Seoul Travel Guide – Where To Go, What To Eat? (2018)

Needs tips planning your trip to Seoul but haven’t figured where to stay, places to eat and visit, or even wondering where to get your wifi egg in Seoul?

I’ve got all your backs – just came back from an 11 day trip and looking to share this important information with you guys. My role when travelling there is usually the travel guide and translator – so if there are some of you out there who haven’t figured your itinerary yet, I will attach an itinerary I made up at the end of the blogpost so you guys can take that and edit it according to your research. I’ve put places that are nearby each other together so that it’s easier for you access when travelling Seoul. 

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How to get around the city?

  • Use Kakao Maps to get around as Google Maps doesn’t work for walking directions in South Korea anymore. It has an English interface so don’t worry about language. What it lacks is a live arrow to show you where you’re heading, but I found it possible to navigate with landmarks in the map. Kakao Metro is a great app for you to plan your subway routes too.
  • I would suggest for you to use their subway from the moment you land at their airport as their subway system is very organised, and much cheaper than taking the shuttle buses or cabs. A one-way subway ticket directly from the airport would cost you about RM 16 ringgit for a 60 minutes trip, whereas the bus would charge you RM 36 per head. Needless to say, cabs will charge you at about RM 200-300 per car but if you have huge luggages, you may only be able to fit 3 person in each car. My favorite deciding factor is time. I was once stuck in a traffic being on the road from the airport to the city for about 2.5 hours. I’ve always stuck to the reliable subway since.

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(photo credits : cmysteps)

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You can buy the card straight from the machines at the subway stations too

  • Get their transportation card. The normal card is called T-Money and is now being sold in all convenience stores for RM 10 (2500 Won). They sell special edition cards at double the price too, but just ask for a normal one. You can top up your card as and when you need at all of their subway stations through a machine that has English and Chinese translations available too.  There is also an option to choose to buy their Tourist Passes  (only available at very limited areas – you can check them out here). However, they charge at an average of about RM 35 for 20 rides per day. But let’s be honest here, who takes 20 rides per day? I would average out your places to visit at about 2 areas per day and that would just mean HOTEL > VENUE A > VENUE B > HOTEL. If you follow the average visiting routes and pattern, that only makes 3 average rides a day and each ride is charged at an average of RM 5 (1250 won) per way. If you do the math, you know what I mean. Just get the usual T-money and you’re probably gonna save more money than getting the tourist pass. Of course, it depends on your style of travel. 

 

 Which area should I stay in? Airbnb or Hotel?

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I always just give one option when answering this. Choose Hong Ik University aka Hongdae to stay at. I only have three strong reasons for this. Number one, the airport subway leads STRAIGHT to Hong Ik University. Number two, it is one of the busiest areas of Seoul where all the university students gather. Buskers gather every night at the main areas and you would see many high quality performances by hopeful youngsters. If you’re too tired to travel somewhere far but don’t wanna get back to your Airbnb/hotel too early in the day – you can just take a walk below and go back with food from their street side food stalls. Also a very good place to buy your last minute things. Thirdly, Hongik University’s subway line is the green line (Line No.2) and is one of the most convenient lines that leads you to most places at the fastest speed of time. Other places like Myeong dong or Gangnam does sound great to stay at – but I’m factoring overall convenience (traveling time, end of day leisures, areas of interest etc)

I would always choose Airbnb over hotel as it’s usually more fund efficient. There’s also a higher chance I would get a washing machine in the unit as opposed to a paying facility in the hotel. I like to wash my clothes there and then so I don’t need to bring many sets of clothes over – also another way to save space for more new things to bring home! 

I always try to find the ones that charge at about RM 100/per head per night – and there are quite a number of good options. The Airbnb i stayed in (photo above) was only RM 2200 for 4 of us for 10 days. Pretty good deal! 

How much money to bring?

This depends on your spending habits and what you’re looking to get out of the trip. I usually spend about RM 1500 over about 10 days and this includes transportation (RM 15 per day), food (RM 20-30 per meal), cosmetics and local made (good quality clothes). I’ve had a friend who managed to spend about RM 7000 in just 9 days, but like I said – it depends on each on of you individually. Most of the affordable clothes are going at RM 20-36 per piece (market rate) so you can use the above guideline to do your own math. 

What to eat?

 

  • Chicken & Beer – Feeling like some CHIMEK? That’s what the Koreans call it. It’s an inseparable duo for the Koreans, just like steak and wine. I personally like NOONA HOLDAK because their chicken is oven baked instead of fried. I do think that they fare pretty good when it comes to taste and price too. They have outlets in Hongdae and Myeong-dong. Could be worth a try.
  • Bulgogi – I always go back to this place that serves bulgogi, bean sprouts, rice cake, vegetables, noodles, sausages, spicy sauce all in one pot. KONGBUL is also in Hongdae. I can’t put a finger as to why it tastes good, but its the combination that makes it pretty  amazing for me. I went back to the same restaurant twice in my recent trip. (0:32 second in above video)
  • Shaved Ice – I’m going to recommend the obvious – SULBING. I’m not very adventurous when it comes to desserts but Sulbing serves pretty good bingsu (better than any of the ones in KL for now) as their milk shaven ice melts almost immediately in your mouth and the toppings are just extremely generous!
  • Cake – This is not a place I highly recommend for its taste, but is a pretty place to be in for your Instagram Photos when you’re in Seoul – and that’s Dore Dore in Garosugil. I do have to say the strawberry cake I had during spring was pretty good, but pricy (RM 36 per palm size piece). I only stumbled upon the place cause the twins in Superman Returns were eating their cake there in the show haha. 
  • Gamjatang – Idaejo Bbyeodagui (이대조뼈다귀). This place is gold for me. I wish you have at least about 6 of you so you can try both different dishes they serve. It’s braised porkbone and porkbone soup but each serving (S,M,L) serves a minimum of two. It’s an extremely appetising dish I just wish I can eat it every single day!
  • Jjajangmyun – If you’re staying in an Airbnb – get your host to order you your jjajangmyun, a tangsuyuk (sweet and sour pork) and some mandu (dumplings!). Feel the whole experience of locals ordering their delivery. After you’re done, put the plates back out your door (don’t worry nobody will steal them) and you’re done. Alternatively, find a restaurant called Hong Kong Ban Jeom. They have different chains too.
  • Korean porridge – Porridge is made really differently in Malaysia and Korea. It’s made with real good quality ingredients and rice. Look for this restaurant called Bonjuk. There’s one in Ehwa Womens University. I personally like their beef mushroom porridge the most. Their mini sides are also to die for. 
  • Braised Chicken –  There are two main chains that serve this dish they called the jjimdalg. I prefer Bongchu Jjimdalg over Andong Jjimdalg but they taste pretty similiar. It tastes quite familiar and many local friends have compared it to normal braised chicken dishes you get in mixed rice stalls, but the chicken here is extremely tender and is served with good quality korean glass noodles and chilli. (0:54 second in video)
  • Note : Alot of restaurants only serve a minimum of two pax. So even if you’re eating alone, you gotta order two pax. This applies mostly for restaurants that have a specific menu to their restaurant. If you’re in a restaurant that serves a wide range of menu like kimchi fried rice to mandu to noodles to omurice – you’re good to go for a one pax order! Most of the Koreans don’t eat alone as its a social implication that you’re a loner (though its improving these days). Their businesses and culture is deeply intergreted into their business plans haha. Either you eat for two, or you eat somewhere else.

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 Where to shop for clothes?

 

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  • This depends on your style of clothes and what you seek for when it comes to fashion. I personally like minimalistic designs, or just really simple everyday wear that doesn’t have alot of designs. If you’re like me, then you’re looking at two places – Ehwa Womens University and the Bus Terminal Express Underground Shopping area. I’m recommending these two because their prices are the cheapest, for many of the similiar things you find in the streets of Seoul. The standard price in other places would be at about RM 36 per piece, but in the two places above – you can find deals at RM 30 for that same item and other deals such as RM 36 for 1+1 (what they mean by buy one, free 1) or RM 10 for 3 basic pieces. You’ve got to comb through the racks and spend your time there. Among those two, I prefer Ehwa Womens University because their choices are slightly more trendy and new, whereas at the Express Bus Station – designs can get abit old as their demographics include the people above their 50s. 
  • I don’t recommend spending your time in DongDaeMun. It’s one of the most redundant places to go, and prices are extremely high for so-so quality items. They do have a separate building where alot of the local designers have stores, and you can go take a look but prices range at about RM 150 – RM 300 per piece. Like I said, it depends on your style of shopping. If you’re up for something more special, go for it. I usually only spend my time there if I have absolutely no where else to go. They do have a crazy long underground shopping area (that seems to focus on selling hats and scarves) called the DongDaeMun Underground Shopping Centre. 
  • Haggling – Alot of places don’t do haggling now, you’ll actually see that they either put the price on boards or would state stuff like “Price Tag” – which means, their items are individually tagged so don’t ask haha. The places that allow haggling are the ones where you have to ask the price (so you have to see properly got price tag or price boards anot). Be prepared to be shooed away by stores that are owned by elderlies. The elderlies in Korea act like they’re your grandparents – they have a society power of just scolding anybody they see and the younger Koreans just oblige and give in. Places that I know for sure you can haggle is at many of the stores in AmPm Building MyeongDong & Dongdaemun, as well as the shoe stores in Ehwa Womens University. 
  • Get used to the term ‘service’. In Korea, this term means freebies. This applies to restaurants, fashion outlets as well as cosmetic stores. If someone gives you something, and you’re like “I didn’t order this” – you can always ask “Service?”. Well, they pronounce it as “ser-bees-seu” over there haha. 

Are cosmetics really cheaper? 

  • To be honest, it depends where you’re from. If you’re from Malaysia, make sure you do some research because online markets like Hermo actually sells their products at prices that are EXTREMELY similiar to the ones being sold in Korea. When I find that prices are only at a slight difference of about RM 5-RM 10, I save that space for some other products that is more worth that luggage space. Always check before you buy – I like to spend the first 2-3 days just writing down prices and comparing before splurging all my money at once.
  • I personally find many of the Innisfree products not worth getting in South Korea. The price is very similar to retail prices here in Malaysia. I’m saying this when putting brands like ETUDE HOUSE or APIEU as comparisons. These products can have a 50% difference when it comes to retail price locally and in Seoul.
  • One of my recent favorite places to get products would be NATURE COLLECTION. It holds three brands – The Face Shop, TOMARU and Beyond. I don’t know the latter two, but they have really good seasonal deals in there. I got a Face Shop  Mango Serum for RM 30 because they were having an end-of-season sales. They told me the promotion was only ongoing for about 5 days, but when I went back a day after the promotion – prices resumed back to RM 50! They don’t just sell the three brands I mentioned, but actually do carry quite a few more other dermatologically certified products – but I don’t remember the names.
  • Many people are attracted to this one store called BAVIPHAT in Ehwa Womens University. When I first saw it years ago, I was so shocked with the prices they were offering. They would be selling products from the different make up brands at about 30-40% lower than the original retail prices. It was too good to be true so I did some research. Apparently, the store only takes foreign customers and NOTHING in the store is in Korean. There have been many, many reports saying that their stuff isn’t authentic, and also testimonials of people bringing home faulty products. I was really tempted to just get basic stuff like lip tints from ETUDE HOUSE (that were only selling at RM 5) but after the research, I decided I didn’t want to risk the money on stuff that may potentially harm my skin. I also asked the neighbouring cosmetics stores what they thought about the store – the friendlier ones of course recommended against it. Of course, you can still walk in and decide for yourself. 

Additional tips?

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  • Get your Wifi Eggs. You can always rent local wifi hubs but I personally prefer the ones in South Korea as the speed is great. I use the one it KT and rent it through one of my favorite travel experience sites, KLOOK. They charge at about RM 11 per day, for unlimited use but if you rent it there and then over the counter, it will be about RM 30 per day. If you want to get even cheaper, here’s a referral link for you – RM 12.50 OFF. Actually the discount applies for any other travel experience there lah, not just the wifi 🙂 
  • Head to Myeongdong without stopping at Myeongdong station! If you’re really staying in Hongik University like I recommended, you’ll be on the green line. Don’t have to transfer to diff lines to get to Myeongdong – just stop at Euljiro 1-ga aka Euljiro Ibgu, get out of Exit 6 – walk straight for 3 minutes and you’re there! Can save traveling time too. 
  • Before you get on the train to a nearby area, do some research – most of the time, if the station is just 1 or 2 stops away, you should be able to walk there instead of taking the subway. I have personally walked from Hongik University, to Sinchon, and then to Ehwa University. It doesn’t feel far at all as there’s always so many things to see along the route. 
  • It sucks to say this but it’s a silent known fact that alot of the cosmetic storekeepers in Seoul pretty much have something against the Chinese. They sort of have a love-hate relationship with the Chinese. The moment you walk in and don’t look Korean, they’re just going to throw Chinese greetings at you with a face that shouts ‘Get out’. Most of the time, if you would like a more pleasurable experience shopping in the store – I personally like to shop in Korean or English. The attitude changes 180 degrees, trust me on this. It doesn’t apply for 100% of them, but 80% I dare say. Also, I just realised since going back recently – that SO many of them have switched their staff from Koreans to Korean-speaking Chinese nationalities. 
  • Forget about grabbing the collars of the person who just hit you hard on the shoulder for an apology. Koreans are really used to brushing past each others shoulders and they’ve gotten to the level where they’re so used to it and have grown extremely immune to the feeling – it’s not even a thing anymore. You would get 1-2 younger generations apologising but ya, just forget it haha. 

List of Places To Tick Off Your Seoul Checklist

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  • Hongik University
  • Sinchon
  • Ehwa University Station
  • Commonground (Shopping Venue)
  • Garosugil
  • Bukcheon Village
  • Gangnam 
  • Seoul Station – Lotte Mart
  • Dongdaemun – DDP Plaza
  • YeouiNaru Station – Han River Park 
  • Insadong
  • Gyeongbokgung Palace
  • Itaewon (Foreigners Street + Halal Area)
  • Namsan Tower
  • Myeong Dong
  • Nami Island
  • Cheonggyecheon Stream
  • Everland / Lotte World 
  • Inhwa Mural Village
  • Gwangjang Market
  • Noryangjin Fish Market

And that is about it for now – I will update the list as and when I find more things to share. Here is a 10-day itinerary I drew up in 2015, but it covers most of the main places in Seoul if you’re a first timer. CLICK TO VIEW.

Let me know if you liked the post – or if you have any questions that I may be able to answer. It may be quicker to reach me through my IG DM’s so follow me at @thenatstory and we’ll chat from there! 

Anyong! 

Seoul Trip : The Start of All Leg Breakdowns (Sinchon/Insadong/Bukchon Hanok Village)

FINALLY sharing with you all my little getaway to Seoul. For those who need some Seoul itinerary planning, weepdeedoo! Sometime ago, my family and I were just in the car thinking about if we will ever go to Seoul again together. My dad and brother has never been there again since I went there to study – and they’ve never been brought around by me. My cousins, aunties and grandmother have all been taken around Seoul by me but not my own immediate family members. My mom has been there numerous times, all thanks to very viable reasons such as me needing an extra hand to do packing and i probably need another partner to lug my bags with me.

Back to the conversation about if we will ever get on the plane together – all 4 of us – something got into Dad and he asked to just check the airplane tickets online. I did – and it was only about RM 700 per person. We thought about it over a few days but didn’t really want to take too much time because of the price influxes. We bought the tickets. The next thing we knew, months later we were on a plane heading to Seoul.

After being away for more than 7 years (I was there in 2008!!), I am finally heading back. I was there in 2010 but it was a really short trip. I was honestly really excited because Seoul holds so much memories for me and it was a place that was always developing and growing. My friends were going in and out the country so often, and the Kpop buzz has only been undyingly harboring which made me miss it even more just by looking at shows that feature certain places that I used to spend a lot of time at.

We spent about 10 days there (from 30th April 2015 till 10th May 2015) and got ourselves some good companion. The Ming brothers and their family came along too and there was 10 of us in total! It’s funny how we ended up going together. I was in their house with a group of friends and Uncle Ho was just jokingly asking if it’d be okay if he tagged along and pretended to bump into us in every place. Fast forward, jokes became real – and we ended up in Seoul together. It was really fun having another family come with us cause it was a little bit more meriah.

Weather was going through the end of Spring. We didn’t know what to wear because temperature seemed so unpredictable as it kept changing on the sites online. I looked up hashtags (#seoul #korea) to see what would people be wearing. They all looked so different and there were so many throwback photos. Anyway we just packed what we could – only about 5-6 outfits each person, cause we were looking to shop or either get our clothes washed at the coin wash stores.

So here goes the beginning of our SEOUL trip in 2015!

[WARNING : 88 photos ahead!]

Day 1 : AIRPORT / SINCHON / SOLBING DESSERT

DSC05039We checked in 3 luggages and the little lime one was a handcarry I took just incase we had extra stuff to put in the luggage on the way home. We took AirAsia so it was definitely a smarter way to make sure you still had extra space to put your stuff incase you went overboard shopping. I wouldn’t say we were huge shoppers because stuff in Seoul isn’t too cheap – but there are areas that sell clothes for about RM 15 in extremely good quality! What if we go crazy there? So bringing an extra bag was the plan! I lugged my laptop and everything else inside so it was quite hassle free. Quite worried that I would lose my eye one it for a bit in the airport then everything will be gone. Having things on my back would be a lot more easier to take care, but I made sure I paid more attention to it lah. Rather than have a sore bag throughout the whole 10-day trip, right?

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For the first time, we weren’t seated at the wing of the plane! Was put at the aisle, but I guess it’s alright. 6 hour flight is considerably long, but cause I was too happy to be going to Seoul I think it really didn’t matter at all. Ask me sit at the end of the plane – sit only lor. AirAsia buy seats also must pay really kiksei me.

Second time boarding from KLIA2 and I see that they now have a lot more travellators. Good for people like us who had to walk till the ultimate end of the place. The only thing I can think about the distance is horror for those who is about to miss their flight – and realize its only at the end of the road. Good luck mate pfft.

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After 6 painful hours – sigh, really so long lah. What also cannot do in the plane. No entertainment TV, iPad also didnt bring, forgot to download anything into the computer, had my harddisk but I didnt’ download VLC to play the odd formats of the movies. Submit myself to fate and just concentrate on being grateful I’m currently in a plane heading somewhere. “You are lucky, Natalie. Be happy. Be patient. You are lucky. Ok?”

Arrived at Incheon International Airport, went to collect our portable Wifi (we used Pocket Wifi Korea at USD 3.95 per day). You can check the link out HERE. It was pretty good as it covered a lot of places except for when you are underground such as the subway areas. I would recommend it. The sites say that the coverage is really bad in places like Myeongdong but it worked pretty well for me.

Mings went on a different plane and arrived in Seoul about half a day earlier. We were able to get in touch with the wifi router to tell them we’ve touched down! It doubles as a shuttle train somewhat as it’s tracks are different and can bring you to stations in a shorter period as opposed to the usual city subway that may take about double the time that requires transits. Pretty cool – so you get to see people still walk in and out the train although their destinations isn’t the airport.

DSC05048Nick and Dad in the Special Needs seat. Usually old ajussi’s will tell you to move if they don’t think you deserve the seats. They were there cause they were the baggage guardians LOL. Mom and I just sat at the common area and waited. The train right was about 45 minutes before we arrived directly at where our AirBnB apartment was – Hongik University aka Hong Dae.

DSC05050Almost there : We had 9 stops from the Airport!

Our apartment was REALLY REALLY close to the subway. It was really just a stone’s throw away, and didn’t take more than a minute from the exits. The building was SMACK right in between two exits of the subway so it was pretty convenient. It was my first time staying in an Airbnb and this was a self check in so I was pretty nervous. We booked the place a few months before and they gave us a password to enter. I inquired to confirm if the password was correct just a few weeks as we were about to arrive – and the owner confirmed that there was nothing to worry about. We found the place easily – but there was a problem.

THE PASSWORD WASN’T RIGHT! I tried again and again to no avail 🙁

We couldn’t get in for about at least 15 minutes and I was mildly freaking out because my family and all was with me and I couldn’t really answer as to what was really happening. I couldn’t really contact the host because she kept insisting that I could text her with the Airbnb platform and she would respond soon. I guess I was really a little too trusting to just have been okay with that. I texted her with our Wifi Router (thank God for that!) but I really couldn’t just sit down and wait for a reply outside the apartment door. I looked and searched for contact numbers, and there was one that I had saved – but nobody was picking up. I called again and again, and finally a girl picked up.

The girl told me she wasn’t working there anymore,  but she could still give me the password to the apartment. My eyes opened wide but I tried to sound calm. In my mind I was just thinking “HOW IN THE WORLD DOES AN EX EMPLOYEE HAVE THE PASSWORD?”. I really just wanted to get in the house so I just responded as casually as I could as she confirmed my location, I assume the owner of the studio has a couple of properties opened for AirBnB. I told her the name of my building and she gave me the password – I keyed in the password – and slide down the cover – and the door unlocked!

BUT…it wasn’t over. The lady on the phone went on and didn’t want to hang up. I was trying to rush the conversation cause it was still an overseas call and was going to be damn expensive. It ended up being RM 14.40 for a call that was less than 3 minutes.  She was complaining to me about how she wasn’t paid by the owner of the studio for being a local runner for the services. The owner who I’m communicating with on AirBnB resides outside of Korea and has her own runners to facilitate the place and make sure guests are comfortable and attended to. I guess this girl was having an issue with the owner and she was telling me to leave mean reviews for the owner. Girl, you don’t know what you doing man. That’s my moneh you complaining over. I just told her that I am sorry about what’s happening, thanked her for letting us in and hung up.

I really liked the place!! It had 3 beds and bathroom and toilet was separated – which was a great plus! We were about 11 floors up high and was overlooking the main roads of Hong Dae. You can view in in my vlogs on Youtube – will attach the vlog of the day below if you want to watch everything live. The only downside was that it had no air conditioning. It was still spring and weather was pretty chill – but man, first night was just cruel. We were kinda sweating, I figured it wasn’t the way to go and texted the owner to help us fix our aircond. Actually we didn’t know how to turn it on, but I still needed him to come over to take a look. He promised to come over either super late at night, or just next 2 days cause it was the weekend.

DSC05052I decided to get the conversation about the aircond going as we went out to just do a quick screen though at Sinchon and also have dinner. I miss by 5000 Won (RM 15) BBQ buffet in Sinchon, where my uni was. Just couldn’t wait to get back to see how the place looks like!!

Sigh but damn unlucky we arrived at Sinchon but I just COULDNT find the place. Thanks to KakaoTalk’s Call Feature I was able to call Dawn to check with her on where it is. The service was quite bad so I couldn’t really hear her properly. We had about 9 of us and i didn’t really wanna lug everybody to go look for the restaurant with me so we just decided on a random bbq restaurant. We ordered a bean paste stew, few pork belly slices and marinated pork ribs.

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Yummy!! It was one of the best ways to kick start a Seoul holiday. Ahh, just miss the original BBQ. There’s just something so different about having barbecue in Korea. May just be me, but aiyah – holiday, then of course have to like and be happy with the feeling of being in the foreign land ma correct?

After dinner we walked around Sinchon a little and got a bit sad. So many things have changed since I was there. I sound like a broken record, but the changes were just TOO drastic. I didn’t recognize the place anymore. Imagine spending almost a year on the same rotary and to find it being so different you don’t recognise it any longer. I guess it’s almost like how an old folk comes pass the city, and gives that longing vibe and sigh on how they don’t recognise a place they once called home as they are now replaced by tall buildings and whatnot. How can a place change SO much in just a matter of 6-7 years? Wei shen me?

Looked around for about an hour and it was time for dessert. We spotted Solbing Desserts the moment we walked in Sinchon so I was adamant on trying it because so many people recommended it.

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Wah the desserts there don’t play play – I think about 15,000 won on average for a bowl. That’s about RM 45 plus minus. But this is a holiday, so it’s okay. Think in the currency of the country you’re in! My family ordered two, one Strawberry and another Red Bean.

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WAHHHH!! The Strawberry one was one of the BESTEST strawberry desserts I’ve ever had. I love that they didn’t use normal water but like shaved milk? The consistency was so soft and light and the strawberry serving was just ABSOLUTELY generous. With every scoop, I could get 2-3 slices of strawberry easily without really having to pace my bites to spread the toppings with the ice.

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I didn’t try the red bean one cause I wasn’t a fan of red bean – but this was apparently really good too. The only downside is that those who can’t take milky tasting stuff wouldn’t really fancy it. The condensed milk gives the absolute topping and taste to the dessert – and its SO good. I loved almost everything about it except for the fact that it couldnt become a messy dessert. The spoon got quite sticky and my fingers ended up being sticker at every bite. That wasn’t a very comfortable experience, but it was worth the try.

DSC05069The Ho’s got 3 different ones. I remember one was blackberry yoghurt, another pretty similiar one that was also berry something, and another strawberry one. They really liked it too!

While we were at the place, we thought we saw our first Kpop artist Sohyun from Akdong Musician. We’re still not sure if it’s her but it’s either we never got to confirm or everyone just looks pretty damn similiar haha. After dessert, we went back to our place to rest up for the next day.

I continued to try to fix the aircond, only to find out that the A/C was actually switched off by the apartment management. Weather was still quite cold so they switched off all A/C’s and if we turned anything on it was nothing but the heater. I got the guards into the studio to check and then only they told me it was a central A/C and there was no use in me trying to get the settings correct. Sigh, so I texted the AirBnb runner to request for a fan. At first he said no, because they don’t have the inventories. Finally Alexis the owner gave him permission to get one under the company and it came two days later! WEEE! Really cannot sleep without anything at all. Weather was chilly outside but not strong enough to come in and chill the whole room.

It was about 23 degrees or so but we could easily walk around in slightly longer sleeves and that’s about it. So that’s not exactly the kind of cold that would chill up your whole apartment. Anyway, that pretty much sums up first day of Seoul. It was only about 6 hours to do most of the things before it was bed time.

Moving on to Day 2!

DAY 2 : INSADONG/SAMCHEONGDONG/BUKCHEON HANOK VILLAGE

I have a 10-day itinerary all done before the trip. If it was only my mom and I, we probably wouldn’t make it so systematic. But because everybody else hasn’t really toured Seoul, it was pretty much necessary. It was also good for me to just walk around and re-see these places to see if they have changed. I can share the itinerary with you guys in Travelling Seoul 101 after my blog posts are done! I am very motivated to finish it this time!!

We decided to go around Jongro the second day. That means we cover Insadong > Samcheongdong > Bukchon Hanok Village! We didn’t want to rush things up so three places were more than enough. The day started at about 11AM and we headed straight to Insadong.

[Directions to Insadong : Take Line 3 and head to Anguk Station, and exit through Exit 1. Walk all the way straight and you will see a huge walkway on your left after about 2-3 minutes. On your right should be a couple of roadstalls selling food or newspaper stands etc]

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Insadong is a place that is very heavy on cultural and traditions of Korea. If you like that kinda thing, this is where you should go. Occasionally you get to still see old ladies in hanboks walking around. There are also a couple of good cafe’s if you’d like, but you need to walk around. I had the best waffle in my life here, but have no recollection of where it is. Anyway, first thing for us was BREAKFAST!

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 It was quite tough scouting down a normal bakery that served breakfast-like food. There was one at the corner right before we turned in Insadong, but the place was filled. We walked down a little to find nothing, and just turned back to the initial bakery to try to forcefully put everybody in. Thankfully, a couple left and that gave us just enough space to put all 10 of us!

DSC05078Seoul bakery in the morning

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While the rest were all inside the bakery trying to stuff ourselves, Aunty CK was still outside with Ming Yue and Ming Li looking at street art. They were selling hand-drawn hand fans and whatnot. Ming Li got herself a fan with her name written for 10,000 won. That’s about RM 30. Quite pricey – but we accepted it as tourist price.

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Mom asking us to get in quick haha

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Finally getting some bread in our tummy to start off the day. Our staple drinks in the morning would be this. Parents could get coffee, Nick would get Korea’s latest fad of blue lemonade and I will ALWAYS ALWAYS get iced peach tea. There’s nothing like the peach tea that is being sold in any random cafe in Seoul as compared to the ones we get here in KL. Peach tea there is…so peachy.

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Wassap doc

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Fresh flowers that were sold almost everywhere in Seoul. They are really huge on flowers!

——MID NOTE : Okay this is my SECOND time rewriting this blog post from this point. I finished the blog post with a LOT of words and was done after about 2-3 hours. It didn’t save and now I am sad. I soldiered through a mild headache writing it and just told myself, a bit more – just a bit more! And WordPress decides to log me out. I don’t know if I’m angry at myself for not copy pasting the last moment when I could or what now sigh. Sad sad sad sad sad sad sad sad sad sad sad——-

So we walked along the road of Insadong (which is approximately about 15 minutes walk down at normal pace without stopping) and then I saw Ssamziegil! I had to go in there. I always love going in Ssamziegil because everytime I come it’s always different. I usually end up here from another direction (don’t ask me how) but anything works right. Ssamziegil looks like a building you can easily just walk pass along the streets but it gives off a whole different vibe, and for me, it is the highlight of the whole stretch of Insadong. It’s the lot with all the green leaves on it. We took the side entrance in (not sure why) but wherever that leads us into the place lah.

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Hello side entrance of Ssamziegil!

Also, we were greeted with a new kind of street snack. It was called the Ddong Bbang, which literally translates to Poop Bread. Good thing it didn’t smell as nasty as the name suggest, but I would think that it would sell better if it had a funkier taste to it – just like smelly tofu. At least a selling point right? Took some photos and we went in.

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Finally inside of Ssamziegil (how many times have i said this word? I don’t even know what it means). Look how vibrant and lively the whole place is. As you can probably see, it is this building with four levels and you keep walking up in a spiral as it leads you up to the rooftop. Along the way up, you will get to see different shops that sell mainly locally made products that are really cute or just things you’d buy as souvenirs. A lot of films are shot here thanks to it’s artsy fartsy outlook and the interior always changes. The last time I came it was some eco-friendly kind of theme, and this time I think they were exhibiting children’s paintings. The colours made the place look really pretty though.

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Looking down from the second level. We don’t usually stop at the shops because its either too expensive or the stuff doesn’t really suit what we are looking for. I don’t know what we’re looking for also, but not the hipster kinda of stuff lah.

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Notebooks and whatnot. All the store owners like tak sempat sempat wanna tell “Made in Korea”

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I took a couple of tourist-y photos, please don’t judge. How else do I take a photo here.

We almost decided to leave and start going down, but I caught sight of this place right at the other side of the rooftop and felt like we had to go see what’s happening. Turned out to be this Couple Note Tags kinda thing going on. Korea’s really big on coupley things, like the Ddong Bbang I mentioned just now even had a couple set that you can buy on a discount from original prices. So this was nothing surprising but I always love taking photos at such places, especially when notes and deco is really packed and photo worthy!

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 Walked out of the place after about 20 minutes and walked along the roads of Insadong. For those who needs to see what Ssamziegil is like from the main entrance (here you go below!). It is the highlight of Insadong for me but wouldn’t really spend too much time there if photo quota is fulfilled pfft. We had about an hour or so before meeting the rest again so my family continued marching down the halfmark of the street.

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DSC05175Some of the special postcards available. These sold for at least RM 30!

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So many Koreans are in Insadong. I would guess that for a place so local like this would have many tourist flocking in the area – but they were all mainly Koreans just soaking up all their own culture on a weekend. Great stuff. When will this happen in Pasar Seni? One day – I am hopeful.

Also randomly walked into this other building that had stairs with flowerpots so I just ran towards it to take photos for the blog. So long since I could do a #dedicatedblogger thing. Here is a small part of the huge cafe culture in not only Insadong, but Seoul. Two or three story cafes are like – you know, just any other clothing store.

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DSC05179Now i regret not taking away the plastic bag I bought some stuff from. So ugly my photo!

As we kept walking i can’t help but notice like this increasing number of people just walking around eating what seemed like ice cream. It was pretty warm and I could use a popsicle. I saw the store selling it just a few stores away. OH EM GEE they were frozen mangoes!! I love love love love frozen fruits; i would slice up bananas or strawberries just to freeze them and bite on them like ice cubes. I’ve never had frozen mango but with my love for mango and that its now frozen FOR ME without having to wait – ON! We easily bought three and I just loved the way it tasted. Of course, nothing special – just like a normal mango. But i love that it was frozen and i was so convenient to eat – just like an ice cream. The mango stick was selling at 3000 won. Pretty expensive but worth it for me.

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DSC05188Stopped by just because she was in a hanbok and her nuts looks polished and fresh.

After Insadong, we went to Samcheongdong. There wasn’t much there but I felt it was also a place that was worth being at. I didn’t know the roads and because there were coincidentally so many policemen (and young ones teehee) so I just went and ask about three separate ones to see if they could guide me there. We were walking in a larger group so it’d be easier if there was a shortcut. To my surprise, none of them knew – which was actually why I ended up asking THREE – and they were all volunteers (yeap, they cared to explain why they couldn’t help). So I could only ask for directions for larger landmarks like the Gyeongbokgung Palace because I knew Samcheongdong was around that area. They guided me across the road from Insadong but while walking towards the direction, I recognised this path on our right below.

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It was the fancier path to Samcheongdong!

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Not even halfway : We just had to stop by at the little resting seats at the side because our staminas just won’t allow the turbo up. Everyone was just strolling happily up the slightly inclined route – but well, not for people who usually just use our legs to drive. You can actually see how incline the road actually is. Slightly, but surely,

DSC05192Stole a photo of this couple

We decided to really just take a rest after all that walking at a restaurant since it was lunch time anyway. Couldn’t seat all 10 of us together so 6:4 it was. Just ordered very simple stuff as we weren’t too hungry. Rested for about 45 minutes and we were ready to go again.

DSC05197On my phone thanks to our Wifi Pocket!

DSC05198Ordered a bibimbap, rib bone soup and a dumpling serving. Good for four of us.

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 As we walked out there was a throng of policemen who marched pass with all their safety gears. In my head I was thinking “Crap, don’t tell me something is going on”. They were bringing their safety kids with the body shields, gas masks and everything. It was hard not to be bothered. Didn’t want to make a fuss by asking so much and decided to observe first. Is that way I could so easily bump into three policemen at the same spot just now?

Anyhoo, we continued walking along and ended up in this area that had alot of quaint shops here and there. You just had to stop by some because sometimes there’s a queue and you just wanna kepoh and see whats up. As for us, for the first queue we snooped a little and just found that it was this guy who drew portraits of people. He must either be 1) really famous 2) good at marketing because those drawings didn’t seem like they were genius or close drawings. Didn’t really stop by any other queues after that and minded our own business.

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With the above area being the halfway mark, we got to Samcheongdong and had to find another cafe to sit down (yes we just had to). Well, Samcheongdong IS about cafes and dessert houses anyway so if you’re just here to look see – you’re bound to be out in 30 minutes. Do some cafe hopping, walk by the shops in the attic of the lots, and you can possible spend half the day here. We were only here for 45 minutes (30 minutes cafe, 15 minutes look see) before we went straight for Bukchon Hanok Village

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When we stopped by we started seeing more and more police guarding odd entrances of the alleys around Samcheongdong. I just had to ask what’s going on cause situation was getting to look quite serious. I’m not kidding when I say they had about hundreds of young policemen (probably serving NS) all dispatched just to guard the area. Here’s how the conversation kind of went (in Korean) :-

Me: Hi, do you know how to get to the Bukchon Hanok Village?

Policemen : Uhm, I’m not too sure I’m just a volunteer.

Me : Oh, that’s fine. Okay, look is there a situation going on here?  A riot maybe?

Policemen : Uhm,  yes there’s one going on nearby but you don’t have to worry about it.

Clearly he didn’t want me to probe further and was reluctant to disclose where the riot was. But in my heart I was like CRAP CRAP WE ARE GOING TO BE TRAPPED. WE WILL BE IN TEAR GAS ALL OVER HOW HOW I HAVE 10 PEOPLE WITH ME WOR! So I tried to investigate further.

Me : Okay, do you think it may be near the Palace cause I’m heading there soon.

Policemen : I think it’s best not to head there because that’s where the riot may take place.

Me : Oh so it’s at the Palace?

Policemen : Y…es..

Me : Okay cool thanks.

I went back to the cafe and went “YES THERE’S A RIOT!” and everyone’s automatic reaction was “How do we get out of here Natalie?!”. Okay that’s the end of it. We didn’t really panic much la, after abit of research it was just for Labours Day the people of the country were demonstrating against some policy of the country for labour.

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After shopping at random shops like the 5 Dollar Shop (that had stuff more than 20 dollars!) we headed straight for Bukchon Hanok Village. It was said to be the “Santorini of Seoul” as it overlooked all the houses on a slanted angle and they are looks really beautiful. So we had to see it for ourselves. It was my first time to the village – I guess they made it a thing in the recent years as a Must See spot.

We spotted some tourist information guides who walked around in red uniforms with a huge ‘i’ on their caps for Information. They could speak fluent English, Chinese or Japanese (albeit with an accent but it works) so they guided us easily to where the village was with a free map!

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DSC05225Kendama spots

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At one of the turnings up! Encouraging each other to go for the inclined path first pfft.

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Ming Yue was asking for a plaster here but I didn’t realize cause I was busy taking photos haha.

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Hello is me.

Finally at the top after quite a quick climb I must say. The path was just REALLY inclined (but not yet the worst of our whole trip) and we were sometimes lost but if we knew the way it would probably only take 5 minutes from Samcheongdong. I’ve never been to Santorini but the view from were we were was pretty sweet. The traditional roofs and colour scheme of the whole area during the golden hour was just very very pleasant to look at.

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One of the better lighting shots I managed to take

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We went up further just to take a look at the real residential houses around the area, since it’s what the place is famous for. And according to the map this was the route to the subway station!

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Random painting in one of the alleys

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You see that door behind me. So tradition. So cool. So sturdy right? Probably just half right. If you look closely it’s just an a automated door that opens and closes like a normal door but made of wood. Probably sturdier than your average apartment door – but still a bit cheat ah. I think the government must have played a part in enforcing that the houses here don’t change in interior. We realize some even go to the extend of just placing wood-looking plastic on the roofs and fake it to be extension planks from inside of the house (as part of traditional architecture) but it’s all just for show.

Walked down after about an hour or so, and the walk down was even steeper than the route up. We had to talk mini mini steps to make sure we didn’t lose our balance. Thank God the weather was getting slightly cooler so we weren’t sweating so much with the walking.

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On the way to the station at the end of the road down, we came past this shop that had a mini queue. They were selling octopus skewers at 3000 won each. Well, we were sort of hungry by then and decided to buy one. WAH it turned out pretty damn good and was one of the best random street snacks we ate. It was so good we were already 2 minutes away from the store, Ming Li decided to walk back to buy another one.

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Yummers! Octopus with mayonnaise and the dried Japanese flake thingies.

That marks the end of our Day 1 & 2 in Seoul for now. Probably will start updating the Travelling Seoul 101 page slowly but surely. If you’d like to experience the whole journey on this day live, you can watch my vlog below. As for now, I’m signing off to prepare the next post for you.