Of Gyeongbokgung Palace by Night

[27 Oct 2016]

It was by chance that I discovered about this special night event at Gyeongbokgung Palace (경복궁) , one of the five main palaces situated in Seoul and the largest. As our trip this time coincided with the last days of the event – and given the rare treat that the palace grounds is opened at night – naturally we grabbed the opportunity despite having gone on a day trip to Nami Island & Petite France the same day. Of course, we had the option of attending the event on its last day (which was also a Friday) but logic told us we’d better not.

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A beautiful sight greeted us when we walked past Gwanghwamun (광화문) Gate to get to the ticketing point: a massive queue of people wearing hanbok (한복), mostly Korean girls in their teens or early 20’s. I suddenly recalled something I read, that if one wears the hanbok to the Gyeongbokgung Palace’s night event, they get to enter for free. As we made our way to another queue, we continued to soak in the interesting sight.

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Foreigners had to cross an entirely different hurdle to get in. You see, every day for the whole duration of this special event (for 2016 it was from 24 Sep to 28 Oct – a whole month), 500 tickets would be sold to foreigners and one would need to show your passport in order to purchase the ticket at ₩3,000. We joined the foreigners queue at 1840hrs (a little late, I would admit) when the palace started admission at 1900hrs. The queue didn’t look too long to me and I was pretty optimistic about being able to get in. The mister, on the other hand, was worried. In order to allay his fears, I told him if we were not able to secure tickets that night, we would go rent hanbok the next day and join the other queue for entry. Boy, he must be so relieved when we received our #0246/0247 tickets. 😆

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By then, it was 1915hrs and the queue had largely been cleared to enter the palace grounds. And we later affirmed something we long suspected about the Koreans (yes, we came to realise that 99 out of 100 visitors wearing hanbok roaming the grounds were Koreans in their authentic hanbok, not foreigners in rented), they are an obsessive bunch when it came to selfies, or selca (셀카), as they call it. Everywhere we turned, we saw hordes of couples or groups of girl friends posing to take pictures. Well.. I would too, if I were wearing my country’s traditional costume walking the grounds of arguably the most beautiful palace in the country. We were most amused by their antics. Oh, I also discovered the existence of tripods for mobile phones! I.must.go.find.one!

While walking around with my DSLR attached to the tripod, I was most tempted to approach several of the Koreans wearing beautiful hanbok asking to take pictures of them. They would gladly oblige, I reckon, but I was simply too shy to ask them yet the mister refused to ask in my stead. Ironically, we ended up being approached to take pictures for many of them who were without mobile phone tripods.

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One of the highlights of this night event was a Light Illumination Show at Gyeonghoeru Pavilion (경회루). This beautiful pavilion sits atop a pond and was used by the Emperor during the Joseon dynasty to entertain foreign envoys. The Light Show would run several times per night and we caught the 2000hrs show, I think. The show we caught was long, about 20-25 minutes. Later on as we lingered in the vicinity to take pictures of the pavilion, we caught the 2040hrs show and it felt like the show was very much shorter. I’m not sure how it worked.

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The Gyeonghoeru Pavilion is really quite pretty. I managed to capture a shot of the traditional dancers during the second performance that we caught. Such a picturesque sight!

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Then we retraced our steps back to the main gate. And stopped by along one of the numerous corridors hoping to obtain some nice shots. We ended up getting vastly amused by what we saw the Korea girls doing while wearing their hanbok. See the girl in the bright pink skirt above? The next minute she thought it was a good idea to hug one of the pillars while asking her boyfriend to take a picture for her. The group of girls behind her also starting hugging the pillars. It was hilarious! What was more important was, the girls themselves also thought they were hilarious and were laughing and having a good time. 🙂

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Over here, the mister was approached by a couple to take a picture of them. Such a sweet pose! I hope the picture turned out well.

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More pictures of what many of the obsessive hanbok-wearing Koreans were doing. In particular in the above picture, my camera was set to a 4-sec exposure. Every person that you could see clearly in the picture was staying still for at least 4 seconds in order for my camera to capture them sharply. Do you see the different poses of the 2 couples in the picture? Cute, isn’t it? I really love how innovative South Korea is where it comes to promoting their culture. They have several events yearly where wearing hanbok leads to free admission. This Gyeongbokgung night event is but one of the numerous events. Awesome event that appealed to the younger generation and tourists alike.

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Gyeongbokgung Palace is opened throughout the evening hours twice a year – once in Spring and once in Autumn. We highly recommend visiting the palace at night if you happened to be in town. It was a precious experience that I would cherish in years to come.

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