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.
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.
The restaurant served KBBQ but also regular lunch food like Galbi Tang and Soondubu.
Both dishes were spectacular! Seriously, eating Korean food in Korea has yet to disappoint.
After our satisfying meal, we shuffled on to Namdaemun Market but had to go through an underground shopping center first.
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.
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.
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!
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
The prices were stellar at ~$4 a roll. We ordered a tuna kimbap and an assorted kimbap. Both were made to order!
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.
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…
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.
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.
One of the main attractions of Namsan Tower is the abundance of lover locks which decorate entire walls and trees!
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.
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).
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.
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!
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.
We ordered a spicy tteokboki with seafood dish which is popular to eat with beer.
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.
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!