Here it is! My travel post on our trip to Seoul, Korea with the hospitable folks from the Korean Tourism Organization to experience the every aspect of the country’s culture as well as to shoot two fashion spreads. Just thinking back on the trip and trying to recap only parts of it is somewhat difficult because I had so many amazing moments. Funny, we were only there for 7 days but it seemed like we were there for an entire month, as we had experienced every aspect of Korea, from food to culture, history and all things beautiful about Seoul. But there is still so much more to explore and experience as every day brings about a new adventure, a new dimension to Korea as a whole.
After discussing the dynamics of our photoshoots that we needed to do in Korea, we packed our suitcases and boarded a plane to Seoul, the capital of South Korea via Korean Air (we went fully Korean). We stayed mainly in Seoul, and I must say, the country sums up the word ‘beautiful’ in every single way. It is a dynamic, fast-paced metropolitan city, with an amazing balance of the traditional aspects with the modern development.
On our first day, we went straight to the Korean Folk Village from the airport, which was somewhere along the outskirts of Seoul. Not only do tourists flock here to experience the ways of the daily lives of the Koreans during the Joseon Era but the location was also packed with locals, from students to young adults who were there to learn more about their culture and traditions. Korean Folk Village is also famous for being the location setting of a few Korean TV series. It was stunning. Very scenic, with lots of beautiful wooden houses and vast greenery.
We fell head over heels for Korea and this was just our first few hours there! We experienced so much of what went on in the daily lives of the Joseon Era through cultural classes experience, shaman faith, seasonal customs and others. Also, the village shows various places with unique features such as a farming village, private house, official districts, Confucian academy, seodang (village school), and a village street in realistic descriptions, as well as, a nobleman’s house and traditional workshop.
Performances including nongak (farmer’s music), martial art on horseback, traditional wedding ceremony, and other special events are available by season. In particular, ‘Welcome to Joseon’, held every May is a performance featuring time travel back to the olden days. At the end of the day we left gaining so much knowledge.
Besides the lineup of picture perfect K-Drama stars and K-pop bands chock full of carefully crafted idols, one can dive head-first into the Hallyu wave with Korea’s proud promotion of age-old traditions and culture. What better place to experience just that in the soul city of South Korea – Seoul? K-Style Hub, had something for everyone to dabble in. So we headed out there. K-Style Hub is the one-stop centre for all things Korean. This famous attraction has all the information a tourist like me would need from various experience zones to exhibition halls and even sales of local specialty products. The hub is divided into four segments, with the Tourist Information Center found at second level, Korean Food Exhibition and Experience Halls on the third and forth levels respectively, as well as an Art Market Hall on the fifth level.
Once we walked into the K-Style Hub, we were greeted by the VR Experience Zone. We tried out the 360-degree panoramic view experience via the VR devices that offers a selection of about 40 major tourist attractions around the nation. Calling all K-Pop fans; the Hallyu Experience Zone on level 2 is a section that you definitely should not miss! There were huge photo walls with images of K-pop singers including BIGBANG, PSY, 2NE1, Rainbow and many more that you could take your photo with and it looked oh so real!
Our next stop within the hub was the Korean Food Exhibition Hall on level 3. It is decorated in a way to let foreign visitors to have a feel of an authentic traditional Korean atmosphere whereby long windows with wooden bars are aligned in a row. A total of 24 windows with bars can be found, and each of them exhibits a section on Korea’ seasonal food. The last stop before leaving was the Art Market Hall where we were greeted by a full display of traditional Korean hanbok and small dining table, as well as special locally made products by venture or creative enterprises on sale. With Korean food and culture as the theme, the hall is designed in a way that is similar to a gallery, great for exploring around.
On the third day, we decided to visit the Deoksugung Stone Wall, right in the heart of Seoul. This romantic wall was the setting for most if not all Korean dramas or music videos as well as a memorable location for romantic walks. It was Korea’s first successful attempt at creating a comprehensive urban space where people and nature can coexist. The road itself is made of eco-friendly materials, and created with precaution to ensure the safety of pedestrians. Stretching a great 900 meters in length, you’ll be able to practice your music-video-acting as you stroll under the shade of 130 trees and pass over 20 benches, oozing the vibe of a different era. Aside from being a choice location for romantic K-drama worthy dates, it also makes for a great cultural walk as it is located near the Seoul Museum of Art, Seoul Museum of History, and significant historical buildings.
Next we passed by what used to be a neglected waterway hidden by an overpass known as the Cheonggyecheon Stream. This 11km long modern stream has been revamped and now exists as a haven of natural beauty amidst the rush of flashy city life. The stream is also strategically close to all the different tourist destination attractions such as the Deoksugung Palace, Seoul Plaza, the Sejong Center, Insa-dong Street, Changdeokgung Palace, and Changgyeonggung Palace. This makes it even more accessible for visitors to make a pitstop by major tourist sites after a stroll along the stream.
Being Instagram and Snapchat lovers (which i had to say was most of us on the trip), we found ourselves snapping away at the Gwanghwamun Square in Seoul, a constant attraction for tourists at every time of the year. The square is divided into six sections, with a statue of King Sejong the Great standing at its heart. He was the fourth and most respected king of the Joseon Dynasty and the creator of Hangeul, which is Korea’s alphabet. Aside from King Sejong, there’s also a statue of Admiral Yi Sunshin, who was a naval commander known for his victories against the Japanese navy during the Japanese invasions of Korea (1592 – 1598) and a hero among proud Koreans.
We strolled along the Samcheongdong Road, admiring the slew of Korean cafes before choosing one to indulge in the Korean shaved ice dessert Bingsu. The entire road would have vintage-lovers excited as they can peruse antique items to add to their collection. Samcheongdong Road stretches from the iconic Gyeongbokgung Palace to Samcheong Tunnel; Samcheongdong-gil goes through the middle of the city, but remains a peaceful picturesque street lined with cafes, museums, antique shops and a number of noted art galleries. It serves as a perfect place to have a chill hangout. You can even take in the artistic quality of the area since each art gallery building along Samcheongdong-gil has its own unique architectural design.
The next location, the Bukchon Hanok Village sits in the North area of the old capital city where the aristocratic classes lived during the Joseon Dynasty. It has been maintained impeccably throughout the years, and features Korean traditional houses standing amid the city. Throughout the recent years, galleries, restaurants, cafes, and accessory shops have sprouted in the surrounding area – carefully integrated into the traditional area. This makes Samcheong-dong one of the most picture-worthy places in Seoul, appealing to artistic souls.
Next, we headed down to Insa-dong Street where we visited rows of stores specializing in Korean traditional culture and crafts that can be exclusively purchased or appreciated in Korea such as: the hanbok (traditional Korean dress), hanji (traditional paper), traditional teas, pottery, and folk crafts. This street is rich with opportunities for visitors to relish in Korean traditional culture and arts. Art events and festivals are also held regularly along this street.
One cannot go to Seoul without visiting the Dongdaemun Design Plaza a.k.a DDP. This plaza serves as the most iconic and chic landmark of the Korean design industry. Located at the centre of the Dongdaemun area, it has been a key venue for design-related shows, conferences, exhibitions and other events or gatherings. It’s a fusion of futuristic and traditional designs, with its building featuring relics as well as cutting-edge modern multicultural facilities. It was designed by world renowned architect, the late Dame Zaha Hadid, and the Plaza is the world’s lagest atypical architecture and has been selected as one of the “Top 52 Places to Visit in 2015” by the New York Times. We also visited two beauty centers in Seoul, in which we will tell you more about in our next post.
Being a foodie, i dove in head first into all the scrumptious Korean cuisine offered from BBQ and traditional Korean meals to deep fried chicken and even street food!
Another thing I love about Seoul is the shopping. There were plenty of amazing stores to choose from, we were spoilt for choices! In conclusion, this was one amazing trip that I am still having withdrawals from. Definitely seeing another one coming up in the near future.
Check out our spread below, shot by Steve Koh @ Image Rom, Makeup by Khir Khalid, Hair by Kay Tuan @ Centro Salon: