After staying up to hang out in the common area, I have another late start to my morning.
Today my goal is to visit Bukchon Hanok Village, an old historic district of the city where traditional houses have been restored and turned into shops and restaurants. A secondary goal is to find something delicious and Korean to eat.
I take the subway, which by the way, I have now decided is the most comprehensive and fabulous in the world.
Two elderly ladies come and sit next to me on the train, poke me, and hand me a pamphlet. One of them says “church!” with a big smile on her face. It is indeed, a pamphlet for a church. Everything is in Korean, and I’m the opposite of religious (…aka. not religious) but I open it, look at every page and turn back to say thank you, with a little head bow.
I don’t know if they gave it to me because they think I need Jesus (I’m wearing a t-shirt and yoga pants, which I’m 99% sure is okay) or if they gave it to me because I’m a westerner, or if they’re just like a smaller scale Jehovah’s witness and maybe this is their job. Handing our church pamphlets on the subway to innocent backpackers. I’ll never know.
I arrive at Anguk Station and stop for lunch as soon as I can. I’m starving. I find a little Thai place which is VERY tempting but I grow up and choose the Korean food next door.
I’ve been told that bibimbap is a great Korean dish, so I find that on the menu, being thankful that it has some English or I wouldn’t know what to look for. I have a weird experience when trying to communicate what I want to the server. I point to the picture of bibimbap on the menu and she points at a totally different page, to another dish and looks at me like “this one?” Ummmm no… THIS one please. The one I’m pointing to. I try again. She points to another dish. This one? I’m kinda ready to give up and just accept whatever she brings me but on my third try she nods and takes the menu away. We shall see what happens…
I believe what I’m brought is indeed, bibimbap. It comes in a hot bowl of rice topped with a whole lot of different vegetables. It’s pretty yummy! As in most restaurants I’ve visited now, it comes with a side of kimchi as well. Success! No mystery organs in this dish. Score.
W5,500 ($5.50) and continue on.
Bukchon is just a five minute walk away from my lunch spot. I might have chosen the least ideal day to visit (on a Sunday) because it’s pretty crowded with tourists. It’s nice to see the old architecture being used as shops and restaurants. There are a couple art galleries and museums around too which are pretty cool. I stumble upon a gallery where an elderly man (I assume he’s the owner) offers me a can of coke and four pamphlets about the artwork just for stopping in. How kind! I continue walking around Bukchon, where there are lots of great boutique shops, but as usual, my size 10 ass can’t buy anything. For me, it’s just fun to see the contrast between old historic buildings, and the modern Seoul city buildings down the street.
I get pretty lost wandering through the old district, but somehow manage to do one big loop back to the same subway station by randomly choosing a route. Bonus.
I decide to head back to my hostel, because I am awaiting some potentially exciting news. This girls I spoke with last night told me about a tour that takes you right up to the border between North and South Korea. I’m so intrigued about the North, and am currently reading a book about one of the only people to have ever escape from a NK labour camp. Escape From Camp 14.
I feel like I MUST go to the border. Unfortunately when I asked this morning, the tour was booked for all of my few remaining days in Seoul, but the guys at the front desk are extra helpful and called to see if the tour company could squeeze me in. Now I’m waiting for a reply. Oh gosh I hope I can go!!
If I do get on this tour, I have to follow a strict dress code. No sandals, shorts, skirts, sleeveless tops, or any shirts without a collar. I’ll need to do some shopping in this case. I know large clothing sizes exist in Seoul, I’ll just have to figure out where to find them.
When I get back to the hostel I am greeted with the most wonderful news! I shall be going to North Korea’s border this Tuesday! I’m so excited to learn more about the divide and see what the border looks like. Apparently there’s even an “observatory” point from South Korea where you can see into the North. I. Am. Pumped.
Now I must shop.
Myeong-dong is a famous shopping district of Korea where many international brands occupy a spot on the busy street. Upon a quick google search, I found out it was ranked the 9th most expensive shopping street in the world. I can’t afford that fancy stuff, but I’m bound to find an H&M, a UNIQLO or something that carries my size. I need a one time use collared shirt, and, if I’m lucky, I can find some pants that fit too!
Arriving in Myeong-dong is not at all what I expected it to be. I pictured Bloor St. Or 5th ave. kinda shopping. Instead, it’s like I’ve entered a huge market with name brand stores. Immediately as I exit the subway I’m thrown into a huge crowd of people all moving towards a busy pedestrian-only intersection filled with food stalls and people selling jewellery, knock off wallets, handbags, and more. All the surrounding shops are name brand stores, with absolutely everything, ranging from Forever 21 to Chanel.
Okay, so I might have been overly optimistic about the pants…but I found an appropriate top! Hoorah! I guess I’ll just have to find a bit of time to shop tomorrow too…life is hard.
After finding a shirt, and giving up on the search for pants, I go in search of dinner. There’s hundreds of restaurants in the area, but I always end up struggling when it comes to finding food. I’m pretty open minded to food, but I don’t dare touch any of the street vendor food that looks anything like a sausage for fear of misjudging it, and accidentally eating what are known as penis worms.
Many of the restaurants have menus posted outside but without any prices listed, so I’m always in fear of going somewhere way over budget. It’s a delicate balance between avoiding sea creature penis food and not breaking the bank.
I do find a restaurant that’s slightly more expensive than I want to spend, but I’m so hungry I’m ready to sit down at Burger King if that’s what it takes. Thankfully, I find this little mom and pop kitchen instead.
I order a dumpling soup and a small beer. It’s probably my favourite dish so far. They even have wifi! What a great find. I pay
W9,000 for the soup and W3,000 for the beer. As I’m leaving, I regret ordering the beer. I ain’t that fancy anymore! I must remember to stick to water.
I take the subway back to my little Kimchee Guesthouse where I try to get an early night so I might wake up in time to go for a jog tomorrow.