Korea Pt. 1 - Visiting Seoul and DMZ

Seoul, DMZ in Korea
August 22, 2019 Travel

I spent 4 nights in Seoul, exploring the city as well as visiting the DMZ. The flight from Hong Kong was around 4 hours, and from Incheon airport, we took the train into the city. We had to buy a transit card from the airport, which you can also use to take the subway around the city as well. We quickly settled into our guestroom located near the Myeongdong district, and then immediately headed out to meet our tour guide for the food tour that we had booked!

We had booked a food tour with Seoul Hunters, and our guide Steve was great! It was a small group, just me, my boyfriend, one other lady, and the tour guide! We tried a few different places, so by the end of it, I was stuffed. We had some delicious Korean BBQ, some tteokbokki, blood sausage, the Korean version of tempura, and of course, fried chicken and beer, or as they call it, chimeak, all near the Insadong area of Seoul. Man, I miss Korean food so much...

We spent the next day just exploring Seoul and checking out some of the tourist spots. First, we stopped by the gates to Changdeokhung Palace to buy some tickets to see some of the palaces in Seoul, which also gave us entry to Gyeongbokgung palace. We booked a tour of the gardens in Changdeokhung Palace for later, since they have limited time slots. Afterwards, we slowly made our way to Bukchon Hanok Village, which is very crowded and cute. It is a popular destination for it's traditional architecutre and cute little houses. Also, lots of cute little stores and shopping here! It's definitely a little over-priced though, since it is such a popular tourist spot.

Next, we checked out Gyeongbokgung Palace, one of the main royal palaces in Seoul. Something that people like to do in Korea is rent some of those old fashioned royal outfits and take pictures, you can see people doing it all over Gyeongbokgung Palace, but unfortunately I did not take any old school pics! I love that Seoul just has these massive palace grounds in the middle of such a bustling, developed city with big skyscrapers. The details on the buildlings in the palace grounds are so intricate and detailed too.

Afterwards, we went to Gwangjang Market to get some food - it's a popular market with lots of cheap food vendors! Later in the afternoon, we headed to Changdeokgung Palace where we had booked a tour to see the Secret Garden. The number of visitors is limited, and you can only go in if you're on a tour, I guess this is to preserve the gardens and make sure that it stays in beautiful condition. The tour felt pretty long and tiring, but I think that's because I had been walking around Seoul all day, but the gardens were beautiful and I really recommend booking a guided tour around the gardens if you're ever in Seoul.

The next day, we had booked a tour to go visit the DMZ between South Korea and North Korea. Unfortunately, we weren't able to visit the Joint Security Area (JSA), as Trump was actually in South Korea, and about to visit the DMZ the following day to meet with North Korea, so they closed the JSA in preparation of the visit. Anyway, we could still go into the DMZ, so we still were about to go on the rest of the tour. We visited Imjingak Park, the Unification Bridge, DMZ theater and exhibition hall, the 3rd infiltration tunnel, Dora observatory, and Dorasan station. From the Dora observatory, you can see North Korea when the sky is clear, but unfortunately it was super foggy when we were there so I couldn't see anything. There was also a North Korean defector who was on the tour with us, who we got to ask questions with the help of a translator, so that was interesting to hear as well. Anyway, it was interesting and also really sad to hear the history of the Korean War and how the Koreas came to be like they are now. I hope that things will change so that families that are split can be reunited.

After the tour ended, we were dropped off in Seoul, where we explored a little before heading to dinner in the Hongdae distrcit of Seoul. Funnily enough, some of my coworkers happened to be in Korea as well, so I met up with them for dinner. I had told my friend that I wanted to eat chicken dakgalbi, and he took me to the best place ever, called Hongdae Dakgalbi - the dakgalbi was delicious, and really reasonably priced too! It came out to around $20 per person for the food and some drinks. It was so good, I went back a second time actually. Also, there's a lot of shopping in the Hongdae distict, so that is what I did after dinner! Anyway, I enjoyed a lot of food and Korean bbq, as seen in the following pictures.

For our final day in Seoul, we took it easy and just explored the city and did some window shopping in the Myeongdong district. We also went to check out the fish market in Seoul, Noryangjin Market! There was a lot of live seafood haha, we went after eating so we just got some salmon sushi - they cut it and prepare it for you right there, and then you can just eat it! A popular dish in Korea is squid, you can get it from the fish market super fresh so it's still moving, which sounds gross to me, but apparently it's a delicacy and lots of people enjoy it, but I was not brave enough to try it haha.

I also enjoyed a lot of dessert during my time in Korea - Bingsu is a Korean shaved ice dessert, covered in condensed milk and fruit or chocolate, and it's sooo good, especially during the hot sweaty summer! There is a chain in Korea called Sulbing, and they are very popular and have lots of options. We also got some tasty ice cream in Insadong!

Well, that's how I spent my three days in Seoul! Next stop - Busan! We took a train there, which only took around 3 hours, and no I have not seen the movie (it's too scary for me), and you can read about it in my next post!