Winter Vacation: Seoul Day 9 (Royal Tombs on a wet miserable day and a final search for some G Style)

I’d moved to a new hostel this Thursday morning, ABC in Sinchon, just opposite the Hyundai Department store and really convenient for the subway but on the quieter side of the main road. It’s a quite homely place with a well stocked kitchen though when busy shower arrangement could prove problematic (fast forward to Saturday, AM)

Another incredibly miserable start to the day but undaunted I head towards Gangnam not for a spot of new celebrity spotting but to view the resting place of some Royals from the Joseon Dynasty.

DSC_0783I was able to take the 40 minute journey from Sinchon on the outer circle line 2 directly to Seolleung (exit 8). I stopped at a very helpful pharmacy for some Tylenol and then had a short 300 metre walk past cafes, plastic surgeons and gymnasiums to the tomb complex. I even passed a “Modern Nail Spa for Diva!” This place is named Samleung Park and it’s in one of the busiest and highest priced areas of Seoul. The park’s name means “three royal tombs,” and it’s the final resting spot for two Korean kings and one queen.

DSC_0805The site is registered as a UNESCO Cultural Heritage destination. I accessed the landscaped grounds turned left and strolled to the first tomb, that of King Seongjong (1469–94). King S was a bit of a lad who had 28 children by 12 spouses and concubines (the Ginseng obviously works). The tombs are not particularly user-friendly, I was only given a side view, I cannot help thinking that a raised platform behind the tombs would protect them but also give the visitor a better experience.

It’s a short walk to the second tomb, that of King Seongjong’s second wife, Queen Jeonghyeon Wanghu, again a side view is permitted.

DSC_0797A 10-minute toddle further on through the thickly wooded snow-covered park and over a hill is the tomb of King Seongjong and Queen Jeonghyeon’s second son, King Jeongjong (1506–44). Who ruled for 38 years.  This tomb is completely inaccessible and was originally somewhere else.

I would only recommend a visit here in warmer weather when it would be a fine space to picnic. As a day trip it could be combined with retail therapy at Coex Mall, some Buddhist culture Bongeunsa Temple and a stroll along the Han River to see the architectural stars that are the floating Islands of Banpo which are all in the Gangnam area.

DSC_0812I returned to Apgujeong using the Bundang line (2 stops) to visit the Horim Art centre and Dosan Park.  I decided to get off the subway a little early and as I walked down the hill from Gangnam-gu Office I passed an area with exclusive designer wedding frocks both traditional and contemporary.  At the bottom of the hill on the left are a couple of princely Italian restaurants and a showcase Samsung store.  Crossing the massive boulevard that is Dosan-daero at Hakdong crossroads to my left a 15 metre, two storey Kong made love to the side of a building as he looked down with disdain on the shopaholics below.

Turning to my left I passed a retailer who only dispatched Champagne to the gluttonous disillusioned aficionados of the short-lived phenomenon that is the “Gangnam Style.” I suppose the champagne dulls the pain after countless plastic remodeling operations! Further along was the huge Cinecity cinema complex but even Gangnam doesn’t do clean windows and neither does the rest of SK.

DSC_0818Arriving at the Horim Art Centre, I was struck by the exceptional modern architecture towering above me. The Horim Museum at the art centre is a branch of the Sungbo Cultural Foundation’s Horim Museum. This museum has exhibition halls on the second through fourth floor, a museum shop, and a lounge. The building, themed to look like comb-patterned ceramics, is a piece of artwork in itself. At the foot of the tower sat a posh restaurant that was choca! When you enter its like wandering into an upscale nightclub with a twinkling ceiling and dim lighting.  The receptionist could not tell me what the exhibitions held in store for me but that she wanted 8000 won. She did say 8000 won please, four times but I declined and passed around the corner to take in Maison Hermes.
This simply designed building oozed quality as you would expect, my favourite Bel Ami Cologne was 135,000 won, I passed!

Just beyond Maison Hermes on the opposite side of the road is the fashion house of Ann Demeulemeester.  media_37Even if you’re not into fashion the architecture is worth a gander. The building has a living façade of plants and features a moss-lined internal stairway. Cool!

I entered Dosan Park which was created to commemorate a famous independence activist Ahn Chang-ho whose “replacement” statue sits in the centre.  Why replacement, the original one rotted. A memorial hall sits near the gate (the only entrance/exit).


DSC_0831I love some of the buildings around here and I would return for some street shots but essentially it’s “mutton dressed as lamb,” that’s my personal opinion of GS. I attach a picture, I’ll let you “Dashing Diva’s” decide for yourselves

I decided to go over to Sinsa’s Garosugil which has become popular for its trendy boutiques, cafés, restaurants and people watching. It features in a style spotting page in Groove magazine. Dosan-daero buk 5-gil, it’s real name is a place of £5 coffees and shabby chic! The dogs are as well-coiffeured as the owners and the shop names tres Francais; even if they are spelt wrongly. In saying that on my visit it was relatively quiet and a brand known to me Massimo Dutti, a brother brand of the Spanish Zara, opened its store in the area in December 2010. I headed back to Sinchon for an affordable coffee.

In the evening I headed into Jongno for some superlative fried chicken at Altari, before having a couple of beers at Lovestar to close another busy and active day. Friday was my last full day and I was heading to Tomorrow City, Songdo, the International Business District of Incheon.