Nowadays, no traveler goes away on a trip without a point-and-shoot camera. Thanks to technology, cameras could now come in different forms: in phones, in DSLRs, in go pros, and even in drones.
For my trip to South Korea, I had a chance to visit the best cultural villages and palaces in Seoul while wearing their traditional costume called hanbok. I had it rented from OneDay Hanbok.
CULTURE IS INTACT
The Koreans deserve a standing ovation for keeping their history and culture intact. Faced with urban development, these structures faced serious threat back then. It took considerable and concerted effort from the government and the people to save these structures from further damage. Major restorations and relocations was a very long process that spanned several terms in the government. Otherwise, it could have only been a memory for just a few. Even now we, non Koreans, are able to share and enjoy the view of the present and past landscapes in one setting.
Cool Fact No. 1: Having the same democratic setup as in the Philippines, the Republic of Korea have their executive (the president) change every 5 years, the members of the legislation change every 4 years and judicial members every 6 years.
HANOKS AND PALACES ARE HANBOK APPROPRIATE
Wearing hanbok in museums can be an option. But it pales when compared to cultural villages and palaces, because history in museums is boxed and appears two-dimensional. I would recommend the palaces and hanoks or cultural villages because it has a different feel to it. As a result, my friend and I chose to go to the Gyeongbokgung Palace and the Namsangol Hanok Village.
Cool Fact No. 2: The OneDay Hanbok, Gyeoungbokgung Palace and Namsangol Hanok Village are all connected by the same subway line: Subway Line 3.
The One DayHanbok is situated near Chungmuro Station Exit No. 8, while the Namsangol Hanok Village is at Exit No. 3 or Exit No. 4. You just have to use your legs to navigate within Chungmuro Station. You can never go wrong.
The Gyeongbokgung Palace, on the other hand, is just 4 stations away from Chungmuro – the Gyeongbokgung Station. So straightforward. The palace grounds, however, is so huge that figuring the right entrance is tricky. We alighted from Exit No. 4 and were able to find our way via the National Palace Museum of Korea.
THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS
A palace and village to get the taste of both royal and common life, the grand and domestic setup. The Gyeongbokgung Palace is one of the five grand palaces remaining in Seoul, and is the largest. While the Namsangol Hanok Village consist of five hanok buildings relocated and restored from different areas around Seoul: Jung-gu, Jongno-gu and Dongdaemun-go.
TRUTHFULLY, JUST ANYWHERE
You can bring the hanbok anywhere and as far as you can. However, carry the burden and consequence of late return and/or unintentional tear. This was not our case, so I couldn’t advise on that subject. Only that, time and cash is precious for a traveler.
NOW FOR THE SIX TIPS FOR YOUR PHOTOTOUR
Veering back to the main purpose of this article, I have listed 6 tips below to make unforgettable photos while touring the cultural side of Seoul:
- TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE CONTRAST
One very obvious thing I realized upon descending the OneDay Hanbok rental shop is the city landscape. Seoul is a very busy city: not only the capital city but also the largest metropolis in South Korea.
One look in the direction of my feet and I immediately realized the contrast between the cemented pavement and the age-old-custom costume I was on. There was clash yet harmony in the opposites, of the old and new of the moment I was in. The countless ways of capturing the hanbok in the urban setting is just plain interesting. We were excited to explore.
Cool Fact No. 3: Do you know how creative the subway announcements are? Upon arriving major subway stations, a 1-minute Korean tune that reminds me of Dae Jang Geum or Jewel in the Palace is played. Just befitting our OOTD.
- WAIT FOR THE CANDID SHOTS
The most unexpected things are the funniest and unforgettable. This is the perfect chance to goof around, but stay modest and extra cool at the same time. You don’t want to get scolded by Koreans when you are wearing their national costume. Not on their land.
But the candid moments are one great excuse to look silly in pictures while wearing their traditional costume. If you had any mishaps, don’t take it seriously and take that photo while the moment last. Anyway, the behind-the-scene of every photo shoot are still nice substitutes even if not as hilarious.
- BLEND IN
The crowd in South Korea is pretty safe to be in. Wearing hanbok in public is like announcing that “I am a tourist” and “I’m not from this place”. But even as I moved around Seoul, I never felt unsafe. Security guards are missing in commercial establishments, yes. The community totally feel safe in themselves and towards the foreigners. Blending in with the Korean crowd should not be a problem while you are in hanbok. You will neither be mobbed, nor robbed.
Cool Fact No. 4: Security is beyond okay. As I moved from Seoul to Busan to Jeju, I almost did not notice any security guards in the commercial establishments. This is common occurrence across the country.
- TAKE THE SERIOUS PHOTOS TOO
While you intend to make this day fun-filled, don’t let slide the chance to also take the mandatory photos. By this, I mean the planned and the carefully chosen angle. As a nonprofessional photographer, here are my nonprofessional but useful advice:
- Use the walls. They are interesting backdrops. They set the ambiance back to ancient times. In these walls, I could imagine warriors running here and there or court ladies and gents exchanging glances.
- Use the flora. Another thing I noticed while walking around the streets and cultural establishments in South Korea is the consistency with which the Koreans purposely utilize the flowers to liven up the surroundings. Be it on pots or in side walks. The rich colors of the flower gardens are striking and as photogenic as the hanbok. I was personally charmed by the flowers.5. RECORD THE EVENTS AROUND YOU
While you are busy enjoying the view and taking photo souvenirs, try not to ignore the surroundings around you. Much is going on, too, around you.
Look up at the sky. The clouds may have formed interesting shapes lately. The sun’s rays may have touched the structures differently making the view appear surreal. The wind may have disturbed the twigs and leaves in a direction which makes the scene more alive than still. Look at the people around you. The guests who are also basking on the scene. It is nice to take pictures of the locals laughing and blushing with their fair Korean skin. The employees discreetly taking care of matters that keep the palaces and cultural villages operational.
If your timing is right, you may also witness the changing of guards in Gyeongbokgung Palace. This we personally (and partially) witnessed. It was a grand event that involved music, parade and guards in traditional costumes. When we arrived, it probably took around 15 minutes more before the conclusion.
Wandering inside the walls of the palace, we chanced again on a live drum performance. It was especially cool, because the traditional drum in the center stage was led by a Korean lady. I made sure to breathe in the traditional music.
Cool Fact No. 5: Yes it is true that entrance to Gyeongbokgung Palace is free for those who wear hanbok.
- SPOT THE FELLOW HANBOK TRAVELERS
There are lots like you people wearing in hanbok in the palaces and cultural villages. It would be fun and courteous to greet them while they pass by. What interesting circumstances could have led them to decide to wear hanbok. They might even be willing to recount the hilarious encounters they’ve had so far.
Wherever the origins of these travelers are, the humbling moments of our funny encounters always appeal to all. If we are able to relate to these people even for just a minute, only proves that humans are not so different at all anywhere in the world.
And that is how we concluded our day. My friend and I rushed back to OneDay Hanbok rental shop at Chungmuro Station Exit No. 8 before the 4-hour rent lapsed. We took the same way to reach the place. Go back to this link to find your way back to OneDay Hanbok.
Cool Fact No. 6: The 4-hour hanbok rent cost 11,700 won each. It was all worth it. Now I’m thinking OneDay Filipiniana in the Philippines.