Much Soul in Seoul

After having toured the east of Korea and Jeju Island it was time for Seoul. Already on the approach to Gimpo Airport we realized what a huge city we were about to explore. In fact metropolitan Seoul with its 25 million people is the second biggest agglomeration in the world (after Tokyo). Interestingly one doesn’t feel it too much once on the ground as the city spreads out quite a bit.

Inside Backpackers was our home for the first two nights. After settling in we took a ride on the extensive subway to a nearby university area for some coffee. Hazel immediately felt at home in Seoul with all its cosmetic shops. We don’t exaggerate when we say that you find a cosmetic shop at every single street corner and in every subway station. Kevin thought that this was rather crazy – for sure Hazel didn’t agree.

The next morning we started our first sightseeing trip in Seoul’s capital. A short walk brought us to Chaggyeonggung Palace another nicely restored palace from feudal Korean times. After some huge dumplings for lunch we strolled through the Hanok Village. The village has a few old buildings and offers a lot of good photo opportunities.

In the afternoon Hazel went for some more (unsupervised) shopping while Kevin tried the Dragon Hill Spa – another nice bathhouse. He really became quite a fan of this Korean tradition.

In the evening we met with Suna a former co-student of Kevin from his time in Hong Kong. Needless to say that we had a nice evening with some excellent BBQ and a lot of memories.

The next day Hazel’s parents joined us and we moved to a bigger apartment in the Gangnam area (yeah the area from Psy’s song… sexy lady…). The afternoon was devoted to shopping at the COEX Shopping Center which also had a good aquarium.

The next morning we headed to Seoul’s fish market where we picked up some life abalone, crab, muscles and clamps. Afterwards, we brought them to one of the many small restaurants upstairs which cooked them for us on the spot. Can’t get any fresher and any yummier!

In the afternoon we had a look at Seoul’s  restored South Gate which was part of the former city wall. Afterwards, we had a stroll through Namdaemon Market one of Seoul’s biggest and busiest markets which sells everything under the sun (and more). After the market Hazel and I relaxed at Silloam Spa where we got a nice treat (after we had some difficulties finding the place). The day ended with a nice steak dinner.

The next morning our travel group became even bigger as Hazel’s brother and his girlfriend joint us. Yeah! Together we visited Gyeongbokgung palace where we witnessed the changing of the guards ceremony. After bimbimbap for lunch (which by now Kevin was a huge fan of) we strolled through the Insadong district a rather touristy but nevertheless fun place.

In the evening we once again visited our beloved Self-Bar-BBQ-Restaurant where we introduced the rest of the Ang family to some delicious Korean BBQ.

The next day we visited the DMZ which is covered in a separate entry.

After our trip to the border the day before it was time for a more civilian program the next day. Our destination was Seoul tower which offered besides some nice burgers a fantastic view of down town Seoul. Only here one can appreciate the sheer size of this gigantic city. Cluster after cluster of either commercial or residential buildings – really impressive.

In the evening Kevin met Suna and her Husband for dinner and to celebrate her birthday.

On our last full day in Korea we headed back to the fish market to enjoy more fresh seafood and Kevin even tried sea urchin which is much better than it looked like. The shopping in the half death IT district was then a bit of disappointment however the fried chicken we had afterwards for dinner made more than up for it! Afterwards it was time to pack which was quite a challenge given all the shopping of the last few days.

After heading to the airport the following noon we soaked ourselves one last time in a Korean bathhouse (yes, they have one at the airport) before flying off to Bangkok.

The three and a half weeks in Korea really passed ultra fast and we absolutely loved Korea. The country has a fantastic mix of nature, cultural sights, food, shopping and very friendly people. We both know we haven’t been there for the last time.

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