Ken and I went to Seoul in May, the same time Kim Jong Un and his posse were threatening a missile attack on South Korea and/or the US. This didn’t alter our decision to hop on our 2.5 hour direct flight to S. Korea’s capital city, Seoul.
One of the first sights, the evening we arrived.
The next morning we started our day off with a short bus ride to North Seoul, where the Gyeongbok Palace is. Directly in front of the palace is Seoul’s main boulevard, Sejongro.
There were various statues and Korea memoribilia in the grass area.
Ken really wanted a pic with this bear, instead of waiting in line with a bunch of 6 year olds we compromised on taking this picture.
Our mind was set on getting to the palace so we didn’t spend too much time at this park, although it was very beautiful.
The palace was great, definitely a highlight of the trip. Look at how beautiful the entrance gate is, well it’s actually the ceiling of the entrance gate with the palace behind. I love this picture.
One thing that I loved and really stood out about this city is the mixture of ancient history immersed into a modern city. Or I guess vice versa. All of the major cities we’ve visited in Asia have historic areas, separate from high-end shopping areas, separate from markets and “local” hangouts. Seoul had all of these things but basically all thrown in a Yahtzee cup and dumped across the city. Things just felt more intertwined here than other places. See the skyscrapers behind the palace?
Back to real life – we went to the palace and liked it a lot. They were setting up for some kind of performance or ceremony for later that day.
Seoul felt very flowery – everything was green and lush, flowers and colors everywhere. It was a very pleasant place.
The Gyongbok Palace was built in 1395 and, like most construction back in the day, it was destroyed in a fire. It was abandonded for almost 3 centuries after the fire then reconstructed in 1867.
Another area outside of the palace had pretty gardens and these neat sculptures of the Chinese years of the animals. Ken is year of the rooster but he really wanted a picture with the dog. Picky with the photographs on this trip, right?
Next up, chow time. Shout out to our friend in Taipei, Skye, for the awesome restaurant recommendation! This place was in a really neat neighborhood, sweet shops, bars, restaurants called Insadong. Language was a bit of a struggle at this establishment so we were slightly confused at first. We were brought to a small room, with a small table…
We sat on the floor then… food just started appearing.
And didn’t stop for quite a while. Hello over exaggerated chopstick user.
The food was delicious. But I’ll be honest… we didn’t eat everything..
After this we went on a hike at mountain Bugaksan. Here’s a pretty view at the trail head.
Turns out high heel sneakers aren’t appropriate for every situation. Some might argue never appropriate.
We had to regiser and leave our passports at the start of the hike, that’s why we are wearing those cards around our neck - identification. We were disgustingly hot.. So so worth it tho; the views were priceless.
The hike was right outside of the presidents residence, also called the Blue House, so there were tons of “guards” stationed at various points of the trail (not pictured). This is because about 40 years ago some North Korean commandos climbed the mountain in an attempt to assassinate the president. They were unsuccessful in killing the president, thankfully, but successful in shutting down the trail to the public. It reopened in 2006 and we sure are glad it was.
Did I mention this hike was 95% stairs?
Ken climbs rocks every chance he gets. High-heeled Kare volunteered as photographer.
View from the half-way point, where we turned around.
Here’s the best view of the Blue House we could get (post-hike).
After our uncomfortable but satisfying hike we went back to Insadong and found a sweet little second floor, outdoor restaurant for a sip of the local’s favorite drink, Soju. It’s made out of different startchy ingredents like rice, wheat and sometimes potatoes. This beverage has it’s own list of ettiquite practices, such as, you never fill your own glass and don’t refill your glass until it’s empty.
Before leaving for this trip, people told us a little about this drink; suggesting that Koreans drink this stuff all the time, women down bottles of it, and people consume it at any time of day. All of this is true but it also turns out Koreans are really big drinkers and can handle their Soju. We were giggly, buzzed and tired after sharing this small bottle. AKA… drunk.
After some chillaxing we went back to the hotel to get ready for a Korean beef dinner. It was amazing.
It looks kind of like hot pot but only had a small amount of broth, it wasn’t soup. It was incredibly delicious. The flavors were so rich and savory. The thinly sliced beef would melt in your mouth. Accompanying veggies, equally outstanding.
Cooked food not pictured.
Then we moseyed to the train station for our next destination. On the way we found the Cheonggyecheon Stream. Although it is located in the heart of the busy city, the stream is surprisingly peaceful, actually having a romantic feel.
It is more than 15 feet below street level and has almost two dozen overhead bridges, making it accessible from lots of locations.
We had big plans for this evening; we headed to a rooftop bar at least 45 min from our dinner destination. Unfortunately, when we were about to arrive at the bar I realized I left my phone at the restaurant. It was at least 11pm by that point and we had no way of calling them (or really speaking to them, if we could call) so we raced back and *thankfully* they had my phone. Very nice, honest people. This wasted a lot of time so we called it an evening. Shit happens ya know.
Day two started with walking around Seoul’s famous market, Namdaemun Market.
This place was seriously packed with tons of people and vendors. You can buy just about anything here; clothes, shoes, food, knickknacks, kitchen accessories, booze, bowls (of all varieties), probably plants of all varieties too.
It was really interesting – we weren’t planning on spending much time there but ended up being so fascinated we took in the sights and shopped for about 2 hours. Other than some great hiking attire, we also found this diamond in the ruff…..
Next we headed across the street to see the Sungnyemum Gate. Here’s another great Yathzee example, skyscrapers in the background.
Another beautiful ceiling.
At one time it was one of the three gateways into Seoul’s city walls.
Built in 1398, it sadly burned in a fired in 2008 (seems kind of late for a fire, right?). Restoration took 5 years - reopened for visitors just a week before we arrived.
Brand spakin new gate. Also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Next up, we made our way to the Noryangjin fish market. This place was really impressive. Its basically a huge warehouse with what must be hundreds of sea creature vendors.
Birdie’s eye view.
Again, you can buy anything here; massive shrimp, crab of any size, sashimi cut in front of you, sea snails, penis fish (type of spoon worm, duh), creepy crawlies and the like.
One of the best things about this place is the restaurants that over look the market on the second floor of the warehouse. After you pick out and purchase the sea animals of your liking, you take he/her/them to one of the restaurants. Here’s our crab in a bag. Poor guy was trying to crab his way out…
Sitting down to patiently wait for Mr. lunch to be cooked.
Thee crab was delish but could have been a little better - we didn’t have the abilty to tell them how to prepare it or get any butter, sauces, etc.
And a gigantic shrimp. Add wasabi to everything.
Finally, the grand finale of the trip….. the NC Dinos.
Just as we did in Osaka, we were thrilled to get to experience a baseball game in Seoul! We both agreed: this was the sweetest baseball game we’ve ever been to. If you’re considering a trip to Seoul, be sure to plan your itinerary around the Dinos baseball schedule. With a name like that, how could you go wrong??
This game didn’t have balloons… but it did have tallboy cans of Hoegardden for $4US!!!!!!!!
It also had a spirit section with a super enthusiastic MC – luckily this was the section we were in. He was so entertaining, was a major highlight of the baseball game. Can you see him stading on the box at the bottom of the picture?
The sun was setting, there weren’t too many people there, the weather had an autumn feel. It was just a really fun but relaxing experience.
Someone even proposed at the game <3
Had to rep my Manny Rameriz Taiwan Rhinos shirt.
This was a really quick trip. We arrived Friday evening and left on Monday morning, giving us a mere 2 days in Seoul. We did the best we could for a short time and saw the highlights.
I have to say, people have asked us if we have a favorite place that we have visited, and it’s usually pretty easy to answer: No. Everywhere is so different and special in it’s own way. BUT. Seoul I really loved.