Monday, June 04, 2007

SamcheongGak: Seoul's secret sanctuary

If someone had told me last week that there exists a place, only ten minutes drive from Downtown Seoul, that is green and peaceful, with views of undisturbed forest and not a tower block in sight, I would not have believed them.

But, thanks to a Korean friend who took us there, we have discovered such a place. SamcheongGak. This is the view from the terrace looking towards the city fortress walls, beyond the hill is the presidential residence the 'Blue House'

Samcheonggak view from the terrace towards the city walls

In 1972 the Red Cross built it in the pine forest behind Bukak mountain as a venue to hold a historic meeting between North and South Korea. The buildings were reserved for use by high ranking government officials until 2000 when the Seoul Metropolitan Government bought the site and opened it to the public as a venue for traditional Korean cultural performances in 2001.

This small valley holds a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of the city that anyone can visit. There are six traditional buildings, the largest, Ilhwa-dang, contains a restaurant, tea house and the performance hall. This building is used for classes in tradition arts such as the tea ceremony and pottery.

SamcheongGak view of one of the smaller buildings on the site

You can stay overnight in two of the other buildings.

If you'd like to take a trip up to the gate in the fortress walls you'll need to book up at least a week in advance to join one three daily visits to Bukak mountain.

There is no public transport to SamcheongGak, but there is a free shuttle bus service from Gwanghwamun Station (line 5) Exit 3. Buses run daily from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Timetable.

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