Arriving in Seoul – National Folk Museum, and Model Village

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A large part of why we came to Seoul was to see the history. So on our first real day in Seoul, we went to the National Folk Museum and the Model Village.

Welcome to Seoul

As I may have mentioned before, it’s common practice for me to get a real hotel room my first night on the ground in a new country. I’ve learned the hard way that slogging through the city with jet-lag to go to a hostel bed isn’t always a great plan. However, for South Korea, we broke that tradition since the flight from Shanghai to Seoul was just a little over two hours. We stayed at the Apple Backpackers in the Jongno-Gu district of Seoul, and even though it has a great rating on most sites we can find, it’s a little hard to find.

Main street in Jongno-Gu, Seoul

We came up the main road, but the directions said the front entrance was in an alley. At first, I thought it meant alley like an American alley: wide enough for a car. But this is the alley that the front door of the Apple Backpackers is located in. I’m not sure I’d want to try to bring a car here:

Back alley in Jongno-Gu, Seoul

Back alley in Jongno-Gu, Seoul

Turns out, the location is great. The back-alley entrance means it’s quiet, but the neighborhood is quaint, friendly, not too touristy (though that’s by my standards; locals may very well hate this region), and very easily accessible from where we stayed. There were small coffee shops and boutiques galore. If I had to come back to Seoul, I would be okay with staying in the area again.

Getting Cute with my Camera: This was my first trip with my Nikkor 50mm 1/1.8 (see my About the Site page to understand the context of that). This particular morning was when I discovered that it was much better at taking shallow depth of field pictures like this one:

Flowers in Seoul with soft-focus
f4, shutter: 1/125

Reviews online called it one of the best simple lenses Nikon makes. Turns out, they were right. I liked the vibrant colors and sharp contrast whereas the 28-200mm tended to underexpose slightly though that may be due to user error.

On the photos that I’m more proud of, I’ll try to include the f-stop, shutter speed, and ISO like I did with this one. I think it’s important to understand what I liked about the picture and what I can do differently.

Anyway. Back to travel.

The National Folk Museum and Model Village

After we’d gotten used to our surroundings, our first stop was the National Folk Museum. The sign out front was nice:

Sign at National Folk Museum of Korea at Gyeongbokgung

But there was also a very odd statue of children next to it that I don’t understand:

Statue of Children outside National Folk Museum of Korea at Gyeongbokgung

This statue isn’t too old, so this doesn’t 100% apply here, but there are a lot of things we saw that were made in more innocent times. Even for an American, I have a dirty mind, so this might mean something completely innocent but I can’t begin to wonder what that is.

Inside the grounds, there were structures and statues that are still standing from the Joseon Dynasty in the 13th century.

National Folk Museum at Gyeongbokgung from Joseon Dynasty

National Folk Museum at Gyeongbokgung from Joseon Dynasty

There was also a model village. Many of the older buildings in Korea are remnants of the dynasty that spanned several centuries. They’re buildings that were used by people of power and influence, and generally not reflective of how the average person lived at the time. To see what the average citizen lived like, there was a the Model Village. It had several artifacts from what peasant life would have looked like if you weren’t royalty of some sort in the 13th century.

Hut in Model Village outside the Folk Museum at Gyeongbokgung

Water wheel inside a hut from 13th century - Model Village at Gyeongbokgung

Now, there’s no easy way to say this, but Koreans today aren’t known for their height. So you can imagine how tall a working class male in 13th century Korea was (what with more questionable nutrition, harder working conditions, etc).

In contrast, I am a 6’3″ tall, gangly drink of water who learned very quickly to watch my head through all doors.

Tall person in 1300s hut in Model Village at Gyeongbokgung

There are several photos of me in similar poses near things that are equally short. We began to use the hashtag #eddie2tall4asia while posting photos when we got home.

The village didn’t just focus on the village from the Joseon Dynasty; it tried to represent a timeline of development in Seoul. As we walked down the way, eventually we were greeted by a 1950s Metro car.

Replica Seoul Metro Car outside Model Village at Gyeongbokgung

And, once again, I had to watch my head.

Tall person in Seoul Metro train at Gyeongbokgung

These last two shots were used as part of a movie set. What movie it was, I don’t remember. But it was made in the 1980s, so maybe this is what Seoul looked like.

Model Village outside the Folk Museum at Gyeongbokgung

Model Village outside the Folk Museum at Gyeongbokgung

Korean National Palace Museum

The path through the village ends right at the Korean National Palace Museum. It’s a pretty formidable structure:

Korean National Palace Museum at Gyeongbokgung

Inside the palace, there were cool artifacts like this tapestry:

Tapestry inside National Folk Museum

Full disclosure: I also had to stitch this photo together with the Photomerge function in Photoshop. Someday, I want a wide-angle lens, but the cheapest I can find one is $400. Granted, it’s all compatible, so if I buy a new camera, I can still use my old lenses.

As we made it through the museum, we came up out the back side of Gyeongbokgung Palace. And because of photo restrictions on WordPress, I’m going to have to make that my next post.

For more travel blogs like this, check out the Faraway Files, a weekly travel blog group. Click on the picture below to see more.
Suitcases and Sandcastles

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