On this very dreary Saturday morning, two colleagues and I toured Cheong Wa Dae, which means "The Blue House." The executive office and official residence of the President of South Korea, Cheong Wa Dae is set amidst a beautiful landscaped grounds.
It got its name from the 150,000 blue tiles adorning the roof. Each was individually baked to ensure durability of over 100 years. In the background is Mt. Bugaksan; however, the mists of the rain enshrouded the mountain.
We reserved a tour spot over two months ago. Passports were required, and a security screening was conducted at the time of reservation and a physical one repeated upon entrance into the grounds upon leaving the required shuttle bus. I had to leave my zoom lens at the security check. My colleagues and I each were given an English translation player, as the tour was only in Korean. Schoolchildren comprised most of those on the tour.
Before our English narration was even completed for each stop, we were herded to the next stop, always accompanied by tall, handsome security men in black suits. At one stop, we were given permission to take photographs in a certain direction, which included the umbrella-shaped bansong tree. One of the guards offered to take our photos, so we obliged.
At the reception hall, about 20 minutes after the tour started, we were asked to give back the required number tag around our necks. It was then that we realized that the tour was over. Another security person arrived with my zoom lens and our passports.
So long, Cheong Wa Dae!