GANGNAM/Clothing stores, beauty shops and modern buildings lined the streets of Gangnam, striking a resemblance to Beverly Hills.
SINGSADONG GAROSU-GIL/I would have spent all day (or even days) here if time allowed. Boutique shops, clothing stores, coffee shops and small eateries lined the streets with each turn yielding alley after alley of enticing signs all luring you to step inside. The area seemed like a maze - one you wouldn’t mind getting lost in.
DONGDAEMUN/One of the major attractions in Seoul, Dongdaemun Design Plaza was an architectural feast for the eyes, resembling somewhat of a mixture between the Cloud Gate (aka The Bean) in Chicago and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Downtown LA.
We stumbled upon a farmer’s market while wandering around and I eventually realized the event was hosted by Slow Food Korea, an organization that promotes local food and honors the style of slow food preparation. My eyes darted from booth to booth, with options such as ddukbokki (rice cake) and red bean porridge but my eyes locked on a booth where people were holding purple and green waffle-like items on a stick.
Food item I’ve never seen before?
This booth was right up my alley.
Apparently the green-colored waffle was a mugwort (ssuk) rice cake pressed into a waffle iron and I had the option of drizzling it with honey and smothering it with a light cream cheese.
Yes to all?
CHUNGMURO/I just had to check this place out as I heard it was the go-to area for all things photography, film and printing services. We were able to explore only a small section before becoming distracted by other hidden treasures.
To our surprise, a food strip was located in the Chungmuro area and yes, we went crazy for street food.
I personally ordered red bean buns (2000 KRW for three pieces!) while Paul and Kristine ordered these lightly fried dough cakes which can be made either sweet or savory. The sweet dough cake had a cinnamon-sugar coating (similar to a churro) while the savory dough cake was filled with veggies (similar to an egg roll or lumpia but in a flat form). You can also see the food in my Korea Video Diary which you can view if you scroll down below!
The best part was walking into an sign-less area which had only plastic panels where a door should have been. Inside was stall after stall of small bar-like seating areas with older Korean women convincing you to sit at their booth. I honestly don’t think you can go wrong with any stall because they make, cut and cook the noodles in front of your eyes.
Follow your nose! If it smells good, eat it (yes, that is a Bizarre Foods reference and no, I don’t apologize).
HONGDAE/Before walking down the streets of Hongdae, Matt (John's brother) took us to a little secret rooftop spot overlooking the area. The view was surreal and I know I stood speechless for quite some time - no pictures, no recording, nothing - just complete admiration at the symphony of lights flashing before my eyes.
People everywhere. Street performances galore. Lights of every color. Endless energy. Food. Drinks. Coffee. Nowhere that I’ve been to comes close to Hongdae’s night life. Well, I haven’t been to that many places but still, nothing compares! It’ll feel like Costco on Christmas Eve walking through the streets but an enjoyable, energy-filled experience rather than a “Move your cart, I’m taking the last piece of prime rib!” experience.
INSA-DONG/The area where I got my first taste of Korea’s seamless blend of both modern lifestyle and traditional culture. It’s the only place where the Starbucks sign is not in English, but in Hangul (Korean characters) - to promote cultural immersion. It’s pretty darn neat! See if you can spot it in my Korea Video Diary.
SSMAZIEGIL MALL/An open mall housing numerous shops and food items - all along a spiral-like walkway that leads you to the open rooftop garden where cute delicious poop-shaped treats filled with chocolate are waiting! They may be totally a tourist thing but I’ll be the one to admit that they’re surprisingly tasty.
BUKCHON HANOK VILLAGE/Bukchon means “northern village” and the traditional houses are referred to as “hanok.” If you want to see traditional Korean housing, Bukchon Hanok Village is the place to go. We went right after exploring the roads of Insa-dong as the village was not too far down the road.
SAMCHEONGDONG-GIL ROAD/Right alongside Hanok Village is Samcheongdong-gil Road. Korea is full of novelty cafes and shops and Samcheongdong is no exception - add to that some beautiful buildings and a gigantic forest-like park at the end of the road. Take your time to appreciate the buildings, eat the food and view the sights as this road is an incredible explosion appealing to both your sense of sight and smell.
I would recommend checking out Gyeongbukgong Palace which is a short walk from the end of the road. We were on the way to the palace when rain began to pour and we ended up taking refuge in the underground metro for quite some time. I know we missed out but I wouldn’t want you to!
MYEONG-DONG SHOPPING DISTRICT/Shopping overload! Everything from beauty products to eating to shopping. I personally went a little overboard on Innisfree facial masks but when in Korea.. buy cosmetics and skin products. There’s a reason Koreans have amazing skin and complexion! But hey, that’s totally up to you.
NAMSAN TOWER/Located in the heart of Seoul.
Tourist attraction? Yes.
Worth the view? Yes yes yes.
There’s a love lock bridge near the deck area along with some beautiful views of the Seoul skyline. We ended our day there and had the chance to see such an amazing sunset. Sure, there are selfie sticks and cameras galore, but there’s always something special about seeing the sun set behind the horizon on the opposite side of the wold.
YONGIN/Spent the morning and afternoon roaming around the streets of Dongbaek, ate some more Korean BBQ and bought last minute souvenirs before packing and heading back to Incheon Airport.
Check out the rest of my film shots by clicking below:
A few things I noticed in the short time I was in Seoul:
1) It seems like everyone is fashionable, including the toddlers and the ajummas! From street style to taking the basics and dressing up an outfit. Layering and sock game here is strong.
2) A lot of couples match outfits and it’s not just the simple same t-shirts or jackets. They color coordinate, accessorize and shoe game is strong too.
3) Coffee shops are everywhere! I’ve had my fair share of coffee-hopping in downtown Los Angeles, but it seemed there was triple the amount of coffee shops available. Not just chains, but local stores, each with its own charm serving drinks like persimmon latte and honey chestnut tea.
4) Your personal bubble will be burst but not in a terrible way. I’ll admit that coming from Southern California, I’m used to driving to places and avoiding the heavily-populated areas. Seoul is the major city in South Korea so of course there will always be massive crowds. Yes, you’re bound to bump into people and if you want to hop on to the metro or buses, you learn quickly to squeeze your way in.
5) The city is full of energy late into the night (even way after work hours) and it’s kind of amazing.
6) GS25 stores are your friend (or it was mine at least). It’s a place to refill your public transport cards (if you need to use buses in addition to the metro) or hydrate. Most importantly, where you can get a taste of banana milk! and honeydew milk!