Friday, August 5, 2016

Seoul, Korea

We had 2 days in Seoul as a stopover trip. Took 2.5 hours from the plane landing to immigration and customs then arriving at our hotel. Airport limo bus located right at the terminal exit was very convenient. Our ride to Gwanghwamun Square only cost 10000 won (about US$10) per person. Must have exact change as the bus driver does not and will not accept cash. Almost got kicked off the bus as I fumbled in my purse for the exact cash to be inserted into the ticket slot. Bus ride was uneventful and took an hour to get us close to our hotel. Walked a couple of not so short blocks to the hotel. Thankfully the receptionist was nice enough to allow for 10 am check in.

Super comfy bed, felt like sleeping on clouds. Spacious room overlooking Gwanghwamun Square with the most up to date amenities, including seat warming and self flushing toilet. The only drawback was the audible traffic noise even from the 28th floor.

First meal in Seoul had to be lunch at the famous Toksokchon's samyetang. It's chicken ginseng soup with rice stuffing, jujube, lotus seed and ginseng. So rich and satisfying I wished I had another bowl. Seafood pancake was too large for the 2 of us to finish even though it was delicious . 

A short walk away is the Gyeongbokgung Palace and Cheong Wa Dae- the blue house which is Seoul's "white house". Didn't stay for long as it was hot, humid and crowded. Next stop was the Bukchon Hanok Village.

One of many traditional houses at Bukchon Hanok Village.
The lovely tea house set in traditional hanok on a hill overlooking the Gyeongbokgong Palace and Cheong Wa Dae.
After climbing up and down little hills in the village, we were sweaty and exhausted. Nothing beats refreshing ice cold flower teas plus assortment of sweet rice cakes to quench our thirsts.

After cooling off, we walked to Insadong for people watching and gallery hopping. Didn't see much that interests us except for baskets of steaming dumplings at an alley on one of the side streets. Bought 2 big shrimp dumplings for 3000 won. It  was alright, nothing spectacular compared to the ones we can get 10 min away from our home in LA. Afternoon weather was too unbearable to walk. Hailed a taxi and the driver wasn't too pleased that it was only a short 3 km ride that took 10 min because of traffic. The final fare was 3400 won to our hotel. Starting fare was 3000 won and increased by 100 won per km. Gave him 5000 won and told him to keep the change. It's not easy being a taxi driver in Seoul.

Had to try the traditional Korean meal (Hanjeongsik) at Jinjinbara Restaurant, Seoul Station. It was a feast not just for the stomach but the eyes as well. Throughout dinner, the dishes kept coming. There were cold dishes to start that included cold soup, salad, sashimi, cold noodles, wraps followed by hot appetizers like fried kimchi cakes, fish cakes, chives cakes, chicken ginseng soup, and fried glass noodles. For the main course, we had seared fish, baked shrimp, beef stew and spicy octopus along with kimchi soup. At this point, we could hardly stuff ourselves anymore. The only thing to do was to stare at the dishes in front of us. To conclude the dinner, we were served rice in water with 6 side dishes (banchan) plus desserts of sweet rice cakes and watermelon slices. Another couple next to us was trying to finish and halfway thru, the lady burped so loudly that everyone including herself started cracking up. With so many courses in one sitting, some dishes like their noodles and pancakes hit the spot while others were a miss especially with the overcooked shrimp, fish, and kind of chewy beef stew. It was quite cheap at 49000 w per person for this huge spread. A quick peep of traditional Korean dishes in one night.
Final stop for our first day was Namdaemun Market. Just a few blocks from Seoul Station and we needed that walk after dinner. I'm not much of a shopping person. Most stalls were closed and nothing that I can't get from LA's Chinatown for about the same price. Took a taxi back to the hotel and called it a night.

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