Seoul Travel Blog› entry 2 of 16 › view all entries
Coincidentally, my summer finance intern at EA is from Korea (but currently halfway through his MBA at the Tuck School of Business). Before I left on my trip, he was very helpful in giving me some tips on where to go in Seoul.
With his list and maps in hand, I set out in a taxi to the first location - Garak Market. This was a very "local" place. In my 2 hours there, I probably saw only one other person who was clearly a tourist. The rest? VERY local.
The produce section was outdoor - and it was raining - so that part of my stroll didn't last very long. Instead, I went into a warehouse type location packed with hundreds of stalls where vendors were selling all kinds of seafood - a variety of fish, crab, lobster, squid, eels, etc.
I then went to the "restaurant" section of the market, where you can sit down and enjoy fresh fish soup and other goodies. I was a bit intimidated because the woman running the place didn't speak a lick of english. She motioned for me to sit down at the low table, which me to sit cross-legged (and take off my shoes!), and she started bringing me food. I had no idea what i was going to get, but among the items - kimchi, cabbage salad, some kind of small crab (basically whole), little eggs, and fish soup (which had all sorts of things in it as well). I ordered some So-ju to wash it all down. The women sitting next to me offered me a tentacle of their squid - before i could gesture non-verbally some kind of "no thank you", they cut off the tentacle with a pair of scissors, cut it up, and put the pieces on my plate.
The next stop was a Palace at the other side of town. Seoul, by the way, is huge - but they have a good subway system which I managed to figure out after my first trip. That first trip was from Garak Market to the Palace. Using the ticket machine, I loaded my ticket with appropriate fare, but then the turnstile still wouldn't open. I returned to the ticket machine and bought another ticket, to ensure i had the right amount. The turnstile still wouldn't let me through. So, in a risky move, I jumped the turnstile and walked briskly to the platform, hoping my train would arrive before the authorities. It did.
The Palace area was nice - a large compound built in the architectural style a simpleton like me would expect in Korea.
After and hour or so walking around, I left and tried to find the third stop - the Hidden (or Secret) Gardens. Even with my map, I couldn't seem to find the place. But I did happen onto a nice neighborhood area made up of about 2 streets and 10 blocks of art galleries and coffee shops. A lot of coffee shops. Heavy foottraffic of trendy well-dressed Koreans. More often than not, the pedestrians were a boy/girl couple, well-dressed (her = short shorts or skirt and high heels; him = fancy jeans, shirt, and white shoes), and at least one (if not both) of them holding a huge camera.
As I headed back to the subway station, I noticed that just "south" (?) of the artsy area was a pedestrian-only shopping area. Street vendors, street performers, shops, and a lot of people. So again, I did an "up-and-back" stroll before hitting the subway back home to the hotel. As I sat on the subway, I noticed a few things: the subway car was really clean, i was the only tourist, i still smelled like fish and kimchi from lunch!
Another thing I noticed throughout the day - there are no fat people. Or at least very few. Definitely reminds me of the over-indulgence and/or inactivity and/or poor diet of the U.
There was one place on the intern's list - Nae Moon Dong Market - but I'd heard from the hotel concierge earlier that morning that this market was closed on Sundays. Bummer.
Back at the hotel room, I took my shoes off and, ouch, a big blister had formed on my heel. I cleaned up and then for the evening headed out to the Itaewon neighborhood, which was known for its international flavor - both in terms of residents as well as restuarants and pubs. I thought this would be a good place to watch the England versus Germany soccer match. And it was. I found a good pub where I nestled in between Germans on my right and English on my left.