Saturday 27 June
I popped close by to the mini supermarket and picked a freshly baked pastry which happened to be maple syrup flavoured and it was yum!
Time to checkout and then onto the subway for a ride to the airport where I bought more kit kats. Unfortunately they only carry 4 flavours but I got the one I wanted.
Then it was off to Seoul where I was served lunch and peered curiously at this bun. I ate it and it was tasty. The bread looks like Turkish bread and has a vaguely similar taste. There’s lettuce, ham, cheese and this spread. The spread has potato and onions and is slightly spiced and has a mustard mayo kind of flavour.
The airport was quite empty so I got my T-Money travel card from level 3 and picked up a wi-fi pocket rental device from SG Telecom at level 1. Then I caught the subway to my hotel.
Navigating the maze of narrow streets is crazy but I found my way to the hotel. Apparently Google is banned from zooming in too close so that’s why Google Maps was only slightly helpful.
I was off to see the sights and first stop is Gyeongbokgung Palace. I bought the combined palace ticket which grants me access to other palaces.
I’m not sure what the Gyeongbokgung Palace covers because a you walk through the area there is palace after palace with mountains in the background.
It’s blues sky, hot sun and lots of walking taking on the lovely sights. I eventually head back to the hotel to cool down for a brief moment before heading off to my next activity, a food tour.
There were supposed to be a few other people joining but they were a no show so it was just me and one other person, so we get a personalized experience.
First visit, was a place down a side street with several eateries. Korean barbecue of pigs neck which is a favourite among locals. The meat is unmarinated to get the real flavour of the meat. It’s cooked over charcoal cylinders to maximise heat.
First, a large sesame leaf is held briefly over the grill. Then a piece of grilled meat is dipped in red bean paste and then placed in the dipping sauce. You can add different salts and peppers. Wrap the leaf and it eat it in one bite. The idea is to create different bite size flavour combinations. We also had pig’s intestines which are chewy but don’t carry much flavour apart from the charring on the grill. Tasty meal.
We were also introduced to a few alcohol drinks and drinking games. One involves a half filled glass of beer with a shot glass dropped in. The game is called titanic. The beer bottle is passed around with each participant adding as little beer as possible (ideally a drop) without the shot glass sinking. Who ever sinks it or is holding the beer bottle when it sinks, has to skull the lot.
Next we visited another restaurant down a side street of Insadong.
Here we had black bean basted fish cake (mochi), squid, sweet potato, noodles, capsicum, and mince and vegetables filled dumplings. This dish was the favourite of the night. It’s sweet, then salty and finishes with a spicy kick. Really unique and like nothing I’ve tasted before.
Next stop was a Korean pub. Because of the MERS outbreak, many Koreans are staying indoors, tourism has taken a dive, and eateries are quiet like this one. Unfortunately, I’m not seeing Seoul in it’s usual self.
For a pub you need beer snacks. So that involves a Korean style pancake with spring onions and grilled mackerel. Love it.
As if we weren’t full after the first or second meal, more food is in order. Dessert at a tea gallery. They have various tea pottery items on display.
We had shaved ice, tea, nuts, syrup, red bean, and condensed cream. Awesome! So refreshing. What a night!
Sunday 28 June
Today was a relatively early start as I was being picked up at my hotel for a tour of the demiliterised zone (DMZ). Unfortunately due to the MERS outbreak, we can’t go into the DMZ but only to the edges. This is to protect military personnel who sleep 12 to a room.
We still got pretty close, passing by a checkpoint where the bus did a U turn and we got out for photos. That was brief because a voice came over the loadspeaker to go away! Normally one can pass through but make sure you bring a passport.
We then stopped at Imjingak Tourist Site which is extremely close to the demarcation line (there’s a civilian line too which we crossed). The site serves as a reminder to the pain and sorrow caused by the Korean War.
They have an observation deck so you can see far into the distance but North Korea is some 10kms away. Paid binoculars will give you a better view.
However when driving to our next stop, the river is to our right and it’s lined with a barbed wire covered fence with lookout posts periodically placed along this massive stretch. When you get to certain points, North Korea is just across the other side! It’s that close! I don’t know much about the Korean War but am aware of the tensions.
Next stop is the Odo Mountain Unification Observatory. They have a model of some of the DMZ which you can see out the window or through (free) binoculars on the observation deck. They also played a video outlining the war and this site.
Then we visted an amethyst factory and jeweller which was random.
Then we made a visit to the War Memorial of Korean which is huge! The entry has all the names of those who passed away.
One could spend a few hours here but about an hour was sufficient due to some background info from the prior destinations.
The tour concluded but I got the lunch option. At 2pm I was really hungry so a visit to a Korean BBQ Restaurant was more than welcome.
We had marinated pork, a spicy salad with kick, garlic, lettuce, a yummy red bean paste, and steamed rice. This combination of ingredients delivered more flavour than my visit to the food tour, but both approaches are different and equally enjoyable.
I wanted to head to a nearby palace and also the City Hall Gardens but these both appeared inaccessible due to a gay rights protest (I think, can’t read Korean but it was something along those lines).
So I went looking for some shops and found a large department store. At the lower level, they had a food court like Japan, but this seemed even better. Ooh, there were so many desserts I drooled over but had to walk past.
I headed to what I thought was a theatre but there was no one at the ticket counter. I got directions and found the place close by. I’m seeing Cookin Nanta, a non-verbal comedy show that goes for 90 minutes. It was fantastic and definitely worth seeing.
I wondered the Myeongdong area where there were food stalls being set up. I walked along and peered curiously at the items on display. I wondered about before making a stop at Cheonggyecheon Stream. There’s not much to look at but one could have a peaceful walk, have a picnic, or let the kids get wet here. I believe there is a digital light show at night.
I left the area and headed to Insadong to check out the eateries on display. I eventually settled on one down a side street. Unfortunately, while I had my heart set on pork bulgogi, they were all out, so I went with the chicken version instead.
There were a lot of condiments brought to my table even before the meal was served. There’s heaps of food on the table so I tucked in.
Then came the bulgogi which was pretty tasty. So full.
Monday 29 June
I had a bit of a sleep in before heading out into the hot sunshine of the day. I set off to Jongmyo Shrine but found there entrance was set the other end.
So after the long walk I got there but missed the English tour time so I waited over an hour for the next one and then commenced the 50 minute tour.
The tour guide took us around explaining that the spirits of the kings are housed in tablets and there’s a room for each tablet. The above photo has typical dress of a king in the day.
Each of the shrines are quite large, especially the second last one. Pretty interesting, the time flew by.
Next I had a wonder around the area passing by a huge undercover market area selling all kinds of things, including some interesting looking foods. After that I hopped onto to the subway and headed to Jokbal Alley, specifically, Ddungddungi Halmeoni Jib Restaurant (stand F). See this link for more: http://www.visitseoul.net/en/article/article.do?_method=view&art_id=45560&lang=en&m=0004025001002&p=01
Jokbal is boiled and seasoned pig’s trotters.
I got the small serve for 30,000 Won and got heaps. Wow! This it’s absolutely unbelievable! So delicious, moist, flavoursome, particularly with this salty sauce.
I also liked the pancake which was quite rich, as if contained pork juices.
Well worth every cent and they even packed up the leftover jokbal which I ate for dinner.
Next it was off to Gangam made famous by Psy’s song Gangam Style. They have the COEX complex which is huge and includes a shopping mall so I spent some time there. Then it was back to the hotel to relax.
Well that’s it for Seoul, it’s been interesting.