Monday, February 28, 2011

Seoul is Good for the Soul: How to Experience Seoul, South Korea

At the Seoul KTX station I tried to remember every moment of our 3 day vacation and write it all down, every last detail. By the end of the trip Steve and I were exhausted, travel weary, brains overloaded, stomachs full, but overall happy to have explored a tiny bit of one of the coolest cities in the world. I will give you a quick recap with some photots.

Departure from Jinyeong station.
waiting for the train

on the train

We arrived at Seoul station around 7 pm on Saturday and made our way to Insa-dong area to Jongdo tower with the hope of getting a good city view. It turned out to be a pretty nice view, but Cloud restaurant was out of our price range, so we took a photo from behind the velvet rope and left.
view from Jongdo

We walked around in search of a good meal. We decided on Hot Sun and had bacon cream spaghetti and seafood rice. We were on the search for food that we couldn't get in Jinyeong (western type food). We should have shared one thing, but we are still stuck in our American way of ordering large amounts of food. We stuffed ourselves and left do do some more exploring of Insa-dong at night passing many street food stalls, bright lights, and crowds of people. We went to an arcade and played a drum game which was pretty fun. We watched some other young people play arcade games and use the punching machine outside. Finally, feeling exhausted, we decided to make our way down some alleys in search of a  "love motel" (not as creepy or dirty as it sounds, actually very clean and nice). We successfully found one!
Here are some Insa-dong evening photos

Next morning we awoke to pouring rain. We decided not to let this stop us from exploring. We stopped off at 7 eleven for an umbrella and made our way through the streets of Insa-dong as we huddled together under our umbrella. We walked through some beautiful old streets and made a serendipitous discovery of Bird Flying Tea Shop. We walked up the creaky old wooden stairs to the tea shop. It was beautiful. There were wonderful smells of incense and tea. The eclectic decor, basins with large goldfish inside made into little tables with floor pillows. We were seated in the back by a window that proved to be the bird hang out place. Branches and little nesting places were around us. About 6 birds flew back and forth and sat about us the entire time. Peaceful and soft music playing in the background. We were the only people there the whole time. I felt like we had found a really great secret, even though I think it is a very popular place. We ordered ginger tea and cinnamon tea. It was absolutely perfect and peaceful! Rain pouring outside, the smell of traditional tea brewing, birds singing and chirping. We sat in silence, sipping our delicious tea. It was one of the most peaceful and wonderful experiences I have ever had! It was just one of those really amazing travel moments where you think to yourself, "this is why I'm here".
Some tea shop photos

We decided to walk to a palace with a secret garden from the tea shop. The rain wouldn't let up and we were soaked to the bone and just as the wind really picked up our umbrella broke! We gave up on the palace and went on the search for Baba India for lunch to seek shelter from the rain. After several times circling the same two blocks in Gangnam we found it! Another great find! It was a good lunch (again a kind of food we can't get in Jinyeong) but a bit overpriced and small portions.
 Rain still pouring we decided to head to a PC bang (room with many computers) to get online, check our finances, get some relief from the rain, and look for things to do in Gangnam. We found good reviews of Taco Rico, Big Rock Brewery, and Rainbow Hookah Bar. We went on the search for these places and had a lot of fun looking for them. We had directions written on various maps and pieces of paper, huddled together under our second umbrella of the trip, on a treasure hunt. Found Taco Rico first and decided to eat until Big Rock Brewery opened at 5pm. Tiny hole in the wall Mexican place with a small tarp for two outdoor tables, a heater to dry our soaking feet, delicious chicken burritos, and a Mexican cook. Great find and another type of food we cannot get in Jinyeong.
the search for Taco Rico

 found it! chicken burrito : )

Big Rock was disappointing as the beers were rather tasteless, but still better than cass or hite and more like the microbrewery beer we are used to at home.

Next we were on the search for Rainbow Hookah Bar. We found it! A very interesting hippie looking place with many colorful paintings on the wall, floor seating, colorful lights, peace signs, relaxing music, oil lamps, and of course hookahs. Best of all, it was a no shoes place and we got the chance to take off our soaking wet shoes and dry our feet a bit. We shared a melon hookah, listened to music, and relaxed in this very unique and peaceful environment.
Rainbow Hookah Bar
 melon hookah

 Across the street we noticed Woodstock and decided to check it out simply because of the name. It was a small bar focused on music, of course. Walls lined with records and CDs of good music, classic rock from the 60s and 70s mainly. The best part is that they take requests, just write it on a notecard and set it on the bar. We ate some pretzels, sipped beer, and made music requests. The bartender searched for our song requests. It was a really great time, like having your own personal DJ! Off to Hongdae to turn in for the night.

Last day in Seoul! The weather had turned from rain to freezing cold. Nonetheless, we were happy to be free from the umbrella. Decided to explore Gyeongbokgung Palace in Samcheong-dong. We arrived just in time for a changing of the guards ceremony. Explored the palace and decided we needed something warm, like soup for lunch. Luckily we were near Bukchon Kalguksu which claimed to have "some of the best dumplings and noodles in Seoul". I have no basis of comparison, but it was amazing! Warmed the soul, warmed the body, reminded me of home, in my opinion they are the second best noodles in the whole world (of course number one are my mom/grams holiday noodles)!
photos from the palace and lunch

 Explored Samcheong-dong for the rest of the time. In my opinion it is one of the quaintest, cutest, and most unique places I've ever been to. I was sad that we were there on our last day. So many unique shops and delicious looking restaurants. We ate pistachio and raspberry macaroon type treats from Palette. They were honestly one of the most amazing desserts that we've ever had. We cannot wait to go back and try the other flavors and maybe buys some gift boxes : ) There is also a very good art and museum scene in Samcheong-dong. We had hoped to go to Seoul Chicken Art and Owl Museum but they were closed on Monday. So we already have a plan to go back to Seoul and stay in Samcheon-dong and a long list of things to see and do and eat! Well I guess that sums up Seoul the best that I can in words and photos.
Samcheong-dong photos

1 comment:

  1. great trip!! love the bird tea house description, the shout out to your mom/gram's noodles, and the other sweet food finds! quite the explorers!!