Popular with tourists and foreign residents, Itaewon is a city district that has a street market and lots of restaurants and bars that you don't normally find in Korea.
To get there you can take subway line #6 to the Itaewon stop, exit where the signs tell you to.
When we got off the subway, I immediately spotted what is probably the only Taco Bell in Korea.
We walked around the market for a bit, I bought new sunglasses since I had lost mine earlier in the day. I didn't do too terribly bargaining either. Just over half the original asking price, nice. All the time we were keeping an eye out for where we wanted to eat dinner.
There's tons of cultural restaurants to eat at, but you have to be careful, inspect the menu before you go in if you can. If you're looking for Mexican, you don't want to end up with Korean-Mexican. We finally found an authentic Mexican restaurant, or as authentic as you can get in Korea. Aka, it was no El Rodeo or El Campasino, but we'll take what we can get.
Shannon, excited to use a knife and fork for the first time in weeks. The best part about this meal? The 11,000W margaritas. OMG, they were wonderful.
We hung out at Itaewon for a while after that and did some expensive drinking, and headed back to Jongno about 9pm (early). In Jogno, we did some cheap drinking and finally went back to our guest house about 11pm, exhausted due to lack of sleep and alcohol. Which made it easier to sleep on the floor. So all good choices.
Side story- before I took this picture, there was a truck parked behind Shannon. The truck belonged to a guy drinking. At some point he decides 'time to go home!' hops in his truck and starts backing it up. Shannon was in the middle of saying something, so he didn't notice anything till I jumped up and told him to move and everyone around us started shouting. The driver bumped the table next to us, but not ours and took off. Knowing Koreans (though I didn't hear them say anything), someone probably called the police on him to do a sobriety check, at least that's what would have happened in Busan, maybe it doesn't happen that way in Seoul...
Sunday we didn't have a lot of plans, we had already seen the two main palaces we had come to see. So we decided to hit a whole bunch of places that we didn't think would take much time and see anything else we saw along the way. So first we decided to head over to Naksan park and go see the old Seoul fort walls, as soon as we got off the subway though we saw sign for the Namsangol Hanok Village. Hanok village is like a re-creation town (like Missouri Town who might know what that is).
Namsangol Hanok Village
It doesn't cost anything to get in and wonder around, however, if you want to participate in learning something (make a traditional korean kite, make a traditional korean mask, etc) then that costs money.
According to the website, you go to the Chungmoro station (lines 3 &4) and take exit #3.
I really liked seeing the period furniture in the houses. The houses had been brought and preserved from all different sections of the city and the same with the furniture, but it was much easier to imagine how the floor heating system worked (though I still think the kitchen would have been a very smokey place, no matter how much draft you had going to pull the smoke under the floor).
Kitchen layout. In a traditional Korean house the floors are heated by the kitchen fires. There is a chimney on the other-side of the house so the draft pulls the smoke and heat under the floors. If they need more heat they can light other fires around the building too. It's a neat idea and I'm sure it was more effective (and less smoke inhalation) then the European style of fire inside the house. Except in the kitchen, I'm thinking the kitchen was probably pretty smokey. But if you had to breathe it in somewhere at least it's not where you're sleeping.
This mannequin freaked me out. He's the only one, I didn't see any other mannequins in any of the other houses. So I thought he was a real guy at first, sitting there, staring at me. Phew, I was relieved when I figured out he wasn't alive... so I took a picture!
Palanquin. I wish I had put my hand or something near this to show how small it really is. A child, maybe, could fit comfortably in there. Koreans in the past must have been tiny! They didn't call this a gama by the way, so maybe this was a common vehicle, not anything used by royalty.
Also in the same Hanok village was the Seoul time capsule. Shannon standing next to it, woot!
We left soon after that and walked towards the old fort walls.
East gate to the capital city of Seoul, built in 1398, and rebuilt in 1869. At that time, there were 4 large gates and 4 small gates built into the fortress walls surrounding the city. Of the 4 large gates, Heunginjimun and Sungnyemun are the largest.
We walked all around the gate and looked up at the fort walls at the park across the street. We decided that we had not slept enough for a hike, despite our best drinking efforts, sleeping on a floor is hard with our soft western bodies.
Adult's pay 1,000W to get in this one. They're closed on Mondays. Take subway line #1 to City Hall station and use exit # 2.
Something I didn't mention before is you can buy an all inclusive Palace pass for 10,000W each and get in to see 4 palaces, a shrine and the secret garden. You can buy this pass at any one of the palaces and you can use it for up to a month after puchase. Unfortunately, we didn't realize we'd go to the secret garden, we decided to do that last minute, that would have made it worth it to use. Too late now!
This palace wasn't nearly as awe-inspiring as the other two, but some highlights:
Mixed western and eastern architecture, built in 1900.
The old and the "new" standing side by side. The roman style buildings were built in 1910 and used by the king as an audience hall and sleeping quarters.
I just liked this shot of the gate and the modern buildings in the background. It's like you can walk through it to the future.
This is a big tourist market, so be prepared for everything here to be very expensive. Though occasionally you might find a good deal. I got a pretty scarf on sale for 4,000W.
To get to Insadong, take subway line #3 to Anguk station and take exit #6. Walk straight for 3 minutes and turn left at the first street.
Insadong is known for it's antiquities and very traditional shops.... surprise, it's very close to the two "big" palaces and the Ma Ma Guesthouse!
We got an expensive but tasty lunch here and then wandered for a good long while. I bought my scarf and Shannon bought some candy. I wanted ice-cream, but wasn't willing to spend 3,000W on a tiny ice cream cone.
Late in the afternoon we were tired, exhausted, worn-out. We found a tea shop and spent 9,000W each for some ice-cold tea and almost took a nap.
Shannon's apple, honey and milk tea.
My Happy Green Tea. And oh yeah, I'm super sun-burnt by this point. I forgot to put on sunblock that morning. :(
Don't we look cute but tired? This started a trend of stopping to get ice-tea every time we were tired though, which I think was a good trend in the end. We always felt better and ready to go again after a nice tea break.
We walked around Insadong a little more, then we took the subway to Namdaemun market. Mainly because Shannon needed a new belt and that was going to be the cheap place to get it.
Now the night before we had actually gone to Namdaemun, hoping it would have a party atmosphere similar to Nampodong's after dark. Sadly it didn't and was shutting down, so we left rather quickly. We were excited to give it a second try as it was advertised as the "largest traditional market" in Korea. After giving it a second chance, we beg to differ. We think Nampdong (in Busan) wins.
Shannon got his belt, and we decided we would rather sit down somewhere cool and have a drink. (It was very hot at this point) We decided alcohol was the cure to our exhaustion and since Itaewon was the only place that had real bars, we went back there.
After drinking expensive american drinks for a while, we went to Taco Bell for dinner (yay!!! only one in Korea and we went!)
Finally we ended up back in Jogno, eating and drinking on a street corner.
The next day we checked out of the Ma Ma guesthouse, where they insisted we could leave our bags for the rest of the day while we continued to explore and before we caught our KTX home at 5pm. We gratefully accepted and headed out to experience some non-traditional Korea - Lotte World.
I don't know what the Largest indoor amusement park is right now, but Lotte World has got to be at least a competitor. Even though it's not all inside, it's inside area is huge!
From the main floor where I'm standing, there are another 4 floors up that you can't see, hidden behind fairy tale buildings. On the 4th floor you can catch those "hot air balloons" attached to the ceiling.
Lotte World was a lot bigger then I thought it would be. We went on the French Revolution, which is a metal roller-coaster that weaved in-between buildings and completed a loop. We also went to a weird bug zoo, where children could touch fat gross looking grubs that gave me the willies.
Then we went across to "Magic Island"
So, in america, if you didn't know, holidays are a great day to go to amusement parks. No one goes to amusement parks on holidays, they stay home with their families. 4th of July, in particular is a great day to go to an amusement park. No lines and fireworks = awesome.
This is NOT the case in Korea. There are extremely long lines and tons of people. In summary, don't go on a holiday in Korea.
So we waited in long lines and it was hot, and Koreans don't like to get wet, so there were no good water rides to get wet on. (There were water rides, but they didn't get you wet) But there were slews of matching couples, which I tried to get pictures of:
These two were the bestest, those shorts are awesome. And you can't see, cause they're turned around, duh, but they're wearing "Jeep" shirts too. I caught them while we were waiting in line for the Atlantic Adventure.
The Atlantic Adventure looks like a water ride but it's not... well, maybe they raise the water level when it's hotter or something. It seemed hot enough to me, but I'm not Korean. Anyways, it was still pretty awesome. Fast and fun. We rode the river raft ride and a couple others. Then we decided to go because Shannon didn't feel good. (what a kill joy!)
We headed back to Ma Ma Guesthouse to grab our stuff but first we took a break at the tea house across the street. Ah bliss, cold tea, a little bit of food, shade and a breeze. I think this means we're getting old. When the tea house trumps the amusement park... yeah.
End of the Story
Soon after that we hopped on the subway to catch our bullet train back to Busan. Home sweet home. Where cool breezes blow and kitties await. We'll definitely be going back to Seoul sometime, to see the DMZ and go to Taco Bell again, but for now, we're really happy we live in Busan and can visit Seoul.
Finally, and it only took 3 posts after all!
Thanks Andy! Helpful as usual!