Happy 2017 my friends! Hoping this year will bring us all good health, luck, love and more travels.
I kickstarted the year in Japan but will talk about that amazing trip another time, for this blog post will be about its equally exciting neighbour, South Korea.
When people mention South Korea, a few things come to mind; beef bbq, kimchi, kpop, korean drama and amazing skincare/make up etc. It was my first time visiting the country last month and I was so excited I almost forgot I went during winter time and me and cold weather don’t mix. Even with layers and layers of thick clothing my imaginary balls were still freezing haha. It was so cold my nose was dripping non stop. I would say South Korea is even colder than Japan but I didn’t want the cold to bother me (see what I did there?), and decided to embrace the country the only way I know how. Explore and wander without prejudice.
I stayed in Dongdaemun area of Seoul while waiting for my mom to join me. I didn’t want to go to major attractions I will be checking with her again but I also didn’t want to just stay idle for four days.
When in Korea, do as Koreans do.
I decided to check out Insadong first, I asked the hotel staff for directions and he tried his best to explain to me in English but I must have looked really confused because he said “Fighting!” like straight out of a Korean soap opera, it was so adorable. Unfortunately his directions got me lost for about two hours (note to self, use Google maps instead), but the good thing about getting lost is that you force yourself to talk to people, and South Koreans I find are very accommodating and helpful so I was confident I’ll find my way.
So I found this restaurant purely by accident, I was tired and starving after walking for two hours. I actually wanted to eat at this fried chicken and beer restaurant but it doesn’t open until late. I went inside and was ushered to sit on a tiny table set for two and ordered bibimbap. While waiting for my food, I noticed some celebrity pictures and signatures on the walls and a high rating from Trip Advisor and that’s when I realised that the little restaurant I stumbled upon was pretty special. I found out later that Yookssam Naengmyeon is the original naengmyeon house to offer meat along with naengmyeon, that became uber popular in Korea. Winning!
A few blocks from the restaurant is Insadong or Insa-dong, a popular shopping neighbourhood selling traditional Korean crafts (i.e. Hanbok, ceramic) as well as modern goods (i.e. makeup, skincare).
After Insadong, I took a taxi to head to another shopping destination, Myeongdong.
Myeongdong or Myeong-dong is a shopping mecca slash street food stalls haven, with some shops open until 5 AM. That my friends, is taking shopping to a whole new level.
The following day, I decided to check out Ihwa-Dong Mural Village. I wanted to see the famous mosaic tiled outdoor staircase mural but unfortunately it was painted over with gray paint by some angry residents who complain that tourists are way too noisy.
I was craving for fried chicken but all the popular restaurants selling them seem to be closed on certain times, so when I passed by this fried chicken joint in Jongno-3ga, I went in even when I knew I was going to stick out like a sore thumb, as most patrons were Korean men over the age of 50, drinking soju and beer. I didn’t care. I was effing hungry. The fried chicken at this place was crispy, not too salty and tender juicy inside. The best part is, one whole chicken only cost 4000 won (less than 5 AUD). I loved their fried chicken so much, I went back and brought my mom with me.
I also visited a few fish markets and one thing I noticed about Koreans is just like Filipinos, they also have a penchant for dried fish/seafood.
Jungbu Eight Gate was another amazing restaurant I discovered in Dongdaemun Market. Again, it’s not a fancy place, but their grilled beef dish was to die for. The place is run by two aunties and one of them even mixed my bowl because I was apparently doing it wrong.
After picking up my mom from the airport and changing hotel, I took her to Myeongdong to do some late night shopping.
Even when it was freezing, I still wanted to try the famous 32cm ice cream and while I struggle to finish it because it was so fucking cold, it was worth it, the things I do (for the love of ice cream).
It was a full day of sightseeing around Seoul the following day. First stop was Gwanghwamun Square.
Was also lucky that mom and I made it on time for the bell-ringing ceremony at Bosingak and the guards happily took our pictures.
After lunch we went back to Gwanghwamun Square to check out Gyeongbokgung Palace or Gyeongbok Palace, but alas the palace is closed on Mondays.
From the palace, I dragged my Mom to go to Bukchon Traditional Korean Village. She was not impressed but I liked it there.
After Bukchon we went to Gangnam as per Moms request haha.
Our last day in Seoul was spent in beautiful Nami Island and romantic Petite France.
After Nami Island, our last stop was the romantic and magical place that is Petite France. Many Korean soap operas were shot here, in particular Episode 15 of my fave My Love from the Star.
I promised my mom I will take her to Paris one day to see my fave Eiffel tower, but this would have to suffice for now hehe.
Mom and I really enjoyed our stay and we can’t wait to go back (but definitely not during winter), so until then…
Saranghae 사랑해 Seoul,