As the green shoots started to replace the snow but held back by the Eomjeong frost we made our way to Seoul on Friday evening. The journey met with the usual end of highway frustration as the traffic bullied us into a 35 minute delay. After that we souped up our travel cards and 30 minutes later were nestled in Banana Backpackers ready to shower and taste some of Seoul’s finest cocktails.
Angels Disley and Heighway were ravenous so we headed through the hanboked alleyways of Ikseon-dong past Jongno 3-ga to Oowoo Bar but thought the gastronomic fare a tad expensive. We left and satisfied our hunger with some quality Bos primigenius across the street in a busy barbecue restaurant! We then headed over to Friends which once again had a convivial laid back atmosphere. From Friends we circled to Lovestar, once again the cocktails, accompanied by excellent music videos, were well received. Finally we strolled over to Wallpaper here we were driven to distraction by some solemn Karaoke. The Angels then expertly faked their marriage for a pair of extremely camp new friends. It was actually well past our bedtime and so in the early hours we headed back to the hotel.
Rising early we had English Muffins and coffee before embarking on a one step metro journey but just before exiting AD had to pay a visit. She re-emerged traumatised! on following a Korean lady into the cubicle she experience an uncontrollable urge to vomit induced by the mass of red Kimchi poo (disgusting). On Michelle’s recovery we emerged from the station before taking the 1020 bus from Gyeonbukgung to Buam-dong.
We took a short stroll up through Changuimun Gate and down the hill before returning to climb the stairs to the Poet Yun Dong-ju’s Hill. From here the walk downhill begins skirting the line of the fortress wall. Here in the shadow of Mt. Inwangsan, on a clear day, you have fantastic views of Seoul towards Namsan. Today it was slightly overcast but it was still easy to pick out the royal palaces and the presidents “Blue House“. Also, the gates were open for an ascent of the mountain but I was encouraged to leave that until the 14th April, the weekend of one Yeouido Spring Blossom and Arts Festival.
As we descended the mountain we appreciated the views and the evidence of security protecting us from the “impending” North korean invasion. The brave souls who had taken the ascent of Mt, Inwangsan were mere dots on the horizon. We stopped for photos with the grey silhouette of Mt Namsan and Seoul Tower in the background. The Angels posed next to a grand gold tiger protected by yet another boy soldier. After the final stroll to the end of the existing renovations we turned left through a forest walkway emerging at Sajik Park. A further 5 minute stroll along streets lined with police returned us to exit 3 of the station. We had arranged to meet FOBY at 1:00pm my misjudgment meant we were an hour early.
We walked round to the Daelim Art Gallery but it was suffering from re-modelling as were all the other galleries in Tongin-dong (or Hyoja-dong). We did discovered a place for lunch which served a variety of Samgyetang. We crossed the main road and a the longest lunchy queue I had ever seen, this apparently was for another legendary Samgyetang restaurant. Strolling through Tongin-dong we came to Tongin Market which is on the Seoul list of Asia’s 10 greatest street food cities for the tteokbokki.
This small but lively market is on my return list, perhaps on the Sunday after my Inwangsan climb. We headed back to the subway as Frank was due, the Angels picked up a couple of Lotto tickets as I noticed a radiantly happy group of young Koreans meeting up for the afternoon, below me a wizened ld guy begged for cash on the subway stairs. On Frank’s arrival we headed for lunch and all chose the Samgyetang expressly designed to support female re-productive health, mmmmm! It was tremendous.
After lunch we headed south towards Sunyeudo eco-park. Unfortunately as we emerged the weather had taken a turn for the worse, it was bitterly cold as we headed over the bridge spanning the Han River. I’d visited the park during Chuseok when the weather was much milder, it’s a place where courting couples and families congregate and another place I’ll revisit in milder times. The cold was too much and we passed through the park quickly passing some young folk filming.
It was similar to an event I’d witnessed before with the actors sporting multi-coloured hair and looking extremely androgynous. At the far end of the park we crossed over the arched bridge and an extremely kind Korean guy led us to the bosom of Seonyudo subway station, we headed back to Jogno for a nap.
The evening saw us consume the real deal oxtail soup (Gori Gomtang) at Jaembaeok. After drinks at Shortbus we headed back to Lovestar for another great evening before heading back to the hotel.
In the morning FOBY had to leave to attend a funeral with his old school chums but before leaving cashed in Carissa’s Lotto ticket as she’d won 50,000 won! Frank left and we took the subway to Dondaemun, after witnessing an old guy practising some sort of yoga on the subway train we left our bags in the lockers and set out towards the Seoul Flea Market. We came to Dongmyo Shrine and took a right, this area is choca with second-hand stalls selling everything from fishing tackle to clothing.
There were a cornucopia of characters some dour, some smiling, other pretty eccentric! Eventually we reached the indoor market and after wandering around the ground floor and being presented by wrapped boiled eggs for Easter we headed upstairs to sundry items. Near to the front of the building and out of view we discovered the naughty area, three stalls selling all kinds of sex toys and in different sizes. Two elderly male stall-holders chuckled as we stopped to peruse, Angel D joking with the vendor that none were her size :-).
On leaving we took some liquid refreshments before returning to the market as Angel D wanted to buy some pumps. No purchases made we headed left towards the Chungeoncheon Stream which we followed back to Dondaemun; passing the soon to be visited burrito take-away we crossed over to Doota! department store. The store covers around 8 floors and has a restaurant, coffee shop and roof garden on the 8th. There is a great view over the “in progress” Dondaemun History and Culture Park and the restaurant, though not sampled, has some nice bouteille du vin at its entrance. I picked up some 4711 cologne and Michelle some other beautifying product. After some browsing we scurried over the busy thoroughfare for burritos’; collecting our backpacks it was time to head to Gangnam for our journey back to Chungers!