanok Village, between the Gyeongbokgung Palace, Changdeokgung Palace, and Jongmyo. The region resonates with a traditional atmosphere as the cozy venue sits nestled amongst traditional Korean hanok houses flush in the middle of Seoul's two main palaces.Yoo’s Family is a Hanok family managed by Yoos, offering traditional culture experiences for foreigners interested in Korean living cultures and traditions. Most classes are short-term courses and reservations can be made up to one day in advance. Reservations are only available for groups of 2 or more and groups of 10 or more may even choose their own times to hold classes. Translation in English and Japanese are available for all courses as well.

The National Museum of Korea is one of the top six world museums so you cannot miss out on this one. Created by the world’s leading IT country, Korea, this museum is a state-of-the-art modern museum. As you enter the museum, you have access to PDAs and MP3s as your detailed guide. Due to its large scale, it’s best to go to their website (www.museum.go.kr) prior to your visit and plan your itinerary. If you plan to visit with children, the Children’s Museum offers exciting educational experiences. The National Museum of Korea is visited by an average of 20,000 visitors on weekdays, and on weekends the museum has about 40,000 visitors. A morning visit on a weekday is highly recommended, for a quieter and more relaxed tour of the museum. The National Museum of Korea holds a collection of approximately 150,000 works of art. The National Museum of Korea offers more than national and international galleries. The museum holds permanent collections of ancient artefacts, historical artefacts, works of art, donations, and Asia related cultural artefacts. Furthermore, the museum also offers exhibition space to feature various cultural works, and an exhibition hall dedicated to children’s learning through exploration activities. The garden outside the museum offers an outdoor exhibition of stone pagodas and a variety of stone constructed relics from history. The museum functions as a cultural complex to hold events and activities related to relics collection and preservation, research and analysis, social training, publishing academic journals, international cultural exchange programs, concerts, and more. Moreover, in addition to educational events and activities, the museum offers environmental friendly space and rest areas, including quality cultural programs to provide entertainment and relaxation for both the young and the old.

I would like to tell you something about Leeum, the Samsung Museum of Art located at the foot of Namsan. We cannot visit today because to visit Leeum, we have to make advance reservations via the internet or telephone. The earliest reservations that can be made is 2 weeks in advance before your visit.
I love the design/architecture of this art museum even before I take a look at the exhibits. They; say two heads are better than one but in this case its three heads are better than one. Designed by internationally renowned architects - Mario Botta from Switzerland, Jean Nouvel from France and Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas the complex is the optimal synthesis of nature and architecture. Leeum is a treasure house of Korea’s traditional art and modern contemporary art. The three buildings that comprise Leeum are a work of art themselves. Museum 1 was designed by the architect Mario Botta, and Museum 2 was designed by the architect Jean Nouvel. Both museums are unique in style. Outside of the museum building at the outdoor terrace, figurative art works are on display.Museum 1 devoted to Korean works of art, displays Korea’s traditional art, such as calligraphy, paintings, ceramic arts, and metal craftwork whereas Museum 2 showcases modern and contemporary works by both Korean and foreign artists, and the Samsung Child Education & Culture Centre contributes to the education of future leaders. It’s just like looking at the past, present and future here.

If you are interested in looking into former royal court life in Korea, then the National Palace Museum of Korea is a great place to start with. The National Palace Museum of Korea began as an Imperial Museum in 1908 within the walls of Changgyeonggung Palace. Today the museum is located next to Gyeongbokgung Palace, and houses approximately 40,000 pieces of historic relics from Korea’s final dynasty, the Joseon Dynasty, and from the royal court. It holds several pieces of designated National Treasures, including the constellation map, the plane sundial, and the pluviometer rod. The exhibitions also include items such as instruments, books, files, furniture, clothes, potteries, and more that were used in the royal chambers.
The National Palace Museum of Korea opened in 1992 displaying relics from the Joseon Dynasty [1392~1910]. Over 20,000 royal relics from Gyeongbokgung Palace, Changdeokgung Palace, Changgyeonggung Palace and Jongmyo Shrine are on display:-
1. Royal Symbols and Records –
The Joseon Dynasty attained Confucian ideals, and therefore, the king and his queen were worshipped as parents of all citizens. To elevate their authority, the Joseon royal households crafted various royal symbols.
2. Ancestral Rites –
The royal ancestral rite was held at a royal shrine encompassing the ancestral tablets of the late kings and queens of the Joseon Dynasty. This was not merely a royal ancestral worshipping ceremony, but also a festival with music and dance, in the hope for the nation's eternal prosperity.
3. Palace Architecture –
The palace was the living quarters of the king and his family as well as the center of administration where the king ruled the nation. The center of the palace in the Joseon Dynasty, according to traditional Oriental architectural planning, was featured at Jeongjeon. The main hall was the center of state events and political discussions, and the Pyeonjeon, the government office.
4. Joseon Sciences - The Joseon Dynasty strove to establish the legitimacy of its foundation to enrich the nation's economy. To attain these ideals, the dynasty unprecedentedly promoted such areas as the sciences and medicine while developing various weapons for national defence.
5. Royal Life - The king and queen were symbolic figures of the Joseon Dynasty, but they were also ordinary people who lived private lives within the palace. The palace was divided into various sections of living space such as the king's office, the queen's quarters, and the prince's study room. Each section contained appropriate pieces of furniture, which were made of the finest quality materials according to well-established criteria for the royal family.
I thought I heard someone mention Daejanggeum and Royal Court Cuisine? Yes, I enjoyed the drama too and all that sumptuous food served. You want to learn how to cook some of those dishes? Well, my friend, you’ve come to the right place!. Here at the Royal Palace Kitchen, situated in the National Palace Museum of Korea Annex 1F, where we are right now, you can enrol for classes. Every Friday, traditional Korean Royal cuisine cooking classes are held.
In case you are thirsty or hungry you can try out the newly opened Gogung Tteurak Café, located inside the palace. Gogung Tteurak consists of a museum shop and a café. The museum shop has on sale a variety of items with a traditional Korean flavor. You can find postcards, small pocket books, umbrellas, cushions, and T-shirts. Right next door, there is a café selling coffee, ginger tea, gukwacha (chrysanthemum tea), mogwacha (quince tea), as well as wild vegetable salad, royal tteokbokki, and royal noodles.
The tour around the National Palace Museum of Korea was refreshing wasn’t it? At least now we know something about the Joseon Dynasty and the royal family.

Known as Korea’s SOHO, Samcheongdong Gallery Street is lined on either side with small and large galleries. Each gallery offers different works of art from hand-made artworks, fashion clothes by young designers, antique artworks, modern artwork and much more.
Samcheong-dong’s galleries include the International Picture Gallery, Hakgojae, SUN Gallery, fifteen Gallery, Gallery Hyundai, Geumho Gallery, Growrich Gallery, Artsonje Center, Gallery Hak Go Jae (another name for Art Space Seoul), Geum San Gallery, Gukje Gallery, Gallery Ihn. Samcheong-dong is the most highly concentrated area of galleries, and also has many pretty cafes and restaurants. I think Samcheong-dong, with its galleries and restaurants makes an ideal fun tour of one of Seoul’s most famous areas.
Samcheongdong Walkway stretches from Gyeongbokgung Palace to Samcheong Tunnel. Samcheongdong Walkway attracts many artists here with its many cafes and restaurants, which quite reminds me of Montmartre in Paris. Samcheong Park, which is located at the end of Samcheongdong Walkway, is famous for its thick forest and splendid views. Located in the middle of the city, this area is quite peaceful.
You can also find the Beopnyeonsa temple, Lee Rhee-za Korean Costume Exhibition Hall, the French Cultural Center and Jeong Dok Library here. Since each art gallery building on Samcheongdong-gil has a unique architectural design, appreciating the buildings themselves can be a nice experience. Many have their own cafes, restaurants, or craft shops, so you can enjoy the paintings, some shopping, and lunch all under one quaint roof.

Though I’m no artist, I love art galleries because I can always admire the art of others exhibited there. The Seoul Museum of Art is home to Korea’s modern works of art and holds approximately sixty artworks by Korea’s renowned artist Chon Kyung-Ja. To reach the Seoul Museum of Art follow the street beside the beautiful stone wall of Deoksugung Palace known as ‘Toldamgil’ which translated means stone wall street. It is particularly beautiful in Autumn with the falling leaves of the golden gingko trees. Located in the heart of Jeongdong Street next to Deoksugung Palace, the SeMA or the Seoul Museum of Art is a cultural space where people can always enjoy the pleasure of art right in the heart of Seoul. On the top of the low hill of the Jeongdong Street there is a besutiful garden with old trees and flowering plants The path to the entrance at SeMA is not fenced up so as to allow the public to enjoy the view of the garden with the sculptures from the outside looking in. In Spring every year, the Spring Outing Exhibition is held here. It’s even more beautiful in the fall when the leaves start to change their colors to crimson and gold. Another part of the museum that attracts most visitors, is the cafeteria (located on the 3rd floor of the main building) in that one can get a clear view of Deoksugung Palace from the two full window walls of the cafeteria. Tea and sandwiches can also be enjoyed in a quiet and cosy atmosphere with nice background music.
In 2006 SeMA hosted an exhibition themed “The People of Picasso” at this venue.. This exhibition included some 140 pieces by Pablo Picasso. Two pieces held by Picasso’s daughter Paloma Picasso and four by art dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler’s art gallery, was opened to the public for the first time ever at the show. The show, the largest ever for the nation of Korea, illuminated the life and works of the celebrated Spanish artist. Pablo Picasso’s work was often categorized into the Blue Period (1901~1904), the Rose Period (1905~1907), and the Synthetic Cubism Period (1912~1919). This exhibition presented 50 large-scale oil paintings representing each period. Rounding out the balance of the exhibit were gouache, pastel and dessin as well as 60 pieces of print work. This exhibition combined exhibits and works from approximately 20 museums, foundations and individuals from around the world and was estimated at 600 billion won.
If you like Korean cuisine you can visit the Kimchi Field Museum in COEX Mall which is a museum devoted entirely to the world famous kimchi, now recognized as one of the world’s five healthiest foods. Here you can learn fascinating facts about the nutritional benefits of kimchi, the making and preservation of kimchi and related displays of historic cooking utensils, storage jars and more. Since its foundation in 1986, the Kimchi Museum has displayed historical relics related to kimchi, different types of kimchi, mock-ups of kimchi-making processes, and information about the efficacy derived from the kimchi fermentation process. Visitors will learn about the origin and history of kimchi through old books, old paintings, and writings. Various types of kimchi crocks, along with traditional kitchen utensils that were used to prepare it will also be introduced as well, various models showing specific types of kimchi that were developed in regions all over Korea. The Kimchi Museum also holds reference rooms, kimchi-tasting rooms (two different kinds of kimchi each month), and a store where you can purchase good kimchi.

The Tteok Kitchen Utensil Museum is divided into a Tteok (rice cake) museum and the utensil museum that recreates kitchen life of the past with a traditional kitchen fully equipped with tools, tableware and earthenware pots (jangdokdae) used to store kimchi.

About 2,000 old Korean kitchen utensils and tteok (rice cake) related items are displayed here and arranged by various themes. The displayed utensils are handmade household necessities that are ingenuous, yet reveal the lifestyle of the working class. The elderly may relive fond childhood memories and the younger generation can experience the wisdom of ancestors through the rare kitchen utensils.
The Tteok Museum opened in 2002, and is the only museum of its kind in Korea. The museum is run by the Institute of Traditional Korean Food, one of Korea’s premier research and educational bodies dedicated to Korea’s national cuisine. The first floor of the museum examines the diverse world of the Korean rice cake, with displays breaking them down by season and preparation method. The second floor, however, looks at the use of rice cakes in the many rites of passage that traditionally marked the lives of Koreans. Tteok is not only one of Korea’s most symbolic foods, but also one of its oldest. If you’re interested in doing more than just looking at the exhibits, you can also enrol in one of the Institute of Traditional Korean Food classes. Three types of courses are offered:- a tteok-making course, kimchi-making course, and traditional food making course
How many of you want to be photographed in a Hanbok to show to the folks back home?
The Insa-dong Tourist Information Center has Hanboks (for adults and children) for rent. You can then take indoor or outdoor photographs (in front of the Center).
You’re going to like this place, it’s your chance to do some shopping here.

Ssamziegil’s strongest point would have to be the numerous galleries located in its building. The numerous galleries exhibit and sell traditional crafts by young artists, pottery, sculptures, bags and shoes. You can see designer scarves, and household goods with traditional designs, furniture made by traditional craftsmen, pottery, and lots more. Ssamziegil’s architecture itself is credited to be a modern contemporary work of art, and proudly stands in its uniqueness along the main street of Insa-dong. Let’s stop by Ssamziegil since we are in Insa-dong for a culturally rich experience. Opened since December 2004, Ssamziegil has been dubbed the 'Special Insa-dong within Insa-dong'. This unique area was designed in such a way by connecting its charming alleys in the form of a spiral-like stairway. As you do your window-shopping through the lovely stores all the way to the top, you will arrive at Haneulmadang where you can get an extraordinarily clear view of the sky. Ssamziegil has over 70 shops including handicraft stores, souvenir shops, art galleries and restaurants.

For you tea lovers this is a ‘must see’ museum. Insa-dong offers various gallery cafes, and free galleries open to the public. Of those, the Beautiful Tea Museum offers world-famous teas and snacks, which visitors can enjoy along with the exhibition. As you enter the museum, the first thing you’ll see is a display of 100 famous world teas including China’s Yunnan boicha tea, oolong tea, and yellow tea. Traditional tea-things are on display at another part of the museum, and on the opposite side is the display of tea-things created by new artists.
There’s a special “Tea Tasting Program” which allows visitors to mix various teas to meet their tastes. The Beautiful Tea Museum has up to 130 types of tea ranging from an assortment of green tea, blue tea, black tea, brown tea, herbal tea, flower tea, and more. Visitors can purchase the various teas or enjoy them on the spot in the café. The museum is a renovated hanok, a traditional Korean house, and the central garden offers an outdoors café where visitors can view the museum while drinking tea Also, in the evenings, the museum offers live classical performances to provide the perfect atmosphere for tea-lovers. The Beautiful Tea Museum exhibition of tea-items is divided into three sections; Korea, China, and Tibet. Visitors can gain an overall understanding of the tea traditions of each country. Also, young ceramists’ artwork is offered for purchase.

Any kids with you on this tour? They will enjoy themselves at this place we’re going to next.Most museums do not allow hands-on experience, but the Funique House offers exhibitions that you can touch and play with. All the items are so unique; they arouse the curiosities of children and adults alike. Many of the items are ideas of daily necessities, and cannot be found elsewhere. Through a hands-on experience, children can develop their creativity and adults can have fun guessing at the purpose of the exhibitions. The Funique House also reveals the hidden science behind objects. Funique House is divided into five themes; sound, daily life, science, light, and movement. The Sound Hall exhibits various objects that make fun, unique sounds. Daily Life Hall displays ideas for daily necessities that cannot be found anywhere else. The Science Hall is where visitors can try out various science theories found in science books. The Light Hall offers a display of lights and the Movement Hall offers various movements for visitors to observe.
The Funique House has two locations. The first one is smaller in scale located at Hongik University’s main building. The second one is larger in scale and located at Seocho.
Sorry this next place does not qualify as a museum or gallery but I included it because they offer about 9 types of hands-on courses here. In case you didn't see anything you liked at the other places we went to, you might find something here that you like. So here's your last chance to experience the Korean culture.

The Korea House is a place where international visitors to Korea can taste traditional Korean food, get hands-on cultural experiences, and attend engaging Korean folk performances. The Korea House is easily accessible through a wooden gate from the Namsangol Hanok Village in Pildong, Seoul. Established to promote traditional Korean culture to tourists, this cultural complex offers traditional cuisine, performances, and handicrafts. The programs offered are Kimchi making, Traditional knot making, Mask making, Hanji craft, Traditional tea ceremony, Taekgyeon (Martial art), Samullori, Buchaechum dance and Danso instrument. These facilities are housed in an old hanok that was previously owned by a scholar of the early Joseon Dynasty (1392~1910). It was later remodelled in court architectural style to fully reflect a traditional atmosphere. The Korea House offers nine traditional hands-on cultural programs, including kimchi making, hanji craft, and traditional dance. All programs last about two hours.
Though the classes are conducted only in Korean, foreigners can take part in most of the programs except for the traditional tea ceremony. It is easy to follow the demonstration of the instructors. To participate, simply choose a program and time, and then call to make a reservation. You can choose up to 2 or3 programs at a timeIn addition to the traditional hands-on programs, the Korea House is also famous for its traditional art performances.. Currently, there are eight regular programs offered, ranging from traditional music to dance and traditional vocal art which includes the Myeongin Myeongchang performance (available during the 7pm program only) featuring Korea’s top artists, the intangible cultural assets performing dance or pansori and traditional musical instrument. It will be a great opportunity to meet with the country’s leading artists in their own special fields.
Housed in the annex building of The Korea House, the Korean restaurant offers traditional, full-course hanjeongsik Korean cuisine. The annex building itself is interesting with its unique traditional ambience. As such, it has been a favorite filming location for many Korean dramas and movies. The food is based on traditional noblemen’s cuisine of the Seoul and Gyeonggi-do areas; it also includes court cuisine served to the kings. The restaurant offers jeonsik course meals consisting of daeha-gui (grilled king prawn), kkotge-jjim (steamed blue crab), gujeolpan (dish of nine dishes), and sinseollo (Food of the Mountain Gods), as well as the more affordable lunch special menu.
Well guess that’s about it for today. That was enjoyable wasn’t it? Glad you came along? This should change your opinions about museums I hope.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The UNESCO World Cultural Heritages in Seoul

After all the hiking and climbing in the mountains looking for the best spots for viewing Autumn leaves I think we should tone down a bit and participate in less active activities for the next few days. So how about a few lessons in history and perhaps visit a palace or two in downtown Seoul. I just love that ring of ‘downtown Seoul’. I can imagine myself popping down to a shopping mall or catching a movie at one of the theatres in downtown Seoul but to pop down to a palace in downtown Seoul is quite unbelievable. Believe it or not, here in Seoul, you can take your pick from five of them, the Changdeokgung Palace, (a UNESCO World Heritage) Deoksugung Palace, Gyeongbokgung Palace, Gyeonghuigung or Changgyeonggung Palace and Unhyeongung (small palace). Seoulites should consider themselves very lucky to have so many historical sites just a ‘doorstep away’ so to speak. I know I could stay in Seoul forever because there’s everything there to interest me for a lifetime. I love the people, I love the culture, the customs and traditions, I love the food, I love the Hanbok, I love the museums, art galleries, palaces and Folk Villages and best of all I love the shopping! Oh I forgot about the Hallyu, count that in too. I think I recognize the present CEO of KTO, Mr. Charm Lee in a few Korean dramas I’ve seen. Anyone can confirm this?
Korea is so steeped in history, how lucky the Koreans are to be in the midst of it all.. Even UNESCO has designated a few of Korea’s treasures in its World Heritage List, nine to be exact of which three are in Seoul. Following is a full list of the UNESCO World Heritage sites in South Korea:-
• Haeinsa Temple Janggyeong Panjeon, the Depositories for the Tripitaka
Koreana Woodblocks (1995)
• Jongmyo Shrine (1995)
• Seokguram Grotto and Bulguksa Temple (1995)
• Hwaseong Fortress (1997)
• Changdeokgung Palace Complex (1997)
• Gochang, Hwasun and Ganghwa Dolmen Sites (2000)
• Gyeongju Historic Areas (2000)
• Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty (2009)
• Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes (2007)
These are the tangibles but what about the intangibles? What are intangibles? Intangible culture is just the opposite of culture which is tangible or touchable. Intangible culture includes song, music, drama, skills, crafts, and the other parts of culture that can be recorded but cannot be touched and interacted with, without a vehicle for the culture. Up to date there are 119 listed under this category. . A few examples of the important intangible cultural properties are Jongmyo jeryeak, the ancient music and dance performed at the Jongmyo Royal Ancestral Shrine in Seoul; Jongmyo jerye, the Jongmyo royal ancestral memorial ceremony, Joseon wangjo gungjung eumsik, the royal culinary art of the Joseon Dynasty, Pansori, a song and narration performed by one singer accompanied by one drummer, Munbaeju or distilled liquor, Daegeum sanjo or solo performance of the daegeum (bamboo transverse flute), Maedeup, decorative knot making, Bongsan talchum, masked dance drama handed down from the Bongsan region, Hwanghae Province and Chiljang , or lacquer work.
Today I’m going to show you around the three UNESCO World Heritage sites in Seoul, namely the the Jongmyo Shrine, Changdeokgung Palace. and the Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty .
Jongmyo Royal Shrine was built in 1394, when the Joseon Dynasty moved their capital from Gaeseong to Hanyang (the present Seoul), but was burnt to the ground during the Japanese invasion of Korea in 1592. The reconstruction was planned in 1604 and completed in 1608, the 1st year of Gwanghaegun (1608-1623).
It is the oldest and most authentic of the Confucian royal shrines to have been preserved. Dedicated to the forefathers of the Choson dynasty (1392 -1910), the shrine has existed in its present form since the 16th century and houses tablets bearing the teachings of members of the former royal family. The royal family of the Joseon Dynasty paid homage to their forefathers in the time-honored Confucian tradition. This sedate shrine of beautiful architectural simplicity is appreciated as an invaluable cultural inheritance and was registered on UNESCO's World Cultural Heritage List in 1995.
Jongmyo Shrine is made up of Jeongjeon (the main hall), Yeongnyeongjeon (the Hall of Eternal Peace), and auxiliary facilities. Jeongjeon, with its attached cloister, is said to have been the longest building in Asia. It enshrines the memorial tablets of greatly honored kings and their queens, today containing 19 memorial tablets of kings and 30 tablets of their queens in 19 spirit chambers. A tour of this place without the ritual ceremonies will take less than half an hour.
In the past the Royal Ancestral Rites were held on the first full moon of each season with a final ceremony held on the last full moon of the year. However, these days the ceremony is performed only once a year on the first Sunday in May.
.Jongmyo Jerye, the royal ancestral rite, is certainly a historical rarity in the world, with 500-year old formalities for ancestral worship set in 1462. It keeps intact the original procedures for the offering of sacrificial gifts of food and drink in authentic ritual utensils, with royal descendents and participants costumed by rank, as well as ritual dance and music ensembles. During the ceremony the priests, dressed in ritual costumes, make offerings of food and wine to the spirits of the ancestors. Music is played to accompany the rituals on traditional instruments, and dances are performed representing the forces of Yin and Yang. The Jeongjeon Hall, the main hall of the Jongmyo Shrine, is where almost all of the kings and queens of the Joseon dynasty have been enshrined, and rituals will be held there.A grand procession, known as the Eogahaengnyeol Parade, will take place from Gyeongbokgung Palace, proceeding along Jongno (one of the main streets in Seoul), before arriving at the Jongmyo Royal Shrine. The parade and the ritual ceremonies are a spectacular sight and provide a fascinating glimpse of Korea’s cultural heritage. Jongmyo Jere and Jongmyo Jereak were designated intangible cultural assets in 2001

Our next stop, Changdeokgung Palace, was one of Korea's five main palaces built during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910.) Changdeokgung was built in the 5th year (1405) of the reign of King Taejong of the Joseon Dynasty, as a separate palace to Gyeongbokgung, the original main palace of the dynasty. Located to the east of Gyeongbokgung, it has also been called Donggwol, the east palace. Changdeokgung is the most representative example of the Joseon era palace architecture. It was the principal palace for many of the Joseon kings, and is the best preserved among the five remaining royal Joseon palaces

Overall, Changdeokgung is divided into the administrative quarters, the residential quarters and a rear garden. The existing administrative quarters encompass Donhwamun, the front gate, which is the oldest existing palace structure (1412), Injeongjeon, the throne hall, and Seonjeongjeon, the administrative hall. The residential quarters include Huijeongdang and Daejojeon, the king's and queen's bedchambers, the royal kitchen, the infirmary and other annexes. The rear garden has exquisite pavilions, the court archives, a library and lotus ponds. Changdeokgung’s rear garden was constructed during the reign of Taejong, and has served as a resting area for the royal family members. The garden was also called Bukwon and Geumwon, but after Kojong became king, he renamed it Biwon. The garden was kept as natural as possible and human hands were only used when absolutely necessary. Buyongjeong, Buyongji, Juhabru, Eosumun, Yeonghwadang, Bullomun, Aeryeonjeong, and Yeongyeongdang are some of the many pavilions and fountains that occupy the gardens. The most beautiful time to see the garden is during the fall when the autumn foliage is at its prime and the leaves start to fall
Changdeokgung is well harmonised with its natural backdrop of hilly terrain and lush forests. The palace's magnificent halls, pavilions, and rear garden are laid out in such a way that they compliment each other as regards to the architecture and landscaping.
Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung were burned down during the Japanese invasion of Korea in 1592. Changdeokgung was reconstructed in 1609 and served as the royal seat for 300 years until the reconstruction of Gyeongbokgung at the end of the Joseon Dynasty. ).The palace is filled with cultural assets such as Injeongjeon Hall, Daejojeon Hall, Seonjeongjeon Hall and Nakseonjae to visit.

Crossing the threshold of Donhwamun the front gate of Changdeokgung, you will come up to Geumcheongyo, the oldest stone bridge in Seoul, built in 1411. Architects from the Joseon period thought that the stream, which used to flow through the palace was bringing positive energy. But now the stream is all dried up, It is said that whoever passes under Bullomun gate will not grow old.
The World Cultural Heritage Committee designated Changdeokgung Palace as a World Cultural Heritage in December of 1997.

And now, for our final destination, the Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty. The Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty (Republic of Korea), built over five centuries, from 1408 to 1966 form a collection of 40 tombs scattered over 18 locations. Spots of outstanding natural beauty were chosen for the tombs which typically have their back protected by a hill as they face south toward water and, ideally, layers of mountain ridges in the distance. Alongside the burial area, the royal tombs feature a ceremonial area and an entrance. In addition to the burial mounds, associated buildings that are an integral part of the tombs include a T-shaped wooden shrine, a shed for stele, a royal kitchen and a guards’ house, a red-spiked gate and the tomb keeper’s house. The grounds are adorned on the outside with a range of stone objects including figures of people and animals. The tombs all have similar shapes, and the stone structures and buildings also follow certain styles.
The organization of the royal tomb sites can be broken down into three parts:
● The part around the Jeongjagak, which is the meeting point between the dead and the living (the area outside Hongsalmun Gate is the space for the living);
● The area just past the gate, which contains the Jeongjagak shrine, the Subokbang, and the Suragan buildings. This is a space of the earthly and the holy as this is where the spirits of the kings and queens meet with their worshipers;
● The sacred ground of the grave mound, the wall, and the stone structures.
Although most of the Joseon Dynasty’s Royal Tombs are located outside Seoul, eight of them can be found in Seoul. Seonjeongneung, located in downtown Seoul in the heart of Seoul’s busy Gangnam District in Samneung Park, comprises of the Seonneung Royal Tomb and the Jeongneung Royal Tomb. Samneung which means “three royal tombs,” is exactly what it is, the three royal tombs of two Korean kings and a queen.
King Seongjong and his third wife, Queen Jeonghyeon were buried in Seolleung (the west side of the park) in separate tombs. Seongjong was Joseon’s ninth king, having ascended the throne at the early age of 13. His reign is remembered as a period of peace and prosperity.
Both the king and queen’s tombs followed the standard Confucian principles. Typically set in the middle of a hill facing southward, ideally toward water and mountains, a burial mound is protected by stone figures of people and animals and enclosed by a “C”-shaped wall. Each element was designed to direct energy towards the burial chamber.

A significant difference between the king and queen’s tombs, however, is the T-shaped wooden shrine that designates a king’s resting place. Built at the end of a long stone pathway marked with a decorative red gate, a small shed protects a stone stele.The park is basically a family burial plot, because on the east side you’ll find Jeongneung the tomb of King Jungjong second son of King Seongjong and first son of Queen Jeonghyeon. Joseon’s eleventh monarch came to power after his half-brother was dethroned in a coup. His 38-year reign was marked by political reform.
Jungjong was not originally interred here, but moved to Samneung by his third consort, Queen Munjeong. She felt the site was more propitious, although ancient records show that the area was flooded. But sad to say she was never buried beside him although it was her dearest wish and today her tomb is somewhere else a few kilometers away.
The area in-between the tombs is covered by forest with s few walking trails and benches here and there. If you follow one of the trails you might happen upon Jaesil a traditional house used by priests to prepare the sacrificial rites for the deceased kings.

If you have time I would like to suggest that you pay a visit to the Gyeongbokgung Palace although it's not a UNESCO World Heritage because it is arguably the most beautiful and grandest of all the five palaces. The premises were destroyed by fire at the time of the Japan's occupation of Korea during 1592-1598. However, all of the palace's 7,700 rooms were later restored during the reign of King Gojong (1852~1919). Remarkably, the most representative edifices of the Joseon Dynasty, Gyeonghoe-ru Pavilion and Hyangwonjeong Pond are still relatively intact. The National Palace Museum of Korea is located south of Heungnyemun Gate, and the National Folk Museum is located east within Hyangwonjeong.
Gyeongbokgung Palace was originally constructed in 1395 under the reign of King Taejo. Also called Northern Palace because of its location, Gyeongbokgung is Seoul's most prominent palace. Although situated in the middle of the city, once inside the gates of the palace, you quickly forget the hustle and bustle of city life. What is particularly appealing about walking through the palace grounds is that there’s lots of greenery, a sight which is becoming a rarity in downtown Seoul these days.
The Royal Guard Changing Ceremonies is something special that you can watch at the Gyeongbokgung Palace. The Royal Guard-Changing Ceremony is a great opportunity to experience a rare traditional scene in Korea. The guards’ splendid costumes, with their brilliant primary colors, are a real pleasure to see. So don/t forget your cameras.

A walk through the palace grounds will bring you to Hyangwonjeong and Geongcheonggung, perhaps one of the most photographed sites in Seoul. which served as a separate palace for King Gojong and his consort, and is considered a palace within a palace. It is here that the Empress Myeongsong was assassinated in 1895.
Constructed in 1456, Hyangwonji pond can be found in the rear garden of Gyeongbokgung palace. The existing pond was reconstructed in 1873, and the hexagonal pavilion of Hyangwonjeong and Chuihyanggyo bridge were built then. Waterweeds can be found there, along with carp swimming in the pond; a variety of trees, including zelkova, Chinese juniper, maple, pine, oak and pear also surround it. The pond is at its most spectacular when Mt.Bugaksan, the pavilion and the wooden bridge are all reflected on the pond’s surface. Further north is the Jibokjae — an assemblage of two buildings, Hyeopgildang Pavilion and Parujeong Pavilion, that were originally built in the precincts of Changdeokgung and then moved to Gyeongbokgung in 1888, when King Gojong relocated his official residence.
Jibokgae was used as a library and a reception hall to receive foreign envoys, and all three buildings are connected by a raised corridor. Next is Taewonjeon, the buildings used for royal funerals and ancestral rites, Another area which you’ll pass is the Soy Sauce Jar Terrace, The area next to it which is undergoing restoration is Hamhwadong and Jipgyeongdang. Hamhwadong was the living quarters for the queen and included several more buildings. Only two buildings remain today. Donggung and vicinity are located. This is where the crown prince and princess lived, and the excavated site includes a site where meals for the kings were prepared.
The walk ends with Geunjeongjeon, the main throne hall of Gyeongbokgung. The main hall of Gyeongbokgung was the venue where the king attended to affairs of the state or grand celebrations. There are 12 pairs of stone markers situated in front of the main hall, each bearing the rank of court officials.
Enjoy the video of Gyeongbokgung I've included. I'm sure you'll agree with me when I say it's a beautiful palace. Also don't forget to visit the National Palace Museum of Korea and the National Folk Museum because it's already included in your ticket to Gyeongbokgung
See you again.soon