Tag Archives: Myeongdong

Namdaemun and Namsan Tower

Friday! The trip so far has been so eventful but rewarding. We started off our morning with… walking! Walking is fine and all, but this is probably the most ground I’ve covered on foot especially in such a short period of time. Wish I brought Nikes.

Tip: A lot of people in Seoul either wear fancy business attire or running shoes. So wearing a pair of colorful Nikes here is totally acceptable.

Our first destination was Namdaemun Market, about 1.5 miles away. We passed by City Hall on the way there and it looked like there was some sort of awareness day going on.

In front of City Hall

In front of City Hall

There were yellow ribbons all around just like with breast cancer awareness and pink ribbons. It wasn’t only until I looked it up later that I learned that the yellow ribbons represent hope in light of the Ferry Disaster.

As we began approaching Namdaemun, we followed a crowd into a small street which, of course, was filled with restaurants! The great thing about Seoul is that, the little streets are the places to be. Not sure where to find food? Take a turn off the big road and into the groves of BBQ meats and pork cutlets.

The same way we picked all our other restaurants, we looked for a restaurant filled with people.

Restaurant on the way to Namdaemun

Restaurant on the way to Namdaemun

The restaurant served KBBQ but also regular lunch food like Galbi Tang and Soondubu.

Galbi Tang

Galbi Tang

Soondubu Soup!

Soondubu Soup!

Both dishes were spectacular! Seriously, eating Korean food in Korea has yet to disappoint.

Piggy with her soondubu

Piggy with her soondubu

After our satisfying meal, we shuffled on to Namdaemun Market but had to go through an underground shopping center first.

Namdaemun underground shopping stairs

Namdaemun underground shopping stairs

The stairs were lined with little vendors with tiny nooks where the merchants would sit. Once we were in the shopping center, we found ourselves in another cheap goods galore.

Namdaemun underground shopping

Namdaemun underground shopping

The shops were small, antique shops as well as the typical clothing stalls we’ve seen before. So we made our way to the surface without any purchases.

Namdaemun market packed on Saturday

Namdaemun market packed on Saturday

Whoa! Upon surfacing, we found ourselves in a pool of locals and foreigners all scurrying through the narrow paths of Namdaemun Market. There were plenty of foreigners from China, America, and Europe, all strolling around to admire the variety of apparel as well as food. We even saw a whole section for military style clothing with camo prints.

The market was a fascinating change from the other stalls we’ve seen before in that it reminded me of shopping in Chinatown in LA as a kid, before it got all hipster. The market was old and comprised of a much older merchant base. It’s like where Grandma goes to see friends and play Mah Jong, while someone is inevitably smoking a cigarette while hunched over a pink plastic stool. Yup, nostalgia.

Once we were through the market flurry, we headed in the direction of Myeongdong which was close by. And just a block away from the little stalls of Namdaemun Market, we were greeted by a towering Shinsegae department store.

It was a beauty filled with high end brands like Gucci, Prada, and Burberry. But the best find in the entire building was in B1, a floor for FOOD!

There was a grocery store, a slew of restaurants, and an array of food stalls. This bakery had a wide assortment of baked hot dog goods!

Wide array of hot dog goods at Shinsegae

Wide array of hot dog goods at Shinsegae

It looked amaaaaaazing. But we were too full for another feeding frenzy. But we did find a tea place to quench our thirst. But it was none other than SHARETEA!

We found ShareTea!!!

We found ShareTea!!!

We were so thrilled to find this because we had just tried this place back in San Mateo, CA, and loooved it.

We also noticed this neat machine that sanitizes all of the shopping carts with UV.

Ingenious UV sanitizing cart machine

Ingenious UV sanitizing cart machine

It’s pretty amazing and ingenious. One point up for Korea over Amurrrica.

The amazing Shinsegae also had a rooftop garden to relax from shopping desensitization.

Rooftop garden of Shinsegae

Rooftop garden of Shinsegae

There were so many moms here with their babies. I suppose it’s where all the housewives of Seoul hang out.

Aside from the drinks at ShareTea and the food on B1, we had no appetite to buy anything from Shinsegae as it was all designer and beyond our lack of money. So we decided to head back into Myeongdong where we were a few days before.

We went into H&M, Forever 21, Uniqlo, and a few other stores to look for some clothes. Piggy got several shirts and tanks from a store called Top 10 while I got a shirt from BSX, where I was suckered in by how good G Dragon of Big Bang looked in the clothing. He was literally the only model for the store and was plastered on every wall.

As the night rolled in, we had worked up our appetite and so we got a chicken wrap from a food stall.

Chicken wraps with wasabi sauce

Chicken wraps with wasabi sauce vendor

Piggy going in for the bite

Piggy going in for the bite

Dat wasabi sauce

Dat wasabi sauce

The wrap was essentially a Taco Bell chicken wrap taken up 3 levels from the better ingredients and a bomb wasabi sauce.

Just getting through our appetizer made us want a bit more. Piggy had been wanting kimbap practically since we got to Korea so we found a popular kimbap franchise in Myeongdong.

KimGaNe store

KimGaNe store

The prices were stellar at ~$4 a roll. We ordered a tuna kimbap and an assorted kimbap. Both were made to order!

Our 2 orders of scrumptious kimbap

Our 2 orders of scrumptious kimbap

The kimbaps here were loaded with ingredients and felt much heartier. And I loved that they were wrapped in the salty seaweed that’s often used for snacking. It brought out more of the flavors.

Kimbap pieces displaying their bountiful treasures

Kimbap pieces displaying their bountiful treasures

After annihilating our 2 rolls, we were ready for the trek to Namsan tower.

On our way through an underground pass, we saw an old lady with 2 boxes…

Tiny kitten at the subway. Sooo small!

Tiny kitten at the subway. Sooo small!

They were filled with kittens and puppies! They weren’t leashed and the kittens were chilling on the steps while hundreds of people passed by. It did make me sad though since I knew those little fluffs probably weren’t very well fed or taken care of.

The trek to the cable car took about 10 minutes of walking. When we got there, we found way more Chinese tourists than local Koreans and we all had to cram in an elevator to even get to the cable car station.

Elevator to cable car for Namsan Tower

Elevator to cable car for Namsan Tower

After riding the elevator up, which happened to be more of a box on an escalator, we had to wait in line for about 20 minutes just to get on the cable car. But once we got on the cable car, we got a great view of the city as we made our way up. And the tight spaces of the car had all the couples embracing (although Piggy was a little resistant at first, she gave in too). 😉

At the base of the tower, there were many cafe shops and small eateries as well as gift shops for the visitors. We snapped a picture of the tower as we were making our way into the crowd.

Beautiful Namsan Tower glowing at night

Beautiful Namsan Tower glowing at night

One of the main attractions of Namsan Tower is the abundance of lover locks which decorate entire walls and trees!

Lover lock trees. ALL of those are locks!

Lover lock trees. ALL of those are locks!

These locks are hung by couples to symbolize their everlasting love for one another. Although, it’s probably more of a gimmick to make money as the tower sells the locks for $15. But you can still bring your own to save a few bucks.

The view from the top was magical and really made it a great date spot.

Piggy and the glistening city in the background

Piggy and the glistening city in the background

Another neat thing about the tower is that it has shops and attractions inside of the base. There is a restaurant and observatory deck at the top of the tower too, but it costs money so we opted out of it.

Instead, we roamed the inside and found this A Twosome Place banner with Lee Min Ho who we were familiar with from Boy’s Over Flowers (a Korean romantic comedy drama).

Twosome Place banner with Lee Min Ho

Twosome Place banner with Lee Min Ho

After about an hour or so, we were ready to leave the tower. But when we saw the massive line for the cable car down, we knew it would have easily been an hour wait. So, the abled-bodies that we were, decided to hike down from the tower base.

The long descent from Namsan Tower

The long descent from Namsan Tower

It took about 20 minutes of nothing but stairs to reach the bottom. There were plenty of others on the path so it assured us we weren’t doing anything out of the ordinary, and we even saw plenty of people still going up!

Even though we had a 20 minute march down from Namsan Tower, we had about another mile and a half to walk to get back to our room.

On the way we saw a McDonalds with all of its delivery bikes outside. They deliver McDonalds here!

Array of McDonalds delivery bikes

Array of McDonalds delivery bikes

Well they also deliver fried chicken, sushi, and jjajangmyun here too. Ahhh… it would be too easy to get fat here.

And our next meal didn’t help this from being true either. We found a HOF, a common type of Korean pub all around Seoul, and dropped in for some beers and food.

Pork enjoying an ice cold Cass after the long walk

Pork enjoying an ice cold Cass after the long walk

We ordered a spicy tteokboki with seafood dish which is popular to eat with beer.

Ooey, gooey tteokboki and seafood dish

Ooey, gooey tteokboki and seafood dish

And oh boy was it a cheesy, gooey, mouthgasm mess. We managed to eat it all. It was really a great way to more than make up for all of the Calories burned throughout the day, but oh well. We are here to eat! And eat we shall!

Right before getting home, we wrapped up the night by picking up some Makgeolli, a Korean rice wine, to try out in the comforts of our own room. It’s a common drink here but neither of us have ever tried it.

Makgeolli to finish the night

Makgeolli to finish the night

It was surprisingly not bad. It’s about as strong as a Zinfandel but with a grittier consistency like horchata. You can taste and feel a bit of the creaminess from the rice mixture but it still isn’t very thick at all and would be closer in consistency to water than wine.

It was the perfect way to end a long day. Kanbe!

– pork

Shopping! Myeongdong, Dog cafe, Hongdae, and Etude House HAUL

After getting some good rest in our Bbungalow, we were ready for Day 2! Today we wanted to hit up Myeongdong, which is famous for tourism and shopping, and Hongdae, which is popular for clubs, bars, and art.

Luckily Myeongdong was only a 15 min. walk away from our place and we wanted to see the city more while we were at it. To get to Myeongdong, we had to cross the man made stream Chonggyecheon, where many people go to relax by the water.

Chonggyecheon Stream on a beautiful day

Chonggyecheon Stream on a beautiful day

The weather was excellent and really made Seoul more charming. Piggy didn’t like that it was windy but she still looked great.

Piggy posing in her outfit for today

Piggy posing in her outfit for today

The walk over to Myeongdong wasn’t bad at all and we stumbled upon some neat things along the way like this giant O in front of Citi bank.

O! A random circle in front of Citi bank

O! A random circle in front of Citi bank

Also we found this patio area decked out with Snow White characters and a giant shroooom!

Huge Shroom!

Huge Shroom!

We started approaching the heart of Myeongdong and picked up an appetite on the way. So we randomly picked one of the many Korean BBQ joints and went with it. This place was called something like Mokgocheon and the waitress knew bits of English and brought us an English menu. That made it soooooo much easier and we got the skirt steak for 9,000 won or $9 USD.

Korean BBQ in Myeongdong

Korean BBQ in Myeongdong

Also we got the stir fried octopus and pork which was delicious and only for 6,000 won! This dish easily goes for $10 in Amurrrica.

Stir Fried Octopus and Pork

Stir Fried Octopus and Pork

The food here was delightful and the meat came with a side of shredded onions and a light soy vinegar dressing. The waitress instructed us to eat the meat with the onions and slap on some bean paste sauce. And wow! It was good. The flavor of the bean paste (tenjang) was much more flavorful than what I’m used to having in the States. Piggy was very pleased too.

Piggy with some grilled pork (!!!)

Piggy with some grilled pork (!!!)

After filling our growing bellies, we were ready for SHOPPING!

Myeongdong shopping and food

Myeongdong shopping and food

We proceeded to walk through Myeongdong’s edge towards the department store section so we could loop back to cover more ground. For those who have never been to Myeongdong, it’s like a network of alleys and small streets PACKED with restaurants, tons of beauty stores (more on that later), and clothing stores. So it’s easy to get lost or miss a few alleys.

But before getting into the heart of Myeongdong, we made our way through the Myeongdong Underground Shopping to get to the department stores across the street from Central Myeongdong.

Myeongdong underground shopping

Myeongdong underground shopping

The underground shopping is comprised of a wide corridor of small shops but unfortunately we forgot to snag a pic.

We made our way through to the Lotte Young World department store. And heading in we saw some amazing art haha.

Random wall art that was AMAZING!

Random wall art that was AMAZING!

It’s silly but I thought it was cute. So the Lotte Young World department store is like the many in Korea where each floor houses a variety of name brand clothing stores and other miscellaneous shops setup in a loop so you can circle the floor then head up to the next floor. The basement floor even had a SM entertainment pop up store which sold merchandise from various Kpop groups like EXO and SNSD. But one of the best stores we came across was… LINE!!!

For the non-LINE users, LINE is a wildly popular chat app in Asia which features awesome LINE characters.

Moon from LINE!!

Moon from LINE!!

Isn’t it great? We were so ecstatic for this place since both Piggy and I use LINE with our friends. You should too.

Look! More awesome LINE characters.

Brown and Sally from LINE!

Brown and Sally from LINE!

We seriously spent 20-30 mins. in that store. It was great. Grrreat.

LINE Friends store

LINE Friends store

After finally departing the LINE store, we did the trek through all 6 floors of the department store passing by many unknown brands and a handful of familiar ones (like Muji, Zara, and Uniqlo to name a few). But once we got to the top we were met with a pleasant surprise.

Rooftop garden

Rooftop garden

There was a rooftop garden! And even better was that it had full sized cardboard cut outs of the SNSD members including one of my favorites–Tiffany~

Pork with Tiffany from SNSD

Pork with Tiffany from SNSD

It’s pretty easy to see why she would be one of my faves. No worries, no real romance here. I’ve still got Piggy. 😉

The garden was really a nice getaway and some locals looked to be enjoying themselves in the patio area, escaping the crowded city.

Lovely garden away from the city bustle

Lovely garden away from the city bustle

Another nice surprise was finding these Larva characters which happen to be very popular in Korea. Not really sure where they’re from but they look hilarious! hahaha.

Piggy and Larva characters lol

Piggy and Larva characters lol

We finally descended from the Lotte Young World department store and skipped the main Lotte department store nearby since it was all high end and expensive Gucci and Chanel. So we made our way back to Myeongdong central and hit up the one of MANY makeup stores.

OK. To get the idea across, Koreans and makeup are like Americans to Starbucks. It’s freaking everywhere like an airborne virus. There are a handful of major makeup brands here like Etude House, The Face Shop, Missha, Nature Republic, Holika Holika, and Skin Food to name a FEW. We literally saw 4+ of each of these stores within Myeongdong. And Myeongdong AIN’T that big. It was like turning the corner to see the same set of stores over and over again.

Anyway, we did plan on going to Etude House as we got a long shopping list from my sister-in-law haha. Once inside, one of the 6+ workers approached us speaking Chinese. As this is a heavily touristy area, you will find a LOT of workers here speak Chinese (mainly Mandarin) or Japanese… but not so much English.

Extreme Etude House shopping

Extreme Etude House shopping

I snagged a pic of Piggy doing her intense Etude House clean out.

Once we finally finished with the makeup, we saw advertisements for a Dog Cafe. Yup, dog cafe.

Dog Cafe in Myeongdong

Dog Cafe in Myeongdong

Where you go to drink tea and play with dogs that lounge around and poo/pee everywhere. These cafés are popular in Korea because come on… DOGGIES!!!

Doggies everywhere!

Doggies everywhere!

It costed us 8,000 won each ($8 USD) and you get a free drink which is totally worth it for the dogggiesssss. We found an especially cute pug that kept falling asleep.

Piggy and the pug

Piggy and the pug

So adorable but it made me miss my own Piglet (Teddy bear!!) back at home.

We spent a good 30 mins. there before bouncing out back into Myeongdong to get some snacks.

Pro Tip: The street food carts all come out at 4 pm in Myeongdong so keep that in mind when visiting.

Me and Piggy shared one of Korea’s popular ice cream tube snacks which was nice and refreshing.

Popular ice cream tube store

Popular ice cream tube store

Piggy and I enjoyed it.

Piggy and the ice cream thingy

Piggy and the ice cream thingy

Carrying on with our fattiness, I picked up a sweet cinammony pancake thing.

Street food sweets pancakes and savory bun things

Street food sweets pancakes and savory bun things

‘Twas a nice contrast to the cold ice cream.

And of course we couldn’t keep our eyes off dem sausages.

Assorted skewered goodness

Assorted skewered goodness

We also saw these insanely huge cotton candy balls.

Super huge cotton candy!

Super huge cotton candy!

By this point, we were done with Myeongdong and were ready to head into Hongdae, a very popular spot for hip stores, restaurants, and art. Also it’s widely known as the party spot with clubs and bars.

One neat store we went to was Samsammadong, a butterfly wing art store, gallery, and studio. The store offers really creative artwork (remember, art doesn’t just come in the form of paintings) made by art students.

Samsammadong building

Samsammadong building

The building is super hip and snazzy in there with a gallery on the 2nd floor. But we passed as it had a 5,000 won admission fee.

At this point we were thoroughly tired with achy feet. So we rested at a dessert cafe and got some shaved snow or “patbingsoo”.

Mango patbingsoo

Mango patbingsoo

It was getting dark but that’s when Hongdae really comes to life.

Hongdae at night

Hongdae at night

The picture above didn’t do Hongdae justice but it was really lively and lit up at night. There were also artists that came out to play music with crowds clapping along.

Hongdae was great but both Piggy and I weren’t up for any clubbing and were ready to head home.

We got back to our building and opted to get food at the Korean shop next door. When Piggy and I were exploring the area near our building last night, we smelled that infamous Korean BBQ awesomeness as we passed by this joint. So Piggy pretty much demanded to have it tonight.

Pork and BBQ set

Pork and BBQ set

We got Korean BBQ here but they serve other common Korean food too. We opted for the MoDeum Gogi A (meat set A). The set came with beef and pork belly in all of its delicious juiciness.

Delicious BBQ goodness

Delicious BBQ goodness

Back in our room, we did a damage check and reviewed our haul from Etude House specifically.

Etude House haul!

Etude House haul!

This is just the first haul but Piggy definitely wants more. More to come… More to come…

– pork