I still remember those days when a lot people from my country, the Philippines, have gone mad over watching so many Korean soap operas on TV like Dae Jang Geum (or also known as Jewel in the Palace), My Girl, Lovers in Paris (also known as My Sweetheart in Paris), etc. I have to admit, though, that I also joined the bandwagon and always looked forward to my evening dates with all those Korean television shows which are dubbed in our local language.
You could just imagine my excitement then when I found out then that I was to be sent to Seoul on business. So I rode my Korean Airlines flight to Seoul with a suitcase filled with my personal stuff and a heart bursting with excitement and anticipation of whatâ€™s to come.
Even before the trip, I already knew bits of information about Seoul. I knew that Seoul is the capital and is considered the largest city of South Korea. Just like any capital, it is primarily the center of culture, business, finance, economy and politics. I was craving to learn more!
I landed in Seoul at the break of dawn. It didnâ€™t bother me at all that I didnâ€™t get much sleep during the flight. I met up with my driver who was in charge of â€œdeliveringâ€ me to my hotel in Seoul safe and sound.
Little did I know that my first day in Seoul would immediately be busy. With the help of some friends, I got to chance to visit the Changdeokgung which is also known as the Changdeok Palace. It is a beautiful palace that is located in a huge park in Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea. Based on the brochure that was given to me, Changdeokgungâ€™s literal meaning is â€œPalace of Prospering Virtue.â€ It is also one of the five grand palaces that were built during the Joseon Dynasty.
You can reach the palace either by arranging a tour with your hotelâ€™s concierge or by public transportation. Take Exit No. 4 of the Haehwa Subway Station (Seoul Subway Line No. 4) then pass through Seoul National University Hospital. You would have to walk for approximately 10 minutes before you reach the palaceâ€™s gates.
This palace has been preserved in its original splendor among all the other palaces of the Joseon Dynasty and it is for this reason that Changdeokgung was enlisted as UNESCOâ€™s World Cultural Heritage Site in February 1997. I found out from our tour guide that the Changdeok Palace was built by King Taejong in 1405 and was completed in 1412. It only served as a support or a secondary palace for the Koreaâ€™s Chosun Dynasty King and that the primary palace was the Kyeongbok Palace.
But in 1592, during the Hideyoshi invasion of Korea, the Kyeongbok Palace was severely damaged beyond repair that it was no longer rebuilt. Because of this, the Changdeok Palace was recognized as the primary residence of the royal family. Koreaâ€™s last emperor, Emperor Sunjong, lived here until he passed away in 1926.
The Palace itself is surrounded by so many Cherry Blossom and Magnolia Trees that you cannot help but admire the beauty of it all. This place is so breathtakingly beautiful that so many ladies including Korean brides and teenage girls choose to have their pictorials at the Changdeok Palace. Some painting and art classes are also held here.
To give you a basic idea of what you will see inside the Changdeokgung, you can refer to a sample basic Tour Course (also called the General Course and is 2.1 kilometers long) below:
- Donhwamun Gate â€“ This is the main gate of the Changdeokgung. It is also considered the oldest palace main gate in Korea.
- Geumcheongyo â€“ This is a stone bridge. It is also the oldest existing stone bridge in Seoul. You will be fascinated with the stone statues that line this bridge.
- Injeongmun and Injeongjeon â€“ These gates were the venues for the coronation of past Korean Kings and other receptions for the royal families.
- Seonjeongjeon â€“ It is the only existing palace that has been built using blue tiles. It is referred to as the Kingâ€™s â€œside roomâ€ where meetings with government officials are held.
- HeeJeongdang â€“ Another â€œside roomâ€ of the King but with an attached bed chamber.
- Daejojeon â€“ The last King Sunjong passed away here.
- Gyeonghungak â€“ This place houses official garments including the royal robe that King Seonjo received from Emperor Sinjong of the Ming Dynasty of China.
- Cheonjangmun â€“ The name came from the root word Cheonjang which means the â€œarticle of the King.
- Nakseonjae â€“ The Nakseonjae shows wonderful steps with flowers.
- Naeuiwon â€“ This is more popularly referred to as the Inner Medical Office. It is also referred to as Naeguk which is a place where illnesses of the King and the rest of the Royal Family are cured
- Buyongji and Buyongjeong â€“ Buyongi, which means pond, is characterized by a square pond that is believed by locals to be representing the heavens
- Younghwadang â€“ This is by far the oldest building within the Changdeok complex. This served as the rest place of Royal Families.
- Bulromun â€“ The Bulromun Gate was made of a single rock and is known to promote good heald and long life of the Kings.
- Gioheon and Uiduhap â€“ The Gioheon and the Uiduhap served as reading place for the Crown Prince Hyomyeong.
- Aeryeonji and Aeryonjeong â€“ The pond and the pavilion that were build in 1692. The pavilion was named Aeryonjeong which means â€œlove for lotus flower.â€
- Youngyeongdang and Seonhyangjae â€“ One is shaped like a private house filled with more than a hundred toes. The second one served as a study.
- Geumhomun â€“ This is the west gate.
The vast courtyard and the palace halls of Changdeokgung are overwhelming but at the same time will give you a feeling of warmth. You know that so much history has happened in this place and the walls are silent witnesses to everything that transpired at the Changdeok Palace.
I had such a amazing time at Changdeokgung that I remember walking the rest of the way under the fading rays of the setting sun with a spring in my every step.
Operating Hours: 9:00 â€“ 6:00pm (March to October) / 9:00 â€“ 5:00pm (November to February)
Admission Fee: 3, 000 won (19 – 64 years old) / 1, 500 won (7 â€“ 18 years old)
Types of Tours Available: English, Korean and Japanese (Schedule must be checked in advance)
Address: Waryong-dong Jongno-gu Seoul, South Korea
Contact Number: 02-762-8261 / 9513