Traveling there was just like I had imagined before: easy access to public transports, safe to be wandering for girls anytime of the day or night, and great food! What you need to prepare is first of all get some travel guides from your local Korea Tourism Organization (KTO – www.visitkorea.or.kr) because apparently it is hard to find in Seoul (plus it’s free and there are maps). Decide what you want to see. Then as I was going there alone, my mode of transport was mainly by bus, subway, and walking. You need to get a T-Money, which can be of various forms but what I had was a card that you can recharge and tap to a machine anytime you get on and off from the bus or get in the subway line. And wow it’s a lot cheaper compared to Sydney!!
Tempat kunjungan pertama saya adalah ke Namdaemun Market. Yak betul, ini adalah pasar yang kebetulan hanya satu kali perjalanan dengan bus dari tempat saya menginap di Yeouido. Namdaemun adalah pasar yang tepat untuk membeli oleh-oleh yang Made in Korea ataupun Made in China. Kebiasaan orang Indonesia adalah, kalau pergi-pergi pasti yang ribet adalah mikirin oleh-olehnya buat siapa dan apa. Jadi tidak ada salahnya untuk belanja di hari pertama, dan tenang di hari-hari berikutnya untuk keliling kota. Beragam produk dijual, tapi yang saya suggest adalah pernak-pernik perhiasan seperti kalung, gelang , ikat rambut yang khas produk fashion Korea (bagus-bagus- nyesel banget cuma beli sedikit), dan mungkin stationary bergambar selebriti Kpop atau Kdrama yang pasti bakal disukain para fans. Magnet, gantungan kunci, kipas, dan lainnya. Tapi sekali lagi, beware of Made in China!
Next destination would be to old city, which is Gwanghwamun. Under Gwanghwamun Square there is The Story of King Sejong/ The Story of Admiral Yi Sunshin Museum, and it is connected to the Sejong Center of Performing Arts. Notice the mountain view at the back of the monument of King Sejong? Fascinating!
And I also found out at the underground museum that there’s a good relationship between Indonesia and South Korea, at least in the education and culture sectors. The Cia-Cia tribe in Sulawesi’s Buton Island has adopted Hangeul in August 2009 due to a lack of writing system of the language spoken, and apparently it can convey better pronunciation than Latin or Arabic.
Then I took a walk to the Gate of Gwanghawun to enter the Gyeongbokgung Palace. Built in 1395 as the main palace of the Joseon Dynasty for 500 years by founder King Taejo, and served for official ceremonies and the private quarters of the King and Queen. It is also home to the National Palace Museum of Korea and the National Folk Museum– where the olden days of Koreans can be observed, as well as some exhibitions (at that time there was an exhibition about Arirang, a name that has been used for various products throughout time). The palace is spacious with ponds, gardens, walls and pathways, although you need not expect to see something as majestically red as the Forbidden Palace in Beijing , palaces in Seoul tend to embrace this softer color of earthy beige/pink/red with frames of greens, red, yellow,blue and white on the wood in detailed painting.
From Gyeongbokgung complex, you can either go up your way to the Blue House (Cheongwadae) ~ the executive office and official residence of the President of S. Korea, named after its blue-tiled roof ~ or you can go east towards Samcheong-dong ~ take a walk uphill through contemporary restaurants and wine bars, shops and boutiques~ , then to Bukchon Hanok Village ~ a Korean traditional village that retains its the city’s old appearance, and it’s a popular set for movies and TV dramas.