Bird Watching 12 days
- Birding in Cheolwon
- Baekmagoji Hill
- Labor Party Building
- Ganghwa History Museum
- Ganghwa Dolmen
- Jeondeungsa Temple
- Haemi Fortress
- Birding in Cheonsuman Bay
- Sudeoksa Temple
- Gongju National Museum
- Songsanri Tombs
- Gungnamji Pond
- Jeongrimsa Pagoda
- Buyeo National Museum
- Busosan Fortress
- Birding at Geumgang Estuary
- Naesosa Temple
- Gochang Dolmen Museum
- Dolmen Park
- Birding in Haenam
- Birding in Gangjin
- Tea Plantation
- Birding at Suncheon Bay
- Hwaeomsa Temple
- Hwagae Market
- Birding at Junam Reservoir
- Birding at Nakdong Delta
- Yongdusan Park
- Jagalchi Fish Market
- Seokguram Grotto
- Bulguksa Temple
- Gyeongju National Museum
- Cheomseongdae Astronomical Observatory
- Tumuli Park
- Gyeongbokgung Palace
- National Folk Museum of Korea
- Insa-dong Antique Shop Street
- Namdaemun Market
The tour runs from November to March.
|Days||Visits and Activities||Distance|
|Day 1||Arrive Seoul||60km|
|Day 2||Seoul - Cheolwoon||100km|
|Day 3||Cheolwon - Gangwha - Suwon||240km|
|Day 4||Suwon - Haemi - Anmyeon||150km|
|Day 5||Anmyeon - Yesan - Gongju - Buyeo||160km|
|Day 6||Buyeo - Gunsan - Buan - Gochang - Mokpo||260km|
|Day 7||Mokpo - Haenam - Gangjin - Boseong - Suncheon||240km|
|Day 8||Suncheon - Gurye - Hadong - Changwon||240km|
|Day 9||Changwon - Busan - Gyeongju||260km|
|Day 11||Gyeongju - Seoul||360km|
Day 1 Arrive Seoul (- - -)
Touching down at Incheon International Airport places you in the heart of Korea. After you clear Passport and Customs control, your tour guide will greet you at the main passenger terminal and transport you to your hotel.
Day 2 Seoul - Cheolwon (B) 100km
Travel to Cheolwon for birding. Cheolwon Plain is the most popular area in Korea for visiting cranes. In addition to cranes, other rare birds, such as the whooper swan, bean goose, hen harrier, marsh harrier, goshawk, common buzzard, and eagle owl, have also been observed here. In recent years, the number of eagles flying in from Mongolia has shown a sharp rise. In 1999, only eight eagles were observed, but this count ballooned to 475 in 2003 and 386 in 2004, with anywhere from 300 to 500 annual sightings.
Cheolwon is one of the bloodiest battle fields during the Korean War. One such site is Baekmagoji Hill. During one 10-day offensive, ownership of the hill switched 24 times. A monument stands tall there honoring the soldiers who lost their lives in the battle to defend the hill and Baegma Museum speaks to the battle with bazooka guns, ammunition, and other items used at the time. Then, visit the ruins of a Russian style structure - Labor Party Building. This is a three-story, non-iron concrete building that was completed on 1946 with the compulsory labor and fund-raising under the communist government. The North Koreans used this building to promote communist politics and control people until the outbreak of the Korean War. This is a locale where they committed numerous brutal attacks and killed many people. The traces of the history remaining in the building include many bullet holes on the back of this building, sickles, wires, and human bones.
Day 3 Cheolwon - Ganghwa - Suwon (B) 240km
Travel to Ganghwado, a fascinating island that is often called a microcosm of Korean history. But, due to its strategic location, Ganghwado has historically been one of the first targets of many foreign attacks particularly in the late 19th century when Korea unsuccessfully sought to maintain its status as a "Hermit Kingdom".
Each year, some 70 to 100 black-faced spoonbills have been observed along the coastal tidelands of Ganghwado Island covering an area of 450 square kilometers. The black-faced spoonbill breeds, represents the single largest area to be designated for the protection of migratory birds. This region is not only a critical habitat for the black-faced spoonbill, but the expansive tidelands of southern Ganghwado Island and the islands nearby serve as vital stopover sites for migratory birds, which breed in areas such as Siberia and Alaska, and briefly visit here on their way to Japan, Australia, and New Zealand.
Ganghwa History Museum provides glimpse into the historical records of the entire spectrum of Korean existence, from the mythical foundation of Korea to the opening port to the outside World marked by Ganghwado Treaty signed in February 1876. On the nearby ground sits a huge Ganghwa Jiseokmyo Dolmen. This 53-ton capstone of 6.4 meters long, 5.2 meters wide and 1 meter thick rests on two sturdy supporting prop stones. This prehistoric dolmen including many others in Gochang and Hwasun has been registered by UNESCO in December 2002 as a World Heritage for their archaeological value.
You will experience Ginseng market which has a good smell, better than it tastes. There are small stalls in the building type market, all of which has piles of fresh ginseng roots, ginseng preserved in wine in fancy bottles, dried ginseng, tea, extract, candy, and honey ginseng slices. This mysterious root has historically been considered an empowering medicine and a cure-all; effective in recovering the liver's functions, improving anticancer and immunity functions, and treating diabetes, hypertension, low blood pressure and stress. Ginseng also facilitates recovery from fatigue and the activation of nervous cells. Apart from the ginseng, you will enjoy a typical example of local market where many elderly women selling fishes, home-grown vegetables and grains on the roadsides nearby.
Jeondeungsa is an active Buddhist temple dating back to 381 providing a glimpse into Buddhist culture. The temple came into prominence during the late Goryeo period (918-1392) when King Gojong commissioned the famous Tripitaka Koreana wood blocks to be carved there which are now preserved in Haeinsa temple. The main worship hall is dedicated to Sakyamuni Buddha. The Buddha is flanked on the left by Manjusri, the Bodhisattva of Perfect Wisdom, and on the right by Samantabhadra, the Bodhisattva of Perfect Compassionate Action. As you approach the hall, look carefully way up in the eaves at the corners of the roof, and there you can just see tiny human figures, one at each corner. One version says that the forsaken carpenter carved his two-timing girl up in the rafters, eternally bearing the burden of her deceitfulness. You will see a dharma bell dating back to 1097, the only Chinese bell designated a Korean treasure.
Chojijin speaks to the battles against foreign powers. In 1866 the Korean court came to blows with the French campaign led by Admiral Pierre-Gustave Roze in retaliation for the earlier execution by Korea's Joseon dynasty of French Catholic priests proselytizing in Korea. In 1871 the United States expedition, the Sinmiyangyo, was the first American military action in Korea to avenge the General Sherman incident near Pyeongyang. The expedition consisted of about 650 men, over 500 sailors and 100 marines, as well as five warships. On board the Colorado was Rear Admiral John Rodgers, also Frederick F. Low, the United States Ambassador to China. And in 1875 the collision with the Japanese ship Unyomaru.
Day 4 Suwon - Haemi - Anmyeon (B) 150km
Travel to Anmyeondo for birding. En route, stop off at Haemi Fortress. It is one of the holy places for the Catholics. Haemi has been the military base since the construction of fortress in 1491. The fortress has an oval shape and measures 5m high and 1,810m long. Architecture aside, Haemi Fortress's historical importance is closely tied with the history of the Catholic Church in Korea. It was here that many Catholics were executed during the Byeongin Persecution of 1866, and the fortress and its surroundings are considered holy ground by Korean Catholics. The memorial is dedicated to those who martyred here. The rock to the right of the memorial is particularly macabre - some of the victims were executed by ramming their heads repeatedly into the stone. Near the fortress is Yeosutgol holy site, where Catholics were buried alive, drowned and otherwise made dead en masse. The pope Francis visited the Haemi Martyrdom Holy Ground and the Haemi Fortress to meet with Asian bishops and closing mass for Asian Youth Day on August 17, 2014 during his five days trip to Korea.
Birding in Cheonsuman Bay. This shallow water and a large tidal range was turned into a farm land after a large-scale reclamation project in the 1980s, creating 155 square kilometers of land from the sea. This manmade habitat has resulted in an ideal environment for winter birds. The natural wetlands and huge lake of Cheonsuman Bay offer a virtual winter paradise for attracting migratory birds, including the mallard, spot-billed duck, diving duck, red-throated loon, little grebe, and various types of wild geese. The Baikal teal, the smallest and most handsome of the duck species, visits Korea every year. Other annual visitors, such as wild geese, are being increasingly observed at Cheonsuman Bay, along the west coast, which is expected to emerge as a new Garden of Eden for migratory birds. Anmyeondo is an island with its lovely beaches lined with pines, and its stunning view of sunset. The island is now connected with the mainland by the completion of a dike near Cheonsuman Bay.
Day 5 Anmyeon - Yesan - Gongju - Buyeo (B) 160km
With time for birding in the morning, visit the 6th century Sudeoksa temple. The temple is rather unremarkable, laid out along a more-or-less central axis with the standard entry sequence of multiple gates placed on land that slopes up toward the main courtyard. The main worship hall is an original structure built in 1308, thought to be one of the oldest wooden buildings in the country. Another piece of architecture worthy of note is the 14th century stone pagoda standing in the main courtyard. It is a beautifully-balanced Goryeo period pagoda, an elegant 4.1 meter-high 3 storied stone pagoda.
Gongju is a charming city that once served as the Baekje's capital for 63 years from 475 to 538. Today, you will explore archaeological sites and ancient historic areas, which were collectively named as a UNESCO World Heritage sites. Visit Gongju National Museum and get a glimpse of the fascinating archaeological articles from Baekje (BC18-AD660) era, and artifacts excavated from the royal tomb of King Muryeong (501-524), one of the last rulers to reign in the capital of Gongju. Near museum is Songsanri Tombs, a group of royal tombs that just look like a cluster of grassy knolls. The tomb which belongs to King Muryeong (462-523) and his wife, the queen was found completely intact since it was sealed in the early 6th century. The actual tomb was permanently closed, but you will see an excellent, albeit miniature duplicate.
Buyeo is a melting pot of Baekje culture which is often regarded as the most artistically sophisticated of the Three Kingdoms. Gungnamji is the Korea's oldest artificial pond dating back to 634. Ringed by weeping willow trees, it creates a colorful spectacle with its stock of water lotuses in summer. Jeongrimsa temple site with its five-storied stone pagoda recalling the glorious past is one of the city's most distinctive and outstanding landmarks.
At Buyeo National Museum, you will feel the spirit and the essence of the brilliant Baekje culture as you appreciate the beauty of the archaeological relics. A beautiful gilt bronze incense burner is impossible to miss. Crafted over 1,500 years ago, it shows a graceful dignity and the elaborate skills of Baekje craftsmen.
Stroll up paths to Busosan to explore Baekje fortification. At the top of the hill sits Yeongillu pavilion where the king once came to watch the sun rise over his kingdom. A little further down the trail, you will see a pavilion called Baekhwajeong perched at the top of the rock beside which locates Nakhwaam, literally meaning Falling Flower Rock, on a bluff overlooking the Geum River at the bend called Baekma. As enemies swarmed into the capital, the court ladies flung themselves into the water from this bluff rather than suffer the shame of submitting to atrocities of the conquering enemy armies.
If timing works out, visit Baekje Culture Complex. It is a history theme park with its Sabigung palace, the example of the palace from the three kingdom era, an elegant 5 story wooden pagoda, and a fascinating museum where you may observe the history and culture of the glorious kingdom.
Day 6 Buyeo - Gunsan - Buan - Gochang - Mokpo (B) 260km
Birding in Geumgang estuary. The lake formed by the dike in the mouth of Geumgang River with its huge area of reed field, is an ideal habitat for migratory birds. They used to flock to the area 10,000 every year, but the number doubled in 1995. Currently, a total of 450,000 birds of 100 different kinds such as oystercatchers, gulls, swans and mallards fly into the habitat during winter.
Then, enjoy driving over the 33km-long dyke. This seawall, located on the southwest coast of the Korean peninsula, is the world's longest man-made dyke linking two headlands from the industrial port city of Gunsan to Buan.
While in Buan, visit Naesosa. At its entrance, fir trees stand tall providing a tunnel through which you will walk to the main gate of the Buddha's world. Unlike most of the Korean temples, Naesosa is less colorful, mostly bare wood, with a few faded murals on the ceiling and beams inside the temple. It is an immensely tranquil place. Nothing is out of place, nothing is hurried or loud, everything moves on slowly, steadily, towards no specific end. Timeless is too brief for this place.
Tour also includes Gochang Dolmen Museum providing a comprehensive information about Dolmen with its theme park featuring a life-size village replica. It is an excellent facility that gives visitors an idea of Bronze Age culture, including quarry, transportation, construction, burial and tomb formats, rituals, relics excavated in Gochang, and life of the pre-historic people. Near the museum is Dolmen Park, the largest concentration of dolmens perhaps anywhere in the world. A total of 447 dolmens of various types are scattered at the foot of a series of hills. Generally, the capstones of the dolmens are around 1 to 5.8 m in length and may weigh up to 225 tons.
Later, travel to Mokpo embracing thousands of islands. The port was first opened to the west in October 1897. Today, the city has grown up as a modern city with 260,000 people. It is a starting point of the national railroad Honamseon. The city also serves as the launching point for tours of the archipelagos off the shore.
Day 7 Mokpo - Haenam - Gangjin - Boseong - Suncheon (B) 240km
Birding in Haenam. The Haenam region with its extensive dammed lakes and fields is most probably the most important wintering area for waterfowl nationwide with an estimated 300,000 plus individuals and 7 species in internationally important concentrations as defined by the Ramsar Convention. Especially Gocheonam Lake is the most significant of the Baikal Teal Anas Formosa. Ducks, geese, Oriental Stork, raptors and Chinese Grey Shrike are all possible here.
Gangjin Bay is a home for wintering swans. Other birds such as Whooper Swan, Common Shelduck, Mallard as well as some Common Teal and Spot-billed Duck, Egret, Grey Heron, Snipe Common Merganser, Little Grebe, Tufted Duck, Kentish Plover, Dunlin, and Grey Starling are possibly spotted here.
En route stop at Boseong, known as the home of tea, hemp clothes and Sori or a Korean traditional genre of singing. A number of tea plantations where the carefully trimmed tea trees stretch endlessly over steep mountain slopes - a lush green carpet that is a sight to behold. A short walk along the path lined with cedar trees that had been planted to block the wind leads you to the tea plantation delightfully accommodating visitors. The tea bushes rising in regular curves are great. Here, you will freely roam the hills, walk between the rows of bushes and take pictures of each other at every bend.
Birding in Suncheon Bay. This bay is famous for its huge wetland area filled with reed field and perhaps the last habitat of rare bird species. This area is now receiving worldwide attention for being a treasure trove with a boundless natural ecology. A four-kilometer stretch, from where two stream merge and then make their way to Suncheon Bay, is home to vast reed fields that sway like waves in the wind. The greenish reed shoots of spring endure the muggy season and produce white blossoms in winter. The reed fields creates a romantics atmosphere for its graceful tranquility. Suncheon Bay is a wintering site for groups of the hooded crane and also a critical area for the black-faced spoonbill, whooper swan, Saunder's gull, black-winged stilt, mallard, green-winged teal, and common shelduck and other rare birds. In spring and autumn, the dunlin, whimbrel, greenshank, terek sandpiper, eastern curlew, and other birds are regular visitors to the area. Every winter some 150 to 200 whistling swans come to the coastal area near Pyeongsa-ri Tolsaneup until early March. It is the sole wintering site existing in Korea for the hooded crane, while its tidelands and reed fields are home to some 140 species of migratory birds, including 11 natural monuments such as the black-faced spoonbill. Suncheon Bay is strategically located along the twice-yearly migration routes taken by various birds, along with serving as an essential stopover area for snipes, in particular, which migrate between Australia and Siberia.
Day 8 Suncheon - Gurye - Hadong - Changwon (B) 240km
You will explore the 6th century Hwaeomsa. The temple is dedicated to the vairocana Buddha, the cosmic head of the Hwaeom trinity. First, One-Pillar Gate standing at the lower part greets you and leads you up to the second and the third gate - from the secular world into the spiritual world. On the second level, there is the Bojeru, the Save All Beings Hall, beside which stands bell and drum tower and two magnificent 5-story stone pagodas from Silla period. Gakhwangjeon has a double storied roof, and houses seven figures on its altar. Sakyamuni Buddha sits in the middle attended by Amitabha and Prabhytaratna, as well as Avalokitesvara, Samantabhadra, Manjusri, and Ksitigarbha. A magnificent stone lantern and an impressive stone pagoda supported by four fierce looking lions adorn this hall. On the hill behind Gakhwangjeon stands the most uniquely designed three-story stone pagoda supported by four lions each of which represents the four primary human emotions: love, sorrow, anger, and joy. Here, you will enjoy the intricacies of this masterpiece as there are numerous other designs etched onto the pagoda.
On the way, stop at Hwagae Market offering a colorful bazaar of produce. The market is full of excitement. The cheerful rhythm of the drum attracts the ears and eyes of many, creating an exciting atmosphere. A traditional blacksmith still produces hoes, sickles, and other implements in the traditional ways. You can feast your lips on local specialties.
Later, Birding at Junam reservoir. Its neighboring reservoirs covering an area of 3.3 square kilometers is among the famous habitats of migratory birds in Korea. About 100,000 migratory birds of 30 different species visit the reservoirs in December and stay until early March. Eurasian Spoonbill, and Baikal teals gathered at the Junam Reservoir. The number of Bewick's swans visiting the lower reaches of the Nakdonggang River and Junam Reservoir is also on the increase. December and January from 15:00 to 17:00 are the best time here for birding.
Day 9 Changwon - Busan - Gyeongju (B) 160km
Birding in Nakdonggang Delta with its Eulsukdo Island at its center. The area, as a protected natural monument, consists of a vast delta, where the river's flowing waters and tidal action have created large sand dunes. Some of the most prevalent species of birds that visited this area included the mallard, black-tailed gull, common shelduck, and herring gull. Migratory birds such as the rare white-naped crane, limited numbers of the black-faced spoonbill, eagles, and falcons, will regularly winter here, while passage migrants, which pass through Korea on their way southward, such as the eastern curlew, bar-tailed godwit, dunlin, red-necked stint, Indian pratincole, and spoon-billed sandpiper, can be observed here in large numbers. Thus far, 140 species of birds have been observed in this area.
You will tour Yongdusan Park where people of all ages gather for recreational activities. Sitting on top of the hillock of a steep slope is Busan tower topped by an observatory, overlooking the hilly terrain of this mountainous coastal city and the harbor in a breathtaking view. At the smack dab in the middle of the park stands the statue of Yi Sunsin, who is credited with the perfection of the first iron-clad warship in history. You will also see a flower clock and a Busan citizen's bell that they ring on New Years' Day, March 1 and August 15.
Just off the park is Gwangbokro Street, full of shops selling everything from bargains to luxury items. Adjacent is a maze of small streets alive with color, sidewalks sprinkled with unique shops and local eateries. Enjoy the vibrant ambience as you leisurely make your way to the BIFF square, another area packed with trendy shops, movie theaters and food stalls. The square is Busan’s modern movie district which was originally little more than a pair of cinemas that were built over half a century ago. However, major renovations took place ahead of the first Busan International Film Festival (BIFF), and the newly transformed district was named BIFF Square on August 14, 1996.
Across the street from the square is a fascinating Jagalchi fish market, a great attraction located dockside. Here you will find a diverse array of seafood on display as you walk along the narrow alleys of street vendors. A nearby indoor market features live fish in the tanks and the upstairs are dried fish along with many restaurants selling raw fish at reasonable prices. The market is really a visual and culinary treat.
Gyeongju is an ancient capital of Silla (BC57-AD935), often dubbed as Museum without Walls. Today, you are treated to one of the ten most historically significant sites in the world with ancient temples, weathered stone pagodas, royal tombs, Buddhist bas-reliefs, and fortress ruins.
Day 10 Gyeongju (B)
With a full day to further explore the delights of UNESCO World Heritage Site, Seokguram grotto. It is the home of the serene stone Buddha of the eighth century. Inside, a white statue of a seated Buddha in a sublime state of enlightenment, is surrounded by 37 relief figures of Bodhisattvas, disciples, devas, and guardian kings. The grotto represents the magnificent harmony of religion, science and the arts of Buddhism, symbolizing the pure land in which Buddha resides.
A short ride leads you to another UNESCO World Heritage Site, Bulguksa temple, where you will witness the impressive gates, symbolic bridges leading up to the world of Buddha, graceful architectures, Three-storied Seokgatap and highly ornate Dabotap blending well into the architectural harmony. At Gwaneumjeon hall, check out the image of the Avalokitesvara who is referred to as the Bodhisattva of Compassion and has a thousand hands, and eyes in each so as to reach out to those in need of help. You will see a gilded statue of Vairocana with the gesture of the first wisdom, Sakyamuni Buddha along with sixteen figures of Buddha's disciples sitting in deep meditation, and a gilt-bronze Amitabha Buddha who is the ruler of the Western Paradise Sukhavati. The architectural design of Bulguksa is one of constrained dignity, peace, and harmony and the temple still remains one of the most remarkable achievements of the ancient Far East.
Visit Gyeongju National Museum for a great insight into Silla culture and history. The first thing that you will notice is The Bell of King Seongdeok, the largest extant bell in Korea. You must certainly stand in awe before the bell from the 8th century with such artistic beauty of design. The bell is distinguished not only for its outstanding beauty but also for its long reverberating sound, the incredibly precise casting technique, in addition to the sad legend surrounding it. On entering the museum, you will marvel at the priceless archaeological and historical artifacts including splendid gold crowns, earrings, belts, ornaments, glassware, potteries, and clay figures as well as a royal barge.
Afterwards, explore Donggung palace and Wolji pond, a pleasure garden built to commemorate the victory of Silla, and later used as the recreational area for the Silla's royal family, then followed by a relaxed walking tour covering the ruins of Banwolseong or half moon fortress where Silla palace and eight fortress gates stood. There is a Seokbinggo, a freezer made of stones. Half of the structure is underground while the other half is above ground with three air vents on top. You can feel the cold oozing out of this simple structure. Near fortress is Gyerim, literally meaning Rooster Forest. It is a sacred woodland area where progenitor of the Gyeongju Kim family, Kim Alji, was supposed to have been born.
Then, check out the world's oldest existing astronomical observatory, Cheomseongdae. Each stone used in the observatory bears symbolic meaning; the same number of the days of the year by lunar calendar, the number of the major stars, the months of the year and the numbers of the seasonal divisions. Nearby Tumuli Park encompasses 23 huge tomb mounds where Silla rulers were buried. One of the tombs, Cheonmachong, is opened to the public and you can go inside and see how the tombs were made and replicas of the treasures excavated in 1973.
Day 11 Gyeongju - Seoul (B) 360km
Enjoy a pleasant two hours journey on a high speed train across the picturesque countryside to Seoul. As leisurely make your way to Seoul, you will see Korea's fertile farmland, glistening brooks, sheltered ginseng farms, apple plantations and lovely rice paddies that together forming a patchwork of colors and ever-changing textures of the rural Korean life.
Your exploration this afternoon begins with a driving tour of Seoul, featuring sites such as Seoul Plaza, City Hall, Cheonggye Square and pedestrian-friendly Gwanghwamun Plaza that is hemmed in on both sides by rushing traffic and office buildings. The plaza is lined on each side with 365m long streamlets, two centimeters deep and one meter across, the stone bed of the plaza's east side waterway engraved with important events in chronological order from 1392 to 2008.
Standing high on a stone pillar is a statue of Yi Sunsin who had engaged in twenty-three naval battles and emerged victorious in all of them during the Hideyoshi invasion (1592-1598). King Sejong who propagated the Korean alphabet in the 15th century is also honored with prominent statue. On August 16, 2014, Pope Francis celebrated Mass in this plaza to beatify 124 Korean martyrs. Near the southwest corner of the plaza is Korea's Kilometer Zero, marking the distances to 64 cities around the world, including Seoul's antipode, Montevideo, Uruguay, 19,606km.
Step back in time to when life was gracefully slow and discover Gyeongbokgung Palace, a particularly charming spot that represents a colorful and turbulent side of the capital's 500-year history. Depending on timing, you may witness the Royal Guard Changing Ceremony featuring parade, password verification, duty shift and patrolling the gate. Accompanied by a court band with its colorful costumes and royal flags, the ceremony is performed daily basis at 10:00 and 14:00 except Tuesdays, although it is cancelled in case of rain or extremely hot or cold weather.
Up from the gates is a spacious stone-paved courtyard that is fully enclosed by wooden cloisters, and at the center of which runs three footpaths through two rows of rank stones, indicating the positions of the officials with the highest rank being closer to the hall.
Standing majestically on top of a two-tiered stone platform that is lined with detailed balustrades is Geunjeongjeon Hall, where the king formally granted audiences to his officials, gave declarations of national importance, presided over large official functions, and greeted foreign envoys and ambassadors. Check out the royal throne and a large painting, depicting sun, moon, five peaks, streams and pine trees, which was the crucial signifier of the king. And up in the center of the ceiling, the bright golden dragons in bold relief indicate the presence of the king.
At the back of the throne hall is a group of court offices. Displayed in front of the King's official quarters is sundial, conceived in order to catch the shadow of the sun, which tells time and 24 periods of seasonal change from the winter solstice to the summer solstice.
Sitting on the island in the rectangular lake is Gyeonghoeru. Supported by 48 square and cylindrical massive stone pillars representing the idea of Yin and Yang, this magnificent pavilion was used for many purposes ranging from receptions to national examinations.
Gangnyeongjeon is the king's sleeping and living quarters while Gyotaejeon is the queen's domain containing a number of halls. The noted feature of these main buildings is an absence of a top roof ridge.
Amisan Garden, landscaped with four hexagonal chimneys in orange bricks, is seldom noticed by the hurried visitors. Jagyeongjeon is the queen dowager's residence. Although less colorful, it is worth noting the wall, adorned with floral designs and the chimneys with ten longevity symbols.
Hyangwonjeong features a small pond with a manmade islet that supports a beautiful two-story pavilion. Behind this serene garden is Geoncheonggung, where the king and queen could relax in peace and quiet. It was here that the first electric lights in the country were installed in 1887 after 8 years of Thomas Edison's invention and a tragic chapter in Korea's history was recorded when empress Myeongseong was assassinated by the sword-bearing Japanese assassins in the early morning of 8 October 1895, allegedly under orders from Miura Goro.
Your visit to the National Folk Museum of Korea will familiarize you with wealthy culture of this friendly and picturesque nation. It is an excellent facility to illustrate the history of traditional life of the Korean people from the prehistoric age to the Joseon dynasty. The permanent exhibition features life and work, costumes and ornaments, handicrafts and technology, educations, living quarters, dietary life, oriental medicine, performing arts and games, beliefs and rituals, and socio cultural life.
Insa-dong is known as the center of traditional Korean art and antiques. Clustered along the main street and alleys are numerous shops dealing in antiques, oriental art supplies, and modern Korean art of all types and styles. Many scour the main street, but the back alleys do spring some unexpected surprises. Here, you may want to buy some souvenirs or simply wander and browse at leisure admiring upscale art galleries, antique shops and cultural ambience.
You will tour the centuries-old Namdaemun Market brimming with well over 11,000 shops selling anything you can imagine. The whole area is a labyrinth of street vendors and buildings. The market is seriously crowded, so be prepared to get bumped around. A fantastic place to haggle over the price to get the best deal on something you want or simply admire the vibrancy of this massive market.
At the western entrance of the market in the middle of a traffic circle stands Sungnyemun. It is a formidable and iconic construct that served as the southern gate of the wall that surrounded Seoul during the period of the Joseon Dynasty.
Day 12 Departure (B) 60km
After this wonderful trip exploring Korea and with time to reflect on your surprise in your experience, you will return to the airport in time for your flight. By boarding, you are already high above Incheon heading for home.