The tale continues.
Naturally we slept in for quite a bit after our big Korean party adventure the day before, and didn’t get up until 5PM-ish. We realized that we’d wasted most of the day, but we still wanted to do something so we headed off towards Garosu-gil and to check out the general Gangnam area just a little bit. I had this idea in my mind that Garosu-gil would be this little, cute tree-lined street, and while it was for sure tree-lined, it was a lot fancier and more intimidating than what I expected. We didn’t go all over Korea, we didn’t even check out every part of Seoul, but I would bet money on that, on average, this is the place in Korea with the most attractive people. I’m not ugly, but in my super relaxed traveling clothes, no makeup and kind of messy and casual hair, I felt like a troll compared to these people. Hot damn. I didn’t take any pictures of the amazing-looking people nor any that really show how fancy this place was, but just trust me, okay?
This cafe was very big, and completely open to the street. Very cool.
Okay, this was at Garosu-gil, but may still not be super relevant to your understanding of what it is like there… But just look at how cute he is!
We got kind of hungry as we strolled around there, but all the restaurants we could find were either absurdly expensive, impossible to navigate for vegetarians, or both. So we ended up getting out of the super fancy zone and instead ended up in a tiny restaurant outside of the main busy area. Here’s a tip: if they look like they’ve never seen a foreigner before when you walk in there, you’ve probably found a good place. We ordered some tteokbokki, one regular and one special kind with soy sauce, and sat there enjoying the ”oh my god you’re blonde”-looks.
Delicious massive amounts of tteokbokki.
After that we headed to the Cheonggyecheon (which may be even more stunning when it’s dark, actually) and drank some makgeolli by the riverbank. I don’t think you’re actually allowed to drink there, but oh well. It’s too late now and we didn’t hurt anyone.
Cheonggyecheon at night is all about sparkling lights.
I had really wanted to go to at least one of the palaces in Seoul, and I wanted to knock Gyeongbokgung out of the way quickly, since it’s the biggest and the one I felt the strongest about going to. So on this day we headed over there. As a European I’m used to a very different style of palaces, but there is something both very calming and kind of intimidating about the Korean royals’ way of doing things. I can’t properly explain what I mean by that, but trust me, if you walked along those paths you would understand me perfectly.
We found out later that if you wore hanbok you could get into the palace for free, which partly explains how many people in hanbok there were all over. And yes, I sneakily took this photo of some them.
Main palace building.
The throne in the main throne room.
This is the Gyeonghoeru Pavilion, and my favorite building in the entire palace area.
When we were there we also got to see the changing of the guard ceremony, which was an impressive display of history with dressed up actors complete with fake beards. I had two main thoughts while watching this. One: Are those big flags heavy to hold upright when you’re marching and two: if the guards just changed, without the ceremony, this would be so much more effective. If you compare the guards to for example Swedish guards of that same era, there’s definitely a lot more flair and color to the Korean version. But was it really better? I’m not so sure about that. There’s a lot to say for metal armor.
Captain of the guard? Maybe?
As it was raining we decided to check out the National Folk Museum of Korea as it was within the palace walls anyway, but it made next to no impression on me. I can barely remember being there at all, honestly…
After we left the palace we went to look for some food, and as we did so we heard something that sounded like a demonstration in the distance, so we decided to follow the sounds and check it out. Turns out it was some kind of demonstration, but I’ve yet to figure out what it was about. It was certainly quite big though.
Still don’t know what was going on.
After we’d eaten we walked along the Cheonggyecheon to get back to Gwangjang market to get some vegetables. We bought salad and some beans from this super nice lady who got so happy and excited when she realized I spoke a tiny bit of Korean. She immediately started chatting to me about what the different kinds of salads and beans were and how to cook them, and even though I didn’t understand much of what she said I just smiled and nodded, and yeah, even though there was not much communication I still felt like it was a really meaningful encounter.
We are just the cutest.
Since we were already at the market we decided to stop and share another bindaetteok. As we did so there was this old man sitting next to us who excitedly greeted us (he might have been a wee bit drunk) and offered us makgeolli, wanting to toast with us. If this had been in Sweden I would probably been a bit uncomfortable that a strange drunk/tipsy man kept talking to me, but this time it just made me feel happy. He was talking to me in Korean, offering me Korean alcohol, as we were sitting in a Korean market. I was a part of something, and that meant a lot.
At this point we didn’t have much food left at home so we decided to go figure out where we could find a big supermarket and head off there to do some shopping. It was a bit of a walk to get there, but it wasn’t far enough to warrant taking the subway so we just set out along a stream which looked kind of like a more rugged version of the Cheonggyecheon, which suited me greatly. It was a bit hot, but honestly, it always was.
It really was quite pretty.
I know this may not look the prettiest, but I really liked passing under these grimy bridges. It’s my aesthetic.
We got to the big supermarket, but it ended up being closed for some unexplained reason, so instead we headed to this smaller store jammed full of older Korean people. It was honestly quite intimidating to step in there, but we managed and came out with a bit of food.
Probably the most amazing photo I took this whole trip.
Okay, important fact about me: I hate working out, and even though I usually have the time to work out every day, I basically never do. Important fact about my boyfriend: he loves working out and does it when he can, which isn’t that often since he’s a very busy person. He’s also wanted us to workout together basically since we first met, which was a year before this trip. But this day, the 12th of June 2016, was the first time it ever happened. There seem to be outdoor gyms everywhere in Korea, and after we’d gotten back from grocery shopping we went to one. And, well, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I knew I’d be in way worse shape than my man, that much is obvious from just looking at us, and even though my crazy mind had given me the idea that he’d make fun of me, I still knew he’d be very nice and helpful about the whole thing, which he was. It was kind of anticlimactic, actually. I didn’t really feel any different about myself nor about him after taking this (for me) monumental step together. Strange.
After working out we were pretty ravenous so we went to a small restaurant very close to our apartment and had so much kimbap that the old women working there looked at us as if we were crazy. And it was amazing.
This day we decided to go to Bukchon Hanok Village and stroll around a bit. And trust me, if you feel like strolling around a bit, there are few better places to do it than this place. It’s such a cute part of Seoul, with narrow streets and when you see no people and no cars it’s actually quite easy to pretend that you’re walking the streets of ancient Seoul. It’s definitely a bit of a labyrinth, with plenty of dead-ends, but I think that actually adds to the appeal of the place.
I wish I could have taken better pictures, but I think you get the picture.
This is the man I’ve chosen. No regrets.
As we were strolling around we stumbled upon a gallery, and for some reason this (instead of all the other galleries we’d passed) was the one we decided to enter. It was so small and it seemed like someone lived there, because you could see straight into a kitchen. But I’m so glad we went in there, because that was some serious art. The photos don’t really do it justice, but you should for sure look at them anyway.
These are just my favorites; there were other ones that were basically just as good.
We then headed to this place called the Bukchon Observatory, which was basically just an apartment at the top of a slightly higher building with a bunch of balconies, but it did give a nice overview of the entire Bukchon Hanok Village, which lead to some cool photos of this old part of Seoul, with mountains and the new Seoul in the background. Oh and the entrance fee included juice, so.
I love the shots of the old buildings fading into the new, modern city, but I like the last one with the mountain even more. It almost looks like a shot of the past.
After that we were so hungry that at least I was pretty close to fainting, so we headed into more or less the first restaurant that we could find which offered vegetarian options and had some surprisingly amazing pizza. I’m not sure if this is the memory of being ravenous speaking, but I think that’s one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had in my entire life. And I’ve been to Italy twice.
Korea killing the game.
Tune back soon for more!