Day 1: Myeongdong and HongdaeWhat we like most about Seoul is that each neighbourhood has its own unique, fascinating style that can't be found in any of the other neighbourhoods. The only thing all the neighbourhoods have in common are the beauty product shops. They are as common as convenience stores - there's one at every corner.Seoul is very cold in winter, but this trip wasn't as cold as we expected. Most days, the temperature was between zero and 5°C, and we only had a couple of days that were between - 10°C and zero.
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Whether you are here to pay your respects or simply to admire the architecture and the sea that envelopes this temple, you will not expect anything quite so similar. I found this temple had more life than Seoul's Gyeongbokgung Palace, perhaps due to the perfect complement of history and nature, with it situated right by the sea.Again, I would advise to make this your first destination of the day as it is far out of the city centre to the North of Busan. Furthermore, it is a popular tourist destination, so expect heaps of crowd as the day goes.
N Seoul Tower
There are a few ways to get to the top and reach N Seoul Tower - cable car, car or by foot. So, as crazy young people, we decided to take the challenge and get to the top by foot. We got to a MRT station first, then found a direction that took us to the bottom of the mountain and started climbing at about 3-4pm. It was ok at first, but then we realised it was quite alot more to go. But as caught the sunset along the way and it was not too bad. Koreans are very healthy, and as we were climbing up, we saw many koreans wearing sporty outfits and look like they were just casually walking. So if you're an experienced hiker, this is probably not a bad idea as there are alot of greenery and fresh air along the way up. It took us about 1 1/2 hour to reach the top, and we were quite proud of ourselves. But anyways, there's a souvenir shop and the items inside are quite unique/modern with a korean twist, very good as a gift to people back at home. There's a place where you can lock your "love" locks, and its said that if you lock the locks there your love will last forever (some of the locks were really rusted), it's quite sweet also. We then made our way down, but by a different route that would take us to Myeong-Dong (the land of shopping and food goodness), we reached Myeong-Dong at about 8:30pm.
It was 6 pm by then. I had smoked my last cigarette and was getting a bit tired and irritated. Basho came up with the perfect remedy “Why don’t we get you a massage, sir?”. I said “I thought paid sex and prostitution was illegal in Korea”. He smiled and replied “It’s the oldest profession in the world, sir. How can it be illegal? Let me see what I can do”. We soon drove into an alley. I pulled out 250,000 won from the ATM and we walked into a basement. The lady of the joint took the money and walked me into a room full of towels with a bed in the middle. Soon Jueng, a young Korean girl, entered all giggly. She took me by the hand into the shower. Then took off her clothes and bathed me for a while. She then poured shampoo on me and made sure every part of my body, including my Khojo, was sparklingly clean. She gave me an oil body-to-body massage and a spanking blow job. It all took but 40 minutes and I was done. I thanked everyone and Basho drove me back home. As he opened the door to let me go, he took off his cap and said “It was a pleasure taking you around, sir. You truly are an Indian Maharaja.
Shopping and Food!! If you're in Korea to stock up on your skincare and makeup products, this is the place where you can get EVERYTHING (like literally)! There are shops like skinfood, missha, tony moly, laneige, nature republic, etc (too many to keep count). The thing is, as you are walking around you may notice that the same brand has two different shops in Myeong-Dong, this is because these shops are franchised. So to get the best deal (sometimes certain shops have more discounts, or freebies etc), take your time to scout and walk around before settling on buying everything in a single shop. And after walking for a really long time, there are restaurants around the area to satisfy your hunger and fuel the rest of your shopping day. We came across this cafe called Osulloc, it's tea brand that originated from Jeju. They have a wide selection of teas with interesting combinations, though slightly pricier in Seoul than in Jeju. And they have this amazing Green-tea ice-cream that is like the best stuff on earth (Don't miss it if you like matcha flavoured stuff)! And of course one day here is not enough, so we came back here twice. With the amount of shops here (there are also zara, topshop etc), you'll literally shop 'til you drop. OH! and there's this ABC shoe mart thing (if you do come across), you can get really cheap and good shoes (Vans, converse, nike, adidas etc) that are genuine but comes in odd sizes, so if you're lucky they may have it in your size! This ABC shop appears in many places and the discounts, shoe styles and shoe sizes that they stock are all different.
Shopping at Dongdaemun, Ehwa, Hongdae, Myeongdong, Namdaemun, Itaewon, Insadong- one simply does not visit korea if he or she did not visit these places. Dongdaemun district has many wholesale fashion markets opening up to 6am in the morning and there is a club at the basement in HelloapM. Ehwa and Hongdae are where the Koreans youngsters usually hang around. There’s many buskers/artists around the area where they express their themselves. Myeongdong is a cosmetics heaven, you can find alot of big brands there. Namdaemun, Itaewon and Insadong are more of the traditional markets. And there’s alot of street food along the street! TRY ALL THEM!
sungnyemun (Namdaemun gate) is one if the most treasured monuments. It is also known as the Great Southern Gate. It is truely stunning. It is one of the Eight Gates in the Fortress Wall of Seoul, South Korea, which surrounded the city in the Joseon dynasty.The Namdaemun Gate is the historical south gate of the city of Seoul when the city was surrounded by walls during the ancient times. Gate still stands as an ancient monument and it is located just next to the famous Namdaemun MARKET. This is one of the main attractions of Seoul and should not be missed when you are there. The fact that most of the stones in this massive edifice are original is one reason why it has been designated Korea's National Treasure No. 1.
Day 4: The Secret Garden & InsadongChangdeokgung Palace was the 2nd most important palace in Joseon times, and according to the palace brochure, loved more than any of the other palaces because of its huge garden in the palace grounds. Well, after visiting, I can see why. This garden, known as the Secret Garden (or, Huwon) takes up 2/3 of the entire palace, and was used by the royal family for relaxation, hunting, other outdoor activities and creative pursuits like poetry writing. I would totally chill in this palace. The garden is spacious, beautiful, and peaceful. The trees kind of shade you from what's outside. The secret garden is named as such not because it's a secret, but it refers more to it being "private", since only the royal family and their personal servants were allowed inside. The pictures below are all parts of the secret garden.
Clubbing in Seoul– It is really interesting to look at different countries’ nightlife. There are two different kind of clubs in Seoul, those really posh one (the one you see in drama) and those that youngsters/hipsters will visit(can wear sneakers one). The posh one are often located around Gangnam, Apujeong where all the rich people stayed. If you don’t know, ‘Gangnam Style’ is actually a sarcasm toward the rich people living along Gangnam. Ok back, so we decided to visit Club Octagon. The crowd is generally older/mature but the club plays awesome music and have the best sound system in town. Drinks are reasonably priced too, around 10000KRW.
Cheongyecheon is significantly prettier in the spring/summer than the winter, but the area is still lovely to walk through. Seoul is known for its unique and sculptured architecture, and this area is a great place to check out some of the more awesome buildings. It has the Cheongyecheon Stream that you can follows stairs to walk alongside, as well as several cute coffee shops and the Korean Tourism Center. It also houses the Culture Street, a cute little street filled with traditional restaurants.
Gangnam is more of a walk around and window shop kind of place. Made famous by the song "Gangnam Style", this district is the home of the rich and famous and the companies they own. Many international companies have their offices here, and many of the famous like to walk around. Kind of Seoul's version of Hollywood. If you have time, head up to Apgu-jeong (a neighboring district where the other rich half like to shop). Gangnam is famous for its shopping, food, and fun places to wander. You can also find COEX nearby with its aquarium, food, theatre, and shopping!
Noryangjin Fisheries Wholesale Market
Wholesale seafood market with many many different seafood(some you will never see in sg)/buy fresh seafood especially sashimi and bring it to a restaurant to be cooked/remember to bargain(be firm)/remember to check the price with the restaurant before giving them your seafood (Noryangjin Station, exit 1)
Sungnyemun Gate (Namdaemun Gate)
Any reference to Seoul would remain incomplete without the mention of its diversified cultural heritage and treasures. As you'd probably know, most original Korean artifacts were either destroyed or burned by the Japanese and the Chinese. Few that are left survive to tell the tale of Korea's long-lost and stark history. Sungnyemun or "the Gate of Exalted Ceremonies," which was built by the King Taejo during the Chosun dynasty, stood tall as the front gate of the capital. The locals still refer to it as the symbol of Seoul. Imagine how distressing it must've been for them to see the gate burn in front of their eyes.
National Museum of Korea
It’s the national museum, need I say more? The Museum has approximately 15,000 beautiful exhibits from around the world, but it is particularly awesome in the area of Asian history. It has of course all the really important Korean artifacts, including Celadon, Calligraphy, Paintings, and several private collections. But it also has stuff from India, Japan, China, Indonesia, and beyond. There is an entire room of stunning and impressive Buddha statues. There are also several halls of paintings, statues, artifact, and cultural resources. This is definitely a must see (particularly for someone like me who would spend most of their travel time studying history)! Tips • Lockers–If you’ve done any shopping earlier or want to leave your bags somewhere,the museum has rows of lockers available for 100 Won (10 cents). • Skip the guided tour–There are tours available for English, Japanese, and Chinese speakers, but you can figure it all out yourself, and the timing is hard to maneuver. • Try out the tea garden!–There is a lovely little tea garden on one of the upper floors that makes for a great afternoon respite! • Watch your time– We skipped the first couple rooms in the Korean history section. It’s all that early man stuff that is the same in all museums–arrows, rock weapons, etc. The cooler stuff is a little down when Korean culure really developed • Save time for the world history section!–This area has a great deal to offer and shouldn’t be overlooked! Extra Information • Pricing–FREE! • Directions o Taxi: Give the taxi driver the address. o Subway: Seoul Subway Line 4 & Jungang Line. Arrive at Ichon Station and take Exit 2. This will connect directly to the museum entrance. • Operating Hours (they close the ticket booth 1 hour before closing) o Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday: 9:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m. o Wednesday & Saturday: 9:00 a.m.-9:00 p.m. o Sunday, Holidays: 9:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Today we decided to follow Rachael’s schedule of walking around Bukchon area. This Bukchon area is situated in the middle of Seoul but the interior designs of the entire area (including houses and shops) have been preserved the traditional way. After a late breakfast we started our walk from Angguk (where we were staying). The Bukchon Culture Centre was actually quite small and we missed it the first time we passed by it. The traditional korean designs were beautiful. I actually really loved that they used wood, I think it made it look really vintage yet classy. We managed to enter some of the shops, but sometimes we can’t really tell whether they are houses or shops. The weather was really hot and the road was steep too. Yet, we continued walking. Actually there are guest houses such as this one, in Bukchon, which are available for booking. It would be really interesting to experience staying in one, except, the prices are quite steep compared to the regular guest houses that we stay in. As we continued walking, we arrived at this massive concrete building. Its actually a high school! Apparently, a lot of tourists do come into the high school for photo taking because its situated in the middle of Bukchon too. We decided to drop by a museum in the area. It was a museum of traditional and vintage furnitures.
Once we were done with dinner, we made our way to Banpo Bridge. Banpodaegyo (Bridge) is a two-tiered bridge over the Hangang (River) that features the Moonlight Rainbow Fountain. We were rushing because we were hoping to catch the 9.20 pm show. The place was crowded with people and I could see why. It was cooling at night and the music and the beautiful view of the fountain made it a popular place to hang out. If you are in Seoul, you must check this place out!
We were hungry so we went over to Itaewon area to have lunch. I need chicken. We stopped by Pasha because the bestie was craving for meat and I really miss chicken. If you are in Seoul and looking for halal restaurants, you find the most number of halal restaurants here at Itaewon. There are a huge number halal restaurants here, serving food different types of food from various countries. Therefore, whenever we are in Seoul and craving to eat chicken or any halal meat, we will stop by Itaewon.
Thanks Nature Cafe
So I read about this sheep cafe in Hongdae. The bestie did not want to go originally because she thinks it will be smelly. Haha…but she finally gave in and we were on the way there! I think she already know by now that I have a special relationship with animals. This cafe was huge and it was a sheep-themed. We actually walked passed it, its on the left so you have to pay attention when you walk.
Take Jongno street for instance. Better known as the “Bell Street,” Jongno is famous for Bosingak, which is a marquee with a large bell. It is said the bell signals different times of a day and controls the four main gates to the city, and is usually rung thirty-three times at midnight on the New Year's Eve. When former Korean president Kim Dae-jung took office in 1998, the bell was rung in the midst of an intense economic crisis that had hit the country. Every Korean worth his salt knows that Kim opened a new chapter of economic transparency and played an even greater role of steering the country on the world map by hosting international events such as the 2002 FIFA World Cup. The melancholic yet inspiring sound of the bell has definitely struck a chord with millions of locals and expats living in or across Seoul.
Bukhansan National Park
Hiking has always been in the blood of Koreans and is done every season. Nothing beats being on top of the mountain watching the sun sets. Very beautiful historic temples and fortress along the trail. Be careful as rocks can be slippery in winter. I personally hike Bukhansan in winter and I feel that as long as you are careful enough, everything will be fine even without hiking equipments. There are several trails catered to different level of fitness so don’t worry. (Gupabal Station, exit 1, take bus 704 and get down at Bukhansan Fortress)
This place is a genius for all foodie! YOU CAN FIND ALL SORT OF FOOD THERE. Shopping at Lotte Mart(The one at Seoul Station)- The biggest department store in Seoul/grab all your ramen, kimchi, peppero, banana milk/cute korean wok(the one you see in drama) back home. Remember to bring your own shopping bag because they don’t offer plastic bag.
aka N-Seoul Tower- Seoul’s Eiffel tower, can see the whole Seoul from the observatory/Admission fee of 10,000KRW up to the observatory/Favourite place for Korean couples to ‘lock’ up their love/Bring your own lock or unwanted handphone cover there to save money cos one lock can cost up to 15000krw (need to take a bus from Heoyeon Station, cost around 850KRW)
Jump performance in Korea is a martial arts play, thats really amazing with comedic elements (like extremely funny), and they have performed on international stages too. Ok, so listen (or read). There's a seoul tourist center (KTO) that has "Rush tickets" for most performances in Seoul. Rush tickets as explained by the KTO website: "KTO Rush Ticket Feature: Rush Ticket offers last minute discounts of up to 70% on performance tickets. The tickets can be purchased only on the day of the show. The tickets are available at KTO’s Tourist Information Center (TIC), where visitors can also get tourism-related information. Payment Method: On-site payment" http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/performance.kto?cmd=intro&md=enu&lang_code=ENG The thing about these tickets is that you have to buy only on the day of the performance. But I can tell you it's TOTALLY worth it. Ok for the Jump performance tickets the prices range is VIP seat: 60,000 won R-seat 50,000 won S-seat 40,000 won The day of the performance I went down to the KTO to get two tickets, expecting say a 20-30% discount. I actually checked the seating for that day the previous night and there were no tickets selling, so I told my friend that I was going to KTO that morning to check if there were rush tickets, and if there wasn't it doesn't matter we can go explore elsewhere. But but but, the best thing is at KTO the lady was so sweet and she said that there are Rush tickets for the R and VIP category at 50% off so that would be R (25,000 won) and VIP (30,000 won). So she asked me which did I want, I was thinking 5000 won difference was actually not that much, but went with the R-category tickets anyways (5000 won can get me two good bowls of ramen). So essentially, the KTO will book the rush tickets for you by phone and give you a piece of paper with reservation ticket category, number of tickets and amount to be paid. You take this piece of paper to the ticketing counter at the performance and pay the discounted amount. We were pleasantly surprised when our seat was in the third row and right in the center! The VIP tickets probably around the 1st and 2nd rows. But we thought it was the extremely worth it to make the trip down to KTO in the morning, at 25,000 won - third row & center (I guess we were lucky also) , it really doesn't get better. The performance was also amazing AND amazingly funny. They speak in english and korean, but throughout the show there wasn't much dialogue, mostly just amazing stunts with great comedic timing! It is interactive too, they get one or two people from the seats to go on stage to go the stunts with them, and you get a souvenir for doing that. Despite the show premiering in 2003, the theater was totally filled with kids and adults. After the show ends, there is a meet and greet with the actors and actresses, you can get autographs from them or take photo with them, pretty great experience. If you miss this you'll regret. Oh and you can get there by MRT (metro) and walk about 5-10minutes to get to the theater.
You come out of the subway at Hyehwa Station, and you are close to two universities. This means that there are tons of cute little coffee shops, clothing and accessory stores, etc. You hike up the streets a little way until you come to the entrance. Look to your right and see a darling little coffee "Cafe Travel" with a simply gorgeous view of the city inside. One of my favorite spots in the world. This park has several sculptures worth checking out, and the hike up to Seoul City Wall is lovely. Plus the view from the top is amazing!
Itaewon (ee+tA+won) is the next destination anyway, and Itaewon Street has dozens of wonderful tea shops and eating locations. Try grabbing some cold noodles and visit a tea store during your visit to this area. It will make a great traditional Korean lunch for adults, but there are also Western dishes for children. You will have the opportunity to pick between more expensive meals and cheaper shops. Or if you want to just browse the food stalls along the street, that’s great too! Tips. • Save room for tea and a treat later. After lunch, you may want to try one of the many deserts sold in the area. The spun chocolate is particularly amazing! Extra Information Directions o Recommended: Catch a taxi on the side of the street heading towards the Gyeongbokgung Palace when facing the Gwanghwamun Square. Tell them you want to go to Itaewon Street or if that doesn’t work hand them this: “(이태원 관광특구)” That is the name. Since Itaewon Street is a nearby designated tourism area, most taxi drivers in the area know what you are talking about. o Subway Station: Itaewon Station (Subway Line 6)–I think there was only 1 exit (?)
In search of the old city, I headed to Gwanhun dong. This street, lined with shops selling craft goods, appears to be for the visitors, who diligently stock up on dainty tea spots. The buildings are not old unless you count mid 20th century as old, but they are on a more human scale here, a pleasant break from the skyscrapers. I bought some incredibly expensive green tea from a specialist shop (I didn’t realize quite how expensive until, back in London, I found that the cylinder I had bought contained a tiny sachet of leaves). I bought some calligraphy brushes made of goat hair from an old man in a gloomy corner shop. He made me an offer of a Yakult bacteria drink. I’d heard that Sough Koreans are obsessed with well being, so perhaps I looked like my immune system needed a boost.
A few blocks away, and far more institutional, is the Leeum Samsung Museum of Art. This trio of buildings, designed by Rem Koolhaas, Jean Nouvel and Mario Botta, is another dose of European architecture imported for local edification. When I visited, there was a retrospective of the Korean artist Do Ho Suh. His delicate designs made of diaphanous nylon recreate places he has diaphanous nylon recreate place he has lived in New York or Seoul, keeping them alive as physical memories. For some reason, I was forbidden from taking a notebook into the show. ‘No paper,’ said the attendant. Next to her was a placard announcing that you could download the exhibition guide to your phone by scanning the QR code. Another click down the timeline.
Hongdae shopping street
Hongdae is THE place to be, I tell you. It's hip, happening, and so full of youthful energy. At midnight the streets were still filled with people like it was 7pm, and lots of buskers were around, hoping to get noticed maybe. We ate at the BEST KIMCHI JIGAE place ever. Boiling hot, spicy, full-of-flavour kimchi jigae + soju and makgolli (rice liquor) = my kind of Happy Meal, no need for the toy. My Korean friend brought us here and my husband and I both agree it was the best meal ever on our entire trip. The restaurant is called Nang-Poong(낭풍) and is near to Hapjeong train station, exit 3. Pictures and what the restaurant looks like here (Korean only). There's also a well known weekend market near Hongik University, but it isn't open in December so we didn't get to check that out.Many people like to compare Korea and Japan, but I think you can't. They are so different and have their own characteristics that makes them such wonderful places to explore. Korea felt a bit more like Taiwan, if one must make a comparison. Something about the style of the night markets and shopping streets made me feel that way.In Myeongdong, we'd like to recommend this yummy porridge restaurant. We found it hard to find breakfast before 10am in Seoul, but this place was open early. It's called MiGaBon (味加本). Warm and tasty porridge..yum! Directions to the restaurant and more about it here, including food pics.Some tips:1. Getting a SIM card the moment you land in Korea is hard, as the SIM card will only arrive a few days after you apply for it. You can apply for a SIM card before you arrive or just rent a WiFi egg device at the airport. We bought pre-paid data cards from our home county.2. I'm not sure if it was just our phones, but Google Maps worked TERRIBLY in Korea. We could not get proper directions. It could track our location pretty ok, and 98% of the time it showed the location of an address we typed in accurately. But when we just wanted walking directions from the train station to a particular location 500m away, Google Maps directed us to take a bus and go one biiiiiig round.3. It's good to keep addresses and names of important places you want to get to in Korean so that you can ask for directions. Especially useful if you're taking a taxi.4. We don't speak or read Korean, but we didn't have major difficulties getting around. The important signs in the subway and on the streets are in English, and quite a lot of restaurants have picture menus or pictures in the shop you can point to. If all else fails, you can point at a dish someone else is eating. Hahaha :) but knowing simple words is nice. One useful word I learned from my Korean friend is how to say "excuse me" when you're trying to pass through and someone's blocking your way: shil-yae-ha-mi-da. Super useful on the trains when it's crowded.