Seoul, or "Soul of Asia," as the Seoul Metropolitan Government puts it, appears as if it only has matchbox-like apartments. People sprint to an from, like walking is not an option. But admist the blur, one can see the soul. Following the route along Gyeongbokgung, Gwanghwamun Boulevard and Cheonggye Plaza is a non-stop and quick way to do so.
At Gyeongbokgung Station on line number three stands the grand palace, Gyeongbokgung. It may be modest in size, but the beauty and calm atmosphere it possesses shows why the Joseon dynasty was also known as the "morning calm."
Here, where Eastern philosophy and Korean traditional art blend together is a scenery unlike any other around the world. The environs of Gyeongbokgung conjure up images of figures in Korean traditional royal costumes enjoying a new day.
To the west of the palace, there is the National Palace Museum of Korea where over 40,000 exhibits are on display. Clothes embroidered in bright or pastel tones please the eyes like a kaleidoscope.
Two huge statues stand south from Gyeongbokgung, along Gwanghwamun Boulevard. THese are figures of King Sejong, one of the most noted kings of the Joseon dynasty and inventor of the Korean alphabet, and General Yi Sun-shin, a courageous soldier who fought off Japanese troops with a few dozen boats. They convey a clear message; be wise, brave and respect others.
Unlike Gyeongbokgung, the street scene is hectic. There are cars moving in and out of the busiest part of Seoul where tourists crowd in to visit the city's most famous landmark.
The most notable spot is under King Sejong's statute, the King Sejong's House. The museum-like place holds exhibitions on his life and achievements. His inventions are also exhibited outside. Walking past General Yi's statute there is a gigantic television collection in the form of the "turtle ship" invented by the general. Korea's famous video artist Paik Nam-june invented the art piece and other creative works with it. Gwanghwamun Boulevard is like a large scale outdoor art museum.
Turning left and crossing the street one will find the start of the Cheonggye Plaza, a landscape turned concrete highway originally built during Korea's economic boom. It may be surprising to see something "natural" in a city full of robotic images, but the stream is a fully rejuvenated natural setting with hundreds of insects and animals. Walking slowly, listening to the sound of the water, and just letting it breath, is true relaxation. Pacing the rhythm, humming if it allows, is the opposite of what one encounters at Gwanghwamun. Underneath the light-bridge there is a studio and gallery that gives the people a zeal for Korean artists. They might be drawing, singing, playing instrument or even dancing. Everything is completely up to them, because they are free spirtis.
Sometimes quiet, sometimes hectic, sometimes soothing and sometimes zealous; that is why Seoul is the "Soul of Asia."