Three days in Seoul just isn’t enough time to fully enjoy it. Of the cities I’ve visited so far in South East Asia, Seoul is certinaly one of my favorites.
This is a long post, so you can jump through using the links below:
Day 1: Changdeok Palace, noodle soup from Tosokchon, cafe Mingsuk, Insadong, Korean BBQ at Budnamujip, drinks at the Griffin Bar.
Day 2: Late breakfast in club lounge, lunch at 1952(?), room-service for dinner.
Day 3: Cafe hunting in Hongdae, kimchi-making class, Korean pottery shop, dinner at Jungsik.
First a few pictures from our base of operations; the JW in Banpo. Not only is the city sprawling, but housing is dense:
Our first day-trip was to Changdeok Palace.
It is one of the "Five Grand Palaces" built by the kings of the Joseon Dynasty (1392–1897). As it is located east of Gyeongbok Palace, Changdeokgung — along with Changgyeonggung — is also referred to as the "East Palace" (동궐, 東闕, Donggwol).
It was originally constructed in 1395 but was burned or otherwise destroyed a few times during various battles and wars. We didn’t take the palace tour but did take part of the tour of the Secret Garden. We aren’t normally big fans of guided tours (this was no exception) and it was cold (minus 10°C) so we got a few pictures and went for a coffee.
Quoted from a plaque at the coffee shop:
Chang means prosperity and deok means virtue. Only through cultivation of virtue, should prosperity be attained.
Ref. "Preface of Inscription of Changdeokgung" in Record of Royal Palaces
In other words, Changdeok literally means "to be prosperous by cultivating virtue" implying that only when the king pursues a virtuous life, the prosperity of the kindom should follow.
Did I mention it was cold?
From the palace we walked to Tosokchon for lunch. We had black chicken soup, mine with the ginseng hers without. You get half a stuffed chicken in your bowl of broth. The chicken is stuffed with rice, chestnuts, and other goodies. The warm soup was perfect for the weather.
Then to Cafe Mingsuk for coffee and a warm-up and on to Insadong to view some galleries and stumbled on this multi-level plaza:
Dinner was Korean barbeque at Budnamujip. We had the seasoned beef sirloin and beef tongue. The food comes fast and furious. We agreed we’d prefer to cook the meat ourselves. We felt rushed but everything was delicious and we still don’t know the proper way to eat Korean BBQ—do you make wraps with the lettuce and eat with your hands?
We finished the night at Griffin Bar at the top of the JW Marriott. Yes, I do indeed have birthdays. I just don’t like the attention they bring so I prefer to let them sneak past everyone. Unfortunately, Marie let it slip so we got a ‘happy birthday plate,’ and some moonbaesool to enjoy. We had a good laugh at the insistence of a picture with the plate. The drinks were great and the atmosphere in the bar is very “Mad Man-esque.”
And that was all just Day 1!
We got a late start today. As expected, the heads were a bit fuzzy after last night’s shinnanigans. Breakfast in the club lounge (it’s a tough life). Once some tid-bit of news gets in the Marriott Borg-brain, they all know it. So for breakfast I was reminded that today is my big day! I’m being a bit flip about it, but I do truly appreciate the thought.
Then lunch in the train station below the hotel. I’m not sure of the name of the joint—it was a fast-food affair. The consierge recommend it for ease and speed. There are five soup joints in a row and each specializes in a different soup. This one was seafood. The soup was tasty and obviously piping-hot:
It was even colder today; minus 11°C so we spent a lot of time indoors relaxing and enjoying some (warm) quiet time. We ventured to Namdaemun market but it was pretty dead due to the cold and being Sunday. Several of the street vendors had kimchi spices so I bought a big pound-bag of it. I have no idea how to pick out a good kimchi-spice-vendor so I went with the nice old lady with a great smile.
We had room-service for dinner and ate while watching a movie. Sometimes ya gotta do that.
Marie had some training at work she wanted to attend so I spent the morning in the Hondae neighborhood looking for coffee shops. Hondae is a great little edgy neighborhood full of grafitti, cool bars, and great late-night-soak-up-the-alcohol-fast-food-joints. I wish we could have gone there at night. Alas I got to see it during the light of day, even if all the shops (including coffee shops) were closed. I went to 5 Brewing and had a very tasty espresso and a single-origin pour-over. But I was the only one in the coffee shop. I guess 11:30 is too early for that neighborhood…everyone must be sleeping off their hangovers. I tried to visit Zombie Coffee too, but it was closed for the day, despite a sign that indicated it should be otherwise.
I didn’t have a lot of time to look for more coffee shops, unfortunately. The neighborhood is full of coolness and there are several third-wave coffee shops there. But I had a kimchi-making class to get to!
That’s right, I took a kimich-making class. It was interesting. I was the only student and it was very short but I came home with a recipe and a kilo of kimchi that I made there onsite. One good thing about that is the kimchi I made has bacteria and yeasts from Korea. The plan is to keep that batch going, using it to start other batches and hopefully keeping those Korean microbes alive!
For dinner we went to Jungsik for a big night out. This was certainly a treat. We (I) had a hard time chosing a dinner so we decided to go with the 9-course tasting plus the wine pairing. Bam!
More food porn, all taken by Marie, who’s becoming quite the foodie and food-photographer:
A wonderful finish to a wonderful trip! We had such a great visit and promised ourselves we’d be back soon. Meet us there?