The last clean t-shirt and pants for Changdeokgung Palace (Day 221)
I was down to the last clean t-shirt and Tim down to his last pants. At least we are clean for Changdeokgung Palace!
I was down to my last t-shirt (apart from long sleeved ones – and it is far too hot to wear those). Tim was down to his last pants and we didn’t want a repeat of him wearing a pair inside out again, or even worse, back-to-front. Unfortunately, the washing machine at the Airbnb wasn’t working (I only picked this place because it had a washing machine!) so we needed to find a laundrette, or laundromat as they are called here. I found a couple on google maps, we chose one that was in a different direction that we had already explored, we like to go to new places – you may have gathered that! We packed our bags of dirty clothes and went on our way. After a time, I saw a laundrette – fabulous, and it had a big ‘Open’ sign on the window. My excitement was quickly squashed as Tim noticed that the place was still being set up and the sign probably said ‘open in 1 week’ or something like that. We carried on further to the location that Google displayed the red circle on the map. No Laundrette here. We walked around, realising that we’d walked in one big loop, then changed tack and looked at the App Maps.me. This highlighted a different area, so on we went. Still no luck. We asked a group of elderly ladies (using google translate) and one lady beckoned we followed her. At last! Ah – she had taken us to a dry cleaner that was shut. “Open tomorrow,” she said. We stood in the shade wondering what to do next. I looked up to see a young couple walking past, the guy carrying a full large white plastic bag and the young lady carrying….yes…I am sure it’s washing powder. Yes, indeed they were going to the laundromat. Hurrah! How lucky was that! We put all our clothes in the machine and found a nice café for coffee and scone, sat and read our books, returning later to collect our clean and dry clothes. Back to the Airbnb for a nice cold glass of water to cool down (It was 31 degrees today – hotter tomorrow), then onto our 2nd of the 2 Lonely Planet’s Ultimate 500 places in South Korea. Two buses later we arrived at Changdeokgung Palace. A bit of background for you – Changdeokgung Palace literally meaning "Prospering Virtue Palace" was constructed in 1405 but sadly all the buildings were destroyed by fire during the Japanese invasion in 1592. It was restored 18 years later and served as the main palace for 270 years. Again, a fire destroyed a large part of the Palace in 1917 and full restoration was started in 1991. It now is included in the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage list for its outstanding architecture, a dissymmetric style unique to Korea, and the design is in harmony with the landscape. We walked through the first of the imposing beautifully painted gates to a wide open area and met a young couple wearing the Hanbok Korean Traditional Costume. Apparently, if you wear the traditional costume, you get a free entrance into the Palace. We decided not to partake in this experience! It really did feel that we were going back in time. The place is very peaceful despite being in the middle of a busy city. We wandered around, peering into some of the Palace rooms with amazingly beautiful painted ceilings in colourful geometric patterns, embroidered silk curtains, and chairs inlaid with mother of pearl. Most of the buildings are painted using the five colours of blue, red, yellow, white, and black, known as Dancheong with all the wooden pillars in the customary orangey/red. Later we got to the secret garden known as Huwon…but it is secret so I cannot tell you anything about it. OK, we didn’t go in, we were too late for the last English tour and you are not allowed to go around on your own. Perhaps for another time. It was a very nice relaxing afternoon meandering around the many buildings, some of it was like a labyrinth, especially the government buildings that lay just the other side of the Geumcheon Stream which flows through the middle of the grounds (when there is water in it!) and serves as a dividing line between royalty and government. Time for dinner and by searching Google maps, I found a Vegan restaurant. After walking down another labyrinth, this time of small lanes weaving around, we arrived. We had Soft Tofu Gang-doenjang Bibimbab – delicious, filling and wholesome, with rice, vegetables, chewy mushrooms marinade in soya sauce. It was situated in a vibrant area with lots of nice shops and art galleries. A place to explore further, perhaps when we return to Seoul before we head back home for 5 weeks. We arrived back to find the owner organising the installation of a new washing machine. Hey-ho, at least we have clean clothes for tomorrow morning’s adventure.