As mentioned in my previous post about Taiwan, our trip also included a quick three day visit to South Korea. My sister and I stayed with our aunt, uncle, and cousin in Seoul, and they were our awesome tour guides as we explored the city for the first time!
One of the best parts of the trip was all the authentic Korean food (surprise, surprise). Our very first night there, they took us to Korean BBQ!
I discovered the amazing-ness of Korean BBQ in college, but I’ve found it pretty difficult to find decent places as I moved around after graduation. Having the chance to eat authentic Korean BBQ in Korea was great – I happily munched through all the thinly sliced meats, sizzling away on the tabletop grill and paired with a variety of side dishes. This place even gave your bags to seal your coats in so they don’t get all smokey from the grilling.
Another traditional Korean dish I got to have was bibimbap – a rice dish topped with vegetables, different sauces and spices, meat, and a raw egg! It’s usually served in a hot sizzling stone bowl that cooks your egg as you stir everything together. It seems like such a simple dish, but all the flavors really come together for a hearty and filling meal.
A dish that was new to me was the Korean oxtail soup (seolleongtang). The broth is made by stewing the ox bones and other parts for a long time, until you have this milky white cloudy solution. Add in some green onions and spices, and you have a simple but delicious tasting soup!
Like Taiwan, Seoul also has its own types of street food. While shopping the streets of Dongdaemun, we took some breaks to try some yummy deep fried treats.
These were a sort of deep fried dumpling/bun stuffed with various meats and spices, served to you fresh in a little cup. It was so hot that I burned my mouth when I tried to eat it right away.
As you can see, it was pretty chilly when we visited, but all the fried food warmed us up. We also got some fried fish on a stick, which came with some fish broth, which really hit the spot in the cold.
It wasn’t all just savory food either. We got to dig into a shaved ice dish that was covered in red bean paste, mochi, and topped with vanilla ice cream.
I was amazed at how smooth and creamy the ice was – if I didn’t know any better, I would have thought it was actual ice cream!
Korea wasn’t all about the food though. Although our schedule was packed, we made some time to see the historical Gwanghwamun gate. It was built in 1395 (!) Throughout time, it’s been destroyed in various conflicts and rebuilt several times, and today, serves as a reminder of Seoul’s long history.
There is a changing of the guard show, as well as an option to rent traditional Korean garments to wear and walk around in. The place was packed with tourists, as you would expect from such a historical site.
Shopping in Seoul is also a huge tourist attraction, especially shopping for Korean beauty products. The Myeongdong shopping area is filled with beauty shop after beauty shop, all selling their array of cute skincare products. Look at all the Pokemon themed lotions and face masks!
It was actually pretty overwhelming. You would go down one street, see all the shops, turn the corner, and see the exact same row of the same shops – there would literally be the same shop five or six times just within a couple of blocks. The salespeople were also very pushy. Impressively, they were all multi-lingual (usually knowing English, Korean, Chinese, AND Japanese), but they would chase you around in the shop and try to rub various lotions and products on your hands.
As you can see, I was very confused by everything, but my sister was a pro and knew exactly what to buy. Next time, I’ll do my research first.
Another popular thing to do in Seoul is to visit one of its themed cafes. There are everything from Hello Kitty themed cafes to poop themed cafes. We decided to visit the best one of them all – a DOG CAFE! There are several in the city, and we went to Bau House.
Look at all the puppies! This cafe doubles as a doggy daycare, where people can drop off their dogs and have the adoring customers play with them all day.
All the dogs were super friendly and loved being petted. Look at all the fluffy I’m cuddling with!
This is something I think should be more popular in the United States – I would go there all the time!
All in all, it was amazing to get the chance to visit another country, soak up their culture, eat the food, and learn more about the history! We definitely want to come back again, and for longer than three days next time!