Thursday, September 19, 2013

sightseeing in seoul, part two

The 3,000 won (US$2.80) ticket for Gyeongbokgung Palace (see previous post) included entrance to the National Folk Museum of Korea. The rain was coming down in earnest, so we decided to seek shelter at the museum.

On the way there, we saw a cool representation of the twelve zodiac symbols. I was born in the year of the pig and I admit to having the typical characteristics of one.

The museum's main building won an award for architectural design, planning and execution in 1966.

My favorite exhibits were the dioramas. The facial expressions killed me.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

sightseeing in seoul, part one

We were in South Korea from the 15th to the 19th of July 2013, but we only had one full day in Seoul. Most people would probably be able to see everything there is to see in just a few hours (Half-day city tour, anyone?) but that's not how I roll. I like to take my time, to linger and absorb, which means that hardly anybody wants to go anywhere with me, usually.

Meet JetLee, my fellow weirdo.

After grabbing a cup of coffee at Starbucks-- the only coffee shop that was open in Myeong-dong at 9AM-- we took the subway to Gwanghwamun station. I was hoping to have brunch right away, but the ajumma at the restaurant that I wanted to try told us to come back later.

So, a bit of sightseeing. First, we paid our respects to King Sejong the Great who created Hangul, the Korean alphabet, and did lots of other great things.

Next, we visited Admiral Yi Sunshin who is beloved by all Koreans because he defeated the Japanese navy. Considering how much animosity there is was between Korean and Japanese, he's regarded as a national hero and all-around good guy.

Read about Gwanghwamun Square here.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

nomming @ hello kitty café

On 18 July 2013, JetLee and I went to the Hongdae area of Seoul because: 1) We were looking for the Trick Eye Museum, and 2) We wanted to see some real Seoulites, not just tourists and people who work in shops or restaurants that cater mostly to tourists.

When we got there, the Trick Eye Museum wasn't where it was supposed to be-- there's a location map on their website, but we still couldn't find it. Actually, we could have gone to the Trick World Museum in Myeong-dong, right behind our hotel, and saved ourselves a trip to Hongdae. But then we wouldn't have discovered the Hello Kitty Café.

We just had to go in and have a coffee, at least. Lo and behold, they had cute food.

Monday, September 16, 2013

eating korean barbeque in seoul

My favorite meal in Seoul was at Gwangjang Market. My second best meal was Korean barbeque.

From Wikipedia: Gogigui, literally "meat + roasting", or Korean barbecue refers to the Korean method of grilling beef, pork, chicken or other types of meat. Such dishes are often prepared at the diner's table on gas or charcoal grills that are built into the table itself. Some Korean restaurants that do not have built-in grills provide portable stoves for diners to use at their tables. The most representative form of gogigui is bulgogi usually made from thinly sliced beef sirloin or tenderloin. Another popular form of it is galbi made from marinated beef short ribs. However, gogigui also includes many other kinds of marinated and non-marinated meat dishes, and can be divided into several categories. Korean barbecue is not only popular among Koreans, but has gained popularity internationally.

Among the many barbeque restaurants in Myeong-dong, Meg chose the one that seemed to be the most popular for our dinner on 18 July 2013. The place was very busy when she passed by in the early evening, but by the time we were ready to eat at 9PM, it was only half-full. Good timing.

Even though nobody spoke English-- the place didn't even have an English name-- the menu was quite easy to understand. Plus the staff spoke Chinese, as do most of the locals who work in the tourist areas.

We ordered Set A so that we could taste a bit of everything.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

my best meal in seoul

The best meal I had in Seoul wasn't at Pierre Gagnaire a Seoul. It was at Gwangjang Market.

From "Korea Travel Guide" published by the Korea Tourism Organization: Gwangjang Market was the country's first market and continues to thrive as a popular tourist destination to this day. Silk, satin, linen and traditional wedding items like hanbok (traditional Korean clothing) and pyebaek (wedding food that brides prepare for their future in-laws) are available at low prices. Additionally, food carts, especially bindaetteok (korean-style bean pancake) and gimbap (rice and vegetables rolled in laver) are most popular.

As soon as I caught sight of the rows and rows of food stalls, I died a little death.

Five of my travel companions turned around and left. ("But it's a market! It's a wet market kind of market! Where are the restaurants?") Ah well, to each his own.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

food porn @ pierre gagnaire a seoul

As soon as we bought our plane tickets to South Korea about a year ago, I immediately checked The Miele Guide's Asia's Top 20 and saw that Pierre Gagnaire a Seoul was number eight. (This year, they're in sixth place.) Miele hasn't steered me wrong yet, so that's where we had lunch on 19 July 2013.

The lovely Ms. Shana Kim, the restaurant's head manager, gave us a private room. Woohoo!

With the most amazing view of Seoul.

While perusing the menu, we were served some munchies.

Amuse-bouche platter. I liked the square pillow-like thing best because it was so cute.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

shopping in seoul

If you're female and you're visiting Seoul, South Korea for a couple of days, you must draw up a battle plan for shopping. Even if you don't like to shop or think that you won't be buying anything, you will. It is as inevitable as breathing, so you might as well prepare for it.

First, you have to choose a hotel in the Myeong-dong district. Everything that you will probably need or want is within a square kilometer, while the secondary shopping areas such as Namdaemun, Dongdaemun, Insa-dong, Hongdae and Gangnam are easily accessible via subway. We stayed at Hotel Savoy along the southern edge of the Myeong-dong shopping zone, surrounded by Uniqlo, The Face Shop, Skin Food, Roxy, Mango, The Saem, Nature Republic and Giordano. Savoy's excellent location allows hard-core shoppers to quickly drop off their shopping bags and packages at the hotel in between forays.

About our accommodations: I liked Hotel Savoy. The rooms were a bit small but clean, and the mini refrigerator and wifi were very much appreciated. Toiletries and a hair dryer were provided, and we had a bathtub-- a pleasant surprise given the relatively cheap rate. But I probably wouldn't stay in Myeong-dong again because there's not much to see or do except shop. In fact, the whole area is dead quiet between 11PM and 11AM.

Second, if you find shopping a confusing and slightly stressful activity *raises hand*, ask your friends and relatives who've been to Seoul if there's anything they would like you to buy for them. That gives you a starting point. Also, ask Google. You'll notice that most of the information online is about cosmetics-- make-up, skin care, hair care ad infinitum et ultra-- so just go with the flow.

Pink Grapefruit Facial Mist, Pomegranate Scalp Care Hair Pack, Moisture Egg Hair Pack, Avocado Leave-in Fluid and some free samples, all from Skin Food.

Dinoplatz Dear.Brachiosaurus blotting paper and Maybe Baby Lip exfoliant and balm from Too Cool For School. Laneige Snow BB Cushion and Missha Perfect Cover BB Cream.

Ms. Ever Mini Me Perfumed Stick solid perfume, Silk Scarf Hair Moist Pack, Silk Scarf Hologram Hair Serum, Apricot Stick tinted lip gloss, BeBe Foot Mask, BeBe Elbow Mask, a nail file for my mother, and lots of sample sachets. All from Etude House.