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An Old Seoul: Exploring Gyeongbokgung Palace

Seoul is a vibrant and bustling city that has glitzy shopping centers and high rise office buildings, but exploring the city will take you back centuries to the time when the city was ruled by kings. A trip to Gyeongbokgung Palace will allow you to travel back in time.

Exploring Gyeongbokgung Palace

Built in 1395, this historical structure was the main royal palace of the Joseon Dynasty. It is the largest of the Five Grand Palaces constructed by the dynasty. It was used as the home of the kings, their households and the government.

Walking inside the complex was like traveling back in time. Guards dressed in traditional clothing roamed its streets.

Other than the royal guards, some Koreans visited the palace grounds to take photos dressed in traditional wear.

At different times, the palace complex was partially damaged, whether by a war or by invaders such as the Japanese. The government always does their part in restoring the complex to its former glory. This shows the importance that the Koreans place on preserving their history and culture.

The palace complex has many sections, catering to the different needs of the royal family. In many instances, I couldn't tell the difference between the structures, because they all looked the same. A walk inside the palace grounds was in contrast to the modern sprawl just outside of it. Amidst the glitzy shopping districts and high-rise buildings, there is the relic of the past reminding one of the greatness of this country.

Exploring the palace ground was like walking into a time warp. Korea was already a rich country centuries ago; with their own culture, science and architecture. Walking in and out of the grounds and the city was like walking into the same place, but a different epoch.

I could imagine the bustle that the palace complex sees everyday, officials and locals coming and going, the clopping of horses and shop owners bartering their goods just outside the walls. Fast forward into the 21st century, one could see and experience similar things; shopping districts, buzzing financial centers and cars whirring to and fro just outside the palace walls.

I discovered that the palaces in Japan and Korea have a few things in common, one of which is, there is always a garden in the palace grounds. It creates an atmosphere of serenity and maybe allows the king to clear his mind and think.

The highlight of a visit to the palace is the changing of the guards. Many tourists gather around the entrance to watch this spectacle.

Royal guards in traditional wear parade and stand in formation with weapons and flags and all. The show only took a few minutes, but it was quite a show.

Exploring Gyeongbokgung Palace is a learning experience and provides visitors with a glimpse into Korea's storied past and culture.

*I bought the combination ticket that costs W10,000, which included this palace and four other places (Changdeokgung, Changgyeonggung and Deoksugung Palaces, and Jongmyo Shrine).

Read more about Seoul here: Guide to Seoul.

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