Helloooo! So today we decided to first check out Samcheongdong because our friend Ricky recommended it to us (thanks Ricky!) and then head over to Mapo. Since I was low on blood sugar the other day and Paris Baguette saved my life, I told Pork that we HAVE to get it every morning from now on!!! We knew one was across the street from our airbnb so we hurried on over and chose this pastry that honestly looked a little questionable. I remember first thinking that it looked like a savory pastry but Pork wanted it (and he usually likes to choose the weird/different looking things..which I guess explains why he chose me haha ^_^). It looked like a lot of mini square croissants stuck together into a pile with black stuff sprinkled on it. But we took one bite and to my surprise, it was quite pleasant. I’ve noticed a lot of pastries and desserts/drinks made in Korea usually aren’t too sweet, which, yes I know, is an Asian thing but it still caught me by surprise. The texture is probably what caught my attention the most: slightly crunchy and sticky on the outside with a hint of honey but soft and chewy on the inside. After yesterday’s and today’s experience, Paris Baguette (in Korea) will always have a special place in my heart.
Afterward, we proceeded to walk toward Samcheongdong. On the way, we stopped by to take a few pictures of the Sejong Statue, Gyeongbok Palace, and Gwanghwamun Gate.
When you’re under the gate, remember to look up! 🙂
Once we were done with those, we wrapped around to the side of the palace.
I actually really loved Samcheongdong. It’s exactly how our friend described it: full of artsy, boutique shops and cafés. We got to these alleyways that are basically at the border of Samcheongdong and the walls had random (but cute) artwork.
I think the best way to describe Samcheongdong is a cute downtown area. I honestly don’t feel like I’m in the city anymore. There is one main road, with some back alleyways, and the whole area has that vibe of taking a stroll on a breezy, sunny day. At the end of the main road, we decided to keep going and saw this nice little path that leads to Samcheongdong park.
We walked through a forest area and climbed some steps, and found this random area with exercise machines! The park is actually really pretty and peaceful, and I think it’s great that Korea provides these free gym-like machines throughout the park (maybe for people who can’t afford gyms? Or maybe it’s to satisfy part of Korea’s philosophy for keeping the country fit and faaaab!-will make a blog post about that later). Anyway, we even saw random people in business clothes taking a stroll through the park too haha.
So Pork and I made the decision to keep going and we got to this sign where it pointed in an upward direction that said, “Prospect Point 600m.” We decided to just do it to see what it was and we definitely didn’t have the right gear on for what was to come next. Just be prepared for lots and lots of steps!! It was truly 600m of stairs at a 45 degree angle. Side Note: I have decided that all Seoulites are stairmasters (no, not the gym machine but literally, masters of stairs). This is because there are so many stairs that we have to climb everyday: sightseeing, inside the stores, to get to certain restaurants, cafés, at the subway station -OMG the subway stations have, on average, 2 or 3 flights of stairs (along with some escalators) that you have to ascend or descend to get to where you need to be (which isn’t so bad) but some stations have 5 or 6+ flights and NO escalators. Think about all those steps and doing that in HEELS. I don’t understand how the Korean women here do it. ANYWAY…
We reached our destination and what a view! Nice and breezy up there too.
After getting back to the main road of Samcheongdong, Pork and I were definitely thirsty so we stopped by this quaint place called, Chloris Tea Garden. We ordered the Rosemary Lemonade and the Ice Lemongrass. These drinks were definitely on the expensive side (about 7,000 – 9,000 won each) but they were so refreshing to drink after that unplanned hike.
After our nice break, we made our trek to Mapo to visit Mapo bridge and eat some Mapo kalbi! On our way there, we stumbled into Insadong, which was originally planned for another day but we decided to go through it anyway.
In Insadong, there are mainly traditional Korean souvenirs sold so things that I believe my parents or the older generation would have interest in buying. I would say the main attraction for us was this artsy building called Ssamziegil. It’s actually a tower that has many handmade artistic shops that sell jewelry, key chains, bags, plushies, you name it. Most of the crowd that we saw hanging out at this building was the younger generation so it’s probably the “hip” place to be when in Insadong.
Before heading out, Pork and I were craving some jjajangmyun, so I looked up this place called Hyeonraejang, which is conveniently located in Mapo so once we hit Mapo, we set out to the restaurant first for our late lunch. The noodles were soft and chewy, and I actually finished my plate faster than Pork did, which is crazy because we both eat like vacuums.
We decided to digest by taking a walk to and on Mapo bridge, which was close to the restaurant. So if you guys don’t know about Mapo bridge, it’s known for the most suicides, which I know, is really sad :(, but I basically discovered it through a video that was released awhile ago about how Seoul and Samsung Life Insurance teamed up to remodel the bridge so that less suicides would happen. I thought it was really great that there was an effort made to try to prevent and/or lower the country’s suicide rate through a creative means. (Note: If you google “Mapo bridge of life” now, there are actually a lot of articles that indicate that the results are mixed and the remodel may have attracted MORE suicides. :/) I know it takes more than signs that light up, cute drawings, and voice recordings to completely change that state of mind, but I hope that these changes have helped someone. This should also serve as a reminder to us that we should cherish life and appreciate the people we love in our lives. 🙂
If you guys don’t know, Mapo area is where grilling marinated kalbi and dwaeji got famous. And Pork and I are mainly driven by food when we go visit places. So… besides visiting Mapo bridge, our main goal was to find the famous Mapo kalbi and dwaeji alleyway. We decided to stop by a cafe called Cafe Bene to get some wifiz to find it. Even though we were supposed to be digesting, we decided to go with our gut (as usual) and order the Caramel and Cinnamon Honey Bread even though it was 1400 calories (the restaurant so generously listed all the calories on the menu)..but oh well! The honey bread tasted like what honey bread is probably SUPPOSED to taste like: a slightly crunchy crust on the outside and so delightfully fluffy and spongy on the inside with drizzles of caramel.. Sigh. I know that we’re traveling and it’s expected for us to gain weight..so we will work out after our vacation. At least that’s what we keep telling ourselves now…
We found this great Mapo kalbi restaurant and we didn’t find out until after our meal that the restaurant was a Certified Mapo Tourist Restaurant! We entered in through the back and exited through the front, haha. So what’s so different about these restaurants is that you sit on floor mats and the grills on the table are all charcoal grills (a charcoal man comes over to your table and puts coals under your grill). We ordered one of each meat (kalbi and dwaeji) and both were deeelicious!!! The meats definitely had a distinct flavor and I guess that’s what Koreans refer to as the “Mapo” taste.
After dinner, we headed home and saw a very important infographic on the subway that we decided to translate ourselves as you can see below: