Oh, Seoul, South Korea – you were a pleasant northern Asian surprise after our whirlwind trip back home. Seoul turned out to be kind of a mash between Tokyo or Osaka (we were expecting it to be much like Japan) and the more gritty street feel of South East Asia.
It reminded us a lot of Hong Kong – bright lights and bustling alleyways lined with shops and eateries, and although Korean in nature, still somewhat Chinese and (weirdly) Western influenced. And yes, that is a Texas bar.
We stayed in the suburb of Myeong-dong, and street wise, much of it is quite pretty, with decorated trees and lots of Christmas lights about.
Here’s the quaint historical streets of Bukchon Village, where traditional dwellings of old are mixed in with modern apartments and shops. You can even stay in a couple of them! Maybe something to think about for next time.
On our last day, we also took a quick jaunt around Sungnyemun Gate – one of the 8 gates of Seoul – the original gates that surrounded the fortress-walled city in the 1300s. Apparently only 6 still exist.
This one was built from 1396-8.
(Unfortunately, we didn’t get around to the DMZ or JSA tour on the border of North/South Korea. They were booked out by the time we tried to organise it. A lesson for next time!).
We were also lucky enough to be there during the Seoul Lantern Festival – where dozens of huge lanterns sit along the waters of the Cheonggyecheon Stream in Jung-gu.
For more pics, see my separate post here: The Seoul Lantern Festival 2015.
And then there was… the street food!! Tonnes of it! Especially around Myeong-dong. And a lot of it on sticks. Definitely one of the best parts about visiting Asia.
Here is a mixture of sausages, fish cakes, mini sausages, octopus, chicken, potato and more…
Our Top 3 Favourites were 1. Korean Egg Bread (gyeran bbang), which is like a soft little bread/cake thing baked with an egg on top. Delish!
2. Red Bean Fish Croissant (bungeoppang), which supposedly hails from Japan (where it’s called taiyaki), though I don’t recall seeing it there. It’s basically like a dense croissant with a sweet pastry flavour, and your choice of red bean, cheese or sweet potato inside. Yummo!
3. And Isaac Toast! This hole-in-the-wall sandwich shop was obviously western-influenced (oddly) but hugely popular with tourists and locals. You basically get a buttery fried sandwich with things like ham, bulgogi or bacon, as well as egg, cheese, cabbage and pickles. So tasty we had it for two breakfasts!
One of the first things we did was head to Gwangjang Market, a huge indoor market where you can eat freshly prepared and traditional Korean food. We ate a mung bean and seafood pancake.
Kimchi is huge too, as you would imagine. Here’s a shot of it being made in big batches.
The biggest food adventure we had was trying to seek out the famed Kyochon Chicken place, otherwise known as Crack Chicken. For those of you who’ve eaten it at Homebush West (or Chatswood), this is the place where it came from!!
After heading to 3 different locations around Gangnam (and spending hours walking in the drizzle) we thought we’d never find it. Google Maps clearly let us down, big time.
The next day, however, searching for a place for lunch back in Gangnam… it miraculously appeared before our eyes.
And it was delish! We got both the soy and the spicy chili chicken that you get back in Sydney, plus one they don’t have there: Honey. All were great. Esh was a big soy fan, while I loved the spicy.
Here’s Gangnam in the rain:
We also ate (earlier on, after our original fail) at another fried chicken place in Myeong-dong called Druken Kuazai. It was also super yum. And was our first real introduction into fried chicken and beer – which seems to be a popular eating staple in Seoul.
Finally, here are a few pics of what became our regular drinking haunt: Mr Potato. This place is what’s known as a Hof (from the German, ‘Hoffbrau’) and is where you go (upstairs) for beers and a snack.
We got around in Seoul pretty much by walking and taking the subway, which (like the rest of trains in Asia) is ridiculously cheap, easy and efficient.
Oh, and on our very last day, on one last walk before getting on the plane… We saw this. And didn’t question it.