A Korean Winter Vacation, Day 1 – Seoul

Taiwan, Taiwan, Taiwan… I’ve been there many times over the years of my life. So, I decided I needed a getaway trip while I was on the other side of the country. What better place to go then a place with friends? Hello, freezing-ass cold Korea!

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Well, after we got in, we took the bus and headed up to my friend Matt’s house. Then, got some dinner!

The next day, we started off on our own….

A walk down the steep hill in Itaewon and off to the subway stop with our T-Money cards. First stop: National Palace Museum of Korea.

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Let me preface and say that I did not plan the beginning of this day well as the royal palace next door, Gyeongbokgung was closed on Tuesdays! Yep, we were there on a Tuesday…

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There’s that door…. closed…. to the royal palace. So anyway, do this on a day where you can also see the royal palace. Well, at least the museum was free and we had come all this way… why not?

Here are the highlights of the museum for me:

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The vehicles of the Empress and Emperor on the lower floor.

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And this awesome water clock! It’s hydropowered… and has these balls that move about inside that track time.

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The video was in Korean…. I had no idea what they were saying.

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But as the balls moved, these wooden statues would also put on a show at each “clock hand” movement.

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Another cool statue waiting to be moved…

Anyway, when my friend Sora came to meet us at the museum, we headed back to the train.

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Pretty entryway into the station eh? This is the Gyeongbokgung Palace Station. One stop away…. Anguk Station.

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In Insadong, we walked down the street to a flurry of great artistic, funky shops and eats. We were there a bit early so many street eats were just getting to come out.

For some reason, Korea functions on the same time that I do – not in the morning! We mostly didn’t see any life in the streets until the afternoons.

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We had this hodugwaja (호두과자) (Korean dessert with red bean and walnuts) in the shape of poo. Oh, such novelty….

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We also walked about Ssamziegil, a sort of Abbot Kinney area (as in Venice, California), but the Korean-version.

Then, as Sora had to meet her friend and depart ways, we went to find a lunch spot. Although we were hesitant about eating at such a touristy area (it was definitely more expensive in this area than by Matt’s place), we settled at a fairly larger place with an obvious English menu – Insadong Geujip (인사동그집).

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We got this crazy dish. I think it is a “geujip on bab” – a specialty of the place. It was a load of edible flowers and sprouts with seafood on a hot stone platter.

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I have to admit that it took me a second to get used to the edible flowers and sprouts, but I grew akin to it. Definitely an interesting experience! And… I love that gochujang, red pepper paste. Our meal was about $30 or so. Not too shabby.

After a hefty meal, we walked out of the Insadong area, moving down the street and found Cheonggyecheon Stream.

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Restored in 2005, it has become a popular place walking path. Um, yeah, it was winter and freezing, but it was still pretty.

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We walked a bit down the stream to get a taste. It spanned several kilometers with fun nuances throughout the path.

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We hopped a bit back and forth where we could.

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Then when we decided it was time, we headed out towards Myeongdong to meet Matt.

Yep, we walked… We got a bit lost but with the help of the many info booths or designated tourism info reps walking about the area, we managed to find our way.

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Here is the Myeongdong NANTA Theatre, a landmark in the middle of the shopping district.

As night began to fall, the streets started to fill.

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There were food carts getting ready to set up and the bustle was just getting started.

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Shopping! Oh, I also recommend exchanging money here if you are staying in Seoul. The rates here were much better than the airport.

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Of course, I had to get this hotteok, a Korean pancake with sugar and/or honey. Yum. It was about $1-2.

We also saw these tornado potatoes (my first encounter was in Taiwan!).

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As it got closer to the time I planned with Matt, we moved towards the train station exit, where we planned to meet.

It was Christmas Eve… Did I mention that?

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Anyway, we kept going towards Seoul station but stopped in Namdaemun first.

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When the night falls, I have to say it again…. everything starts bustling! Lots of awesome food carts…

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Matt insisted we have some mandu (basically Korean meat buns, or “bao” as we say in Chinese, or “nikuman” in Japanese) from King Dumplings – 가메 엣날 손 왕 만두.

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Nom. So delicious on a chilly day…. the warm, pipping hot steam rising to your face as you bite into a warm, nummy mouthful of delicately seasoned meat.

And that… was pretty much the day.

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We went to Seoul station from there and ended up walking around to no avail. Really, Matt had to leave and my mom and I got lost. Hours later, we finally decided to call it quits and headed back to the house when we found our path. Cold, tiring, but great first day in the city.

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