Monday, 27 April 2015

Korea Trip 2015 Day 8: Naksan, Dongdaemun DDP, Namsan Tower

17 April 2015

Heejung recommended me to go to Naksan Park. It is located near Hyehwa Station. It wasn't very easy to find the entrance as you need to walk for about 20 minutes from the subway station and climb some steep slopes. I followed the direction from a website but it was not correct and I had to use my broken Korean to ask help from a local nearby. Fortunately I was able to reach Naksan Park.

Naksan Park, as its name suggests, is located on Naksan mountain. There is a gallery at the entrance of the park showing a brief history of the construction of Seoul fortress walls and the redevelopment of Naksan. When Seoul became the capital of Korea, Kings from different generations built fortress walls along the four mountains that surrounds the capital. In the heart of the capital was Geongbokgung. Out of the four mountains, Naksan was the shortest, situated on the East while the more famous Namsan was located at the South. Kings from different eras had their individual styles imprinted on the architectural of the fortress walls. The different styles can be distinguished by the stone / brick configuration of the walls. However, the fortresses had to be rebuilt in the last few decades due to Japanese invasion and poor urban planning in the 1940s to 1970s. It was interesting to read through the history of Naksan Park.

I walked along the slopes and reached the highest observatory point. I could see Seoul and Namsan Tower clearly from there. The fortress walls, though not as magnificent as the Great Wall of China was a fantastic sight.

View of Seoul and Fortress Walls from Peak of Naksan Park 

On my way down, I walked along the fortress walls, through the history and cultural path until I reached Dongdaemun Station at the foot of Naksan.

Walk along the walls and you will reach Dongdaemun

I had a simple lunch at Dongdaemun and walked along Cheongyecheon stream. Last year we were here at night. However, I would recommend that you walk along the stream at night because during the day, the scene is not as beautiful and romantic. I walked all the way until I saw a sign board pointing towards Sindang station.


I decided to pay a visit to the National Museum of Korea at Ichon Station. As I like Korean culture and history, I thought I could spend maybe around 2 to 3 hours there before heading to Myeongdong to meet Jinhwa for dinner. The National Museum of Korea was a really huge building. There were also audio sets available for rental. I rented the audio set for 1000 Won and deposited my ID before entering the museum. The museum displayed artifacts from different eras of Korea's history but there were many of them, especially paintings which were only replicas. There wasn't much explanation about Korea's history though and the audio guide didn't offer anything extra from the write up of the artifacts on the walls. I spent around one hour touring the first level and decided that I should go somewhere else. The second and third floor however housed mostly imported artifacts from other countries. If you are interested in Korean history and culture, I'd suggest that the ground floor is good enough.

As I had more time than expected, I headed back to Dongdaemun direction and got off at Dongdaemun History and Culture Station. There was this Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP) with its amazing architecture displaying all kinds of creative and artistic design goods. If I had my own house, I'd really like to spend a whole day here picking and buying these design masterpiece to decorate my house. It was almost 6:30pm and I headed back to the subway station towards Myeongdong to meet Jinhwa. Jinhwa was really busy today and she had to come all the way from the suburb to Myeongdong as she was tasked for Minimelts (her company) ice cream export that day.

When Jinhwa saw me, she greeted me so friendly like she had known me for many years. I felt easy being around with her as we went to a barbeque restaurant to eat samgyeopsal for dinner. In Meyongdong, there were so many tourists, especially chinese tourists that the ahjumma in the restaurant spoke mandarin to Jinhwa. We chatted a bit, and Jinhwa said she wanted to travel to Taiwan maybe in the beginning of May as Korea has holiday on 1st and 5th of May. After dinner, we proceeded with our original plan to to to Namsan tower. We took a taxi to the cable car platform and walked all the way to the top where N Tower rests. It was quite a challenging one for me as I had hiked Naksan this morning and that Namsan was much steeper. The weather was cold and windy but when we reached the top, we were all warmed up. Just before we reached the top, we heard sounds like someone riding a bike. And indeed we were shocked when we saw a guy riding a mountain bike from the top speeding his way through the flight of stairs downhill. Really Daebak!

The view from the top was really amazing. And there were these love chains again. So many of them. We took the elevator up to the observatory deck of N Tower. It was quite crowded here. Although it was dark outside, we could locate Han river. The night view of Seoul was really peaceful and romantic.

Love Chains with Seoul Night View Backdrop

N Tower at Night

Night View of Seoul

As Jinhwa lives in Incheon, we couldn't spend much time here and it was already almost 10pm. As we walked downhill, her mom even texted her asking why she wasn't home yet. Going donwhill was much easier. We talked about Korean culture, Malaysia, Singapore and my future traveling plans. I told her that I'd also like to go to Taiwan for my next trip. The journey donwhill was short and before we knew it, we had reached Myeongdong station. We took the same subway line 4 as Jinhwa alighted earlier at Seoul Station while I alighted at Sookmyung Women's University. Before we said goodbye, Jinhwa asked when will we meet again. I told her that if she comes to Singapore or Malaysia we can meet up again. She had a better idea and suggested that why not we go to Taiwan together.

It was a really fun day hiking two mountains in Seoul within a day and of course, meeting my last Hellotalk friend Jinhwa. It is sad that everything has to come to an end. I really love the feeling of traveling because you are free to do whatever you want and you don't need to answer to anybody. On my way home, my host Eun Kyung contacted me, asking whether I'd like to join her and her boyfriend at a bar nearby HBC house. As I was tired, I declined her kind offer. I reached home and packed my things. I still had half a day tomorrow morning before my flight at 4:40pm. Eun Kyung had offered to bring me around Haebangcheon area, which was what I'd like to do too. I agreed and she will drop by HBC house tomorrow at around 10:30am to bring me around the neightbourhood.

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