Seoul Searching #3: SEOUL

There's always that strange adjustment period after returning from a trip, where you try to get back into the rhythm of things. It's never an easy task because obviously, you're forced to deal with all the responsibilities and shit that you left behind and haven't thought about for whatever number of days you were gone. 

It's also an uncontested fact that travel changes people. Sometimes the changes are little; for example, you may spend the first day back walking on the right side of the road instead of the left, or maybe you're just suffering from a bit of jet lag. Other times, the changes run a lot deeper than that and are slightly harder to diagnose. 

Although I am glad to be back and spending time with people I care about, part of me can't help but feel very... unsatisfied with home. It's like that feeling you get at the end of a rollercoaster ride, when the car slowly pulls in into the loading zone and you're just sitting there like, wait, that's it? It's anticlimactic and it leaves you feeling slightly empty. 

(Slight digression but Part I and II of my Korean adventures can be found here and here)

As for the dissatisfaction, I've always known that Sydney isn't one of the liveliest places to live but it's never really bothered me because, home is home right? Even after returning from Taiwan, Vietnam or New York - places with insane bustling night life -  I didn't give it too much thought. But something about Seoul just felt so familiar and right to me. Maybe it's because I grew up on an unhealthy diet of EatYouKimchi videos on YouTube and countless hours of brain-cell-destroying K-dramas but it really did feel like I was stepping into places I'd been to before. 

I loved everything about Seoul. I loved the crazy jam-packed materialistic madness that is Myeongdong, the timeless beauty that is Gyeongbokgung Palace and Hongdae's quirky, hipster neighbourhood with its ten cafes per street. There's just this energy that runs through all of South Korea (Seoul in particular) that never peters out. Perhaps it's got something to do with the high density population or the night-owl lifestyle that many people seem to adopt. Maybe it's the way their cities are planned out; instead of suburbs gradually morphing into high rise cities, they jump straight into the city part and every street, regardless of proximity to city center, has about 100 stores, restaurants and services open. 

So when you come back to your little townhouse in a quiet suburb on the outskirts of Sydney, you can't help but feel like you've left something important behind. And I was only away for ten days. What's going to happen when I leave Australia for a year?   

But enough wallowing in my own self-pity party. You guys probably came here for the photos and couldn't care less about my existential crisis so without further ado, let's jump right back into it. 

Day 5: Seoul

Where did I leave off last time? Ah right, we were at the exclusive Club ES Resort (which by the way was seriously the best overnight experience of my life - heated floorboards, full kitchen facilities + grounds that looked like they came straight out of a fairytale novel). 

We woke up bright and early for our trip into Seoul (we were still in the South Korean countryside at this point) and had breakfast at the hotel before jumping right back into the bus. 

Did I mention there were ducks, chickens, cats & bunny rabbits running all over the grounds??

Rest stop time = food + convenience store raid

The picture above is of Tteokbokki, one of Korea's most popular street foods. To be honest, I can't really get into tteokbokki. They're basically glutinous rice cakes eaten with some sort of spicy sauce and I find the taste quite bland and unsatisfying. It doesn't help that Koreans chuck it into everything. You'll find tteokbokki in stews, stir frys, baked, and even turned into waffles (I'll upload a picture in the next post). There's not even an Australian equivalent that I can compare it to. Koreans just really love their tteokbokki.

You know what else they love? Kimchi. Now kimchi is something I actually do like (but even having it at every meal for the last 10 days might put the biggest kimchi-loving foreigner off). No trip to Korea is complete without attempting to make your own kimchi.

You'd think I'd be able to handle something as simple as smearing chili paste over cabbage but alas I have an exceptional ability to fuck up any type of culinary art. My kimchi looks like bloodied roadkill.

After lunch, the bus took us to Hongdae where we got tickets into the Trick Eye Museum. The Trick Eye Museum is basically a building filled with all sorts of optical illusion-based paintings. As you can imagine, the place is filled with tourists taking cheese-tastic photos next to the artworks but we managed to get some good ones as well.

There's also a "Love Museum" right next door to the Trick Eye One. "Love Museum" is a euphemism for "Sex Museum" and we could see people taking pictures under a giant pair of plastic boobs hanging just inside the entrance.  

After dropping everyone off at Myeongdong, the tour kind of just let everyone go and do their own thing so my family had dinner together in one of the upscale, high rise shopping malls before splitting to go look at things. Serena and I ventured out onto the streets in search of - you guessed it - more food. Hey, I'd be an idiot not to eat as much as I could while I'm on holidays okay? (I mean, did you see my legs in that picture above?) My gluttony is justified.  

Myeongdong Street - a street packed with food and merchandise vendors, restaurants, make-up store chains, shopping malls, etc. It's packed full of people and over-enthusiastic store clerks who try to lure you into every shop you walk past with free samples. 

Odeng - spicy fish cakes

Etude House - one of the big Korean make-up store chains. The others are Missha, Nature Republic, The Face Shop, Skinfood, Holika Holika and Tony Moly. You literally cannot walk down a street in Seoul without passing at least one of these. 

Traditional Korean candy - spun honey filled with your choice of nuts or chocolate bits. It looks like larvae but tastes like sweet, crunchy fairy floss. 

This was the last day of the tour - tomorrow we were finally going to be able to set off and explore by ourselves so I spent a few minutes that night at the hotel planning out everything we were going to do in the next few days.

Day 6: Gyeongbokgung Palace & Dongdaemun Markets

A healthy breakfast: instant ramen at the hotel and waffles filled with sugary cream in between subway transfers #cleaneating #healthfood #nocalories

Gyeongbokgung Palace: an actual iconic Korean landmark and also where I'm sure they filmed a couple of scenes from Queen In Hyun's Man

Ma crib 

Some fancy arches

Where they filmed a scene from Arang and the Magistrate - don't ask me how I know this stuff

Pots traditionally used for storing fermented foods

As you can see, Gyeongbokgung Palace is massive. Calling it "Gyeongbokgung Palace" is super misleading because the whole place consists of like 10 and pagodas or something with extensive grounds between each. There are three temple-type structures near the entrance and you have to go through each one before you reach the actual grounds. Then it's kind of up to you which section you wander off to. My sister and I made the stupid decision to kind of just do a big circle around everything. It took us over 40 minutes to get back to the start and at some points, we were pretty sure we'd gotten lost.

Our next stop were the Dongdaemun Markets where - you guessed it - we got more food (plus did a lot of shopping for the night). It was also here that we got to see the Cheongyecheon Stream. If we had time, I would've walked the length of it just to see to colourful waterfall-y bit but alas, we had no time (because food, lol).  

Sweet potato latte at Hollys Coffee. Like happiness and unicorns and baby's laughter in a cup of hot-steaming milk

PENIS ICECREAM!! No seriously, isn't that the most phallic looking ice cream you've ever seen?

Triangle kimbap from 7/11 - midnight snack because we were on a mission to become so fat, they wouldn't be able to fit us on the plane home. 

Next post: Insadong, Lotte World, Namsam Tower and THE CAT CAFE OMG.

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