“Hey sista, go sista, SEOUL sista, flow sista. Hey sista, go sista, SEOUL sista, go sista”
“I’m a SEOUL man, da da dent, da da dent”
I could go on and on with the music lyrics using Seoul, South Korea as the focus. Nevertheless, we had one full day here and ended up kicking ourselves for not booking more time.
I was incredibly nervous to come where given everything that has happened with the threat of a dictator showing off his missiles, and the fact that it has been on the news a lot more recently. Dean, not nervous at all, was determined to make it here not only to see it but to visit his friend from college, Kisuk. Another friend he hasn’t seen in almost 15 years! He’s catching up with all his old buddies on this trip around the globe! I’m glad he put my nervousness at ease and we decided to stop here, because we absolutely loved the city.
It’s hard to see any city in one day. It takes a while just to get your bearings and figure out where you are in it! Luckily Seoul had a great airport train that for only $7.50USD gets you from Incheon Int’l to Seoul station in 43 minutes. So if you find yourself in the area but on a time restraint, it’s easy to get into the city. We decided to stay in the Myeongdong area as it is known for its vast variety of restaurants and lots of shopping. We booked through Ebates on Hotels.com (click our links and make a purchase so we get credit!) and decided on the TMark Grand Hotel, it was amazing! A nice sized, quiet room with a big SOFT bed and great wifi. It had all the nice touches, like a self-warming toilet seat with water spray function, drinkable tap water, and amazingly fast internet and while it was a tad higher than our budget at $90/night, it was well worth it to get a 4 star hotel.
The top thing to do in this area is the Myeongdong Shopping Street which was only about 10 minutes walk from our hotel. Skin care shops lined the street, each with someone standing outside with free face masks to lure you in. I was in heaven! Dean loved the fact that they had a pickachu face mask and Simpsons branded items like Homer deodorant, Marge Sunscreen and Bart body wash. Hey, anything to keep your man happy while you shop for beauty products is a win in my book! There were also clothing shops, souvenir places and restaurants, plenty of things to grab our attention.
All that window shopping worked up quite the appetite and we found a place that cooked the food right in front of you called Yoogane’s. Each table had its own burner, you simply choose the dish you want, they bring it over and cook it in a large shallow bottomed pan and it’s yours within minutes! We chose the traditional variation. Marinated Chicken, rice, rice stick, scallions, cabbage and onions. Isn’t always more fun when the food is cooked right in front of you? Not sure why we got such a kick out of it, but we did, plus the flavor was amazing! Slightly spicy, but a great umami from the soy. We paired it with some traditional Korean Soju, if you’ve never had it, try it out! It falls somewhere in between wine and hard liquor in both the taste and alcohol level. We got the regular flavor, which just tasted a bit like cheap vodka and the grapefruit flavor, go with the latter, it was so good! It tasted just like juice, which makes it go down that much easier! The whole meal was so tasty and it was only $25USD, so a great price, especially in a touristy area.
After lunch we saw a giant cat wandering the streets handing out free drink cards for the cat cafe. We’d seen them on TV and read about them, so when we saw one we had to check it out. On the top floor of one of the buildings, you head in, place your coffee order and enter a world filled with cats. Small, big, fluffy, hairless, shy and boisterous. We had way more fun hanging out and petting the kitties than we thought we would! The coffee was pretty decent but a bit pricy at about $8USD each, but since the price includes your entrance to the cafe and and apparently came with cat food that the owner spreads on your hands to get licked off by the cats! If you ever want to visit, walk through the streets of Myedeoung and look for the giant cat walking around handing our free drink coupons. Say hi to Teery, he’s the big guy that’s super fluffy and wears a bandana to note that he’s a little more sensitive!
With only a couple hours left before meeting Kisuk, we jumped on the metro to go look at the Grand Palace in Seoul. Unfortunately we were there just before closing, so we couldn’t go in but we were able to see the outside. It was beautiful! So colorful and such unique architecture. There was a group of girls there all dressed up in traditional dresses, we’re not sure if there was some sort of ceremony or graduation but it was cool to see them all dressed up.
Kisuk went all out. Dean had spoken to him and told him all about my love for chicken so he planned a 3 course “chicken tasting” at 3 different restaurants. First stop was the traditional ginseng chicken rice soup. Before the main attraction arrived, we were brought 3 shots of ginseng wine which is only served at these restaurants. With the wine we were served a trio of kimchi, cabbage, radish and garlic (both the bulb and the stem!). The soup was brought to the table bubbling away in a hot stone pot! Once it cooled down we were able to dive in and enjoy the rich chicken broth with tender chicken, rice and deep ginseng flavor. It was delicious and would knock out a cold if you had one!
Next stop was supposed to be Yoogane’s, but since we had already eaten there at lu ch, Kisuk found a different style of braised chicken restaurant. This time, a soy based chicken dish. The Korean name literally translated to “Soy Braised Chicken”. We were totally blown away! Boneless pieces of chicken marinated in a soy sauce with vermicelli noodles, chilis, carrots, and potato. The sauce has the slightest kick and was packed with flavor. We paired this with some Soju, but this time, higher end kind. It’s crazy how different the flavor was from earlier! This one was much smoother and almost sweet. It was fun to see the difference between the brand we had at lunch and dinner. It shows what an extra $1 gets you in Korea!
Last stop was the grand finale… KFC! No no, not the colonel … Korean Fried Chicken! Dean has made this multiple times and we couldn’t wait to try it in its homeland… it definitely didn’t disappoint! The chunks of crunchy chicken were battered fried and lathered in sauce that was sweet, sour and had a little kick from the spicy Korean chili paste gochujang. Part of Kisuks plan was to pair each restaurant with a different Korean alcohol, Ginseng wine with the first dish, Soju with the second and the third was beer. Of course we had to have a bottle of peace Soju another bottle of grapefruit but the best part for Dean and Kisuk, they ordered a 2 liter tower of beer! More theatrics than anything, it was fun to see them with their own large tower of beer and remember the old times they had in college.
That was the end of our time in Seoul, too short of a visit for such a great city! There is so much left to see not only in the city but in the whole country of South Korea. Kisuk and South Korea, we’ll definitely be back for you!
Next stop is Japan, and the first city is Kyoto!
**We are using Ebates and Hotels.com to book everything we do! We get cash back from Ebates and earn free nights on Hotels.com so you get rewarded for doing what you would normally do anyway! On Hotels.com, they provide excellent service and will match hotel prices if you find something cheaper elsewhere. If you stay 10 nights, you get 1 free and if you become a gold member (30 stays in 1 year) you get early access to deals and special rates. Also 24/7 service. On Ebates, while the percentage cash back varies depending on the store, you legitimately get cash back on almost every store you would shop online for anyway and get a check every quarter with your savings. They also have special coupon codes to get discounts on the site that you can’t get otherwise. We’ve gotten over $600 cash back! That’s nothing to sneeze at! We get credit if you use our links (hyperlinked in the names) and would love if you could help us out! But really, you’re helping yourself too!!**