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Flowers are starting to bloom in Korea. Hurray!

Color. Finally.

Color. Finally.

On the way to pick up my fourth passport from the embassy—Oh the luxury of smelling and touching a crisp new passport!—even this bear agreed:

Yes, little bear. Yes, it is.

Yes, little bear. Yes, it is.

Fare thee well, the winter of our discontent.

(Seoul)—In Gwanghwamun Square today, I came across a snow bear in front of the statue of King Sejong, under whose reign science and technology flourished in Korea. In his rule, Hangul was also introduced to the country.

A snow bear in front of Sejong the Great

A snow bear in front of Sejong the Great

Up close, the bear is decorated with flowers for ears, cookies for eyes, a glove for his neck and a traffic cone for a hat.

Yes, the hat is a traffic cone

Yes, the hat is a traffic cone

Flowers for its nose and ears, cookies for its eyes, and a glove for its neck

Flowers for its nose and ears, cookies for its eyes, and a glove for its neck

Behind King Sejong is Gwanghwamun, one of the gates that leads to Gyeongbokgung, the main palace of the Jeoson dynasty. The mountain behind it is Bukhansan.

Gwanghwamun by night

Gwanghwamun by night

It’s such a pretty sight in the evening, isn’t it?

Gyeongokbokgung (Palace Greatly Blessed by Heaven) was built in 1395 and served as the main palace for more than 500 years. It was burned by the Japanese in 1592. Since 1990, efforts have been taken to restore it to its former glory.

Gyeongbokung

Outside one of Gyeongbokung’s gates

It’s such a beautiful palace. A bout of déjà vu came upon me, taking me back when I visited the Forbidden City in Beijing almost 11 years ago. They felt similar mainly because of scale—it seemed to take forever to cover all of it.

One of my favorite parts is the Gyeonghoeru Pavilion, where the king gave formal banquets for foreign envoys—it’s like the royal party club. In the winter, the water around it freezes and gives the impression that it’s floating on ice.

A pavilion on ice!

A pavilion on ice!

Another lovely spot is Hyangwonjeong, a small pavilion that stands out because of its smallness in contrast to its neighboring Goliath structures. Behind it is another palace, Geoncheonggung, where Queen Myeongseong was killed in an assassination plot by the Japanese.

Hyangwonjeong pavilion. Isn't she lovely?

Hyangwonjeong pavilion. Isn’t she lovely?

During my exploration, I came across a total of four magpies. The magpie is South Korea’s official bird. I am so in love with this city. May good fortune befall all of us!