Sunday 30th September
Today is Korea's largest public holiday. People travel home the day before to be with their families then spend the next day traveling back to their place of residence.
Up bright and early for breakfast around 8.30 and off for the days activities. First stop is the Gyeongbokgung Palace about 20 mins stroll down the main road which is lined with flags, pictures, the largest TV screens you can imagine plus the sweet smells of fairy floss and doughnuts. The roads are so wide 6 lanes each way divided by Gwanghwamun Square, not good place to run the lights.
A statue of the king, heads the square which has been transformed into a field of potted rice plants of all different varieties, there are tents lining each side as we move further down filled with activates for the children face and mask painting, bow making, calligraphy, you name it was there. We make it to the place in time to see the changing of the guard, bigger than the one from yesterday to match the size of this palace it's massive. Through the gates we go, there is a path way leading down the middle of this huge court yard. The pathway is split in to three lanes, centre for the King the outer two for the court. Very cleverly the granite stones are roughly hewn to reduce the glare.
After exploring the grounds we wound our way to the back of the complex to the rear gate which lead on to the Blue House which is the current Presidential residence. Security guards on uniform and plain clothed every where.
We turned left here and walk down the tree lined boulevard to begin our walk up the mountain to see the Fortress wall. Raewyn wasn't kidding about how far she was going to walk me today ugh. Up the hill we went, a great hill challenge for the Korean Ginos on their flash bikes and Lycra. We met a couple of American dudes also walking not sure if they where going in the same direction, finally we made it to the point of the Seoul Seonggwak or Fortress Wall. There is monument to a policeman who had given his life protecting the Blue house January 1968 when a group of 31 North Korean guerrillas tried to invade, he was shot in the heart and abdomen and still fought on giving his life completely to his duty and country. Along with another policeman he was awarded with a posthumous award Superntendent General.
We where unable to walk along the Fortress wall as it is under military control damn it, and you need your passport.
So we turned around and walked back down the mountain by now both our feet are hurting and very hungry as it is now 2pm. The view over Seoul was amazing as we descended. As we came back in the mix of celebrations we skirted the Palace Wall to get back to the front of the palace and back to our hotel. Cleverly I remember to turn on the pedometer on my phone at the of the mountain, the return trip was just under 7kms so that roughly 14kms we had trudged, oh my aching feet. For lunch Raewyn had Bibimbap which is a dish that comes with an egg in the middle in the middle and you stir it up as it fries in the super hot earthen bowel, I had Kalbi tang which is beef ribs in a beef broth yum to both dishes.
Rested we head off for Gangnum on the train, it's about 4pm now. Sadly we didn't make it as it took us about an hour to work out the train route so no Gangnum style for us. Next choice is the Cheonggyecheon stream, this runs east/west and about 10 mins from the hotel. Back in its day the woman used to wish the clothes while the children played, over time it has been concreted over and rediscovered and turned in to this beautiful oasis running through the heart of Seoul. In its current form the walls are lined with granite blocks and paved with a mixture of granite paving and crazy blacks stone slabs, there are water falls placed along the walk way to hide the smell of sewer harking back to the olden times. At night the stream is lit with lights creating a romantic mode for lovers and families along its banks. At the head of the stream is a large waterfall which is lit by lights and a wishing well placed in the centre of the stream, this too is lit by LED lights.
The temperature is starting to drop now and we are getting chilled from the night air so we head back to the hotel for happy hour and bed. Seoul is a beautiful safe city to stay and enjoy, our three day here have not been enough.