(Hyangwonjeong Pavilion and pond of Gyeongbuk Palace)
Just as the leaves in Seoul were quietly transforming their colors, I quietly sneaked into the Gyeongbuk Palace on the day I thought would be cloudy.
That morning, I checked the weather forecast and rain was expected. But I then realized, if it rained, the colored leaves would be gone the next day. So I had to go! And quick!
Just as it was spectacular looking down at the colorful Deoksu Palace from the Seosomun Observatory near the City Hall, Gyeongbuk Palace was also spectacularly awashed with yellows, oranges, reds, browns, and the mood the fall season brought.
Although the autumn leaves in the gardens surrounding the Palace were the perfect complement for the architecture and history of the place, what caught my attention that morning was another character in the scene: visitors wearing hanbok!
Wearing hanbok is especially popular among fans of Korean dramas, and a lot of hanbok shops in Insadong are cashing in from renting out their hanbok for these fans.
Having your photos taken while wearing the Korean traditional costume and immersed in a Korean character from a drama is probably in every fan's itinerary when in Korea.
And since Gyeongbuk Palace gives free entrance to everyone wearing hanbok, the palace becomes a drama set! (While I had to pay KRW3,000!).
So, instead of taking photographs of the autumn foliage, the visitors in hanbok became my instant theme! I didn't actually sneak up behind them; I just lazily walked around the palace grounds and they were just everywhere!
And it was colorfully clear why!
Their colorful hanbok blended perfectly with the architecture of Korea's premiere palace. No need to set up props! They only set up tripods!
I noticed that the couples in hanbok were mostly international visitors, and girl groups were locals and international visitors. Armed with their cameras and smartphones, they were all enjoying the experience of wearing their rented costumes while roaming the palace gardens as they were being bathed with the season's colors.
I have only visited the Gyeongbuk Palace a couple of times before, where I measured my tour with the sections I visited. That day, I measured my visit (and my route!) with the photographs I took of the visitors in hanbok.
I then realized that my discovery of the third 'character' in the Palace that day turned my visit into my most enjoyable visit ever (the palace was the first 'character'; autumn foliage second). Just as these visitors were enjoying their time in hanbok, I was just enjoying how they brought the corners of the historic palace back to life!
My friend Fay, who used to live in Seoul, is one big fan of the colorful hanbok. To her, it is the most beautiful of all the national costumes.
And that day, I could see why. The pastel colors of the traditional costume blended well with the autumn background, and the presence of the ladies with braided hair and ribbons, walking gracefully in a very feminine costume brought drama and authenticity to my visit!
And aside from the traditional hanbok designs, a few girls wore the modernized hanbok with all the gold ribbons, loud colors and bolero-type blouses. And perhaps underneath the billowing skirts they wore high heels to complete the modernity?
As I was leaving the palace grounds through the Insadong-side exit, I saw a few more girls in hanbok entering. There are hanbok rental shops in Insa-dong where you can rent them for hours, or even for a day.
(The beautiful gardens around
Hyangwonjeong Pavilion and pond)
The next time you visit Korea's palaces, make sure you enjoy the other 'characters' on your visit like I did, as sometimes, we tend to overlook what's obviously unique and interesting.
I was glad I went that day and got rewarded for it.
With the jewels at Gyeongbuk Palace.