Sept 24, 2008 – Seoul


Just over 2 weeks ago we arrived at Changdeokung (Palace of Prospering Virtue) for the 11:30am tour to find out that it is closed on Mondays. Today it was open. You can only go into Changdeokung on a guided tour, so this was the biggest collection of English speaking people since we arrived here.

Changdeokung was a backup palace for the Korean royalty used up to the end of the Joseon dynasty that ended in 1910 when the Japanese invaded and occupied Korea. It was originally completed in 1412. Because it was used into the 20th century, some parts of the palace are decorated with western furniture, it has a modern kitchen and electric lights. We learned that the males and females had separate living quarters for during the day. This reflected a belief in Confucianism that men and women should be separate. During the night the King could spend the night in the Queens residence where the sleeping quarters are located. Each building has a name painted in large Chinese calligraphy at the entrance. The name of the Queen’s residence was “Place where Great things are made” (loosely from my memory). Basically – the place where heirs are made.

The palace also has a large garden that was behind the area containing the buildings that is called the secret garden. It is 78 acres, is very peaceful and contains lotus ponds and various pavilions and retreats for the royalty. In the garden there is a gate named the gate of never growing old – this is to encourage longevity for Joseon Kings whose average life span was 44 years.

After visiting the palace, it was shopping time for Darlene. We spent most of the afternoon browsing shops in the Insadong area of Seoul. After that I let Darlene loose in the Lotte Department store. Apparently it is very big and busy and expensive! Dar didn’t last too long in there – but that’s not before she discovered her very own brand of chocolate!

During our shopping we were stopped by 3 Korean girls. For school they had to interview English speaking foreigners to learn what we thought of Korea so they could practice their English. At the end of the interview Darlene gave each of them a “Canada” key chain. This was quite a surprise to them. To reciprocate, one of the girls reached into a shopping bag and gave us a small bag she had just purchased. We politely told her the gift was unnecessary but this made her uncomfortable. So we accepted the small gift so as not to offend.