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Mr. Selfish and I spent five days in Seoul. Prior to our arrival, we had heard all of the headline news concerning North Korea’s aggressive rhetoric against the U.S. and its installation of missiles on the launch site. I am happy to say that we survived our stay in Seoul, which was entirely without incident.

Seoul has five grand palaces that were built during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1897). Most of them were severely damaged during the Japanese occupation from 1910-1945. The first palace we visited was the Changdeokgung Palace, of which only 30% of the pre-Japanese structures are still in existent. This palace is known for being built according to the natural topography as opposed to imposing its architecture on the land.

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Mr. Selfish and I joined an English speaking tour that was actually quite informative. We learned that the statue creatures on the corners of the rooftop are meant to protect the building from evil spirits. We also learned that the more creatures there are on each corner, the more important the building is.

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While the palace is quite colorful, the other buildings for administrative purposes or non-royalty residence were not painted. Apparently, the paint was very expensive and reserved only for the buildings of the king.

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We also went on a tour of the Secret Garden, which used to be reserved only for the royal family. Even today, you can’t visit the Secret Garden without being on an official tour.

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Admission into Changdeokgung Palace was 3,000 won ($3 USD), which included the free English tour, whereas admission to the Secret Garden was 5,000 won ($5 USD). Although both admission prices are reasonable, I didn’t feel that the Secret Garden was as worthwhile as the actual palace. If you are limited on time, I would only visit the palace and not worry about the Secret Garden tour.

Finally, Mr. Selfish and I were lucky enough to be in Seoul while the cherry blossoms were in full bloom.

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Tomorrow, we’ll go over some of the delicious food we enjoyed in Seoul.

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