Recently I went on a tour of Cheongwadae which is the house and office of the South Korean President located in Seoul.
The house where the president lives is called the blue house. It's named after the blue tiles on the roof. I think the name was inspired from the white house, but the house is definitely Korean in design.
The tour starts in a room where you have to go through airport like security. There are some nice gifts on the wall that the South Korean president (currently Moon Jae In) received from foreign dignitaries. Most of the ones from the Americas are from President Donald Trump because the US and Korea have an important relationship and there hasn't been another American president since the Korean president was elected in 2017.
After leaving the security building which is also where the press building is, we enter the estate gardens. Like any estate gardens, they are stately and beautiful. If you walk on the grass or do anything you aren't supposed to they will calmly tell you to obey or leave. Fortunately, everyone was respectful.
To come to Cheongwadae, you must have an invitation from the president or his staff. However, commoners like myself can just book a tour in advance. I booked my tour in early May and managed to get into one in late July. It was during the rainy season but fortunately, the weather was nice.
A lot of the buildings cannot be seen well from the path we must walk on. Others like security buildings near the main road cannot be photographed. Behind these lovely mungunghwa (Rose of Sharon) trees is a little guest house where honoured guests can enjoy tea in the garden.
Cheongwadae is actually considered to be well located according to the principles of Geomancy (Fung Shui). According to the Wikipedia article,l "This view was backed up by an inscription on a stone wall that reads: "The Most Blessed Place on Earth", found behind the official presidential residence during the construction of a new building in 1990."
Actually, there is a mounting or two behind it and a stream and a river in front of it.
I was glad it wasn't raining because most of the tour was indeed outdoors that day. The lawns were meticulously manicured and there were gardeners roaming around perfecting it in the way most Asian gardens are perfected.
There was even a little stream flowing through the garden. I was happy there were native fish and not something imported like koi. Having imported Japanese fish here would just be a huge no-no and ruin the uniquely Korean atmosphere.
Actually the grounds of Cheongwadae do have a lot of history. This is where the royal families used to hang out back in the day and the area was never open to the public. It's behind one palace and next to another with a mountain behind it and an old shrine on the other side. Some of the trees here (including that fat one in the back of the above picture) are ancient.
Here is a rock that tells of the rock that was found. This isn't the ancient rock with the inscription, that one is probably in a museum somewhere. Only North Korea would pull off such an obvious fraud.
Finally we get to the star of the show Cheongwadae. The tour guide said sometimes the president comes down (his office is on the second floor), or he steps out and waves. I was hoping for a wave (I don't expect him to mingle with the unwashed masses during an epidemic.), but he was nowhere to be found.
Sadly, we didn't get to go inside either. Heck, we weren't even allowed to go any closer than this point.
Here is a view looking the other way. As you can see there is a lovely lawn and a nice view of downtown Seoul in the background.
Here is a picture of the side of the house. Even the street lamps look nice. They all had nice South Korean flags on them. Although, the flag in front of the blue house is the president's flag (it's different).
Here we can see a side view of the lawn. I'm not sure what those paths are for. I guess when the VVIPs arrive in helicopters, they roll out a red carpet or something.
The view of the house from across the lawn is much nicer. I'm not sure which wing is private residences and which is the guest area or dining area. I didn't really listen to the tour or study this place that much, but if you are interested, I'm sure there is a lot of info online in Korean.
Here is a view of the main driveway. This driveway is only open for VIP guests. Actually I took a picture from the other side when I visited Gyeongbokgung which is the place in front of the Blue House. It inspired me to finally book a tour of Cheongwadae.
Here was my final view of the blue house as the tour was coming to its end. The tour was actually somewhat short, but we got an up-close view of the house and a pleasant walk through the gardens. The price was right (free) and we even got souvenir mugs. Children get some kind of pouch.
This building is kinda odd and obviously has the inspiration from buildings in the American capital or Greco-Roman architecture more inline with the main Korean legislature building.
It is the reception hall. This is where the Korean president has stately balls and such or meetings with foreign dignitaries and delegations that cannot fit inside his house. The actual blue house is to the right of here and the exit for tourists is just behind where I was standing.
I hope you enjoyed your tour, I sure did. If you want more info, look here: https://tour.president.go.kr/Contact/Tours