Like temples, royal palaces in South Korea are often slightly maligned for being too alike and not actually being as old as their original construction dates would suggest. This is broadly true, and indeed just about any palace tour over here will be jam-packed with roof tiles, red and green paint, large courtyards, snippets of information about the Joseon dynasty and dark hints about buildings destroyed during the Japanese occupation (note: not necessarily by the Japanese). However, this does give the informed tourist a lot of freedom to explore more artistic pursuits without being distracted by completely new sights, and the opportunity to see where sites are different (rather than alike).
It was with this in mind that I persuaded Amy to take a tour of Changdeokgung (창덕궁; lit. good morality palace), a World Heritage Site and the only palace in Seoul inaccessible except as part of a tour group. We trundled in with about 98 other sightseers, loosely following our guide’s loudspeaker and wandering off at leisure to explore areas not jammed with people. We shuffled through the main buildings, round to the wall separating the site from Changgyeonggung (창경궁; lit. proper celebrations palace), up to the secret garden area and finally, after almost 90 minutes, back to the fumes and din of Jongno.