Seoul, South Korea (Part 1) – The New City

If you feel fed up seeing too many people sharing their trip to Japan or if you are looking for a slightly cheaper alternative, you can consider a visit to South Korea. From the glamours of Seoul, the easy-going of Busan, to the holiday-vibe of Jeju. There is something more to South Korea than a land of K-Pop.

A Juxtaposition of Old and New

Not unlike Japan, you can find beautiful harmony of old and new in Seoul. A temple right next to high-rise financial tower, a vegetable cart in front of Starbucks, and a rice cake eaten with mozzarella cheese.

One of the best place to experience all of these is in Myeong-dong (명동). Located in the middle of Seoul, this place is on of the most sought after by tourist. Gents can enjoy many selection of foods while ladies get in and out of the many beauty shops trying to get their hands on the latest K-Pop star’s secret.

The Cathedral Church of Virgin Mary of the Immaculate Conception or more famously known as Myeongdong Cathedral

The magic of Gochujang

An important part of traditional Korean dish is the Gochujang sauce. A fermented chili paste that is used as base of many traditional dishes such as Tteokbokki, Jjigae, and Dak galbi. This paste gave those dishes their signature sour and spicy taste and red color.

A seafood jjigae, cooked freshly on the table. Usually consists of crab, shrimp, squid, tofu and fish.
Sundubu jjigae, a tofu & egg variant of jjigae. A good option for those who avoid meat.

For those who eats halal food, you don’t have to worry because there are a lot of halal options including for traditional food. The price in some halal restaurants might be slightly higher than other place. I recommend the Busan Jib restaurant in Myeongdong. They sell many traditional halal food that tasted good and original albeit slightly more expensive.

Naengmyeon, a cold noodle served with icy broth. Don’t ask me why. It’s a great experience to taste.

Cheaper food?

Those who are visiting Seoul on a budget can be rest assured that you can still find some cheaper alternatives to fill your belly. As always convenience store is one of the easiest to get an instant noodle or onigiri. However if you don’t want to miss the traditional experience, just go out on the street and take a seat in one of the food tent.

Pojangmacha, the small food tent found in many roadside selling a variety of cheap snacks. A guarantee find would be hotteok, gimbap, tteokbokki, sundae, dakkochi, odeng and mandu.
Tteobokki, the sour and spicy rice cake will surely keep you filled.

Even in a tourist trap such as Myeongdong, you can find some cheap and good food if you know where to look. Just make sure to check the price first and avoid the gimmicky tourist food. Some great recommendation from me is to get an egg bread and various croquette in front of the cathedral. They only cost 1.500 – 2000 KRW each!

Look for this croquette stall in front of the cathedral.

Hike the city

When you are done eating your way all over Myeongdong, you might feel a little guilty. Don’t worry, now is the time to burn all those calories by hiking up to the Seoul tower. Seoul is a really hilly city so when you decide to walk around town you’ll find yourself going up and down hill.

Seoul tower is located in one of the biggest hill in the city. It is a great spot to get a high vantage point of the whole city and enjoy sunset. You can take a buss or cable car to the top. However if you decide to walk, the path there is very well maintained and enjoyable. Just be prepared to walk a few kilometers.

Once you are on top of the hill, you can go up the tower for higher view or just enjoy the Namsan park at the base of the tower.

A lot of locks left on the fence. They say those locks are to symbolize their loves that will always be locked together.

A humanizing city

Visit the Cheonggyecheon river and marvel on its beauty. What once was an ugly river hidden by an elevated highway has been transformed into what I consider as one of the most beautiful stream you can find inside a busy city.

Located in the busy part of Seoul right next to big offices, this river and park offer a place to relax for the stressed out worker around.

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