I had really good intentions to get an early start Saturday morning, I really did. Friday night I checked the weather and saw that it was going to be a beautiful sun shining day. There was no rain in the forecast, it wasn’t going to be terribly hot or muggy. The perfect day to spend sightseeing. I looked up some areas that I wanted to visit and made me a little list. I was prepared.
Then Saturday morning came, about 10:30 Saturday morning to be exact, as that was the time that I woke up. Well, so much for an early start. So instead, I just took my time. I just got a new coffee grinder and a french press earlier on in the week. I have been without for two whole months, living on Korean instant mix coffee which isn’t too bad, but not the same as the fresh ground stuff I had grown accustomed to in the States. Korea has an abundance of cafes, one or two on every corner. In fact, they have more cafes here per block radius than we have McDonald’s in the U.S. But, as many of you may know, cafe coffee addiction is expensive, and I can make a pretty darn good cup of coffee at home myself.
Coffee, the breakfast of champions. That and peanut butter and jelly, which is what I had that morning, not that you would be interested in that.
Anyhow, after lollygagging the morning away, I finally made it out the door around 2:00 p.m and made my way to the train station. I had a couple destinations in mind. The first being Dongdaemun Design Plaza. It is all silver and sleek architecture with a design museum and art gallery, and of course a cafe. There is also an archeological dig area where they are excavating building remains from the Joseon Dynasty (for those that don’t know, anytime the word dynasty is involved, it means a long, long time ago). The main reason I went however, is because there is a large suitcase that is the filming spot for one of my favorite shows called My Neighbor, Charles, which follows the lives of foreigners as they try to carve their little niche here in Korea (you can check it out on YouTube, just make sure you choose the one with English subs, if you are an English speaker that is). After hanging out there a couple of hours, my plan was to head over to a fun quirky neighborhood about 30 minutes from there. I did not make it to the neighborhood but instead spent most of the day at the DDP (not to be confused with the DMZ-totally different area).
On the train, it was standing room only all the way to Seoul which is not unusual on a Saturday. But I got to stand by the door and watch the scenery go by. Since it was a nice clear day, the mountains made a lovely backdrop for the passing vistas. I got off at Dongdaemun Station and walked over to the DDP. It would have been only a couple of blocks had I gone in the right direction to begin with, but since I am directionally challenged, even with the aid of Google Maps; of course, I went in the complete opposite direction. Instead, I made a big circle around the area but landed upon a nice surprise. It was a river walk along a large shopping district. Shopping holds no interest for me here, but the river walk was so tranquil, you almost forget that you are in the city. You have to go down steps to get to it, but once down the steps, you are surrounded by tall grass and bushes as well as the concrete wall, and the massive line of shopping buildings above. The area is clean, and every now and then I would pass couples, both old and young walking hand in hand, I imagine they are catching up with each other after the busy work week that most Koreans have.
Finally, I found my way to the DDP. Really the pictures on the internet do not do it justice. It is such an interesting piece of architecture. I think I would have to say it resembles The Bean in Chicago, except this is a whole lot bigger and not as shiny.
When I made my way through the area, one of the first things I noticed was this line of food trucks. I had yet to see food trucks like I was used to seeing in my hometown of Louisville, Ky. But here they are, they do exist! Korea is full of street food but it is mostly carts or kiosks. This was my first time seeing trucks like this. The PPJ I had for breakfast was holding up pretty well so I wasn’t hungry yet. I passed by and entered the DDP and saw lots of people milling around. There was a farmer’s market going on with about 20-30 booths set up selling their homemade goods and/or vegetables. Like everyone else, I walked through checking out all of the wares for sale. Then, I headed over to the design lounge.
Here they had a display of different textile art. Of course, as is my M.O, I started at the end and made my way to the beginning.
At the top there was this beautiful room; it was empty except the people sitting along one wall and they were just admiring the view out of the large window. There was so much light coming through and it reflected off of the wood floors giving the room a dreamy effect (the picture doesn’t do it justice).
At the top of the steps, there was a cutesie mural that is typical Korea. Then down the hall a bit they were projecting images on the ceiling. I got lucky and got a shot of this one.
The walk through the exhibit had examples of clothing textiles, furniture, and other odds and ends. There was a museum, but I decided not to go this time around. Here are a few of the things that caught my eye.
After I finished the design lounge area, they had a design expo at the bottom. There were lots of interesting things for sale but they were a bit pricey so I decided to forego buying anything. Outside I went, in search of my giant red suitcase.
I walked around the perimeter a bit. I was getting hungry and tried to stop by a food truck. They said that they weren’t open yet and were still preparing things for later in the evening. I continued my walk. I found the suitcases and a bus advertising the Broadway play CATS.
I walked around the block, trying to decide if I wanted to go to the other neighborhood, or maybe visit one of the palaces nearby. By this time it was almost six and the palace would be closing soon. Also, the smell coming from all of the food trucks was enticing enough to make me decide to stay put. I noticed that they were also working on getting a stage ready for live music later on. I kept walking along, I could hear some music in the distance so I decided to follow the sound. After a few minutes, I noticed across the street there was a girl KPOP group performing. I’m not sure which or how famous they are but I took a short video from a distance.
Feel free to comment if you know who they might be. I kept making my way around the block and this cluster of houses on a hill in the distance caught my attention. I had a feeling at the top there would be a great view. I am promising myself that I will come back and check it out, but today was not the day.
I was too hungry and I knew my face was starting to resemble that of this lady in the bottom corner of the picture. The “hangry” face. I headed back towards the food trucks. There was one in particular that I had my eye on.
OMG! The smell coming out of this truck was mouth watering and the line was long so I knew it was going to be good. They were selling wraps with chicken, beef, or pork. I wanted the chicken, so I joined the other slew of people in the line. Like I said earlier, the smell was mouth watering, it was also making everyone hack up their lungs due to the cayenne pepper they used in the seasoning. Because of the smoke from the grill, and with the help of the evening breeze, the cayenne spiced smoke would hit us with a harsh punch in the throat, making us all cough as we waited anxiously for our turn. You would think this would be a deterrent, but it wasn’t. To my surprise and dismay, not one person got out of the line.
It was well worth the wait. It was the best wrap I have ever had.
I enjoyed it sitting and taking in the evening scenery around me. Oh, and if you are wondering why I am carrying around a bag that has city names misspelled, I am going to give you a quick lesson on Hangul. The characters you see are actually the Korean characters that share similar sounds to the letters they are replacing. If you learn these you will have about 1/3 of the Korean alphabet down.
I finished my wrap and decided to take another lap around to see if I could find something for dessert. Unfortunately, I didn’t find anything, what I did find was this:
These meatballs were the perfect blend of spice and flavor. They melted in your mouth and the garlic aioli gave it a nice little flavor punch. I wish I could someway share with you the taste of these things, unfortunately, modern technology has not made that possible and you will just have to deal with my inadequate description. The spiciness of the meatballs went well with the sweetness of the traditional rice drink. I was quite satiated. I carried my meatballs over to where the band was playing. They were really good. I had my hands full so I didn’t get a video of the band.
After finishing the food, I made another walk around the building. The sun was down and dusk had settled in with its blue, pink, and purple hues. I took a few night shots around the building. Here are a few of my favorites.
By this time it was nearly 8:30. I decided it was time to head somewhere else. I really wanted something sweet and checked to see if there were any night markets close by. There was, Gwagjang Market was only one stop over by subway. I hopped on the train and made my way there.
It was dark, and a bit spooky off of the subway stop. Korea is super safe so I wasn’t really worried about getting mugged. I was just wondering where all of the people were. I shrugged it off and headed in the direction where Google was telling me the market was. This time I remained vigilant and followed the arrow well. I made it to the market. The entrance I went in was dark and lots of the shops were closed, but I could see lights and people in the distance. I followed the light. And I found the people. They were all eating. The food area was packed with people sitting shoulder to shoulder, digging into the all kinds of different alcoholic drinks and foods; from the bright red spicy rice cakes to the still wiggling baby octopus legs. They had different kinds of seafood, rice, pig snouts and feet, and innards (insert vomit face-I don’t do organs). I think I circled the area three or four times just marveling at all the people and the food.
I almost felt sad that I had eaten at the DDP (almost but not quite, that food was the bomb). Dessert, I was on the hunt for sweet. It took me a while but I found it, and there was another long line. Fresh donuts. I’m not crazy about donuts normally but since the line was long I decided to try it out. Not to be repetitive, but OMG! It was heavenly. It was hot, covered in sugar and cinnamon, slightly crispy on the outside and soft as butter on the inside. Just, amazing is all I can say and well worth the wait and the 1,000 won (less than a dollar).
It was getting late, my belly was full and I was ready to go home and sit. I grabbed one last snack on my way out to eat later. These were mini kimbaps. I love regular ones so I knew these would not disappoint. They didn’t.
So, this concludes my day in just a small area of the enormous metropolis of Seoul. I have barely made a dent in my sightseeing of the city, but I figure that it’s ok since I have plenty of time to see it all. Thanks for coming along on this adventure with me even if it is only virtually. I know that my words hardly capture the actual experience, but I hope that in some way I am able to share the feeling of living here in Korea, even if just a little.