The Deoksu Gung Palace to be precise.
It wasn’t so much of a palace as a series of brightly painted pavilions, set in an area of parkland. Sam, our guide, explained that on this occasion, it was going to be easier to stick in a group, to follow him and he would take us to the spots where there was something worth seeing. That was fine with us.
Before we’d even entered the gate, we were already overwhelmed with colour and pattern once again, and this time, it wasn’t overlaid with anti-pigeon netting. I apologise for it being so hard to tell which way up the photographs are supposed to be – most of them were taken at strange angles, in order to capture as much of the colour and pattern as possible.
These first three were looking almost directly up at the ceiling within the gatehouse, whilst Sam bought our tickets.
The richness of the palette and the variety of pattern was simply marvellous and many of us stood, open mouthed, trying to take it all in.
Actually, the outside of the buildings was rather simple in comparison. The plain red outer walls of the buildings and the slate grey roof tiles contrasted well with those brightly coloured interiors.
We took countless photographs of every section of each building we visited, though really, one was much like another.
The main throne hall of the complex was approached by a three-lane pathway with a line of stelae demarkating where each level of nobility or civil service stood. The central pathway was for the king, naturally – and guess where Sam suggested we walk?
At first glance, the interior of the structure was dark and dull, but a closer look in the gloomy light revealed a rather more decorative throne setting
and a very elaborate ceiling!
What intrigued me was the juxtaposition of this traditionally built palace compound with the modern day Seoul beyond, in particular that curvy glass structure of the City Hall.
I just loved the colours, though! Look at those eaves, where the repeating pattern results in so much more than the sum of the parts, don’t you think?
Another peculiar arrangement was of the western-style art gallery and the Seokjojeon right there in the midst of all the traditional buildings. This had been built in an effort to modernise around 1910 and to me, it looked really out of place.
Lastly, there was the concubine house, finely detailed and rather resembling a band pavilion in places, but by now, I was getting a little blase about those colours and was finding something new to interest me.
How about these lovely soft shades in the wall alongside?
Or the fascinating patterns just the other side? Really, the wealth of detail in this small area alone was something to treasure and I was happy to be able to record it in a few – well, perhaps more – photographs, whilst the group were still discussing concubines!
With a few more colourful pictures to round off the visit, we made our way back to the gate where we had entered.
As we did, we spotted something happening. We ran to find out what was going on…
We’d passed by some similarly dressed guards at one of the other gates but had driven by so quickly, there had been no chance of taking a photograph. Here was our chance.
This fierce and serious looking chap gave off scary vibes until we spotted him sneakily adjusting his (fake) moustache!
His colleagues were similarly stern but had somewhat softer countenances. Mind you, I was curious about those peculiar toggles on the top of their hats.
These four guards held the attention of the visitors for quite some time and they stood still whilst photos were taken and people approached them for a closer look. Until, that is, they were upstaged.
Suddenly, no one was interested in the guards any more!
Actually, it was time for us to return to the ship and to end our whistle stop tour of Seoul. I think we’d had a reasonable glimpse of the city – certainly enough to whet our appetite and encourage us to find out more. We realise that we knew very little about Korean history, that I had never even heard of the main historical figures and that there was a large gap in my general knowledge about the country as a whole. Even a short visit such as this one has highlighted a few details and I am very much the richer for having been here. Isn’t that a great benefit of travelling?
Tonight, we’re rocking and rolling again on our way over to Dalian, China. The Captain has recommended we take care and secure everything overnight. Never a dull moment, eh?