I’ve written some time ago just how difficult it can be to assimilate into a new culture while living abroad. Regardless of if you are a adult or not, everyone has some level of trouble adjusting. While everything is very exciting, it’s also bit overwhelming in a sense too.
This past weekend we met up with a family member that has very recently relocated from the East coast of the US to a smaller town on the outskirts of Seoul here in Korea. Yes! You read that I said KOREA, right? We finally managed to get some family here with us! On a semi permanent basis too! Eeek! We are shrieking with delight!
Kelsey has been getting acquainted with the Korean culture but was already in desperate need of some normalcy. (Insert two eager Bee’s to the rescue!)
The thing we are most excited to introduce to friends and family is definitely Korean cuisine. We typically like the shock and wow factor. However we knew that we needed to give Kelsey a nice healthy balance of what we introduced. After all we didn’t want her on the first flight out of here, especially when we just got her here. So we decided to stick to the foreigner friendly areas around Seoul for the day.
All three of our fitbits were buzzing because we traipsed all over Itaewon and Myeongdong. I am sure from past post you recall trips to both places. But if you are fairly new to the blog, Itaewon is a multi-cultural place full of bars, restaurants, shops, clubs, and Myeongdong is a large shopping area that features stores like H&M, Zara, and Forever 21.
Mother Nature is surly throwing not only we Bees for a loop, but the grass and birds too. We’ve had some very interesting weather here in S.Korea. I think its even safe to use the term “Spring-like” to describe it too! The month of January has went from one extreme, we are talking negative temps here, to down right balmy, birds chirping, bugs buzzing, above average weather! Please don’t misunderstand me for thinking I’m complaining, because I’ll absolutely take these gorgeous days! Even if it only last a day or so. I’ve caught Spring fever! And, it’s bad…..to bad it’s not going to last.
Our sweet little Pennsylvania Punxsutawney Phill has seen his shadow! Hooray! Spring will be here before we know it! However, I’m pretty sure that isn’t going to apply to us here in Korea. Just as fast as I wrote the above paragraph, Mother Nature had the last laugh and dumped 2 inches of snow and counting. Isn’t she just a fickle woman?
Enough with the weather chit-chat. How was your weekend? Ours was busy, but fun!
Fabulous pasta shared with friends mmm…Bellissimo! Homework, making pickled mustard eggs, attending a Pampered Chef party, finding silly Bean cat nesting in my reusable grocery bags, tickets to see NANTA, and enjoying a new favorite find, cinnamon Schnee Pang! Have you ever heard of Schnee Pang? It originated in Rothenburg, Germany about 300 hundred years ago and now it has a home in Seoul. Yipee! Love new little finds.
Let’s go back to the topic of NANTA! I must share with you all how wonderful the show was! It’s been on my list of places to go and see since stepping foot in this country. This year I’m really making a conscious effort to keep one of my new year resolutions and tackle my Korea bucket list. NANTA’ is a non-verbal performance with comedy, crowd interaction, and drum-beat music. NANTA’s main stage area displays a huge kitchen where four chefs, three men and one woman, are preparing a wedding banquet. Two audience members get randomly selected to “get married” during the show. Mr. B was on the edge of his seat fearing they would select him because we were in an aisle seat only three rows away from the stage. Being the good wife I am, I booked the seats knowing they might pull us up on stage he- he. Okay, okay! Truly I’m not that terrible. I made him a deal in the end, I’d go up for him if selected. While the chefs cook, they turn their pots and pans, dishes, knives, chopping boards, brooms and even one another into instruments! It’s so creative, a ton of laughs, and was enjoyed by all ages! We highly recommend catching a show if you ever find yourself in Seoul.
Saturday I invited a good girlfriend to tag along to Seoul with me. The main purpose of the trip was to check out a newly established farmers market located right in the downtown area of Seoul. I was particularly excited because a few other bloggers mentioned the freshness, the organic quality, and how everything was sold direct by the farmer themselves. How awesome is that?
Per the directions we were following, we got off at the Palace. We arrived just at the change of Guards. We watched for a few minutes, snapped a few pictures and were off.
Well…we made it to the Farmers Market location at around 10:30AM, the market should have been open for at least 30 minutes already. I was so delighted that we had found the location. Easy! However, there were no vendors insight, the park was completely empty. I was disappointed, I think my girlfriend was too. Was there a Korean holiday today? Was the weather to hot? Did the market take a break? Eek! All these things were left unanswered and unknown. Perhaps next time? I have at least until October to check things out.
Fear not! The great thing about Seoul is there are just so many other things to let yourself get into. We were only a short walk away from Insadong. Insadong if you recall from past posts is such a fun, lively, little area. Always something new to see or experience too. To Insadong we decided!
We arrived with a mission in mind. FOOD! Oh, and postcards too. We walked a bit, Korean, Italian, street vendors stands, Indian. Indian! That really sounded like the best choice in the moment. WE were both so eager to check the place out, we almost forgot that we’d have to lift baby G and his stroller up the narrow staircase. Almost.
WHEW! We ladies worked up quite the appetite. First I’ve just have to mention how unfriendly South Korea is for handicap people as well as mothers of small children. Okay, okay.. Enough about that. We chalked the entire experience up to getting our workout on, cardio and step climbing!
So, ratings on the entire restaurant. Out of five stars we both agreed a three wold be most suitable. The dishes were good, however nothing to write home about. The service was good too, not over the top, but also not bad in the same breath. The price was a bit steep..but…this is Insadong, a very touristy section of Seoul. We know, we know.
After lunch we enjoyed making our way through the rest of Insadong.
Of course I had to make a special stop along the way for Patbingsu! MMMmm..I seriously cannot get enough of this stuff! Plus I wanted to let Mrs. P taste it for the first time too. I was so proud of her, lord knows she was defiantly unsure of this crazy mixture of things.
We came across more new things as we walked. These crazy looking things, almost the shape of a candy cane, they tasted like a cross between a churro and a sugar cookie, and they were filled with a vanilla ice cream. What a special we three were. Then we caught a glimpse of the other brave shoppers that decided they had to give iterate vet this was a shot too. What fun, we giggled like little school girls forever!
Speaking of new and crazy… I’ve seen these little pastry chocolate filled guys before when in Insadong. I was told they represent piles of landmines(use your imagination here folks). Korean friends, is that true?
We finished with Insadong, hopped back on the train, switched lines, got off at Myeongdong. Mrs. P had never seen Myeongdong yet. I was thrilled to at least get to show her around a bit and share something new too. I think she was blown away at all the people pushing their way through the mass crowds while shopping.
Whew! The heat, the lifting, the steps, the walking, and the train. These things just drain you. We were both ready for naps, it was after 4:00PM. We knew we needed to mosey our way back North towards home.
A little after 5PM we arrived home. Hugged Mrs. p, blew kisses back to baby G, the elevator doors closed I thought to myself at last…time to relax.
Wrong! Mr. B promptly reminded me that we were going to dinner since our Friday night plans fell apart. Ahhh…I completely forgot, not to mention just assumed we were staying in tonight.
7:30PM back walking down to catch the train South for the second time today. No biggie! I enjoy the train, plus I adore my thoughtful hubby. Oh and by the way sushi was involved too. He he he…
Mr. B wanted to celebrate my birthday ahead because it falls on a work weekday. Yes, yes, I know, Wicked and Sushi was my early birthday gift. Trust me when I say I reminded this man about 50 times this entire weekend. How did I ever get so lucky? Really folks?! Goodness.
We arrived in Uijeongbu, just in time too! Most restaurants don’t start getting crowded until later in the night for the dinner rush. This typically works well to our advantage because we are early eaters. Tonight was just an exception to the rule.
We never ate at Hanabi Sushi house. All we knew is we walked past it various times on the way to some other restaurant or plan and kept saying, I want to try that sometime. Plus it had a sushi track, looked clean, and usually looked busy.
I have to admit, not only was this sushi restaurant new to us, the concept of the sushi track was new to me as well. I was delighted once I quickly learned the concept. Each plate has a color, the menu tells you exactly what the plate could be, and how much the price of the plate is. Simple, right? Gah! All this time…intimidation, and for what? Who knows. The sushi was awesome! The rolls were delish! The service was right up there too. Oh yes! We Bees will be back.
After sushi we decided on dessert. Mr. B said my birthday, my pick. Typically I’m so go with the flow not caring where we go. Today I threw that right out the window. I was milking this! Ann House. Decided.
The very much willing and open to checking out Ann House, Mr. B, let me lead the way.
Thank you for completely throwing we Bees for a loop tonight. We really thought your cutesy, girly, pink, purple, flowery, and lace ambiance was going to be so sweet and innocent. However, you have shown us a completely different side. Open until 2AM, playing tunes with the lyrics “F*%$ that S!$&” and let’s not forget the song S^% on the beach followed up by Whitney Huston’s, “Will always love you”, heart spoons that look like a persons behind, a massive Patbingsu that included everything but the kitchen sink, i.e.- tomatoes, whipped cream, ice cream, corn flakes, chocolate covered pretzel sticks AKA: peppero sticks, red bean, shaved ice, chopped nuts, vanilla wafers, all topped off with a Ritz cracker and tiny drink umbrella. We really thought we were on an episode of the Jersey Shore at moments, LOL!
We all woke up around 8ish-9ish this morning. We didn’t have a real plan in place. We wanted to keep the decisions of what to do up to Rebecca and how she was feeling. Mr. B whipped up some south western egg whites and I cut up a nice fresh Korean watermelon for breakfast.
Eventually we formulated a plan to see all the marketplaces in Seoul. We got everything together and were out the door around 11:30 with the GPS set to direct us to Seoul.
Please disregard the worst farmers tan ever that I’m sporting in my photos. Come on folks, I’m trusting you now!
We hit Namdaemun Market, Dongdaemun Market, Myeongdong, Cheonggyecheon Stream, and walked down the center of Seoul as the sun went down outside of Gyeongbokgung Palace.
We spent the afternoon lunching on street vendor food, shopping, exploring a bit, snapping photos, and soaking up the sunlight. The weather was gorgeous, we traipsed our little butts about 8 miles around the city.
We ended our Seoul Backpack Bees tour in Itaewon over a delightful Thai dinner. We never ate at the restaurant, My Thai, it turned out to be rather delicious! We ordered pineapple fried rice, a spicy Thai noodle dish, and pad thai with shrimp.
Of course we had to check out Itaewon while we were spending our weekend in Seoul. Yes, yes, we know that Itaewon is a major tourist section of the city catering directly to foreigners. We do respect this section of the city for that purpose and know that it is not a true representation of Korea. However it was close to our hotel and we wanted to go see what it was really all about.
Itaewon’s shopping area is 1.4 km in length, it stretches from the U.S. 8th Army Base eastwards towards Hannam-dong and has over 1,000 different little stores. The area is known for its night life scene with many bars and nightclubs to choose from. We noticed there are many street vendors selling shirts, jackets, and caps, scarfs, food, etc. trying to capture the late night buyer’s fancy.
While in Itaewon we checked out a few Irish pubs, grabbed a bite to eat, and strolled along the main street as well as some tucked away alleys, checked out various street vendors and little shops. We snapped a few pictures of the places that we were near or checked out and though we would share with all of you.
First stop Buddha’s Belly for dinner. It was Friday night and we were starving! We started out trying to find a restaurant called the Maple Leaf restaurant that was said to serve traditional Korean food (we are sure more Americanized) but after walking around and around for 20 minutes we figured it must have went out of business. Our bellies finally did the talking and screamed feed me when we were standing out in front of a place called Buddha’s Belly. Buddha’s Belly is located just above Ushmania restaurant (2nd floor) 673 Itaewon 2 Dong, Seoul, Korea; it’s located in the Hamilton Hotel Alley. In this area you can also find Indian, Italian, Korean, American, French, Greek and other nice ethnic foods.
The menu is Thai and the chef is actually from Thailand. We still noted a bit of Korean flair in the dishes we ordered but were really impressed with the overall meal.
We didn’t capture any pictures to share as the atmosphere consists of a smaller private sized dimly lit room. The décor had a sexy-sleek appeal to it. The entrees are rather reasonably priced and cost on average 12,000-18,000 won. The service was really speedy and we enjoyed that because we were both starving!
We started off with some chicken skewers that had a peanut dipping sauce. We both ordered dishes of Pad-See-Ew and a glass of wine. Each dish at Buddha’s Belly Thai restaurant is accompanied by pots of wet and dry hot chilies and Thai fish sauce so you can season your food to taste.
Overall we both agreed that we would go back to this place if we had to.
After dinner we went grabbed a coffee at Paris Baguette (The Korean comparison to Starbucks – well if Starbucks served up tons of delicious baked goods) due to the fact that Buddha’s Belly doesn’t serve coffee on the menu. We then continued to Stoll the alley’s and found ourselves in front of the Wolfhound Irish Pub.
The Wolfhound Irish Pub is located in another small alley down from the Gecko’s Terrace. Sorry bloggers we don’t have the address to provide on this one. We will continue to research for a more direct location. We were able to capture a few pictures of the place for others reference.
We enjoyed the Irish Pub atmosphere. It didn’t feel like we were still in South Korea while inside. The crowd consisted of military, teachers, and tourist in the area. The bar has two levels and features a selection of draft beer as well as mixed drinks and foods.
We enjoyed ourselves, had some drinks and decided to continue checking out what else Itaewon had to offer.
We found ourselves at Baby Guinness and Sam Ryan’s Sports Bar and a hot dog vendor (mmmmm…that tasted more like Kielbasa) before we decided to call it a night.
The next day we headed to Gyeongbok Palace. The palace was one of the first places that Larry got to check out when he first moved to Korea. He was really eager to share the experience with me so we thought with the beautiful weather this weekend we should take a tour and snap some pictures along the way. The address to go see the Palace for yourself is Seoul-si Jongno-gu Sejong-ro 1-1.
The term “Gyeongbokgung” means palace greatly blessed by Heaven. We took an English speaking tour lead by a Korean college student. We captured the beginning intro of the tour for you to try to hear some of the facts she provided us with.
The palace was actually constructed in 1395, but was destroyed in the 1500’s during the Japanese invasion. However in the late 1800’s into the 1900’s the palace was completely restored. We couldn’t even imagine living here as a King and Queen the grounds are absolutely massive! Consisting of more than 300 buildings, 6000 rooms, and more than 4 million square feet and sits in one of the busiest sections of Seoul.
When we arrived to Gyeongbok Palace we entered in the gate (Kwangha-mun) protecting the palace from Seoul. We were able to get a picture with the guards that stand there.
Another interesting fact that we learned was that Sejong the Great was the fourth king of the Joseon Dynasty, and ruled from 1418 – 1450 during this time he created the 28 letter system of the Korean Hangul alphabet. Today however the Korean alphabet consists of 24 letters.
Overall we had an amazing time with a very good tour of the palace.
After walking the palace we decided to needed to hail a cab and head to N Seoul Tower. N Seoul Tower is also known as Namsan Tower because it’s located on Namsan Mountain at Seoul-si Yongsan-gu Yongsandong 2-ga San 1-3. Private automobiles have been stopped from entering the mountain since the year 2005 so that they could more easily preserve the area. You really have three ways to get up to the tower and each does involve some form of walking. One, take a cab or bus but note that you can only go up so far with the cab or bus and then you will get dropped off and have to walk up a pretty steep paved road. Two, take the cable car up from the bottom of the mountain. Please note you will have to climb steps up from the cable car drop off point to get to the tower. Whatever you decide we think it’s worth it while you are visiting or living in Seoul.
N Seoul Tower stands 237 meters high, standing atop 243-meter Mt Namsan. It was remodeled in 2005, and has a rotating Western-style restaurant on top that we plan to possibly check out at night next time we visit.
Below is what each floor consists of:
– Olive Young (supermarket / convenience store)
– Coffee Shop
– Eatery with indoor and outdoor seating
– Food Court
– Gift Shop
– Ticket Counter
– Viewing Platform
– Restaurant (relatively inexpensive with great view)
– Elevator Entrance
– Tous Les Jour (bakery)
– Ticket Counter
– Exhibition Area
(360m altitude, reached by express elevator)
1/F : Hancook Restaurant
2/F : Sky Cafe
3/F : Observatory platform
4/F : Observatory platform
5/F : N Grill by Vips (revolving restaurant)
Tickets to get inside of Seoul tower observatory for two adults cost us 14,000 won.
We snapped pictures of the locks and tiles at N Seoul Tower. The locks are “Locks of love” and can be found on the fence outside of the tower. They symbolize lovers’ promise that they will never separate. The message tiles of love inside are something you could purchase to write a little love note on and then it is displayed on a wall within the tower.
The last day we were there we checked out Myeongdong still located within seoul for some shopping.
Myungdong is a selection of shops, like Zara, UniQlo, Forever21, ABC Mart but also features all sorts of street vendors selling shoes, scarfs, jewelry, food, etc.
We enjoyed some green tea ice cream and found a vendor who sells King’s Beard Candy. We were able to quick capture the vendor making the candy and bought some to try after we had heard great things about it. Final consensus….we LOVED it!
We can only describe King’s beard candy as a small fuzzy white sweet treat with a chewy inside and a crispy outer layer that just melts in your mouth. It’s so fun to watch the vendor create 16.000 honey strings in two minutes! They act as they are doing it too counting in English as well as Korean. Next time we see this vendor we will try to capture better video because it is really entertaining!
The last night we were there we decided to go back to Itaewon and check out Zelen’s for dinner.Zelen’s is a Bulgarian restaurant owned and operated by Bulgarians. The location yet another strange place – the same alley we were in when at Buddha’s Belly. It’s the alley right behind the Hamilton Hotel. The address is the second floor, 116-14 Itaewon-dong, Yongsan District.
Talk about amazing food! We had no idea this place was going to be this fantastic! Get ready…you know we are going to rave about it in our blog now. In the land of red pepper paste and kimchi it’s nice to experience something different once and awhile.
Once you take the steps up to Zelen’s from the alley you open the door into the second floor restaurant where you quickly see a garden-esque room that is candlelit and features an open kitchen where you can see the chefs preparing the delish dishes.
The menu is quite extensive and it’s great because the meals are detailed and named in both English and Korean. We had a chance to grab the owner Mikhal Ashminov and ask him what he recommended. We were so pleased that we had done so because he turned our decisions to the stuffed peppers that were amazing.
We ordered stuffed mushrooms and the stuffed peppers for appetizers to our meals. (You can view all of our meal and pictures of the restaurant within this blog)
Larry’s main course was pork tenderloin stuffed with smoked Gouda, green onions, bacon and tangy pickles. The dish was plenty big and we think next time we will order this dish and another and split it up to try something new.
Sarah’s main course was the vegetarian moussaka. The dish was oven-baked layers of vegetables and cheese topped with homemade yogurt. The dish really reminded us of almost a shepherd’s pie but meatless. The dish was served alongside a small rustic salad, for 14,000 won.
We were so pleased with both of our dishes that we both agreed that we will be taking friends back there for dinner.
After we ate dinner at Zelen’s we headed to the Cheonggyecheon River Walk . We learned that this river walk is fairly new to the city. It was constructed in 2005 where previously it was just concrete roadways running through the center of Seoul. The address for the river walk is, 31, Taepyeongno 1-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul
One word for this place…calming! Once you are on the river walk path you slowly forget that you are located in the center of a huge bustling city. The walk features small waterfalls, various colors of lighting, stepping stones to cross from one side of the walk to the other, and amply amounts of greenery. We loved that we got to check this place out at night because the last time Larry visited he said it was during the day and people were everywhere!
We met three young Korean adults that were trying to snap a picture together but were not achieving the shot they wanted. We took notice of this and asked if they wanted us to get a shot of them so that they could all be in the picture together. They graciously accepted and kept thanking us! We asked if they would mind returning the favor so that we could also have a shot of the two of us. Of course they replied they were glad to do so. (Feel free to check out our various pictures of experiencing the Cheonggyecheon River Walk).
Once we got back home we looked through all the pictures we snapped and kept talking about how much fun we had on our weekend adventures.
If anyone else has suggestions on places to see or eat at please feel free to share with us!