Our first week in Korea was spent in the bustling city of Seoul. We came, we ate, we conquered. While we hit some of the top “things to do” such as the Imperial Palace and the DMZ, and enjoyed them immensely, it was the spontaneous adventures that we loved most.
On the first day we trekked to the Gyeonbokgung palace and got side tracked in the Noryangjin Fish Market. We loved seeing the variety of seafood and interacting with the locals (see video on Instagram). The highlight was picking fish that was cut into sushi in front of us and served in a separate dining area for lunch. It was probably some of the freshest sushi we have ever had!
When we finally made it to the Imperial Palace, we were given a tour by Marian’s cousin. After, we chilled at Radio M Cafe, which is owned by another relative. For anyone looking for a bite to eat in that area, Radio M has the perfect mix of good food, wifi (Ava’s personal favorite), and music. Our favorites were the amazing pastries and shaved ice (bingsu).
Over the next several days we ate, ate, and ate some more. The street food in the shopping districts of Sinsadong and Myeongdong was particulalry good. We had the most amazing barbecue with Marian’s family, and some fantastic ramen in remote neighborhoods. It’s not that every meal was great: we had a 36 hour dry spell where the food was just meh; but in general the darker the alley, the better the food.
Early in the week everyone but Ethan went to a Korean bath and most of us got massages. Opposite the United States, Asians bath naked but wear clothes during massages: the masseuse massages you through your clothes or a towel if you have any exposed skin. Further, massages seem to be more about physical abuse than relaxation. The bath consists of three floors: a common co-ed floor and floors designated for male and female baths. My personal highlight was the “fish pool” on the co-ed floor where you sit around the edges and soak your feet in a central pool filled with small (2-3 inch) fish that come up and eat the dead skin off of your feet. It’s a weird ticklish sensation but pretty theraputic once you get used to it.
Many days were unplanned and so one adventure would lead to the next. As an example, Ethan wanted to visit a VR cafe so we had him research it online and pick one out. We went to that part of town and found the place, but their VR machine was broken. So we went to another place nearby that turned out to be a VR “theme park”. We all went on VR “rides” and the experience was cool but the technology left many of us motion sick. It turned out that the VR theme park was located in a super cool university area that was incredibly vibrant – a place we never would have found if not for seeking out the VR cafe. We wound down dark alleys filled with shops and street food and stumbled upon an awesome Japanese noodle house.
Then there was the shopping. Not that we bought a lot, but it was fun walking through all of the shopping districts and people watching. Koreans have a thing for long down coats and many brands have developed unique products you can only find in Korea. As you can guess, we might have bought one or two.
Interspersed between all this was time spent with Korean relatives. Koreans love to host distant relatives so we were well taken care of wherever we went. Relative guided tours included the Imperial Palace, Namsan Tower, and several small neighborhoods. Marian’s cousin brought her kids (ages 13,18, 20) over one evening and then they went climbing with Marian and Ellis another evening.
After a full week we were sad to go. We have now traveled an hour south to see one of Ann’s best friends growing up, who now lives in Chaenon. Then on to Busan. The Korean adventure continues!
Public service note: we’ve been so busy it has taken time to set up the blog. Instagram is the best source of daily info and photos. Jason has taken a ton of video but computer problems have kept him from editing. We hope to get the social media machine up to full speed here soon!