We set off on foot this morning to the Jongmyo Shrine which was located not too far from our hotel. Admission to the shrine is included in the palace combination ticket (10,000 Won / £6.98) which we had purchased earlier in the week. The shrine houses the spirit tablets of the Joseon Dynasty and was a primary place of worship for the kings.
The Jongmyo Shrine was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995 for its well preserved ancient customs. It was a pleasant stroll through the grounds but unlike the palaces we did not find very much to see.
Next on our list was a visit to the nearby Wongaksa Pagoda in Tapgol Park. This ten storey marble pagoda was constructed in 1487 and stands 12 metres tall. The pagoda is considered to be one of the finest examples of Joseon Dynasty pagoda art and is now encased in glass to preserve it which made it look somewhat strange.
From there, our morning walk continued onto Insa-dong which looked quite different in daylight as we had only explored the area after dusk previously. We found its main thoroughfare Insadong-gil to be a little touristy with its many souvenir shops but they are arranged along a tree lined road so it was quite pleasant. On the way to the Jogyesa Temple we paused to take a look at the Bosinggak Belfry which was used to keep the time and signal the opening and closing of the city games.
Walking a little further, we came to the Jogyesa Temple and just as we were entering the grounds we were offered refreshing cups of green tea which were very welcome. This temple was first built in the late 14th century and more recently was given the role as the head temple of Korea’s Buddhism. The Dharma Hall on its site serves as the main venue for several Buddhist events. The annual lantern festival in celebration of Buddha’s birthday was taking place during our visit making the temple look even more beautiful with its decorations.
Leaving the temple we returned to our hotel via the Cheonggyecheon Stream and relaxed briefly with a coffee and KitKat before taking the metro from Euljiro 3 station just around the corner.
Since arriving in Seoul we had seen posters advertising an international flower festival so we thought we would go and investigate. The festival was taking place in Goyang, approximately an hour by metro from the hotel but conveniently on the same line (Line 3) enabling us to enjoy a nice long rest.
From Goyang’s metro station exit 2, we followed signposts to the flower festival which was only a 10 minute walk away in Ilson Lake Park. Admission on the day is 11,000 Won but 8,000 Won (£5.80) for advance reservations and foreigners.
The event was first held in 1997 and since then the exhibition has attracted over 6.2 million visitors. This year 320 organisations from 36 countries were showcasing flowers and related products making it one of the largest and most famous international flower festivals in Korea. It runs for 17 days and thousands of visitors come to the festival to admire its displays.
As we passed through the entrance gates, the first exhibit to catch my eye was of the Moomins. I adore the Moomin characters and earlier in the year had the pleasure of visiting the Moomin Museum in Tampere, Finland so I had to stop and have my photo taken with them!
Studying our guide, we decided to start off with a visit to the world flower festival which consisted of a range of themed gardens from different countries. The displays were all really nice containing flowers specific to the nation, arranged in unique designs such as the iconic Taj Mahal for the Indian display and Marina Bay for Singapore. We had planned our visit for a Monday afternoon as we thought it would be quieter than at the weekend which was probably the case and although there were lots of people looking around it never felt too crowded.
Next, we passed a stand offering visitors an opportunity to dress and have photos taken in traditional Hanbok costumes so I thought it would be nice to do this as it was free of charge. An assistant offered a choice of costumes to try and then helped to dress me. The costume fitted neatly over the top of my own clothes and because I am quite small. was just the right length. I did notice some other ladies who were taller than me looking a bit strange with their trainers sticking out below their costumes!
Having removed the beautiful Hanbok costume, we continued our tour around the exhibition marvelling at the unique displays which were full of detail and dazzling with spring colour. I loved this grand piano centred display with flowers cascading from its piano lid trellis.
The event covers a large area with so much to see. There were a couple of live stages where musical and cultural performances were taking place at various times throughout the day. For the flower enthusiasts there were also floral art demonstrations, planting workshops and related competitions.
The large indoor exhibition halls featured orchids, roses and other exotic flowers from nurseries around the world. The nearest to home that we found was a stand showcasing clematis from Guernsey in the Channel Islands.
Before leaving the exhibition we strolled through the Tulip garden which was ablaze with colour and reminded me of my visit to the Keukenhof Gardens in the Netherlands the previous year.
After leaving the exhibition we glanced in some of the shops in Goyang and sat on a bench to eat ice cream cones. Our hour long metro ride back to the hotel passed speedily as we both fell asleep, timing it well to wake up just before our Euljiro 3 stop. Later, we again dined at a Korean barbecue restaurant reflecting on the lovely day we had enjoyed.
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