Temples, Palaces and More in Seoul

Our first full day in Seoul was jam packed with a full sightseeing tour.  Since there would be a lot of walking involved, we made sure to grab some food at the hotel buffet.  By the time we arrived they were out of some things, but I managed to take a few pictures.
I think this was some sort of tofu dish.
Some salad, which is very popular for breakfasts in other countries, but not so much in the US.
I couldn't help but laugh at this.  
And then I really couldn't help but laugh at this.  The first stop of the tour was at the same temple that was across from where we dined the night before.  So at this point we had only made it this far in Seoul.  Too funny that we started the day where we ended it the night before. 

This temple is known as Jogyesa Buddhist Temple.

Here is a 10 story pagoda.
Lots of colors here, which is one thing I love about temples in Asia.

Inside the temple you can see the various Buddha statues.
There are always ornate wood workings and paintings on these buildings. 

It's been painted somewhat recently.
Here I am with my sister with Buddha in the background.

Our next "stop" was a drive by the Blue House.  This is where the President lives, so similar to the White House in the US.  It is hard to see, but it is the building just below the mountain.
Our next stop was to the National Folk Museum.  This would have been ok if we had more time and the layout was easier to follow (we got "lost" a few times).  There were also tons of other tour groups and some were not as polite as you would hope in a museum.  There were signs everywhere that said no flash for pictures and at one point I was blind from all the flashes going off.  They spoke no English at all so when I tried to explain this to them they grunted in my face a little to close for my comfort.  It was really not a good start to the day.
Here here a fun looking statue on the way up to the museum entrance.
This was pretty cool, but since the tour guide took off and I couldn't keep up, I have no idea what this was.
Here is my sister at the entrance.
Some of the cooler displays were off traditional foods, like kimchi.
Cute little statues of food preparation.

Here is a bed display.  I have no idea if this was a representation of historical beds or if this is something some people may still use, or if it represented something special, like royalty or special visitors to a home.
This is a school/classroom display.
This was a wedding scene.  This is where we were blinded by the tour groups unable to turn their flashes off (despite the sign showing no flash, not even written in any language, which you would think would be universal, but sadly, it is not).

This looked really cool, but I don't know what it was representing.
Next we headed over to Gyeongbokgung Palace, which was built back in 1395.  For the most part the guide was light years ahead of us and did not want to slow down for those of us behind her.  With a larger group it was hard for everyone to stay up front and hear her.  Just we just went at our own pace and took pictures along the way.  I think she was in a hurry so we could make it to the changing of the guards on time.

Here is Rachel in one area of the Palace grounds.

Here you can see inside and get an idea of the furniture.  I believe this was the King's bed chamber.
Really beautiful ceiling.
Also in the King's room.
Here are more pictures around the palace grounds.  There were many buildings on the property, each with it's own function and use.
Here I am!

You can get an idea of the sprawling layout here.

This is the very front of the Palace entrance.  We came through from the back side.
This would be a main courtyard.
Here I am with my sister at the front.
Then we quickly exited the area so we were right out front for the changing of the guards.  It is always fun to watch the formality of this ceremony.  No matter what country you are in it is always something that you can tell is very traditional, very formal, and highly regarded by the people.

As the crowd dispersed I went back over to take a picture of the front gate.
I also headed back in just to take a better picture of the entire front of the palace area just through the main courtyard area.
After some of the people cleared out, my sister and I were able to take a picture with one of the guards.
Our next stop was one of those "tourist" stops where you get stuck at when you are with a guided tour. It happens everywhere.  Sometimes they are good, but other times you can't believe you are stuck there.    The actual concept here was interesting enough but we really had no interest at all and we were trapped in a small room with the sales people who really wanted us to buy something.  Plus, it was right before lunch and we were just ready to eat.
Lunch was at this restaurant, although I can't read the sign to know what it is called.
Of course lunch started with all kinds of kimchi.  If I could handle super spicy I think I would have liked these more.
Lunch was bibimbap, and I was excited that they served all of us vegetarian meals that day.  Bibimbap is a rice dish topped with veggies and served in a hot stone dish.  It has an egg on top too, but I noticed here the egg was cooked.  When we get it in Japan the egg is still raw, which does not surprise me since raw egg on top of hot food is common in Japan.  It ends up getting cooked in as you mix up the dish.  The bibimbap was pretty good, although I would have liked it to get a little more crispy.
After lunch we headed to Changdeokgung Palace, another one of the Palaces in Seoul.
This palace was a lot less crowded and easier to maneuver.  If the weather had been a little better I think it would have looked a lot pretty in my pictures.  In person it was definitely a lot nicer looking.

Here I am in front of one of the buildings.  The layout of this Palace is a little different but the colors and style is similar.

I always love to look at the detail in the paint and word work, especially of the ceilings.  They are really beautiful.
Plus, they use a lot of pink...so that helps to make it look pretty!

This area would be where servants would be.

This is the furniture inside one of the rooms.  It wasn't Korean furniture because they used other furniture since it was more highly regarded and royalty liked to use imported furniture, at least that is what our guide told us.

I liked how quiet and peaceful it was in the courtyard area.

Tiny doorway, or at least it looked on the smaller side.

One last picture at this palace.
That was it for our all day touring.  The final part was one of the famous markets but it was loaded with Chinese goods and too crowded for my tastes, and the tour guide literally ran us straight through it, so I didn't even take any pictures.  

Once we got back to the hotel we were hungry, so we stopped in the 7-11 attached to the hotel.  These oreos were so intriguing that we tried them.  Big mistake!  They were so gross!  They tasted a little minty too, which isn't good for me.  I have no idea how we missed the flavor on the front (we knew it was ice cream) but after checking back in the 7-11 we learned these were blueberry.  Trust me, these were not blueberry!
After a short rest we headed out to dinner.  On the way we found this street vendor with these yummy looking egg treats.  I asked the vendor and she assured me there was no meat in these, so I tried one.  Oh wow!  These were amazing.  By far one of the best street foods I had ever had.  These were corn bread on the bottom topped with an egg.  Nothing else.  So simple and so tasty.
As we were exploring the area by our hotel for dinner we found this place, Wanchu.  That's right, there is a churro place in Seoul.  I actually think there are other locations.  But we found this one and it was too fun looking to pass up trying.  
Let's call this an appetizer.  Yes, I am well aware this does not count as an appetizer, but when exploring a very foreign country on vacation sometimes dinner comes first.  Yes, I am confessing this.  The reason: we weren't sure we would back track on the way back to the hotel and we were hungry and still hadn't found a good place for dinner yet.  Hence, churros before dinner.  Rachel had a plain one and I had one filled with chocolate.
On our search for dinner, we came across the Ho Bar.  That's right, churros and a Ho Bar in Seoul.
We were in a fun area packed with restaurants in bars that was very close to our hotel, which was awesome.  We had little pressure because we were so close and we didn't have to worry about a long trip back to our room.  So we spent some time looking around.
We ended up at a restaurant called PhoMein.  Rachel was on the hunt for some Pho and I can't get any near me in Japan so I was happy to have it too.  The tough part was finding a spot with a fish or seafood (or purely vegetarian) broth.  PhoMein had it and the server we asked about this was exceptionally nice and helpful.  So we ordered the seafood pho and decided to enjoy a local Korean beer, Cass.  It was actually better than I thought.
With our pho we were served these condiments.  The bean sprouts are my favorite.  
And here is out lovely big bowl of Pho, which we shared.  Yummy!
And what did we do after a long day on our feet?  We tried out these foot masks from Nature Republic, which is a popular Korean store sort of like Bath and Body Works.  They were awesome!  They were great for our feet and nice and relaxing after our delicious dinner.
QUESTIONS:  Have you ever had a bad sightseeing experience?  Ever had a tour guide that you couldn't keep up with or hear them speak?  

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