Free and easy in Seoul, Korea Part 3

Jes , 8 Comments

A 4D3N stay in Seoul is definitely more than enough as the main highlights are shopping, eating and palaces. Do take a look at Part 1 and Part 2 for the Yongpyong and Jeju highlights. It's due to the recent Korean Wave that hyped up its attractions and boosted its image. To be honest, I would rather go Japan than Korea but everyone needs to go once to find out their interests.

The first thing to do after landing is to buy T-Money (metro card) that can be topped up when needed. Get refunds at the last day in airport station. You can find more information here. You can also take a private shuttle from the airport.

We stayed at Hotel Icon near Insadong. It's a good place to walk to nearby attractions and 10 minutes walk from Anguk Station Exit 4. I headed to find Korean fried chicken the first thing after checking in. Tried Two Two fried chicken at Myeongdong and it's crispy but not shiok enough. Kyochon chicken at Gangnum is better and I will talk more about it below.
Two Two fried chicken at Myeongdong.. Lean and crispy!
Back to the attractions in Seoul, I separated this trip into the main highlights:

Palaces
Gyeongbokgung (景福宮, Gyeongbokgung station Exit 5) is the main royal palace, and is the largest, grandest of all the palaces. I like that it is walking distance from my hotel. I am not really a fan of such places and just walking around looking at their past living quarters is really optional for me. I overheard some Chinese saying it's nothing compared to Forbidden City and I agree. I would suggest to visit this palace only and that's it. The other palace below is visited on a different trip.
The nice palace that is right in the bustling city! It's not obvious from the picture though.

Many of such entrances and exits..
They are standing at Gwanghwamun for your photo taking..
Changdeokgung (昌德宮, Anguk station Exit 3) is the second most popular palace after Gyeongbokgung and is the most well preserved. Most tourists go there for the Secret Garden and you can only enter this garden with the walking tour via Huwon entrance. This secret garden is only exclusive to the king so it's quite grand with ponds, pavilion and some unique trees. It's a nice hike but nothing special.
It could be that beautiful in the autumn... (Pic from triptokorea.com)
Shopping
Dongdaemun (东大门, Dongdaemun station Exit 14)
This is a bit like Mustafa Centre where you get everything here at wholesales prices but there are so many products that you feel confused by all of it. It's opened 24 hours so it's perfect for late nights shopping and is walking distance from the subway station. I would prefer to go Namdaemun though.
The start of a major shopping trip...
Namdaemun (大门, Hoehyeon station Exit 5)
I would link Namdaemun to Bugis Street and I prefer the open market concept which is kind of similar to Asakusa or Ueno Street in Tokyo. They have everything you need and I particularly like eating while shopping but yet it's not that crowded so this place is just right for me.
Namdaemum really looks like Ueno in Japan...
Ewha university (Ehwa Woman’s University station Exit 2)
No, not exactly shopping in school. It's the streets outside the school and the subway station has the same name. If you like online shopping for bags, dresses and accessories, then this is a really suitable place for you. The crowds are usually teenagers and young adults so it's a pretty good place to chill and ogle.

Seoul Plaza (City hall station Exit 5)
Everyone knows Seoul Tower from the Korean shows where a couple put a padlock on the fences and throws away the keys to seal the commitment and love for each other. So cliche and commercialized and I tend not to go to such places. The best part of going free and easy is to be able to select where you want to go! Instead, I went to the business area in Seoul Plaza and took a stroll and found an outdoor skating rink! It was slightly snowing so it looks beautiful and Krispy Kreme is just right around the corner for a good breakfast.

The millions of locks up on Seoul Tower... Good locksmith business there!
It's too crowded but looks fun!
Insadong (仁寺洞,  Jonggak station Exit 3 or Anguk station Exit 5)
More an artsy place to shop for souvenirs and little trinkets. You will see traditional tea houses, art galleries and exhibitions. I can't really get anything from here but it's worth a walk about. If I really have to compare it with Singapore, I can only think of Haji Lane. They have tea appreciation classes and art galleries there if you are interested.

Not many things I could get there... (Source: Wikipedia)
Garosu-gil (Sinsa station Exit 1)
If you like designer brands and shopping in nice tree-lined streets with up-class atmosphere, then this place is for you. Shops like Abercrombie, Forever 21, Zara are located there and nice cafes like Beansbin is also available when you need a break. Overall, I would say a relaxing place to hang out and people watch.

Myeongdong (明洞, Myeongdong station Exit 6)
The main tourist shopping place similar to Orchard Road. A very scary place where tourists are more than locals and people buy cosmetics like it cost nothing. Faceshop, Skinfood, Nature Republic, Etude, Missha and Laneige.. whatever you want on you skin it's available there. Tourists normally buy in basket loads as the price can be 50% difference compared to the exported goods. I don't see most shops in Incheon Airport so better to buy first and get all the freebies before going to the airport to get the tax refund. They will have a wider range and higher inventory here than the airport too. Visit this place at night or before you leave so you can carry the heavy stuff back straight away.
Myeongdong theatre to watch Nanta
Besides shopping, the highlight is the variety of street food. pancakes, fruits, egg buns, candies.. Basically everything. Yummy! There is also a wide variety of shopping from high end ZARA and GAP to low end pushcarts so whatever you are looking for should be sold here, just at tourist price. It's kind of scary as it's really crowded at night but the vibrant bustling atmosphere is infectious. If you have time, you can also catch the famous Nanta show, a light hearted comedy that is interactive and fun but cost around S$50.
Lots of food and nice smell in the streets!
Eat 
Noryangjin (鷺梁津水, Noryangjin station Exit 1) Fish Market is like Tsukiji Market, just much much smaller and with tremendous hassling from the vendors. Cross a long bridge after exiting the station and you will see this place. You can choose your own seafood and they will recommend the restaurant to prepare the food right away. The style of cooking is totally not to my liking and not that fresh and cheap anyway so I will not travel so far just for this again.
The myriad of seafood stalls and all of them sell similar seafood!
The varieties that they have such as salmon, oysters, fish, crabs, prawns, abalone.. not cheap at all!
Seafood feast that was frankly, just average...
Hongdae (Hongik Uni station Exit 9) is a place for BBQ and drinking but you don't have to go there specially unless you have time to spare and explore their neighbourhood. They have many well known BBQ restaurants and the nearest station is Hongik University. Please come out from Exit 9 if not you will get lost and not know where to head to. Based on reviews, I went to Hongik Sutbul Galbi Bbq. The grilled food is really delicious and signboards are all in korean so just look at the signboards. I think it's cheap and I would definitely return next time.

BBQ beef, pork, chicken organs... you name it and grill it, slap together with lettuce and eat it with onions and their special sauce. Oh so yummy and oh so smoky!
Near Geongbokgung MRT station, there is a well known Ginseng Chicken (Samgyetang) restaurant nearby. Contrary to common belief that it's a winter food to keep people warm, my Korean friend said that Koreans have it in the summer traditionally in the hottest days of the year to revitalize them. This restaurant rather hidden behind the main road so do look at the instructions from the reviewers for Tosokchon Restaurant (Behind the main road). Oh, it's really good and tasty with glutinous rice hidden inside the chicken, money back guarantee.
No heavy ginseng taste in the soup unless you eat the ginseng, of course.

I have mentioned the street food and I will mention again! They serve everything and are cheap and mostly delicious. One of the common comfort food is Tteokbokki and they taste the same, just go for those with more exotic ingredients in it like fishcakes and hotdog and ham. However, beware of some of the street food like the chicken BBQ skewers you see everywhere. Some served uncooked meat and there are friends who got severe stomach upset due to that. Go for stalls which have high traffic and crowd so you will get the freshly cooked ones.
Tteokbokki is a winter food and is really just flour shaped cylinders with spicy tomato sauce.
My favourite egg bread which is cheap and good!
Oh this is pig's intestines... not for the faint hearted!
If you like Korea's game show 'Running Man', you will know that Leesang's Gary has a grilled pig's intestines restaurant called Paljamakchang. Turn to your right after Exit 9 and at the third cross junction, it will be on your left side.After the popular Gangnum (Gangnum station Exit 9) Style song, I am sure everyone is as curious as me to explore this neighbourhood. It's home to many impressive headquarters and is the most affluent neighbourhood. You will find some shops that cater to the prestigious top class and the prices are quite shocking.
However, I prefer to eat Kyochon chicken which is beside it. It is really sinfully tasty and I highly recommend the soy garlic version! More finger licking good than Bonchon/Four fingers I think. You can also ask your hotel to order the delivery for you too.

Special
Samcheongdong (Anguk station Exit 2) is a unique street that allows for cafe hopping, people watching and has a quaint, authentic feel to it. I will have to say it's like Chinatown. It is near to Bukchon Hanok Village and I really like walking around this place, exploring the different architecture and imagining who lives in it. This peaceful street is highly recommended to anyone going Seoul for a visit that tour groups don't go! It's near Geongbokgung too so you can plan it after the palace visit. Don't forget to chill at some of the cafes... My favourite is Beansbin Coffee where they serve coffee and waffles.. how can anyone not like it!
Nice little house with all the earthy elements.. spot the guard dog!

The hilly experience but absolutely serene. 
A rough 4D3N itinerary look like this:
Day 1
Morning walk at Geongbokgung
Lunch and chill at Samcheongdong 
Stroll around Bukchon Hanok Village
Dinner and late night shopping at Dongdaemun

Day 2
Morning walk at Seoul plaza 
Lunch at Namdaemun followed by shopping
Dinner at Hongdae

Day 3
Morning walk at Insadong
Lunch at Noryangjin Fish Market
Shopping near Ewha university
Dinner at Myeongdong followed by buying all the cosmetics to take home

Day 4
Head to Garosu-gil to relax
Lunch at Gangnam 

Jes

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8 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Hi SMOL, that's very prompt and you only took less than a few minutes to skim through my post! Haha, thanks anyway.. hope you have fun too!

      Delete
  2. LOL!

    Yes, I did not read your post; just scrolled through the pictures.

    What I sensed is you had fun ;)

    I was focusing on the writer; not the post (red-faced)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi SMOL,

      Not right leh... I spent so much time to write but you only scroll. Plus you assume I was having fun when there is no picture of me smiling.... hahahaha! Glad I made your face red :)

      Delete
  3. You just ignite my interest again for a korea trip.

    Kid grow up and we can go ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi B,

      You will have to wait a little longer if you are going to have a second kid. I am sure the wait is worth it.. just don't delay too long and then it will be PSLE, exams and other stuff!

      Delete
  4. I like your review very much. You compare their popular shopping areas to ours- I have a better idea now. Thanks!
    I'm planning for a future trip, this is the gathering information stage.
    I've to decide on the date next ...haha... maybe autumn.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Poppy,

      Thank you very much for your nice compliment! Glad it has helped in your research! Have fun in Korea :)

      Delete