The last stop in our Asia Exploration was Seoul, South Korea. We we laying over anyway, so we decided to stay for a couple of days. By the time we got to Seoul, however, we were so tired! We didn’t want to do anything and we didn’t do a lot of research either, so we basically stayed close to home. Actually, the only thing we had planned was a trip to the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) where you could get as close to North Korea as possible. However, with our luck, while we were in Hong Kong, North Korea decided to bomb an island just off the coast of South Korea and all tours were cancelled. Oh well.
- Ibis Seoul Myeong Dong. 59-5 Myeong-dong 1Ga Jung-gu. The location of this hotel was great – right on the street of Myeong Dong, a popular tourist destination. Lots of shopping and restaurants close by.
- Streets of Myeong Dong. Our trip so far had great weather. A little hot in Bangkok, a little cooler in Hong Kong, but then we got to Seoul. It was cold and I’m glad I brought my ski jacket. On the first day there, after we changed into our winter clothes, we went walking down the streets of Myeong Dong. I was surprised at how busy it was and there were lots of vendors. What I didn’t expect was to get yelled at! Jay immediately saw meat on a stick and went to buy some. I started to take pictures of him eating it in front of the vendor. The lady glared at me and started to yell in Korean while shooing me away! Wha?! “No pictures!” she started to yell, “Go! Go!”
- Kimchi Museum at Coex Mall. We went shopping at Coex Mall, which was pretty big. We saw a sign for a kimchi museum so we decided to check it out. It was pretty small, but it gave good details of the history and the making of kimchi. Jay’s favorite part was the tasting room – a small selection, but a good variety of different kinds of kimchi.
- Namdaemun Market. This is one of the oldest and largest market in Seoul. It’s also close to our hotel (which we didn’t realize how close). After walking around the neighborhood for a bit, we jumped into a cab and told him, “Namdaemun Market, please.” He said, “No, no” and then something in Korean and pointed across the street. We were confused and thought he was telling us to catch a cab from the other side of the street going in the opposite direction. So we crossed the street and climbed into another cab. “Namdaemun Market, please.” The cab driver just looked at us and pointed, “Over there.” Oh.
- Noryangjin Fish Market. Jay loves markets, especially the ones with food. This is a fish market and great to walk around and see the different kinds of live seafood. Lots of restaurants too.
- The first night we ate this dish. It was like a stew and it was spicy!
- At Noryanjin Fish Market, Jay found a vendor who could speak very little English. This fish vendor then found us a restaurant who will cook what we bought from her. This has got to be the best meal we had in Seoul. We had raw flounder (sashimi style), live raw octopus, prawns, conch and fish stew. Washed down by some awesome Makgeolli (rice wine).
- Dongin Dong. 511-5 Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu. You get off the Sinsa Station exit 6 and walk until you come to Beans Bin Coffee and turn right (I remember this because it was so damn cold!). Jay’s job when we go on trips is to find out where we are eating. He read a blog to tell us of this place and he insisted we go. So we went. Except it was closed (I think on Mondays), and then we had to figure out what we were going to eat that night instead. We were so tired and hungry, and to make matters worse, it started to snow! The next night we tried again, and it was open. Except the waitresses seemed annoyed that we didn’t speak Korean and wasn’t helpful, but we figured out what to order – kalbi stew (it was too spicy for me). Then when we were done with the kalbi, she took the stew and mixed it with rice. Jay was in heaven. I refused to eat any more as it was way too spicy for me.
- Kwang Jang Market. Stalls and stalls of food. These ladies were nice and tried to speak to us with the little English that they knew. The best part was that we could see the food we were ordering and the benches were heated!
Seoul was not the city I expected. It was busy and crowded, but not so tourist friendly, especially if you don’t speak the language. We got yelled at quite a bit and lots of vendors, waitresses, store help had a scowl on their faces when they realized we didn’t speak Korean. It also didn’t help that it was soo cold, it was the end of our trip, and I really wanted to get home already. Maybe under better circumstances, and a translator, we’d go again. Probably not back to Seoul, but maybe country-side.