ANNYEONG! The rising temperature in Bacolod makes me crave for some cooler weather. The first thing that springs in my mind, no pun intended, is that while it is summer in the Philippines, it is springtime in South Korea, which takes me back to that cold spring I spent in Seoul a few years ago.
My friend and I timed our trip in the first week of April, hoping to experience the cherry blossoms. The tail end of winter seemed to linger as frost were still melting, preventing the flower buds to fully open up as the new season enters. We experienced a few rain and a lot of sun, as well as plenty of cold air. But more than just the weather, we enjoyed the sights and ambiance of Seoul.
We toured the city all by ourselves, as we usually do since we are more of a DIY (do-it-yourself) type of travelers. There was a day wherein we availed of the hop-on hop-off bus, which only costs around ? P450 for a day. Here are the attractions you can enjoy when you are in Seoul.
• Gyeongbokgung Palace. It is the main palace of the royal family during the time of the Joseon dynasty. You can tour the palace grounds and its various buildings. Watch out for the Hyangwonjeong Pavilion, a structure built on an artificial island in a pond inside the compound.
• Gwanghwamun Square. Across the main gate of the Gyeongbokgung Palace is the open-space plaza of Gwanghwamun, which features the statues of King Sejong and Admiral Yi Sun-sin. Beneath these statues is an underground museum that exhibits historical information of both leaders and other stories about South Korea.
• Changdeokgung Palace. This palace has imposing gardens. Because its structures blend well with the natural setting, it has been included in the Unesco World Heritage List in 1997.
• Bukchon Hanok Village. A walking distance outside Changdeokgung is the Bukchon Hanok Village where a traditional Korean village is found. There are portions within the vicinity, such as a school, that were used as a setting in some Korean soap operas.
• Namsangol Korean Village. The village features traditional homes of Korean citizenry with items of their trade. While we toured the village the N Seoul Tower loomed behind the clouds.
• N Seoul Tower. The broadcast and communications tower of Namsanis is also a tourist attraction with its observation deck, shops, restaurants and museum. Many climb this tower for the city view.
• Myeondong. If you are up for some shopping escapade, Myeondong is the venue of many Korean brands and international shops. It is also here where the Myeondong Cathedral, the first Catholic parish, is located.
• Namdaemun Market. Now, if you are looking for a traditional market, then Namdaemun is the one for you. Namdaeumun Market, one of the oldest in the country, has many small shops, street foods, and other local goods.
• Hongdae. We stayed in the Hongdae area, which abounds with arts and music, as well as youthful activities, especially that it is near Hongik University.
• Yeouiseo-ro Road (formerly Yunjung-ro Road). On our last day in Seoul, we went to Yeouido, an island in the Han River, to look for the street near the National Assembly Building where there are over 1,000 cherry blossom trees. However, we only saw around two trees in full bloom while the rest are still in buds.
All photos are by this author. Claire Marie Algarme blogs at http://firsttimetravels.com. Follow her as @firsttimetravel on Twitter and Instagram and like her Facebook page First-time Travels.
Published in the SunStar Bacolod newspaper on May 19, 2017.
Latest issues of SunStar Bacolod also available on your mobile phones, laptops, and tablets. Subscribe to our digital editions at epaper.sunstar.com.ph and get a free seven-day trial.