With only a few days left of my trip to Seoul, I decided to do one last thing…take a self-tour using the Seoul City Tour bus, which is a “hop on-hop off” bus. For one price (12,000 won or about $12.00) you can ride this bus all day and hop on at any of the pre-determined stops and also hop off at any of those stops to see attractions or sights.I thought it would be the perfect way to get to some of the places I still wanted to visit, but were too far to walk. Sounds easy right? Wrong. It took me two days to finally figure out where the hop on-hop off stops actually were. The origination point for the “Palace Route” tour, which is one of three different routes offered, is according their website, next to the Gwanghwamun Gate.But that was several miles away, too far for me to walk. Since you can hop on (and pay) at any stop, I picked the closest stop to where I was staying, the stop for the War Memorial of Korea. I’d already been there, it was an easy 25 minute walk and even though I didn’t know the exact place that the bus stopped, I figured it would be near the museum. Wrong again. After an hour of walking up and down the street in front of the museum. I couldn’t find it. Nor did I see any of the tour buses which were supposed to come along every 20 minutes. Now what? I decided I’d take a taxi to where the bus tour is supposed to orgininate figuring it would be easy to find, or I’d at least see the buses. So off to the Gwanghwamun Gate I went and then I looked for the Seoul City Bus stop. I didn’t see it. The policeman who was standing nearby didn’t know where it was. (He didn’t speak English, and I don’t speak Korean, but I could show him on my phone where I was trying to go.) He went to ask someone and came back and pointed in the direction I should go. So I wandered that way hoping I would find it. Then I got side-tracked.
In front of the Gwanghwamun Gate, in the median of the street, city workers were busy putting up lanterns to be lit for a festival, so I took a few pictures.
And then I saw a statue farther down. I was going that way anyway, might as well check it out. Meet King Sejong, fourth king of the Josean dynasty (1418-1450). He was huge close up and if you went around the back, there were signs for a museum.Since I had time, might as well check that out too. The museum is actually below ground…and huge….more than 34,000 square feet huge. There are lots of displays about his ruling days, wars, science and technology during his reign and more. But these caught my eye….some kind of chimes.
You could spend a good bit of time down there, but I was still hoping to find the tour bus kiosk, so back up to the street I went. One thing I learned while I was down there was that during King Sejong’s reign, for the first time in Korean history, he had a new calendar created with Seoul as the meridian. The new system his astronomers created allowed Korean astronomers to accurately predict the timing of solar and lunar eclipses with a new kind of celestial globe. Which explains why this is near the statue.Walking farther down the street, I stumbled upon this sign. Well at least I knew where I was! I was here! At the red dot! But still no tour bus stop in sight. Walking a little further, I found the Seoul Visitor Center. I should have taken a picture, but printed in big letters on the tiny kiosk building were the words “This is NOT the City Tour Bus stop” along with a big red arrow that pointed farther down the street. Turns out its almost 2 blocks farther down the street. By the time I found the bus tour kiosk, it was late afternoon, and the tour I wanted to take only runs until 6:00 p.m. But since I still needed to get back, I decided to buy a ticket.I planned to hop on and maybe hop off at a few of the stops on my way to the War Memorial of Korean stop (at least I would know where it was) and then I would try again the following morning. The buses are nice and each seat is equipped with its own headphone set. By setting the language for “English”, I could hear a brief description about what to find at each stop. So I hopped off at Itaewon, which is supposed to be a great place with unique and interesting shops. Unfortunately, all I saw was office buildings, and no shopping. There are no directions at the stops to point you in the right direction when you hop off . The map that is provided with the tour only shows what the stops are, no real maps, which is not very helpful.I even tried texting my daughter for help, but even she couldn’t figure out where they let me off. So I took a picture of this sculpture and waited for the next bus.I hopped on the next bus so I could hop off at the Korean War Memorial stop. That way I would know where it was located, so I could find it the next day. I did pass by these along the way. One of the four original gates to the city, and another pavilion. When the bus stopped for the War Memorial of Korea, I almost didn’t get off because the War Memorial of Korea was nowhere in sight. But I did hop off only because I saw this sign on a post. Turns out that the stop for the War Memorial of Korea is right in front of the USO! I had walked past it almost every day and didn’t notice. But the stop is not near the War Memorial….it’s a good 20 minute walk away on a different street. So I noted the times the bus stopped here and planned my trip for the next day.
So the next day I hopped on the bus again with plans for at least hopping off at two stops, Namsangol Hanok Village and the N Seoul Tower (N stands for New, not North!). First up was the village. Nestled inbetween skyscrapers, Namsangol Hanok Village is comprised of five restored traditional Korean houses, a pavilion and gardens. Each house represents a different social class from peasants to aristocrats. The entrance is hidden down a side street, a good two blocks from the hop off spot.
Once you pass through the gates, you have an opportunity to take your picture in period costumes. (Where was my selfie stick when I needed it?)
Turning to your right is this relaxing spot. The Chunugak Pavillion.And this small pond. On the other side of the pond are the five restored houses. Eash house is furnished as it would have been according to the social class of the owner. Walking between the houses, you can take time out to play some traditional games, like tuho, which is arrow throwing. Obviously, it’s not easy, they weren’t even close. And of course, no visit to a traditional Korean village would be complete without this….kimchi pots! and a kimchi hut to do the cooking! Onward to another house…the aristocrats….money speaks and it means a larger house and more ornate furniture. This house was my last stop….not the last thing to see, just my last stop. See that step?I took a bad step off the side to avoid some children running up to see the house…..and ended up with this. (warning: it’s not pretty). So I’ll show you some flowers in case you want to scroll quickly and pass by. So I very slowly made my way back to the entrance. Very. Very. Slowly. Although I did stop a few times to rest and take a picture, like when these two walked by dressed in traditional Korean costume. My daughter, after much texting and Google mapping figured out where I was, picked me up and took me to the emergency room at the USAG-Yongsan hospital. Here I got the news that I had broken my right ankle, and they gave me the souvenirs that you never want to take home from a trip….a fancy boot and crutches.I had been planning to see this later in the day, the N Seoul Tower, but this is the only view I got of it….taken while I was hobbling out of the Namsangol Hanok Village. It will have to wait for another trip to Korea.
John McEwen said:
I’m so sorry you broke your ankle Pat. I enjoyed reading about your sightseeing tour but painful. I pray that you mend with no complications.
I’m working on it! It’s been 8 weeks and still in the boot. Healing slower than the doctor would like. But slow and steady wins the race, right?