One Happy Buckaroo
Seoul Travel Blog› entry 42 of 174 › view all entries
October 21st, 2009 – by: domnicella
The guesthouse is located a few blocks from Hongik University, and there are a couple other universities nearby too. As such, the area is young, hip, active, fun, easy to navigate, delightful to wander, and flush with happy youths indulging in ice cream cones and shopping along the seemingly endless blocks of stores targeting them (and by "them" I mean ME). Olive, one of the guesthouse owners, gave me directions to a restaurant she recommended when I requested good bibimbap, or something equally delicious that she enjoyed. She said I should be sure to wander around (didn't have to tell me twice), and off I went.
As luck would have it, the restaurant closes between 4 and 5pm to give the cooks and servers a much-needed break. I walked up just a few minutes before 4pm and was turned away.
I hadn't given any thought to the street that the stalls were on, I just walked up and down it looking at the wares the vendors had on display. The street directly opposite the vendors was mostly fast food and cafes and ice cream, not storefronts. Seeing as I had time on my hands I turned and walked a block up the road. And promptly spent the rest of my colorful cash. Thankfully I realized this meant I needed to get money or there would be no dinner (credit cards don't fly in these parts), and made my second trip to the ATM for the day.
It won't surprise you to hear I was the first one to walk into that restaurant, probably at five on the dot. I then had the BEST meal I've had in Korea. The absolute best. It was an adorable restaurant, very nicely fitted with big sturdy wooden tables, almost farm-like, and the decor looked like a posh cottage or similar. The menu was entirely in Korean, and I simply asked for bibimbap, as we've established it's my favorite, and also because Olive said this place served her favorite bibimbap. She also said the variety of side dishes they presented you with was excellent, and she wasn't kidding. It was the best assortment I've had yet, with a few of the usual suspects but several that I've never had before (one was a fresh, crispy cabbage salad with a light dressing -- a first in a country obsessed with thousand island, one involved mushrooms and some sort of delicate sprout, one involved a small hard-boiled egg, perhaps quail?, in a sweet soy sauce; all of them absolutely scrumptious).
Contentedly full I thought I'd walk straight home, but of course popped in "just one store, just for a moment" down a busier shopping street. The sun had gone down and the foot traffic had quadrupled. (I've since learned that I caught those stalls by the park just as they were opening; apparently most shops in the student area open at four and are open until at least 10pm, most till midnight if not later.) I was lured in by a pretty wool sweater that was open down the front and your wrap it across yourself and button the ends to your shoulders, like a half wrap, half sweater thing. So of course I bought two. From there I spotted another sweater, which meant I had to pop into that store and try on other things, and walked out with another shopping bag. And then a third store and a third shopping bag. I walked deeper into the shopping street still, but talked myself out of buying another scarf (it appears I have a thing for scarves/wraps/pashminas; I bought more scarves than you can count on one hand today, and it was all I could do to tear my eyes from the others). I finally did a 180 and marched my butt home when I caught myself salivating over ballet flats. Scarves and sweaters are all well and good, as they can be justified: it's cold here, I'm not traveling with much, and China is about to redefine the word COLD as I know it. Plus they're lightweight, and I have every intention of shipping most of them home. Ballet flats have none of the above to claim as justification. (Plus my main men Jeffery Campbell and Sam Edelman would have a fit if they knew I was cheating on them and buying ballet flats from brands other than their own.) And with my thing for shoes dwarfing my thing for scarves, if I had opened that can of worms I'd probably still be there buying them out.
I walked home with a massive grin on my face, perfectly happy from an excellent meal and several fabulous shopping finds. THRILLED.
Talk about starting off on the right foot. Palaces and other assorted tourist stops on the itinerary tomorrow, and hopefully keeping the ATM visits off it altogether.
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