Trip to Seoul, South Korea - July 2012
The travel blog from a visit to Seoul

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Korean flag as seen in SeoulA country divided in two and still at war, Samsung, a demilitarized zone between two countries known as DMZ, N Tower, Admiral Yi Sun-sin, food like kimchi, bulgogi and bibimpap, taekwondo, people getting drunk on soju and makegoli, Gangnam style, markets that opens at night and close in the early morning, women is shorts and wellingtons in the summer time, couples wearing matching outfits, guys that carries the girlfriend’s bag, ROK soldiers, hangul language, King Sejong. This is a trip report from Seoul in South Korea or Republic of Korea as it is also known in July 2012!

A short summary
Starting our trip to Korea at Stavanger airportThis trip report will focus on the trip that my wife, Nikki, and I took to Seoul in Korea in the period from July 13th - 26th 2012. In Seoul we checked various attractions such as various palaces, Seoul N Tower, the fish market, we made a trip to the DMZ (the demilitarized zone between South and North Korea), we went on a food tour to learn more about Korean food and drinks and we general did a lot of walking around in the city and enjoyed good food and wine in the evenings. We also did a trip to the island of Jeju off the south coast of Korea. The trip report is split into sections: this first section that you are reading now covers our stay in Seoul. On the next pages you will find:

Please get in touch on if you have any questions. All photos are taken by Nikki and Gard unless stated otherwise.

Planning the trip
Thai 747 from Munchen to BangkokOver the years we have been fortunate to visit some of the great cities of Europe and the world: Berlin, Paris, London, Rome, Florence, New York City etc. When traveling it is always great to visit a new country and new cities to learn about a new culture, discover new food etc. We have been to a few Asian countries already but Nikki was impressed by Korea when she went there for business in 2011. Due to this we decided to try it out as a vacation destination. If you want to get an idea of what kind of travelers we are it might be a good idea to check out some of the other trip reports that we have made – you can find all of them here. We are still DINKS.

Map of Korea

Map of Korea. Map provided by

N Tower in Seoul by nightOnce we had decided on the destination we started the work on finding the plane tickets. We used flyer miles this times to book the tickets so that meant that we had to be more flexible when it comes to departure dates and also the routing – but hey, if you like a bit of flying that is not a problem. Finding a hotel is also tricky in a city that you are not familiar with. We looked at TripAdvisor and various online sites and I ended up with Westin Chosun Seoul as they had a summer offer, it seemed like the reviews were quite good and the location looked very good. The hotel was booked directly on the SPG website and the cost was 300.000 Won per night excluding taxes for a room on executive level – about 270 USD per night in other words. Yes, it is quite expensive but we were staying at Club level which meant that we also had breakfast and evening cocktails included. To get a better understanding of the city we ended up buying a Lonely Planet guidebook but I kept on hoping that I would come across a DK Eyewitness travel guide for Seoul or Korea but I couldn’t find it.

The trip begins - morning flight
Flying with Thai Airways to KoreaOn the morning of July 11th 2012 we went out to Stavanger airport at about 06.40 am - those early flights can be hard work. Luckily it is nice and light here in the Norway on summer mornings and that makes it easier to get out of bed. Check in was fast and after 1 ˝ hours we touched down in Frankfurt. We had a few hours wait here so we went to one of the many Lufthansa lounges and if you are into plane spotting this is nice place to be. When looking out the window it was possible to see all sorts of planes coming and going including the new Dreamliner (Boeing 787), Airbus A380 etc. Download FlightRadar24 and you will be able to see which planes that are about to land and take-off.

Hong Kong by nightAt about 2 PM we jumped on a plane again and this time it was a short 1 hour flight from Frankfurt to Munich in Germany where we had to wait until about 8 PM. Now it was time to board a large Boieng 747 from Thai Airways and this flight would take us to Bangkok in the Kingdom of Thailand. After a short stop in Bangkok we moved on to Hong Kong (where we spent a night and day but I will now focus on that in this trip report) and then finally, we landed in Seoul in Korea in the evening of Friday the 13th – pheew, quite a flight program to get to the destination!

Arriving in Seoul - hello Korea
Westin Chosun in Seoul seen from the streetWe landed at Incheon airport in the evening of Friday the 13th and it took a while to walk over to immigration as it is a huge airport. Getting to the hotel was not a problem – there is an airport express train (KORAIL) that takes you into Seoul Station in about 45 minutes and it costs 8000 won (about 8 USD). There are also several bus options if you want to take the bus into town! There was not that much to see when we were speeding into town – it was dark outside and we were also going through some tunnels. The metro map can seem a bit overwhelmingBut in the end we got off at Seoul station and it looked like a very sleek and modern train station. Getting a taxi on the outside was not a problem either even if the taxi driver looked a bit sceptical when we came dragging along with our two huge Samsonite suitcases ;-) The drive to the Westin hotel was only like 5 minute and cost about 3000 won (3 USD). I was a bit surprised by the first impression of Seoul. We had just arrived at one of the largest cities in the world (I think there is like 20-25 million people in greater Seoul) and yet the city looked...well, a bit empty. I was expecting that there would be people everywhere even if it was like 10 pm! We checked in at Westin Chosun Seoul and you can read our review of the hotel here.

Note: The currency in the Korea is Korean Won (KRW) and in July 2012 1000 won was about 5 Norwegian kroner or about 0.9 USD

How to get around Seoul
Take med to Westin Chosun in SeoulSeoul is a vast city so after we checked in we were not quite sure what to do – bad planning anyone? ;-) We used the iPhone in the room to search for a wine bar nearby and headed out in the night. It didn’t take us long to realize that the wine bar in question had been closed down and I got “attacked” by a giant cicada – it was a flashback to our Langkawi trip a few years ago but that is another story ;-) So in the end we just jumped into a taxi and went to the party street at Itaewon! Coming to this street was like coming out on the town back in Norway on a Friday night: the bars and restaurants were like pearls on a string and people were quite happy (read drunk haha). Getting home proved to not be that easy...we were trying to stop taxis but some didn’t understand where we were going and some didn’t want to drive us.

Note: it is a good idea to have a hotel card with you so that you can show it to the taxi driver. Korean written language is nothing like the English alphabet.

It is pretty easy to find the subway stations in SeoulTo get around town we used a combination of metro and taxi. The metro is easy to use as there are ticket machines with touch screens where you indicate where you are going and then you just put in bills. One single journey within the city was 1150 won (1 USD) and a 500 won deposit. We got this deposit back once we got to the destination and put the card into the deposit refund machine. You can also get a card or chip that you top up with money and we did that after a couple of days. But we had problems getting the deposit back when we were leaving the country. Anyway – you can read more about how the metro works on this page.

Gas masks on the metro in SeoulApart from that the metro is easy to use as in other big cities – you just have to find which line you are going to use, make sure you get on in the right direction etc. At the stations there were good maps pointing out which exits to use for various attractions but note that there are not that many escalators so be prepared to works those thighs or go looking for the lift. One thing that puzzled me when first walking into the subway was the big sign saying “Shelter” and when you get inside there are gas masks available. I believe that the subway stations act as shelters as Seoul is quite close to the border of North Korea but I think the masks are more for escaping the stations if there is a fire.

Starbucks Korean styleTaxis are also easy to use as long as you have your address written in Korean or can instruct the driver to go to a known landmark. There are different kinds of taxis and the cheaper ones have a meter that starts at 2400 won (2 USD) while the deluxe taxis starts at 4500 won (4 USD) – there is not much difference between the two taxis so stick to the basic ones if you can.You can also cover a lot of ground by walking. But as I have said before: a Scottish guy I met in Kuala Lumpur a few year back said that you can’t trust Norwegians when it comes to advice concerning walking distances :-) But if you want to get a feel of how big a new city is I would recommend using tools as MAPfrappe and Gmaps Pedometer.

Note: to give an idea about the price level…a small bottle of water from a vending machine in the subway costs 1000 Won (90 US cent) and Frappuccino at Starbucks is about 6000 won (5 USD)

Good morning Seoul
King Sejong statue in SeoulWhen we got up the first morning it was really cloudy and wet outside – it was not that unexpected as July is the rainy season in Korea so to get better weather you should go there in the fall. On most of the days when we were there we had 25-30 degrees Celsius during the day with a bit of rain. As it was raining we started looking for indoor alternatives and why not start by learning a bit about Korean history? With this plan we headed over to Gwanghwamun plaza where you will find a large statue of King Sejong – Trying my best to write Koreanthe fourth king of the Joseon dynasty and he ruled in Korea from 1418 to 1450. He seems to be one of the most beloved kings in history of Korea and he was a driving force for creating Hangeul - the written Korean language. When we walked over to the statue I was not expecting to find much more but at the back of the staue you will find the entrance to “The Story of King Sejong Exhibition Hall” . This is a large area where you can learn more about the king and Korean history. It is for free and you can also borrow an audio guide to get more info as you walk around. The story of King Sejong in SeoulThe same exhibition area also contains the story about Admiral Yi Sunshin – another Korean hero. This admiral was a key figure in the battle of Battle of Myeongnyang in 1597 when his 13 turtle ships were able to hold back an attack from 333 Japanese ships. There is also a large statue of Admiral Yi Sunshin in this area and a large fountain in front where kids had lots and lots of fun getting totally splashed on sunny days. Anyway, in the exhibition hall there are hands on exhibition; how to row a turtle ship, a 4D movie about the battle of Myeongnyang, how to write your name and country in Korean etc. This place is absolutely worth a visit if the weather is not cooperating!

Note: Check out weather stats for Seoul on

Kwang Jang Market – time for a traditional lunch
Kwang Jang market in SeoulWhen traveling to a new destination it is important to try out some of the local food. Before I went to Seoul I got in touch with people via different social networks to get some recommendations about local delicacies. One recommendation I got was Bindaetteok – a Korean style pancake made with ground mung beans. Inside Kwang Jang market in SeoulOne of the places where you can apparently find an authentic Bindaetteok is at the Kwang Jang Market. The market itself is the kind of markets that we don’t have in Norway anymore: a half indoor intersection with lots of food stalls and various shops. We sat down on benches together with the locals and just pointed that we wanted a Having bindaetteok at Kwang Jang market in SeoulBindaetteok as the old lady that served us didn’t speak any English. The old couple next to us was eating the same thing and also enjoying some Makgeolli, a white rice wine that seems to be widely available. The Bindaetteok was excellent...well, at this point I was starving so I was even able to eat it with chopsticks to satisfy my hunger. But it was fun to eat it with the locals and see the beans being ground and pancakes being fried right next to us.

Note: when you eat at informal places as the one described above, will be asked to pay for the food when it is served!

Sightseeing in the rain
Entrance to Changdeokgung Palace in SeoulAfter traveling quite a lot over the last few years you would think I soon would learn how to deal with jetlag – but I guess not as I woke up at like 6 am one of the first mornings. The weather was still not cooperating with us but we came prepared as we had brought along a couple of umbrellas. It seemed like the local girls were also armed and ready for the warm and humid weather. The fashion trend was a pair of shorts, rubber boots and an umbrella. We decided to check out one of the palaces in the city and we took a taxi to Changdeokgung Palace. Details on the roof tops at Changdeokgung Palace in SeoulWe got there just in time for the 10.30 am guided tour and we paid 16.000 Won (14 USD) for the both of us for a tour of the palace and a tour of the secret garden. The palace dates back to 1395 AD but a lot was destroyed in the Japanese occupation but the rebuilding gives a good idea of what it must have been like. They must have done a good job on the restoration as the palace is on the UNESCO World Heritage list. This is the palace where the last emperor of Korea, Sunjong, passed away and members of the royal family lived in some of the palace buildings as late as the 1980’s.

Sightseeing in the rain at Changdeokgung Palace in SeoulOur first guide was prepared for the wet weather as she showed up in a rain coat, rubber boots and a gigantic umbrella. She took us around the palace and I think the tour lasted about 1 hour but our guide was not very customer orientated as people were not allowed to ask questions and we hardly got time to look around on our own. But she took us around to the various buildings and explained where the king would stay, where the queen would live etc. But it was hard to keep up as there were so many houses with so many different functions.Tour of the secret garden in Seoul The next tour was of the large secret garden behind the palace and we got a guide that seemed to be more willing to talk to the customers. Apparently they have a work uniform at this place as she was dressed in the same type of rain coat as the first guide. The large garden was only accessible for the royal family back in the days and today it is really a quiet oasis in the middle of this large and bustling city. The garden is filled with trees, smaller pavilions, lakes etc. This is also where we came in contact with the genius heating system used in Korea. Korea can be cold in the winter time and in the houses people would sleep on stone floors. So how do you prevent having an ice cold floor in the winter? You have an oven on the side of the house and lead the heated air under the floor to heat it. We use a similar system in Norway these days where we lead heated water through tubes in the floor to avoid cold floors.

Lunch at Namdaemun market
Nice lunch selection at Namdaemun marketAfter touring the palace we were starving so we decided to head to Namdaemun market as it is one of the places that you have to check out in Seoul. The market is enormous and there are streets after streets all sorts of merchandise including toys, clothing, housewares etc. It was still raining but that didn’t stop the food stalls from serving food – they just put up large plastic covers over the stalls and Having Dukbokkie at Namdaemun market in Seoulit gave some protection from the rain. The rain did gather in puddles of course and from time to time people would get splashed when the street vendor decided to empty it. We sat down on plastic chairs and ordered some food from the lady running the place. We decided to try some chicken skewers but we also had to try something more “exciting” Having fried eel at Namdaemun market in Seoulso we also ordered Dukbokkie (rice cakes in a spicy red sauce), fried eel and chopped up pork knuckle. As this was quite early I also said yes to some soju (the local alcoholic drink traditionally made from rice). I was not too crazy about the rice cakes and it was a bit weird that the pork knuckle was served cold as there was not that much meat on it. I’m not sure what brought up the price or if we got ripped off but I think the bill was 80.000 Won (70 USD). This was before I got used to converting the money so I just paid and didn’t think much of it. If you want to do some more shopping note that you can check out Shinsegae Department Store which is located nearby.

A digital world – Samsung d’light
Inside Samsung dLight center in Seoul in KoreaAs we were in the capital of high tech and brand names like Samsung, we decided to check out the Samsung showroom called Samsung d’light. I guess I was expecting a show room where they would show all their latest technology and weird test products. But this was not really the case – yes, you can take a look at their cell phones, cameras, TV’s etc but it did not seem to be anything that was really cutting edge compared to what you see in any electronic store. Well, at least Nikki and I got to do a dance combat on an Xbox or something like that on a big ass TV and needless to say Nikki kicked my ass – I guess I don’t have the moves of Mick Jagger. I guess I did make it to Gangnam without even knowing it - the closest subway station is Gangnam station.

View of the city by night – N Seoul Tower
View to Namsan Tower in SeoulOne of the landmarks of Seoul is the N Seoul Tower which you can see from many places around the city - maybe because it is a 237 meter (777 feet) tower located on the Namsan mountain. We started by walking over from the Myeong-dong subway station and first we took a small funicular to the Namsan cable car station. For 8000 Won (7 USD) you can get a return ticket to the top but you can also walk or drive up. We came there in the late afternoon and finally the weather cooperated so we could check out the sunset from the tower. Posing with all the locks at N Tower in SeoulAt the top you can walk around the tower and it was filled with people and we even ran into the same group of Norwegians that we ran into at Changdeokgung Palace a couple of days before – we were starting to wonder if they were stalking us ;-) The tower is filled with couples as this is a place where couples go to proclaim their love and it is done by hanging locks on the railings around the tower. The N Tower is a landmark in SeoulYou can easily spot newlyweds in Korea as they often wear the same outfits – and sometimes it seems like the guys even carry the handbag for the girls. We walked around the tower and there are thousands of locks there and most of them had names and dates on them. As the sun was about to set we took the lift up to the top (it cost 9000 Won (8 USD) per person) and at the top it was very crowded. View from N Tower in Seoul by nightWe also took an audio guide as it explained the view in the various directions. The view from the top is great and it was amazing to see how the city lit up as the sun was setting. Getting down after sunset was not that easy as there was a long line to catch the lift down. You can eat dinner at a revolving restaurant at the top of the tower but we decided to just grab a snack at the Italian inspired restaurant “The place dining” at the base of the tower. Taking the cable car down also required standing in line but we came down eventually.

Note: the cable car stops running at 11 pm so be sure to catch the last cable car unless you want to walk down or take a taxi.

Changing of the guards – Korean style
Band playing during changing of the guards at Deoksugung palaceAs we were staying nearby we decided to check out Deoksugung palace (located right next to City Hall). We just walked over to Daehanmun gate and the changing of the guard started at about 11 pm. The changing of the guard is of course a staged act and the costumes of the guards are really colorful – but I think they should have left out what seemed to be a fake beard on some of the guards. Marching guards at Daehanmun gate at Deoksugung palaceThe changing of the guards was also explained in a pamphlet that we got and there were also commentary in Korean and English. As there is no one living in the palace anymore this is just a display to show how the changing might have been back then but it is an interesting show and you can pose with the guards too if you want to. This palace is one of the five palaces of the Joseon dynasty but this palace has also been influenced by the Japanese occupation and the palace area has also been reduced substantially.

Something smells fishy
At Seoul fish marketWhen we went to Japan a few years ago (see the Tokyo trip report here) we is the word again? OK, I admit it - we were to lazy to get up in the morning to catch the fish market in Tokyo. As Koreans loves seafood there is of course a fish market in Seoul. The advantage of the fish market in Seoul is that you don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn to catch it. We took the train there after lunch and it was quite easy to find once we came out of Noryangjin Station. Seoul fish marketThe fish market is not enormous but it seemed to have a great selection of fish, prawns, mussels, rays, crabs etc. There were even a few things where Nikki and I was just standing looking at each other wondering if the stuff that was moving in the buckets were for real. We walked around a bit and note that the floors are wet here so don’t wear your best shoes. In the end we decided to buy some lunch and we just bought a small manta ray of some sort and some prawns in various sizes and I think we paid 10.000 Won (9 USD) for the ray and 20.000 WonThere were lots of lobsters for sale at the fish market (18 USD) for the prawns. The cool thing about this place is that you can just bring your fresh stuff right across the aisle from where the fish is on display and there you can find a restaurant that will prepare the food for you – Nikki relaxing at an informal lunch at Seoul fish markethow excellent is that? The place we went into seemed to be a place for locals as it was tiny, no tourists and it was traditional in the way that we had to leave our shoes by the door and sit on the floor while eating. They soon noticed that we were struggling with the sitting on the floor bit so they brought out a couple of Soju crates that we could sit on. I guess I have to practice on the lotus position. The seafood was excellent as it was fresh and served fried up in minutes – fried ray with some Hite beer was great.

Don’t cross the border – a trip to the DMZ area
Guard tower along the Han river in KoreaAs mentioned earlier in this trip report, Korea is a divided country. After the Korean war back in the 50’s the country was split in north and south and the border runs along the 38th parallel and technically the two countries is still at war as no peace agreement was signed. Today the countries are split by a large demilitarized zone (hence the name DMZ). Looking over to North KoreaWe decided to go for a full day tour costing 87.000 Won (78 USD) per person and we were picked up at the hotel at about 9 am. We were guided to a small car and we first thought that this would be a small, exclusive tour but it turned out that he just drove us around the corner to Lotte hotel where we joined our group and got on a big bus. Our guide on the bus spoke English well and she was quite energetic when explaining the history of the country while we were driving out of Seoul. Scars from the war - a Locomotive at Imjingak in KoreaAs we drove out of Seoul we drove along the Han river and there is a barbwire fence running along most of the river and from time to time there is a watchtower and it was yet a reminder that this is for real. The guide also brought along a defector from North Korea and we could ask questions about life there which was interesting. Our first stop was at Odu mountain Unification Observatory. At this place we got to see a movie about the conditions in North Korea and there are also displays showing a typical North Korean home, North Korean uniforms etc. On the roof top you can also get a great view to North Korea over the Imjin river. From what we know about North Korea it is not an ideal country to live in these days but the information at the Unification Observatory was very propaganda like.

View to North KoreaNext stop was a place called Imjingak and at this point there is a bridge leading over to North Korea and I think there is a train that runs over there from time to time but it is just empty as there is little of no communication between the two parties. Along the walls at Imjingak there were lots of flags and banners and I guess they are banners of prayers or hope to see lost family again. ROK soldier at the DMZ area in KoreaAfter a quick lunch we crossed the river and drove to United Nations Command center located at Camp Bonifas where we got to see a slide show with some info about the history of the DMZ area. From here we were transferred to a military bus and got driven to Panmunjom where the Military Demarcation Line runs between the buildings of North and South Korea. When we got out of the bus at Panmunjom there were lots of instructions from the American North Korean soldiers at the DMZ area in Koreaofficer that came along as our “guide”; don’t bring the umbrella, don’t wave, walk in two lines etc. It felt a bit unnecessary but I guess they know a thing or two that I don’t – but it did build up quite a bit of tension. As we walked through the building we got the first glimpse of the ROK soldiers (Republic of Korea soliders) – I’m not sure what kind of soldiers they are but in the tour they were portrayed as Special Forces. One thing is for sure – A North Korean soldier taking photos of us in the DMZthey have a scary pose when they are on duty. When we came up the escalator in the freedom house there were two guards and they look a bit like dolls as they have a pose with hands slightly forward in fists, they wear large, dark sunglasses and they have helmets. We formed two lines and looked over the Military Demarcation Line towards the north where two North Korean soldiers were busy observing us in binoculars and busy taking photos of us. ROK soldiers at the DMZ area in KoreaRight on the line there are a few houses and it seems like this is the place where North and South can have talks but it does not seem like this happens very often these days. We got to go into one of these houses and there was a ROK solider there that we could pose with. The two North Korean soldiers also came down to the house and it seemed like the one soldier wanted his photo taken with some South Korean soldiers in the background. And the weirdest part came when the North Korean solider started taking photos of us through the window while we were talking photos of him. Gard posing with a ROK soldier at the DMZ area in KoreaThe whole situation was bizarre really and it was hard to comprehend that we were in the middle of two countries at war. The whole situation is really sad – North Korea has been isolated for so long and I guess it will be hard to reunite the two countries. But hopefully there will be a peaceful solution to the whole situation in the end. We only had a couple of minutes on the border before we moved on. The bus took us along the border and we could view towards one of the world’s tallest flag poles where the huge North Korean flag waves in the wind 160 meters over the ground.

The bus drive back to Seoul gave us time to reflect on what we had been through and it all seems unreal. Hopefully in time they will be able to setup a regular border and try to live as neighbors if they can’t find a way to reunite the two countries.

Note: if you are going for this tour you have to book a couple of days in advance, you need to bring along the passport and you have to dress in a decent way.

In a time capsule
Time capsule in SeoulWhen we went to N Seoul Tower we looked down towards a structure that stood out in the landscape and on the audio guide we were informed that this was actually a time capsule. Due to this we decided to check it out as we were planning to go to Namsangol Hanok village. A hanok village is a place where you can see a traditional Korean neighborhood but note that this village is made up by houses that are moved here. Getting a medical checkup by a traditional doctor at Namsangol Hanok villageWe walked over to the area and after walking past Korea house (which is mainly a dining place) we managed to take a wrong turn and instead of ending up at the hanok village we ended up in a more modern neighborhood. We were joking and saying that this is something that would happen to us if we were on the Amazing race ;-) We did know the general direction so in the end we did find what we were looking for. The time capsule is located in the middle of what looks like a meteor crater and in the capsule they have stored everyday objects and this is supposed to be opened in connection with Seoul’s 1000th anniversary – let’s hope that they don’t forget all about it in 2394!

Princess NikkiThe time capsule is located right next to the Namsangol Hanok village but by the time we got there it was lunch time and a lot of the activities shut down while the staff took a break – it was a hot day so it gave us a chance to go looking for a Twosome Place – a local coffee shop that had a pretty good Mocha Frappuccino. When we came back to the village we took a guide tour where the guide explained about the houses, the heating system, storing of food etc. There was a traditional Korean doctor in one of the houses and Nikki and I took the time to get a medical checkup and it seems like we are quite healthy. There are various activities here; you can dress up in traditional costumes, learn how to make baskets, play traditional games and in weekends they have a display of a traditional Korean wedding.

I’m hungry – help me find…O’ngo food tour
Start of the Korean night dining tourAfter a few days we had experienced a bit of the local food but we decided to check out a food tour and we signed up for the Korean night dining tour with O’ngo. We started out at the O’ngo office near the Anguk metro station and Daniel, our guide for the evening, started by taking us to a place nearby where we started with a traditional Korean barbeque. Daniel was the guide on the night dining tourThe traditional barbeque means that the meat is fried on a barbeque on the table and you take the meat and wrap it in leaves together with various side dishes. But Daniel also wanted to introduce us to the Korean drinking culture – as we were about to start tasting the Soju a couple walked past and the woman was so drunk that she could hardly walk. We started by tasting beer, tasting soju and then we went over to drinking games where we mixed beer and soju, beer/soju and coke (not as bad as it sounds). We also had some drinking gamesAfter the meal it was time to move on and we went over to a place nearby where they specialized in Bong-chu boiled chicken. The chicken dish came in spicy and extra spicy and I’m wondering if Daniel just used it as an excuse to get us to drink more soju and beer. I’m not sure I would have been able to find back to these places – partially because I had been drinking of course but also because we were taken through back allies with lots of food stalls. Group enjoying food on the night dining tourWe even walked through an alley famous for dog soup but that was not on the menu that night. The next restaurant specialized on tofu and I have to admit that it is not my favorite. But we also got some omelet like dish and a yellow Makgeolli, the traditional rice wine that people drink out of a small bowl. This was a traditional place where we had to sit on the floor again. It is not always easy adapting to a new culture – as we walked into the restaurant we had to take of the shoes and Nikki found some slippers that she put on. All of a sudden Daniel was like “eh...Nikki! You are wearing the bathroom slippers now” haha

Last stop on the food tour was at Kwang Jang Market where we had lunch a few days earlier and again we had some sort of Bindaetteok – the Korean pancake/omelet served with Makgeolli – this time the more regular white version. After we were done with the food tour we took the subway to the Hongdae district which is a well-known party, indie music, club etc area. It was not as lively as I thought it would be but it had lots of boutiques, small restaurants, shops etc. I would recommend the Night dining tour with O’ngo – Daniel was a fun guide and we got a lot of info about food and drinks and life in general in Korea.

Walking and biking around Seoul
City Hall in SeoulNikki decided to get pampered one morning and I used the opportunity to walk a bit around town. One area that is fascinating is the Cheonggyecheon river. According to what I have read this area used to be the home of an elevated highway and the area below was dark and deserted. But then in 2005 the area was restored and the highway was removed and the river was “restored”. Cheonggyecheon river SeoulToday the river flows from Cheonggye Plaza near the statues of Admiral Yi Sun-sin and King Sejong. The river flows a few meters below the street level and there are paths on both sides and there a numerous places where you can cross the river. It is like walking in an oasis in the middle of the city and it stretches for many kilometres. I walked a few kilometres to the Dongdaemun market area – the market areas are huge and I walked through some of the areas. It seems like you can get everything here and you can almost shop at any time – one place I walked past had opening hours on the front door and the place did close until 4.30 AM! My walk around the city was 12 kilometers long (about 7,5 miles). Getting ready to bike in SeoulIn 30 degrees Celsius (about 86 Fahrenheit) I was quite sweaty by the time I met up with Nikki for lunch at Lotte department store. But why stop the physical activity there? We decided to also explore the city on a bike. We took the subway across the river and followed the direction in the Lonely Planet guidebook and jumped of at the Yeouinaru station to walk to Yeouido Park. But it was quite a long walk and I think it would have been a lot better to take the subway National Assembly Station as the bike rental place is by entrance no. 6 in the park. We decided to go for a tandem bike and I don’t think we have ever used that before.

Note: renting a bike cost about 3000 Won per person (3 USD). There are also city bike rental stations like you find in London, Washington etc

Gard and Nikki on tandem bike in SeoulWe biked across the Mapodaegyo bridge and biked along the Han river for a while. The area along the river is really nice setup for both biking and jogging/walking as there separate lanes. Along the route there were also outside gyms where people were working on enhancing their muscles. But if you think the Han river is just idyllic and calm you should check out the 2006 movie “The host”. We just biked around for about one hour and in the heat that was enough – at least after the long walk I had a few hours in advance of the bike trip. After we were done with the biking it was great to sit down at a local Family Mart and enjoy some ice cold Coke.

A walk in the village – Bukchon Hanok Village
Bukchon Hanok village SeoulOne morning I decided to check out a “real” village as the Namsangol Hanok village that we visited early is more of a artifical and constructed village. So one sunny and warm morning I took the subway to Anguk station and you can walk into the Bukchon Hanok village from there. Basically it is a picturesque hill area where there are lots of small houses and narrow streets. Watchtower Gyeongbokgung Palace SeoulAs you get higher up you do get a nice view of the city and it seems like it is still part of the city where people live and work. Along the streets there were small artsy shops but I guess the bigger name brands have also discovered this places as there were brand stores like Kiehl’s that had a store in the middle of it all. Only a couple of minutes away you will find the big, modern skyscrapers and this is something that you come across all the time in Seoul. I walked over to Admiral Yi Sun-sinGyeongbokgung Palace located nearby and on the way you will find an old watchtower isolated on a traffic island in the middle of busy streets. You can also catch a guard changing ceremony at Gyeongbokgung Palace but it is very similar to what you can see at Deoksugung palace. As I walked back to the hotel I walked past the statue of Admiral Yi Sun-sin and kids were playing in the fountain in front of him – quite a contrast to see the armored admiral looking down on the kids splashing in the water in the summer heat.

Time to leave
Posing with guards at Daehanmun gate at Deoksugung palace in SeoulWe spent quite a few days in Seoul and I’m glad we had the opportunity to explore the city in a slow place. We walked, took the subway, took taxis etc to see a bit of this vast city. It is fun to explore a new city and a new culture – it was a bit tricky to get a true impression of the city and the culture as we didn’t get to talk to that many locals. National museum of Korea in SeoulIt was a bit difficult to communicate with people as not all spoke English very well and our Korean is very limited ;-) But it was amazing to experience a culture that is similar to what we have seen in other Asian countries but at the same time is completely different. And it is always fun to experience a country where they seem to be so passionate about their food and drinks. At N Tower or Namsan tower in SeoulWe got to try out a few of the must try items. We felt very safe in Seoul and we moved around during day and night and never felt threated in any way. I don’t think Korea and Seoul will come on my top list of places to visit but I think this is because the culture is just a bit too different to comprehend without a deeper introduction. Yes, there were lots of things that we never got around to do. We did have plans to go to a Korean spa known as Jjimjilbang, we did have tickets to go to a Nanta show but Nikki didn’t feel that great so we had to cancel etc. But as I usually say…it gives us an excuse to go back one time in the future ;-) If you have any questions or comments feel free to get in touch with me on .



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