Shawo, our good friend and willing guide, showed us the University where he is completing his studies. Sungkyunkwan University was founded in 1398, and is the oldest university in East Asia. Sungkyunkwan means “make harmonious institute” in Korean. It was founded in the 14th century, and think how relevant its name still is today!
We visited Shawo’s flat at the University and toured the University grounds, a combination of contemporary buildings and historic ones. Lucky for us that the historic buildings were open on this day. And the gingko trees were especially spectacular in their fall color.
Click on photos to enlarge.
On our way to the University from Insadong, we walked through the Changdeokgung Palace. The grounds are famous for their beautiful gardens integrated into the landscape, and it was a royal residence until recently. It was so extensive we had to pay two entrance fees to get through the entire area. The architecture was grand, stocky and ornate.
Other vast palaces we visited were the Gyeongbokgung Palace where we arrived too late to enter. It was interesting to notice how much space in the center of modern Seoul was dedicated to the ancient culture. Notice Bugaksan Mountain rising in the distance.
Adjacent to Gyeongbokgung Palace is one of the largest boulevards in the heart of Seoul, where democracy expresses itself with many protests on the wide plaza. There are large statues of important historic figures, one of them King Sejong, who created the Korean Hangul script in 1443. Hangul only became the main script after Korea’s independence from Japanese colonial rule in 1945. Notice how King Sejong is flanked by the iconic Mt. Bugaksan and a massive high-tech digital display. How about that for contrasts…nature, ancient history and digital prowess.
One photo that got away from us showed an archeological dig that revealed the floor plan of a old village, centuries before the modern city arose. It was uncovered while excavating to build the skyscaper next to it. You can look down through glass panels and see the remnants of the village.
On our way to a coffee shop one morning, we enjoyed a walk through the Jogyesa Buddhist temple grounds. This temple was an important bastion of Korean Buddhism during the Japanese colonial period. It was Sunday, and many of the congregation were chanting outside. Very colorful with all the flowers!
Here are a few more scenes of our wanderings in Seoul.
This time, we decided to eschew the labyrinthian 1 1/2 hour subway ride to Incheon Airport and take a taxi. We were wowed by its design and amenities. The restroom in the round near our gate was by far the most impressive! We enjoyed one last latte with Shawo, and the last of the red bean jellies! We don’t know where our next visit with Shawo will take place, but we are looking forward to it!
I guess by now you recognize the approach to Kathmandu. Nepal, here we come!