Seoul Trip Oct 2019 – Gyeongbokgung Palace

Traditional Korean Palace guards coming in from Gwanghwamun Gate.

21st Oct 2019 (5th Day in Seoul)

Gyeongbokgung Station

I was looking forward to finally visit one of the palaces in Seoul. The first of the two palaces I visited during this trip, I must say we came a little unprepared, but thankfully, I must say things worked out in our favour at the end.

Around 1130 am, we arrived at Gyeongbokgung Station. We followed the signs on the wall and we found ourselves all the way outside of the palace wall. Decided that we should have something to eat before entering the palace and since there is nothing here outside, we made a U-turn back down the the metro station, walked through it and resurfaced from another exit.

As usual, we had to walk around a bit, searching for and debating over a place to eat. It is not like Constant Companion RR and I are arguing and contesting with each other for our preferred restaurant. The problem is that we always worry that there might be a better choice a little way down the road which makes us hesitate to immediately commit to a restaurant.

Kopitiam Singapore Toast Cafe

That afternoon, we settled for a cafe with a name that is awfully close to my heart. Unfortunately, the cafe, “Kopitiam Singapore Toast Cafe”, has nothing much to offer which is related to my home country, Singapore or an actual “kopitiam” (translation: coffee “kopi” and shop “tiam”), except for mentioning them in its name.

The setting of the restaurant, though comfortable and cosy, clearly did not take any inspiration from “Singapore” or “Kopitiam”. A quick browse through their menu, I saw only a couple of items which is relevant to my small little South-East Asia country.

One of those items, is “kaya” which is basically coconut jam. Out of curiosity, I ordered their “kaya” toast set with a “royal milk tea” and Constant Companion RR had american-style pancakes with black coffee. The “kaya” is different from what we have at home, probably made that way to suit the taste of the locals. The food was not bad by any standard, but nothing to dream about at night. Just another trendy cafe to hang out with friends or rest your tired feet.

Changing of Guards Ceremony

Not wanting to waste any more time, Constant Companion RR and I headed straight back down to the metro station and made our way again up to the exit where the palace is.

After buying the admission tickets from the ticketing hut, we were just standing around taking pictures, when suddenly an announcement was made over the PA system. The “Changing of Palace Guards” ceremony was just about to commence at Gwanghwamun Gate.

What good luck!

Slowly, the crowds started to head towards the Gwanghwanmun Gate to witness the ceremony. Since Constant Companion RR and I were already inside the compound of Gwanghwamun Gate, we watched the ceremony from within. Due to my disadvantageous position, I did not bother to take any pictures of the actual ceremony. My camera has a fixed lens and there were a lot of people standing between me and the ceremony.

Instead, I thought a couple of steps ahead and moved myself to a place where I could catch the guards marching back in.

I caught everything on my camera, snapping away as the guards return back from the ceremony. It should probably be easier if I have taken video instead of multiple shots of the guards’ return.

Gyeongbokgung Palace

Constant Companion RR and I toured Gyeongbokgung Palace, and like the hundreds of visitors there that day, we were busy taking pictures. For me, I had a wonderful time looking for photography opportunities and interesting lighting while composing shots in my head. Whenever I saw a nice spot to photograph Constant Companion RR, I would inform her and get her into position.

There I would verbally, sometimes physically, fine tuned her position depending on the composition of my desired shot. The posing and expression part were Constant Companion RR‘s responsibilities. More often than not, the “candid” pictures where she was not staring straight at the camera, look a lot more natural and appealing. Of course, I have plenty of shots where because how unnatural her pose and expression were, she ended up looking like a mannequin.

I was toying with the various “film filters” available on my Fujifilm X100F. By the end of that day, I have a new found appreciation for my somewhat new camera.

Almost as much as I enjoy taking pictures, Constant Companion RR enjoys having her pictures taken.

I do not recall seeing any panels displaying information regarding what certain things/ buildings were and what were their purpose, so I did not learn anything throughout the tour. It was basically a historical site where visitors can doll up traditionally and have their pictures taken in a traditional setting.

For those who are interested in learning more about the palace’s history, perhaps consider hiring a guide.

A Movie in a Tiny, Underground Theatre

That evening, we caught the movie, “The Joker” in a tiny movie theatre located in the basement of some office building in the middle of nowhere. We managed to find this theatre thanks to Google. It is not in the kind of neighbourhood where one will expect to find a cinema; we have walked past the building a couple of days before and we did not notice its movie theatre.

I mean the theatre is clean and comfortable at least. The picture and sound, clear. Not too bad really. The only issue was there was nothing in the vicinity to hang out before the movie starts. We backtracked a bit and had a dinner of porridge.

The restaurant seems to be endorsed heavily by the male Korean star of the hit movie, “Train to Busan”; there are large pictures of him all over. Pretty good porridge too.

After dinner, we headed back to the cinema and watched, “The Joker”. I thought the movie is very engaging; I felt bad how things went for the main character.

Winner winner… Chicken Supper?

On our way back to our hotel, by foot of course, we came across this fried chicken restaurant. With the blessing and permission of Constant Companion RR, we went in and ate some fried chicken.

The lady attendant was kind enough to stop us from ordering too much; we wanted to add some fries after we ordered the salad and fried chicken, she shook her head and informed us that would be too much. I am grateful for her kind gesture because Constant Companion RR took maybe, at most 2 pieces of the chicken which meant I had to finish basically the entire thing by myself.

And I did not… Well, it was more like I could not. Maybe half way through, I was aware that finishing everything would be impossible, so I started to pace myself and worked on the flavour which I enjoyed the most, first. There was a guy by himself on another table, with the same order of “three flavours fried chicken” sitting infront of him. He had a pint of beer which he asked for refill and he was watching his phone, occasionally popping a piece of chicken into his mouth and then chewed almost reluctantly. I bet it was too much for him too.

My order of fried chicken came in three flavours; a spicy one with a ball of mashed potato, one with garlic sauce and lastly, teriyaki sauce with fried rice cake. Personally, I enjoyed the garlic one the most because it was savoury. Without the sauces though, it was just chunks of fried chicken breasts which is fine when served hot. But as time went by, the meat seemed to get drier as it got colder. I mean I do not expect much from a small neighbourhood fried chicken joint. It was a serviceable first, and only time during that trip, Korean fried chicken in Korea.

After that, we took the Metro back to our hotel. I was already limping due to the growing blister on my tiny right toe.

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