As today was my last day in Seoul, I really needed to visit the last of the five Grand palaces of the Joseon dynasty.
When I got there, the place was deserted. Not a handful of tourists, not one other person was there. I had the entire palace to myself, and was surrounded by the chirping of the birds, the howling of the wind and the creaking of the palace doors and gates.
It was one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve ever had. If you want to see the Joseon palaces, I highly recommend going to see them during the wintertime, because nobody is there and the winter light is beautiful for taking pictures.
I decided to spend my last couple of hours in Seoul as efficiently as possible, which translated to going the National Museum of Korea. Before entering the museum, I took a walk around the park in front of it. The ponds were all frozen solid, and I had a field day trying to catch some of the sunlight refracting of shards of broken ice on the water’s edge.
Upon entering I immediately realized just how huge Seoul’s National Museum of Korea actually is. A dome which dwarfs most basilica’s throughout the world acted as an impressive entrance hall. I made my way to the counter to get a ticket, but the people sitting behind it only looked at me as if I was a total weirdo. “There are no tickets, sir. This museum is free.” Again? I love Korea! In Japan, watching the tiniest of collections will make you 1000 JPY poorer, but here even the largest collection of Korean art is freely available to the public. Yet somehow, I got the feeling that most Koreans are not really interested in that heritage. Temples, palaces, museums, all were very scarcely populated, something which would not be true in Japan, even though entrance fees are much higher there.
The museum’s collection was truly astounding. It had a large collection of ceramics, weaponry and art from paleolithic times, the three kingdoms period, as well as my favourite: the Joseon dynasty. On top of that, there are some excellent examples of calligraphy to be found in these halls. I was surprised to find an ancient go board including stones among some of the cultural relics stored on the second floor.
That’s all folks. Well, for Korea at least. I will board a plane back to Tōkyō tomorrow morning.