What a great day! I spent some delicious time relaxing in my nice hotel room before I noticed it was sunny out! I got my act together and headed out in the brisk 50F degree weather to the Folk Museum (filled with schoolkids) and the Modern and Contemporary Museum. Both were interesting. The sad thing is that stuff that I actually remember from the 60s, 70s, and 80s, is now in an exhibit called “A Walk Down Memory Lane”. Hmmph! I didn’t know why but the museums were free entry today.
I wandered away from this area, the star attraction being a palace, but I’m going there Saturday on a tour. I walked through yet another fantastic area of small streets called Bukchon with good food and genuinely beautiful goods in shops. Pottery, scarves, clothes, shoes, tea sets, purses, and on and on.
I managed to choose a fried item for lunch, then two donuts, one of which had a little vial of rum to inject in your donut or not. I’d like to point out that I have passed by many, many delicious-looking desserts during this entire trip. That includes the Mr. Donut green tea mochi donut that kept popping up on my Insta feed. But today, I managed to eat basically only fried food.
I was entranced by the whole area. I love it here. Seoul is so far, one of my favorite places. I kept walking towards Changdeokgung Palace. Admission was free there today as it’s the last Wednesday of the month – known as Culture Day. Indeed. That’s why everything was free today.
If you wear a hanbok – a traditional Korean dress, entry to the palaces is free. It echoed Kyoto and the people wandering around in rented kimonos. I’ll mention again the strange emphasis people have who want to take many, many selfies of themselves. Many, many group photos. Thanks to taekwondo, I know how to count to ten in Korean, so when I’m being held up trying to not walk behind someone’s 100th selfie, I start counting. When I get to ten, I walk past.
Well, this palace was so fabulous. I was absolutely loving the photogenic trees and 400-year-old buildings. While over-listening to the various tour guides, they acted like they are not very old because the original buildings, built in 1400, were burned down by the Japanese and these are the replacements. Spoiler alert: the folks in this part of the world have not been very nice to each other forever.
The secret garden was almost as pretty as the garden in Hiroshima. There was another adjacent palace so I went there too.
My amazing accomplishment after all this was that I took a bus! Buses are usually tricky because, unlike subways, they turn corners and can get you lost in a hot minute. But Google Maps seems to work pretty well now and made this bus route look easy. My metro pass works on buses and I figured out which bus and where to get off. It was only 1.5 km, but by then I was footsore and just sitting for a few minutes was welcome. I returned to my hotel – no map needed now – through the small shops in Insadong and with no rain, the area was even more fun and lively. This is the first place I’ve considered buying another suitcase and filling it with this beautiful stuff.
I rested up in my hotel before I headed off two subway stops away for an Airbnb Experiences food tour at Gwangjang Night Food Market. This market is over 100 years old. The stalls are permanent and have refrigeration and sanitation that I didn’t see in Taiwan. The lady who started a food stall to wipe out her husband’s debts and got famous from the Netflix series, Street Food Asia served up two delicious kinds of dumplings and noodle soup.
Our guide helped the 10 of us to dozens of snacks and about two full meals. We ended up at a restaurant where they served octopus so fresh it was still wiggling. It looked seriously gross and I didn’t eat any of it. I can honestly say, everything else, including stuff made with a bit of kimchi, was absolutely delicious. I felt like the food was fresh and safe. We had a drink or three at the restaurant and learned some drinking games.
Here’s a list of what we had:
1. Mayak kimbap (Addiction Kimbap)
2. Tteokbokki (Spicy Rice Cakes)
3. Kimchi Mandu / Gogi Mandu (Kimchi Dumpling / Pork Dumpling)
4. Kal-guk-su (Knife-cut Noodles) and Bibimbap(Mixed rice)
5. Nokdu bean-dae-dduck (Mungbean Pancake)
6. Gogi-Wanja (Meatball Pancake)
7. Yuk-heo (Raw Beef)
8. San-nak-ji (Live Octopus)
9. Ggwa-bae-gi (Twisted Donuts)
I also inexplicably ordered another sort of fried brown sugar/nut pancake. I’ve tried them from the freezer section at Trader Joe’s.
I can’t wait for my next food tour on Friday and Saturday nights! There are two photo galleries today!