We spent the last two days of our trip soaking up every bit of what Seoul has to offer. We tried it all - live octopus sashimi, spicy fish stew, ganjang gejang i.e. raw marinated crab, chimaek i.e. chicken + beer in the afternoon, Garosugil and finally, the greatest hurdle, an all female jjimjilbang i.e. Korean spa + sauna. You just have to not think so much when attempting some of the more challenging items in this list. Haha. It was fun!
We visited the famous fish market, Noryangjin, in the morning of Day 6. If you are a seafood fan, like me, this is a must-visit. I won't say the prices are affordable, I don't even know if we were ripped off since I don't know the market price, but the fresh seafood was worth it. You may also find other seafood products like anchovies while you're there.
Be sure to leave your best shoes in the hotel since Noryangjin is a wet market. If you are thinking of having a meal there, select your seafood first at the market. There are websites that offer you suggestions on what you should choose according to the season so be sure to check! We visited Seoul in May and it seems like flounder was in season. This is Korea so make sure you try white fish (e.g. flounder) instead of oily types like salmon which are more Japanese. They taste really different so I shan't spoil it for you by describing how our flounder sashimi tasted like! After selecting a stall and choosing your seafood, the kind fishmonger would usually slice up the fish for you if you inform him that you want it sashimi-style. Actually, instead of sashimi, they call the dish 'hoe' in Korean. If you want to try a fish stew as well, make sure you remind the fishmonger to keep the bones in a bag for you because it would make a good broth.
After making your payment, look around to find restaurants at the basement or at the second floor. There are actually a lot of restaurant staff standing around at the market waiting to bring you to their restaurant. It's okay, haha, you can go with either of them if there's no specific restaurant you want to visit. I was a little intimidated when a staff immediately took our purchases from the fishmonger and led us to this quiet restaurant at the basement, but I later realised that this is just a way to get hold of customers. Lots of Koreans streamed in later so we knew we were in safe hands.
People at the restaurant would take the seafood you purchased and suggest ways to cook it. It's likely that there are Chinese working there so you can communicate with them comfortably if you know Chinese. We had flounder sashimi, spicy fish stew (maeuntang) and live octopus sashimi (sannakji)! The live octopus was a challenge but I liked it haha. Dip it in sesame oil, throw it in your mouth and chew really quickly! It gets a little scary when the suction caps on its tentacles get stuck to your tongue.
After a full meal, we visited Hangang Park at Yeouido. Many Koreans were having a picnic there and it made us regret not bringing a mat along with us. We sat along the river eating super sweet Korean strawberries while enjoying the light breeze. Kings of Convenience was playing in the background.
After Hangang, we visited a nearby Lotte Mart and then another touristy spot - Namsam Tower - which wasn't in our itinerary. My sister suggested that we should visit the tower and we headed there after having a set of directions. Climbing up with hands full of bags of snacks we got at Lotte Mart was a torture, but the fine weather, cable car ride and beautiful view compensated for the hike. I thought the view outside the tower, at the deck with all the cheesy love locks, was most breathtaking. We stayed till sunset. It was nice to see the whole landscape changing in shades and colours.
Then it was time for dinner! We actually visited Gwangjang Market at the second or third day of our trip, but my mum liked it so much so we headed there again for dinner on day 6. We tried the famous ganjang gejang, i.e. raw crab marinated in soy sauce, while we were there. A small one costs S$12 approximately! I loved the crab roe but it was so so salty. I think my lips swelled up after eating one. It's still worth a try and I think it will go well with rice! We tried another version of the dish, yangnyeom gejang, crab marinated in spicy chilli paste, as a side dish for lunch at Insadong and we really loved that one.
Gwangjang market is also known for lots of other affordable and yummy Korean foods like the mungbean pancake (bindaetteok), spicy rice cake (tteokbokki), sesame oil noodle (japchae), fish cake soup (eomukguk), Korean mixed rice (bibimbap)... These can also be found at the market. We also bought 2 bags of kimchi while we were there. But be careful when bringing kimchi home! I heard of a story where someone's bag of kimchi 'exploded' in her luggage and... you can guess the rest of it.
Ok, that's day 6. I'm going to cover day 7 in this post as well since I didn't take any good pictures on that day and lest I procrastinate again, haha. Can't believe that I took 2 months to post about a 8-day trip. Day 7 was spent exploring Garosugil, Gangnam. We ended the day with a bang at a women-only jjimjilbang. More on that later, haha.
Garosugil in Gangnam is a popular shopping district for the trendy and artsy, and I should add - for those with deeeeeep pockets. I love the street but it was more window shopping and people-watching for me. We spotted Hong Seok-cheon filming a show with some models and there were also lots of streetstyle bloggers and blogshop models using Garosugil as backdrop for their photoshoots. Cafes also line the streets and we visited one for waffles and bingsu (Korean shaved ice). I remember that Åland has a huge outlet there so be sure to drop by if you're a fan. Otherwise, I think I was disappointed because of my high expectations.
At a friend's recommendation, we also headed to Kyochon Chicken at Gangnam for chimaek (chicken and beer). It was so good - my sister and mum agreed that it was their best meal there. (I had so much good food, I couldn't make up my mind.) 4 Fingers, Choo Choo Chicken or whatsoever in Singapore just can't beat it. Kyochon Chicken already has outlets in Southeast Asia so I hope they come to Singapore real soon. We tried the honey glaze fried chicken if I'm not wrong and we finished it in what, fifteen minutes?! The serving was very generous and with beer for my mum and I, we only paid approximately S$8 each. I'm craving for those drumettes while I'm typing this.
After the fried chicken, we headed back to the apartment to change for a trip to the jjimjilbang. Jjimjilbang is a Korean public bathhouse cum spa and you have to go commando when you are there. Because we visited a women-only jjimjilbang, the ladies were all undressed even when they were out of the shower and hot tub area. Everyone was just semi or stark naked while watching tv and sipping their sikhye (Korean sweet rice malt drink). It was an ultimate culture shock. It wasn't like we weren't mentally prepared though, I've watched a funny video of Conan O'Brien visiting a jjimjilbang before and I was pretty mind blown. But it took more guts to take it all off in front of strangers and also to not express any form of emotion when you see the other ladies. Hahaha. I knew I had to give it a try because I was with my family, I would never dare to go commando in front of my friends. My mum was so embarrassed it was funny to watch, but she later fell in love with the hot tub and sauna and after a while, she was totally relaxed. My sister is a fan of the sauna too. Ironically, I didn't have a good experience. I couldn't stand the heat in the hot sauna and ran out after maybe 30 seconds, and I had a migraine shortly after. It was still a crazy cultural experience though, and I enjoyed feeling insecure about absolutely nothing at all. Every lady in there was just strutting their stuff, scrubbing each others' back and laughing at one another's jokes. They were confident and comfortable with their bodies. I started to like my body a little more after a visit there. If you would like to visit a jjimjilbang, I would recommend asking the staff at the hotel counter or your apartment's host for the address to the nearest one. It feels really good to just chill at the jjimjilbang, shower then head back to your lodging for bed.
*Subway Station | Venue
Noryangjin | Noryangjin Fish Market
Exit 1. Walk 100m over the bridge.
Yeouinaru | Hangang Park
Exit 2 or 3.
Myeongdong | N Seoul Tower (Namsam Tower)
Detailed directions here.
We chose to alight at Myeongdong station, and walked out of Exit 3 to find Pacific Hotel. Upon finding the hotel, walk along the right side and walk straight for 15-20 minutes to find the boarding area. Reminder that it's an uphill slope!
Seoul Station | Lotte Mart
Visit the mart to get all your Korean foods like dried seaweed, Choco Pie, instant ramen, chilli paste etc. We even got a pot often seen in Korean dramas - the small gold one used to cook ramen. I use it often to prepare soup for one!
Jongno 5-ga | Gwangjang Market
Sinsa | Garosugil
Exit 8. Walk straight for 3 blocks (approx 250m) and turn left into Garosugil.
Gangnam | Kyochon Chicken
Exit 9. Detailed directions with image here.
So, this brings me to the end of #seoulstylo series! (Day 8 was spent rushing to the airport with the help of a friendly Korean man so there isn't anything I can share haha.) I really applaud bloggers with the determination to churn out posts like these because it wasn't easy at all. Phew! I started on these posts to remind myself on how great the trip was. It surprised me that I could actually recall the experience of locating the places when I was typing out the directions. There are so many places that I want to travel to in the near future and this #seoulstylo trip gave me greater confidence in planning a trip and navigating in a foreign land. I really hope that in return, these guides can build confidence in someone out there! Have fun while you are in Seoul!