|Gyeongbukgung (plus tip of my umbrella)|
The Blue House is the Presidential residence in Korea. It's Korea's Downing Street. It's in the heart of the Palace district (behind Gyeongbukgung). You can take a tour of the gardens and surrounding buildings. I thought this would be a great thing to do. I actually looked up going on a tour when my Uncle was visiting, and it was then that I discovered you have to book the tour at least 3 weeks in advance. In reality it was actually more like a month and a half in advance because all the places were booked up! So that same day (in May) I booked myself on a tour for 5th July (yesterday). I was all ready for the visit, I had my passport back (I had to send it back to the UK for my Chinese visa - more on that another day), I had my wellies and umbrella because monsoon season has finally started, I had a map to the Blue house and I had secured an hour off school. I even phoned the info line to check the tour wasn't cancelled because of the rain.
So why didn't I get to actually take the tour? Well, it turns out that in order to take a tour of the Blue House, you don't actually meet at the Blue House. That makes total logical sense right?
If you're like me this is what will happen to you:
After having checked the VisitKorea webpage, you'll leave exit 5 of Gyeongbukgung station and waste 5 minutes finding your way out of the Palace grounds (this is NOT the best stn exit to go out of). You'll walk up the entire length of the palace, pass through a police security road block, where the nice man in uniform will inform you the Blue house is straight along the road and turn right. You will arrive at the Blue House entrance, where lots of people are milling around (looking like they're on a tour). You'll then enter the large museum/exhibition hall building with a friendly looking information desk. At said information desk a woman will give you a stange look when you say you are there for a tour of the Blue House (even though you can see the Blue House from where you are standing). She will then explain that you have to meet at the east car park of Gyeongbukgung to take the tour. She will explain that you are too late for the tour, because you have to take a 10 minute bus ride to get to the car park and it's already taken you 15 minutes to walk from the station to this information desk and it's now dead on time for the tour. She will look at you sympathetically and say 'I'm sorry to hear that,' You will swear loudly into her face, and ask if she can help you get on the tour. 'Maybe you can phone them and ask them to wait while I get the bus," (You now start all sentences to Koreans with 'Maybe', even though you never actually mean maybe.) She will tell you that she has no way to contact the tour department, even though you live in one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world. She will then get another woman to explain the exact same thing to you. This woman will also say "I'm sorry to hear that," despite the fact that you are the one hearing the bad news. They will then stare blankly at you. You will admit defeat, sarcastically thank them ever so much for their help (which they will likely not understand) and you will return back to the station. You will be so miffed and frustrated by what's gone on you won't even think to take a picture of the Blue House while you're there.
If you are really like me, all of this will happen in the pouring rain. and I mean lashing it down, run for your lives pouring rain. Your umbrella will begin to leak and you will slowly lose the will to visit anything in Korean ever again.
|To console yourself you'll buy two expensive macarons|
On the way home, you will also make the ill-fated decision to take the bus from singil station because you think it will be quicker. It will not be quicker. You will get the bus from the wrong side of the road and will add another 40 minutes to your journey. This will feel like the longest day of your entire life. You didn't get to tour the Blue House, and you won't get to tour the Blue house, because it's now fully booked until September.