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  • Welcome to Seoul,

  • the capital of the Republic of South Korea.

  • For decades the city known as The Miracle of The Han, kept its head down,

  • barely raising a ripple as the country rebuilt in the decades

  • following the Korean War.

  • Today, Seoul has re-emerged as an economic powerhouse and the epicentre of Hallyu,

  • a Korean wave of culture that is sweeping the world's smartphones,

  • food halls and dance floors.

  • But Seoul wasn't always so outgoing.

  • In the 14th century,

  • a 12-mile fortress wall encircled Korea's ancient capital;

  • its gates closed each night to keep marauding Siberian tigers and invaders at bay.

  • Since then the city has spilled out far beyond and above

  • its great city gates and Guardian Mountains.

  • 21st century Seoul is a city where glass and steel towers

  • and the ancient curves of palace roofs coexist.

  • It's a city where the brushstrokes of the past

  • and contemporary public art tell stories of tradition and inspiration.

  • Coming to grips with Seoul's incredible size and sweeping narrative can be a little daunting,

  • so start your adventure at the K-Style Hub,

  • a state-of-the-art visitor centre.

  • Where South Korea's past, present and future converge,

  • from the latest in K-Pop to its timeless national parks,

  • from the cutting edge of K Design to culinary traditions which have taken centuries to perfect.

  • And while you're here, why not slip into the traditional dress.

  • Dressing up Hanbok-style doesn't just put you in touch with Koreas proud past,

  • it also gives you free admission into many of Seoul's most revered historic places.

  • At the head of Gwanghwamun Square sits the gleaming statue of Sejong the Great,

  • the 15th century Joseon-dynasty king whose reign oversaw a golden age of literature,

  • science and technology.

  • The great leader sits before the grandest of Seoul's five royal palaces,

  • Gyeongbokgung, the Palace of Shining Happiness.

  • A residence of Joseon Dynasty rulers from the late 1300s until 1910,

  • the palace has endured fires, invasion, and wars.

  • Wander through the palace's ornate gates, pavilions, halls and throne room,

  • which in accordance with Confucian principles,

  • are perfectly balanced by the simplicity of the pine-covered mountain backdrop.

  • Take a short bus or subway ride to the east,

  • to explore the adjoining palaces of Changdeokgung and Changgyeongung,

  • which are separated by a simple stone wall.

  • In the tranquil confines of Changdeokgung's secret garden,

  • sit for a while by the pond where kings once paused from royal duties and dramas

  • to write poetry beneath the ginko, walnut and plum trees.

  • To the south at Deoksugung Palace,

  • see the changing of the guard which takes place three times each day.

  • Then explore the eclectic mix of palace buildings,

  • such as the pavilion where coffee-loving King Gojong enjoyed his daily cup,

  • paving the way for his country's future caffeine obsession.

  • Just to the west, is the last of Seoul's great palaces,

  • Gyeonghuigung, a royal refuge in times of unrest.

  • After exploring Seoul's vast temple complexes,

  • see how government officials and ordinary Koreans once lived.

  • At the Namsangol Hanok Village,

  • ancient buildings and traditions have been preserved

  • in one of the most scenic and tranquil areas of Seoul.

  • To see how Seoul's citizens furnished their homes,

  • visit the Korea Furniture Museum in Seongbuk-gu.

  • Here, over 2000 exquisite pieces of practical craftsmanship

  • are displayed within ten traditional houses.

  • The story of Korean craftsmanship continues at the National Museum of Korea,

  • which houses national treasures

  • such as the Ten Story Pagoda and priceless white porcelain from the Joseon era.

  • But it's in Seoul's busy streets where the past and present really rub shoulders,

  • and where the two Korean loves of shopping and food go hand in hand.

  • Close to Seoul's Great South Gate, step into Koreas largest marketplace,

  • Namdaemun Market, where locals have been bargaining hard for over 600 years.

  • If you're looking for beauty products,

  • join the one million shoppers who stream into neighboring Myeong-dong

  • each day to hit the 1000 cosmetic stores.

  • And when your head starts to spin, take a snack break.

  • From lobster tails to foot long ice creams, the options here are almost limitless!

  • A few blocks north is Insadong,

  • where you can disappear for days amid the labyrinth of antique, curio and craft stalls.

  • While just a short bus ride away at the Dongdaemun Market,

  • you could spend months browsing the fashions on offer

  • in the area's 26 malls and 30,000 specialty shops.

  • Blow the dust off the old wares and vintage bargains

  • at the Gwangjang Traditional Market,

  • then treat yourself to some of the best Korean pancakes in the city.

  • If you're a seafood lover,

  • cross the river to the futuristic Noryangjin Fish Market,

  • where the skilful vendors at 700 stalls

  • sell, slice and cook every kind of seafood imaginable!

  • Looking for some Gangnam style?

  • Head just upriver to the Samseong-dong,

  • whose exclusive boutiques and wide boulevards have made it

  • the Beverly Hills of Seoul.

  • But it's not all bling in Gangnam,

  • you'll find plenty of bliss here too.

  • Pass through the Gate of Truth and spend a few hours in the wooded surrounds

  • of the Bongeunsa Buddhist Temple,

  • a peaceful antidote to the fierce pace of Seoul's shopping.

  • Seoul is filled with quiet spaces.

  • Also in Gangnam, stroll past the stadiums and museums of the 24th Summer Olympics,

  • at Olympic Park.

  • Across the river,

  • relax with locals amid the leafy glades of Seoul Forest.

  • While just downriver, enjoy the ponds and playful sculptures at Yongsan Park.

  • Namsan is one of Seoul's Guardian Mountains,

  • marking the southern limit of the ancient capital.

  • The city has long since grown around it

  • and today the mountain has become one of the city's favourite green getaways.

  • At Namsan Botanical Garden,

  • follow the winding paths through fields of wildflowers and pine forests.

  • Then hike, or take the cable car to the peak,

  • and take in the sweeping views from the old city walls or from Seoul's iconic tower.

  • Running right through the busy heart of downtown Seoul,

  • another landmark has also been given a new lease on life.

  • After centuries of neglect,

  • Cheonggyecheon Stream has been transformed into a 7-mile corridor of serenity and creativity.

  • Take time out just a few feet from some of the city's busiest streets,

  • in a space so quiet you can sometimes hear the sweet sounds of bird song and whispering lovers.

  • Leave the bright lights and noise of the city even further behind,

  • amid granite-studded peaks of Bukhansan National Park.

  • Take the 45-minute subway ride from central Seoul

  • and spend the day hiking through the crisp mountain air,

  • past ancient temples and rushing streams.

  • Just 55 miles from Seoul is another daytrip which will give you pause for deep reflection,

  • the truce village of Panmunjom.

  • After three years of brutal warfare, it was here in 1953,

  • where the armistice was signed between North and South Korea.

  • From the observation post, look out upon the eerie silence of the DMZ,

  • the 2.5-mile wide buffer zone that separates the two Koreas.

  • Yet despite the tense atmosphere here,

  • there is also a prevailing sense of hope.

  • On returning to Seoul, spend a little time at the War Memorial of Korea

  • to truly appreciate the scale and trauma of the Korean War,

  • a conflict that tore a country in two, involved 22 nations,

  • and cost millions of lives.

  • Besides displaying all the usual machinery of war,

  • above all, this is of place of remembrance, longing, and determination.

  • When the sun gets low and the city lights up,

  • locals gather on the banks of the Han to see the Banpo Bridge

  • erupt in waves of water and light.

  • It's in moments like these that South Koreans reflect on life's possibilities,

  • and are reminded that they are capable of anything they put their minds,

  • imaginations and hearts to.

  • And Seoul,

  • The Miracle on The Han is certainly proof of that.

Welcome to Seoul,

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Seoul City Video Guide | Expedia

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    Eric Wang posted on 2018/05/29
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