But moving on, I can finally start publishing my Seoul 2012 trip since I've managed to finish with all my Taiwan posts. I've uploaded them long ago on Facebook (or else risk getting badgered everyday by my friend) but have yet to share them here on my blog. For my 2012's Seoul trip, I've decided to categorise them based on locations.
First up - 명동 (Myeong Dong). Myeong Dong is a particularly hot spot (think 西門町 Ximending in Taiwan or Orchard in Singapore) in Seoul. There are tons of shops and eating places, and it's always crowded. I've been staying in the Myeong Dong area for my past two trips. While it's convenient, I'm contemplating residing in another district for my upcoming trip this year (yeah, my Sis has termed it my "annual pilgrimage" to Korea).
There's a lot (and what I really mean is one every coupla steps) of cosmetics shops in Myeong Dong, so no worries about finding a particular brand of cosmetics there (some brands even have more than one store in Myeong Dong). Many Singaporeans love to head to Korea to load up on cheap cosmetics - so if you are one of them, be sure not to miss out on this area. One tip - if you are equipped with a long list of items to buy from several shops (family and friends will surely request certain items), try not to buy them all at one go if you are on vacation there for several days. The cosmetic shops in Korea give out sample products after every purchase (some even give free masks to entice you into the shops - you don't even have to buy anything!). So say, you buy a few items from your list each day, you can get quite a few sample products by the end of your trip! ;)
There's also a wide range of street food at Myeong Dong. Since there are loads of tourists and locals in this area, the street food vendors start selling their goods around the afternoon/evening time to provide well-needed snacks for the hungry people.
명동 (Myeong Dong) street food
Clockwise from left: 떡볶이(dukbokki), 오뎅 (odeng), 닭꼬치 (dakkochi)
계란빵 (gyeran bbang)
(french fry coated hot dog - my friend's favourite)
My absolute favourite street food must be this really artery clogging item. I'm not sure what it's called in Korean (I'll remember to take some photos of the sign when I eat it again this year ^^), but basically, it's just sausages, alternating with rice cake stuffed sausages, on a stick. It is helluva glistening (with oil or whatever I don't want to think about) and you can smother it generously with the sauces at the side (mustard and chilli). It doesn't get any better than this I'm tellin' ya. I love rice cakes, so I would rather it was a stick with all rice cake stuffed sausages, but they don't do it like that - the ratio of regular sausages to rice cake stuffed ones was 3:2. Boo.
There's a whole mecca of street food out there - I've not even touched the surface on what is on offer. On my upcoming trip, I want to (no, strike that, I MUST) try 호떡 (hotteok). I can't believe I've never seen one yet in my trips so far!
Shop: 고궁 (Gogung)
Address: 중구 충무로2가 12-14 (Jung-gu, Chungmuro-2-ga 12-14)
Opening hours: 11:00 - 22:00
Phone: +82 2 776 3211
There are plenty of restaurants in Myeong Dong, some are actually quite famous. Gogung was recommended online for its 전주 비빔밥 (Jeonju bibimbap). So on the first night in Seoul, we headed there for some bibimbap.
The bibimbap bowls were really intricate looking and the ingredients were nicely placed atop a bed of rice. The bibimbap here was a bit different than the regular ones in a way that it is more healthier tasting. I'm not sure how to describe - but it has more vegetables and also medicinal herbs like red dates, gingko nuts and pine nuts. It was quite delicious in fact.
Red Mango & Cacao Green cafe
As per my 2011 posts, I mentioned before that there is a really wonderful cafe culture in Seoul. In Myeong Dong alone, there were quite a coupla of cafes.
The girlfriend and I stumbled into Red Mango & Cocoa Green one night for some dessert. The place was really nicely done up. I love the woodsy decor. And not to mention the intricate quirky stuff like the clown dolls in nets, or the photo tree.
We had some froyo that night (I had fruity flavours - can't recall what exactly) and it was really refreshing and yums.
We visited it again one our last day cos the girlfriend was craving froyo. I saw on the menu that they had 팥빙수(patbingsoo). Patbingsoo is a popular Korean dessert in the summer months - it is essentially shaved ice with various toppings. I didn't had bingsoo in 2011 when I visited. But I did try a few in 2012. And I must say this was my favourite. It was matcha patbingsoo. Do I need to say more? Ok, yeah I shall actually. Scoops of matcha ice cream atop the shaved ice, with generous servings of red beans, crunchy sugared nuts and a few pieces of chewy rice cakes. Everything I like in one bowl. Swoon.
The girlfriend refused to share it with me as she wanted her froyo. But I couldn't resist. It was my last day in Seoul. So, I threw out any sane thoughts and ordered it. And thanked the heavens for that. It was absolutely huge and no, of course I didn't finish it (I'm greedy but I'm not a pig!). I thought that the shaved ice was not smooth - it's not the flaky smooth kind I've tried in Taiwan, thus it was left majorly untouched, with the leftover ice-cream eventually melting and forming a huge green puddle. ^^
One night, the girlfriend and I were not hungry and didn't really want to have dinner. Thus we popped by Beansbins Coffee (it was conveniently located like 2 minutes away from our hotel).
I had a blueberry waffle and a warm matcha latte for dinner. Go figure why my diet never ever succeeds. The waffle was fluffy and soft and the cream and blueberries were the perfect complements. I'm not a fan of whipped cream - but this did not have the buttery oily taste that regular whipped cream has, and it was not too sweet too. It was light and airy, almost akin to eating clouds I reckon.
Dessert on yet another night - Apple cinnamon waffles
Moving on to other misc stuff. I stayed in Myeong Dong again for my trip in 2012, but this time round, in a more central location. The hotel details are as below.
Hotel: 호텔 스카이파크 I(Hotel Skypark Myeongdong I)
24-23 Chungmuro 1-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul 100-011, South Korea
Directions: Myeong Dong station, Exit 6
Phone: 800 120 5806
The hotel was pretty decent, conveniently located right smack in the shopping area. Just a note that the hotel lobby is actually on the 11th floor though. There was a really cute Etude House "business" corner right outside our room (not sure if it was for every level). There was free nail polish samples avail for people to use. How cute. There was also a water dispenser to get hot/cold water. The hotel was pretty fuss free, the rooms were small but clean. Just one minor gripe. There wasn't a shower cubicle in the toilet, just a curtain separating the shower area, so the floor will be wet after use (which I hate). Other than that, it was decently priced.
And. I love 짜장면 (jjajangmyun). It's like a bowl of noodles topped with this really thick black bean sauce with onions and meat pieces. Mad delish. It should be easily found at Korean-Chinese restaurants, but it's weird how I never ever see these restaurants then. Up to the very last day of my trip, I was asking around for a place that has it. I chanced upon this lady on the street that I was at who speaks Mandarin (thank gosh) and she directed us to a nearby Korean-Chinese restaurant. Hoorah!
Pickles and potstickers
자장밥 (jjajangbap - the same, just with rice)
Shop: 토속촌 (Tosokchon)
Address: 서울 종로구 자하문로5길 5 (체부동)(5, Jahamun-ro 5-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul)
Directions: Gyeongbokgung Station (Seoul Subway Line 3), Exit 2. Go straight about 170m and turn left onto Jahamun-ro 5-gil Road.
Opening hours: 10:00 - 22:00
Phone: +82 2 776 3211
The final random misc thing that will be included in this post is my hands down favourite. 삼계탕(samgyetang) is Korean ginseng chicken soup. And for the past two years, my itinerary had always include a stopover at this (both thumbs up) ginseng chicken soup place. This place is apparently very very popular with both locals and tourists alike. The first year I was there, there was a queue, but not a massive one. The second time I visited, woohoots. The queue my oh the queue. The above queue was just like one third or one quarter or so of the actual queue?
The staff were really nice to hand out free (energy? I don't know what exactly) drinks to those waiting in line. And there were also umbrellas provided for those who wanted to be in the shade. I guess they can certainly afford to do so when business is so good. I'm so proud of the Dad (he really hate queues), who actually partook in the queue too. The place was brimming when we finally entered (about half an hour wait or so).
The pickled radish was as yums as I remembered. The soup even more so. I swear I'll gladly make Seoul my yearly destination, if only for this bowl of goodness. All of us slurped our bowls clean. Just look at the neat pile of bones the girlfriend accumulated. ^^
Hoorah. I'm finally done with this massive post. A pat on the shoulder to whoever made it this far too. ^^ Now. Another four more to go...