- Before the Infinite concert on Aug. 8, we were caught in a torrential downpour and had to take shelter in the subway station, where concertgoers had set up little makeshift refugee camps to dry out. We were ridiculously drenched, and my Sungkyu stickers got all warped. But everything was wonderful once our seven boyfriends took the stage. They go above and beyond to create a fantastic experience for the audience: flying signed paper airplanes into the crowd, riding cloud-shaped carts around the arena to hand out actual roses to fans, performing unbelievably in-sync choreography (including the famous scorpion dance move during “Before the Dawn”), and Woohyun’s top coming “”accidentally”” unbuttoned. Also, we did the wave! It was the perfect concert.
- The Modigliani exhibition is housed on the uppermost floor of the Hangaram Art Museum within the Seoul Arts Center in Seocho-dong. It is organized into seven themes: Paul Alexandre (Modigliani’s first patron), Portraits of Men, Caryatids (based on the female-shaped columns often present in ancient architecture), Jeanne Hébuterne (Modigliani’s lover, a fellow artist), Portraits of Women, Nudes and Moïse Kisling (a friend of Modigliani’s and another fellow artist). The exhibit is well laid-out and emphasizes Modigliani’s portraits as a means of self-reflection. The subjects of his paintings are usually characterized by their long necks and dark, vacant eyes colored in with no pupils. Modigliani is quoted as saying “When I know your soul, I will paint your eyes” — a quote that is displayed prominently in the gallery alongside his work.
Dongdaemun is one of Seoul’s most popular neighborhoods for shopping and tourism. A central point in the district is the Dongdaemun Design Plaza — an architectural hotspot built to house conventions and exhibitions.
A walk around the DDP at any time of the year will show you some interesting art: from pop-up installations to rooftop gardens, historic artifacts to the neofuturistic building itself (neofuturistic architecture is real big in Seoul). This March, Seoul Fashion Week was held at the DDP.
A garden of more than 21,000 LED long-stemmed, white roses planted into the DDP’s rooftop garden has been a most popular art installation in the area lately. The rose garden will be on display from April 18, 2015 through Feb. 29, 2016.
The sight is super breath-taking and goes on forever. You will almost definitely have to nudge some selfie-taking couple out of the way to get a good look, but, you know, that’s 2015 for you.
There are 40 royal tombs honoring members of the Korean Joseon Dynasty throughout South Korea. The scenic tombs are scattered in about 18 different clusters — most of which are located near Seoul.
One such cluster, housing Seolleung and Jeongneung, is located in modern-day Gangnam. Seonjeongneung is the burial grounds of two Joseon Dynasty kings and one queen.
An entry fee of 1,000 KRW grants you access to the expansive, gorgeous park.
The first structure you encounter at most royal tombs is the Jeongjagak shrine — the site where memorial services are held and offerings are presented.
Two paths called “chamro” lead up to the T-shaped shrine building. The sinro path is slightly elevated because this is the spirit road. You are not allowed to walk on the spirit road unless, of course, you are a spirit or a god of some sort. The eoro path runs parallel to the sinro — this is the path of the king, and this is the one you are supposed to take when visiting the tombs.
There are also two sets of separate staircases leading up to the shrine. The spirit stairs are larger and more ornately decorated with stone swirls along the sides. The king’s stairs are simply stacks of bricks (with a helpful little “you may step on” sign guiding the visitors’ way).
Beyond the first Jeongjagak building at Seonjeongneung are the tombs of King Seongjong and Queen Jeonghyeon. King Seongjong is the ninth king of the Joseon Dynasty, and he ruled from 1469-1494.
Queen Jeonghyeon was his second wife who outlived him by 35 years. She is most notable for her interest in reviving Korean Buddhism. In 1498, she had the nearby Gyeonseongsa Temple refurbished and renamed as Bongeunsa.
The grave mounds are protected on three sides by walls and are flanked by great stone statues of scholars, soldiers, horses and other animals that watch over the tombs.
In addition to the tombs, the grounds offer a very beautiful chance to escape the bustle of Seoul to stroll through thickets of trees, see wild pheasants and fall down in the mud. Trust me: I did all three. The air smells fresh and woodsy, and there are apricots and grapes growing around every corner.
But, don’t worry; you’re not really, really in nature. I am such a sucker for that silvery city skyline visible just above the groves of red pine trees.
On the other side of the site is the Jeongneung tomb — the burial ground of King Jungjong. He was the 11th king of the Joseon Dynasty and King Seongjong’s second son. King Jungjong is known for succeeding his tyrannical half-brother, Yeonsangun, to the throne after the latter was overthrown in a coup in 1506.
Bukchon Hanok Village is one of those must-see spots in Seoul where the traditional (a village that has been preserved for about 600 years) is beautifully juxtaposed with the modern (the streets are jam-packed with tourists holding Instagram photoshoots 24/7).
The hanok village is located pretty centrally between Gyeongbok Palace and Changdeok Palace. The neighborhood was where high-ranking government officials and nobility lived during the Joseon Dynasty (a Korean kingdom that reigned from 1392-1897).
It’s a bit like the Hollywood Hills of the Joseon Dynasty — especially with its ornately-decorated, exclusive exteriors and the steep, narrow and winding streets showing off an expansive view of the greenery and busy city life below. On the way up and scattered throughout are ritzy restaurants, clothing boutiques, art galleries and cafés. And in between the groupings of traditional houses are ultra-modern apartments that some poor souls currently pay a lot of money to live in, although it must be miserable having so many strange people milling around outside every time you’re trying to drive the car out of the garage.
One of my favorite parts of Bukchon is the miniature kkoktu museum hidden inside one of the hanoks. Kkoktu are small, wooden funerary figures used to decorate funeral biers during the Joseon Dynasty. Basically, they are colorful little buddies that accompany your spirit on its journey to the afterlife.
Kkoktu come in a variety of styles and, together, form a complete little gang. Some are guides that ensure the spirit doesn’t get lost. Some are fierce guardians carrying weapons to fight off any evil spirits the group might encounter. Some are mother figures that provide comfort in case your spirit feels scared or sad about having left the mortal realm. And some are entertainers who play music or perform acrobatic tricks to keep the mood from getting too somber as the procession makes its way to the hereafter.
The kkoktu museum itself is pretty tiny, but the figures (and the stories behind them) are so neat. The museum also offers the unique chance to walk around and check out the inside of a hanok. It’s a win-win. I love this place.
Everything in Samcheong-dong is pretty delightfully scenic, from the street artists to the architecture (both modern and historical, really). Nothing beats the view of those tiled roofs in front of great, silvery skyscrapers and the Namsan Tower in the distance. At Bukchon Hanok Village, you can do it all: drink some coffee, study some history, buy some expensive jewelry, photobomb some selfies.