Saturday, November 26, 2011

Spring tour to Jeju Island

Visited Jeju Island with one of my best friend from Taiwan on her birthday.

Jeju-do (or Jeju Island) is the only special autonomous province of South Korea, situated on and coterminous with the country's largest island. Jeju-do lies in the Korea Strait, southwest of Jeollanam-do Province, of which it was a part before it became a separate province in 1946. Its capital is the city of Jeju. Jeju is rich in nature beauty. What my tourist guide taught me was that Jeju Island is popular for 3 reasons: lots of wind, lots of volcanic rocks and lots of pretty women. But unfortunately, all the pretty women left Jeju for Seoul (said as a joke). The island offers visitors a wide range of activities: hiking on Halla-san (South Korea's highest peak), catching sunrises and sunsets over the ocean, viewing majestic waterfalls, riding horses, or just lying around on the sandy beaches.

Jeju Island might be a small island but there are so many unique places to explore. One of the highest peak in South Korea is also located in Jeju Island. It is called as Hallasan (Halla Mountain) and it s a huge crater representing the island itself. The mountain can indeed be seen from all places on the island, but its peak is often covered in clouds. The mountain has been designated Korea's Natural Monument no. 182 and also as a national park. The most interesting thing I noticed is that the mountain can be viewed from any point on the island but the top is usually covered in clouds.

Trip to Changdeok Palace

Visited Changdeok Palace with KINSA committee members. 

Here is a short description on Changdeok Palace. Changdeokgung, also known as Changdeokgung Palace or Changdeok Palace, is set within a large park in Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea. It is one of the "Five Grand Palaces" built by the kings of the Joseon Dynasty. Because of its location east of Gyeongbok Palace, Changdeokgung, with Changgyeonggung, is also referred to as the "East Palace". The literal meaning of Changdeokgung is "Palace of Prospering Virtue". Changdeokgung was the most favored palace of many princes of the Joseon Dynasty and retained many elements dating from the Three Kingdoms of Korea period that were not incorporated in the more contemporary Gyeongbokgung. One such element is the fact that the buildings of Changdeokgung blend with the topography of the site instead of imposing upon nature.

Our main aim was to visit the "Secret Garden" which lies behind the palace. It is 78-acre which was originally constructed for the use of the royal family and palace women. The garden incorporates a lotus pond, pavilions, and landscaped lawns, trees, and flowers. The surroundings and the palace itself are well matched. It is said that there are over 26,000 specimens of a hundred different species of trees in the garden and some of the trees behind the palace are now over 300 years old. the garden that was extremely private space for the king had been called 'Geumwon' (Forbidden garden) because even high officials could not dare to come in without king's permission. Also it had been called 'Naewon' ('Inner garden'). Today Koreans often call it 'Biwon' (Secret garden) which is  derived from the office of same name in the late 19th century . Though the garden had many another names, the name most frequently used through Joseon dynasty period was 'Huwon'.

Visitors can enjoy the unique traditional craftsmanship of ancient Korea through the palace structures.