Thursday, June 23, 2016

highlights from seoul.

highlights from seoul /

A couple of weeks ago, Melissa and I flew to Seoul, South Korea for a four-day weekend! Considering we had just one week of school left and report cards had been due the morning of the day we left, the mini vacation couldn't have come at a better time.

We weren't excited or anything ;) For real though, I never used to be scared of flying. Seriously. My first time flying was when I was 22 and moving to China. Was I scared? Nope. But for some reason, over the last year or so, my anxiety about flying has grown exponentially. And our flight to Seoul was turbulent the. entire. time. 

Which is a pity, because otherwise, it was a great flight. I snapped this photo to show Tony that they had my favourite iPad game! This and Tetris kept me distracted from the turbulence for about... 5 minutes. Luckily Beijing to Seoul is only about 2 hours. 

Things I want to remember: The nice lady at the Incheon airport who in the end didn't really help us at all but she was so nice! Our taxi driver who kept saying "Fast? Slow?" and drove 180 km/h on the highway and when he found out we were from Canada, played Anne Murray. 

Things I want to remember: We were happy we got yellow and orange subway cards.

We got to our hotel and went to sleep around 3AM so we slept in a little, until 9, I think. Then we set out and conquered the subway. Like on all of our trips, Melissa was the navigator. (I still get lost at the local mall.)

You can keep your La Croix; I have Tropicana sparkling mango water.

highlights from seoul /

The only thing that was officially on our agenda the first day was a cooking class, so we explored Insadong a bit first. 

Things I want to remember: The old man who asked, "Insadong?" and then motioned for us to follow him. He was quite old and we could tell he was having a bit of a hard time walking, but he still took us part of the way there. On the way, he asked, "America?" and I told him, no, Canada. He looked confused and began motioning with his hands, "China... England... Canada where?" I used my hands to show Canada was above America and his eyes showed instant understanding. He laughed and nodded and said, "Oh! Can-a-da. Canada!" Then he wrote 84 in the palm of his hand with his finger, we think telling us his age. He was so friendly! He sent us on our way and as soon as we stopped to look at the road signs for just a second, another woman motioned for us to follow her; she led us right to Insadong. People were so friendly!

There were so many cute shops! This was a small, multi-level shopping center. 

It's a small miracle I didn't buy many things.  

How smart are Koreans?

Melissa likes to take cooking classes almost everywhere she travels, and I'm so glad she suggested taking one in Seoul. As I told her, it's not something I probably would have done on my own, and it was so nice "expanding my horizons."

Melissa found O'ngo Food online and we quickly decided we wanted to learn how to make kimchi and bulgogi. Both of us agreed that it would sound cool to say, "I learned how to make kimchi when I was in Seoul" haha. 

But really, kimchi is a staple in Korean culture! I told Melissa before we went that I had read that many Koreans have 2 fridges in their home—their "normal" fridge and a "kimchi" fridge—that's how much kimchi they eat! When we began the class, the chef told us the same thing! 

Ongo Food Cooking Class in Seoul

Ongo Food Cooking Class in Seoul

I'm sometimes a nervous cook, or slow, I guess, so I wasn't as excited as Melissa before the class began. I knew I'd probably enjoy it, but I didn't know how much. You guys, I loved it! I was smiling the whole time! It was so easy and fun (and as dorky as it sounds, educational), and afterwards, I told Melissa, "I think I did a good job!"

It was an unexpected surprise that they had someone take photos throughout the class and then they emailed them to us afterwards. So fun!

Bulgogi! I made this! Looks pretty good if I do say so myself. 

Mmm, kimchi pancakes and bulgogi. Get in my belly.

When we were finished cooking, we sat down with everyone and had a feast! 

highlights from seoul /
Melissa's photo from the top of the tower; I just edited it.

After the class, we made our way to the N Seoul Tower. This was one of Melissa's "must dos" but I was kinda meh about it. When I realized there was a Starbucks at the bottom, and Melissa said she was cool going up by herself, I was like, Why would I pay $10 CAD to go up that high when I'm scared of heights? Win-win for both of us haha. 

(Side note: I've had a couple people scoff at me if they find out there are things like this I sit out while on vacation. My deal is this: If I think I'll regret not trying something, I make myself try it. If I don't think I'll regret it, why put myself through being (sometimes) super scared and anxious? For example, we visited Datong a couple years ago and I knew I'd regret not going into the Hanging Monastery. For this trip, I couldn't see myself regretting not going up the tower.) 

korean bbq

To finish our first full day in Seoul, we ate bibimbap and Korean BBQ! (Although, as Melissa pointed out, when you're in Korea, is it still "Korean" BBQ? Wouldn't it just be BBQ?)

Changdeokgung Palace
The only picture I took at Changdeokgung Palace.

Our second day began by taking the subway to Changdeokgung Palace. We explored a bit and then debated whether or not we wanted to go to Gyeongbok Palace as well. In the end, we decided not to. It was really hot and to us, the architecture all looks the same. 

We decided we'd walk over to Bukchon Hanok Village as it was very close. 

On the way, we stopped at a convenience store and I was very excited! I love exploring convenience stores in different countries; there are always new-to-me, interesting things to find. 

This time, it was these drinks in pouches. I couldn't get over the fact that you could buy your drink of choice and a cup of ice, and be enjoying an iced drink in seconds. So fast! So cool! So fun! (It doesn't take much to excite me haha) The man working at the convenience store laughed at me and then helped me make my drink. I didn't really need help, but he was so friendly and it really just seemed like everyone we met was eager to help us. 

I chose a banana coffee latte. Yum. (But very banana-y.)

Bukchon Hanok Village
Look at those rooftops!

Bukchon Hanok Village

We wandered through the village, taking it all in, and we did just a bit of shopping. We wondered if it would be more expensive to live here because it's so beautiful, or less so, because it's always filled with tourists. 

korean food in seoul, south korea
Kimchi noodles. It was a cold, soupy dish, and was so tasty and refreshing.

We got on the subway again to find our way to the War Memorial of Korea. But first, lunch! We stopped at a tiny restaurant and each ordered a dish to share. Korean restaurants always give you a bunch of small side dishes to enjoy with your meal. I love Korea :) 

Things I want to remember: We didn't research any restaurants before we went; we just chose based on what we felt like eating at the time, what looked good and if a place looked busy. If there were a lot of Korean people eating there, we figured it must be good. All of the restaurants had small menus, with a limited number of choices. We took this to be a good thing too; whatever they were serving must be good!

War Memorial of Korea

I was really excited to visit the War Memorial of Korea, partly because I figured it was a good way to learn more about their history, and partly so I could talk about it with my dad. It's a big museum, and it covers the entire military history of Korea, not just the Korean war. 

War Memorial of Korea

Outside the museum, they have a flag for every country that helped South Korea in the Korean war. Obviously, these aren't all of them. Seeing them and reading the information at their bases was sobering and beautiful at the same time.

War Memorial of Korea

After exploring inside the museum, we took a little time to explore outside as well. There were many different planes and tanks and boats. 

korean fried chicken

We did some shopping in Myeongdong—so many stores! And then we set out to find fried chicken. Did you know that Korean fried chicken is a thing? SO GOOD!

Things I want to remember: Being so tired and laughing and laughing and Melissa snapchatting. "I'm snapchat gold!" (That was me, oh man.) And "HITE!" beer. We were crazy. Okay, mostly I was crazy. So fun. 

korean face masks
When in Korea...

Finally, we went back to our hotel and relaxed a bit. Each night we'd say we would go back early, but we didn't until our last night. There was just so much to see!

grapefruit soju

By our last full day in Seoul, we had done all of our "must dos" so we agreed to just wander, find some cafés and eat more food. We took the subway to Hongdae—such a cool area. 

We found a BBQ restaurant and decided we should finally try soju. I was worried it would taste like Chinese baiju—bleh!—but it was actually really good! We ordered grapefruit soju and it was smooth and the flavour was good. I could see how easy it would be to drink a lot of it on a night out with friends. 

highlights from seoul /
Korean BBQ! 

korean bbq

We LOVE Korean BBQ! Can you tell? 

sunnyne dog cafe

We stumbled upon Sunnyne Dog Café. I was a little apprehensive, would it be dirty or smelly? We could definitely smell dog when we walked in, but not in an unclean way. The café was really clean and the dogs were so well-behaved! They barked any time someone came to the door, but always settled down quickly. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it; it was hard to leave!

sunnyne dog cafe

sunnyne dog cafe

This guy was so sweet. 

sunnyne dog cafe

This girl was not so sweet. I forget how old they told us she was, but she was old. She wanted to curl up on your table, but would get annoyed if you tried to pet her. In the end, I won her over... mostly. 

hongdae, seoul, south korea

We explored the area some more. So many cute shops! Where Myeongdong seemed mostly to be big chain or international stores, Hongdae seemed to be more small, independent shops. 

object store, hongdae, seoul

object store, hongdae, seoul

These two photos were taken at a shop called Object—full of, you guessed it, objects... jewelry, stationery, home goods. I bought a letter Z. Literally. 

32 cm ice cream in seoul

We continued exploring and found 32cm ice cream! For just $2 CAD! I love Korea!

korean fried chicken

And then for dinner we had fried chicken again. And bacon cheese fries and grapefruit beer. It really was just so good. This restaurant was called Chicken and Potato. 

This was our final night in Seoul and we really did get back to our hotel semi-earlyish, so we went to the sauna! What a perfect way to wind down after three days of walking and walking and more walking. I wish one of us had a Fitbit. 

hite beer

We had the whole morning before our flight, so we ate some more Korean food and Melissa picked up a few souvenirs at a market by our hotel before we caught the airport limousine bus. 

In case it isn't evident, let me sum it up here: I love Korea. I've already told Tony I wanna go back and he has to go with me because I know he'll love it too. 

Have you been to Seoul before? What did you think? 

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