So Far, Seoul Good Day 2 – Gyeongbokgung Palace, MMCA of Seoul, Bukchon Hanok Village, Gwangjang Market & Dongdaemum Night Shopping

It was certainly a packed, eventful day.

So Far, Seoul Good Day 2

Every traveler worth his salt knows that the key to starting your day right is – but of course! – having a good breakfast. That’s why we were to be found at Dine Hall, the classy-looking restaurant attached to our hotel for a bit of a noms before we start out for the day. Food was rather uninspiring but sufficient, with portions so little, it was hard to imagine that this was a buffet. The upside was that we were served by a rather surly-looking, Harry Potter-look alike complete with the rounded glasses and suspenders. But it was unfortunate that he wasn’t as hairy as the real Harry.

So Far, Seoul Good Day 2

And then we were off! First stop was at the Gyeongbokgung palace, probably the largest Korean palace in Seoul. Unlike the last time when I went to one, there wasn’t a guard-changing ceremony taking place, but we made do with (again) some surly-looking guard in full costume “guarding” the entrance of the palace. More tourist gimmick than a real culture thing, if you ask me, but hey you get what you get!

So Far, Seoul Good Day 2

The Gyeongbokgung palace is actually a large complex of living quarters, grand halls and kitchens which was torn down (by the Japanese), rebuilt (by the Koreans), torn down again (by the Japa.. oh, you know that of course), and then rebuilt again (by the Koreans). The palace is a symbol of pride and sovereignty in Korean, which was evident by the large groups of visiting school kids commanding the ground. I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to imagine kids to be excited about visiting a national monument (I certainly wasn’t, when I was at their age), but the Koreans obviously fly their national pride high and proud.

So Far, Seoul Good Day 2

As we stroll around the palace compound, we found maple trees! I thought we would have missed this by a week, but obviously someone above got our memo to keep some of these gorgeous trees gorgeous for our arrival. And so we took full opportunity to fill up few cameras worth of photos.

So Far, Seoul Good Day 2

Lunch was at a traditional Korean restaurant (of which name I couldn’t type nor read) located at a scenic spot rather close to the palace. It was certainly a tourist spot, if the number of foreign-sounding visitors was anything to count by. The better half discovered this place in his (Chinese) travel guide and apparently this restaurant with no English name is famous for its crab preserved in soy sauce.

So Far, Seoul Good Day 2

Dear readers, I devoured it. I thought I was a tad squirmish when it comes to raw crabs, but this didn’t taste strange. Nor fishy. Nor soggy. It was smelled fresh and fragrant, and the roe was so juicy and sweet, it took all my self restraint from swallowing the whole roe at one go. Instead I forced myself to slowly relish the crab bit by bit. To say that I enjoyed a lot would be an understatement.

So Far, Seoul Good Day 2

It was also a rather symphonic lunch. I discovered to my delight that the utensils were made of bronze, and with our metal chopstick, it creates a pleasant pinging sound as you hit them. Because each dish was loaded with different food (it was a Korean meal, so at least ten different side dishes accompanied the two main dishes we ordered), they produced different sound. It was almost Nanta-like and had it not been for the rowdy guests at the next table, I would have been nourishing that musical side of me too.

So Far, Seoul Good Day 2

Which brought me to the topic of rude tourists. Those Hong Kong-ers who complained about rude and loud mainland tourists need to look in the mirror when they themselves sit on the other side of the fence. The next table was a group of Hong Kong ladies whom came in discussing loudly if they can sit on the floor, if the food is good, how much shopping they got. The lack of respect of other diners was astonishing, so much so that the table of Koreans next to us requested to be relocated to another room. And they had the cheek to say the waitress was rude to them when it was clear they have sabotage the serene ambiance of the restaurant. Talk about being self-absorbed.

So Far, Seoul Good Day 2

On a happier note, I am glad to report that the world of contemporary art museums is all good again. Those who followed my blog would know that I was utterly disappointed with the museum of Bangkok. The National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA) of Seoul was a sophisticated piece of work. I wish I am an art fanatic – that way, I would be well informed enough to describe what I experienced to you in words. But in the world of multimedia, sensory experience and gorgeous art pieces built on engineering, biology and hydraulics, word fails me, and I have never been happier. This time round I’ll let the photos do the talking.

So Far, Seoul Good Day 2

So Far, Seoul Good Day 2

So Far, Seoul Good Day 2

So Far, Seoul Good Day 2

So Far, Seoul Good Day 2

After three happy hours wondering around MMCA, it was time to refuel our stomachs, and the better half led right behind the museum building into Bukchon Hanok Village.

So Far, Seoul Good Day 2

I have never been to a Hanok village (Korean traditional village) before, and this one charmed me to the max. Located just a stone throw away from the palace, this village is a maze of cozy-looking alleys and quaint traditional houses. Throngs of young Koreans were enjoying the winter chills with street snacks, slurping coffee and laughing loudly, exchanging gossips. Lovers huddled over a shared waffles, gazing lovingly into each other eyes.

Can you feel how much I love this place yet? No? Then let me say it again – I like Bukchon Hanok Village.

So Far, Seoul Good Day 2

It wasn’t so much at first. I was hungry again (no surprises there) and was in dire need for coffee and cakes (in that order), so we ventured into the promising looking hiddenSPACE. The cafe is actually attached to an art gallery, so the hip factor was piled so high up, so artsy that it hurts. In a good way. Not so much for my stomach (they don’t much food apart from some dire porridge), but I do say that the space was very well designed and maintained.

So after a cup of Americano (I was over caffeinated for much of the trip), we went out again and went into this cute, catsy cafe… with no English name.

So Far, Seoul Good Day 2

Now, this was more like it. The bubbly waitress seemed genuinely happy to see us, and as she chatted us up happily in fluent English, I soaked in the happy atmosphere of the place. It is an old-school charm with cutesy stuff the Koreans are famous for all over the place. It was hard not to be sold with the whole idea, so we had a waffle with icecream, as recommended by our waitress.

So Far, Seoul Good Day 2

Back on the street, we tried to hail a cab home but to no avails. You know how small the info card some hotels provide you? They are utterly useless if every cab driver you flagged down was an old man with eyesight problem. It a slight huff we took the metro instead to go back to our hotel.

When we arrived back at City Hall, we were alarmed to see that the streets were crowded with riot police complete with shields and helmets. Even more alarming was the surprising number of somewhat drunk and loud Korean men and women on the streets, some carrying large placards and banners.

Did we land ourselves right into the middle of a protest march? I didn’t wait around to find out, and in a hurry we detoured from the main road and in a slight daze we were back in the hotel for a brief soak of hot water for our poor feet, before hitting the street again.

So Far, Seoul Good Day 2

Our next destination was the Gwangjang Market, one of the top food market in Seoul and that makes it a must-visit for me. And we were certainly not disappointed. We indulge ourselves in loads of Korena street snack, from jeon (Korean pancakes), gimbap (Korean rolls) to some very strange looking but surprising delicious sundae (Korean sausage).

So Far, Seoul Good Day 2

The experience dining alongside the locals – who seem to really like their Seju a lot – was priceless. None of the ladies (ajuma, they were called) manning the stalls knew a word of English, but that didn’t stop them from serving us with a smile. With much hand gestures and Korean mumblings, we were stuffed to the brim bit by bit and by the time we were done (and our asses roasted on the electric blanket), I couldn’t move for being too full. And the damage? A mere KRW24,000. That’s less than HKD200, for two. If this was not a steal, I don’t know what is.

So Far, Seoul Good Day 2

For the evening we decided to experience midnight shopping, and it was at the Dongdaemum “town of shopping” that I discovered why Seoul is certainly not a city which sleeps. That would be the only explanation I could find on why, after three buildings of endless clothes (in which two of them were staffed with some good looking but annoying men), I don’t see the sea of shoppers abate anytime soon. Everyone seems to be just starting out and having fun, and all I bought was a thick winter jacket, and that was out of necessity if I am to battle the chill of Seoul winter.

Luckily, I ended the night on a high note. Had it not been the Seoul-saving Krispy Kreme, I would have been really, really knackered.

See more of my So Far, Seoul Good posts:

Eating Out & Restaurants

Dine Hall (part of Hotel ShinShin)
Seoul Jungu Namdaemunro 5Gil 17-5
Tel: +822 2139 1000
Email: shinshin@hotel-shinshin.com

hiddenSPACE
Bukchon Hanok Village

Exploring Around & Attractions

Gyeongbokgung Palace
161 Sajik-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Opening Hours: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Tel: +82 2-3700-3900

National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA) of Seoul
30 Samcheong-ro, Sogyeok-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul 110-200
Tel: +82-2-3701-9500
Museum Hours: Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Sunday : 10:00 am ~ 6:00 pm; Wednesday, Saturday : 10:00 am ~ 9:00 pm (18:00~21:00 : Special exhibition is free); closed on Mondays and January 1st

Bukchon Hanok Village
Gahoe-dong, Jae-dong, Samcheong-dong, Gye-dong, Wonseo-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul-si

Gwangjang Market
88, Changgyeonggung-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul

Dongdaemum Night Shopping

So Far, Seoul Good Day 2 - Gyeongbokgung Palace, MMCA of Seoul, Bukchon Hanok Village, Gwangjang Market & Dongdaemum Night Shopping by

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