Where To Stay in Seoul

Since I’m finally able to start back up, instead of trip reports and activities, I wanted to focus on the basics. As you know, I am verrrrrry active on Trip Advisor and am asked the same questions over and over. So, in the interest of simplicity, I wanted to create my version of what’s already out there…but simpler. To the point.

So you’ve decided to come to Seoul. But you have to decide where to stay, what’s important, how much you can spend, literally everything can be overwhelming. So, I’ll be breaking down the four major areas that tourists stays: Central Seoul (Myeongdong/Jongno/City Hall – all north of Namsan), Itaewon (Central, South of Namsan), Hongdae (West), and Gangnam (Southeast).

What I won’t be doing is 100 pictures and videos and hotel reviews. All of that is up to you. Your exact price, your exact location preference, everyone is different. If you’re looking for reviews, always check Trip Advisor, Hostel World, etc.

In my Mega Map, you’ll see not only neighborhoods, but other categories you can filter so you can check in relation to a specific place you want to go or what’s your style.

How to Use The Map

In the top left corner of the map, you’ll see a window icon with an arrow. This shows the drop down menu so you can filter out other categories as you wish. The far right rectangle makes the map bigger on its own Google Maps page.

 

Central Seoul – Myeongdong

Myeongdong is technically a very large around right in the middle of Seoul. While most people think of Myeongdong Station itself, it extends in a large area all around the station.

In the immediate area to the north of Myeongdong Station, you will find major, large hotels around 150 USD per night, give or take. You will also find the swarms of tourists in the shopping alleys until sundown, when the streets fill up with even more street food vendors.

If you head further north, you will find the Jongno 3 Ga area. This is home to the tourist sites and has both a business district feel on the main roads…and very old school Seoul in the alleys and backstreets.

Positives:

  • Easy airport access with many airport buses in the entire region AND easy subway access to everywhere (multiple subway lines)
  • Walking distance to all major tourist sites
  • Central shopping district with all major Korean brands for fashion and Korean beauty and skincare
  • Established tourist district means Tourist Volunteers in red coats and Tourist Police to help with any problems or if you’re lost

Negatives:

  • Myeongdong is 100% touristy. No doubt about it. And dead at night.
  • Myeongdong Street Food is not traditional. It is completely designed for tourists.
  • The area south of Myeongdong Station is kind of random. Not much there to do or see…..AND it’s on the side of Namsan, so there are lots of hills.

 

Central Seoul – Jongno 

Jongno is actually made up of several areas, running from Jongak Station (Line 1, Dark Blue Line) all the way to Jongno 5 Station.

The areas around Jongak and Jongno 3 Ga Stations have the most activity day and night. There are many businesses, parks, and offices during the day…and bars, restaurants, and street tents at night.

While Dongdaemun Plaza is to your far east, the area in between Jongno 3 and Dongdaemun is verrrrrrrrrrry quiet (around Jongno 4/5 area, for instance) after dark. Like a ghost town.

The area around Jongno 3-Ga station is actually the OG Gayborhood and is home to many Korean gay bars and street tents for drinking (most active on weekends). This is not like your standard western gayborhood with cafes, etc. It’s just where they go out. Korean society is still on the hush hush with the gays.

If you stay here, definitely stay in the immediate area around Jongno 3-Ga Station. There are many guesthouses and affordable motels.

Warning: These motels are actually “love motels” where many Koreans (young and old….I’ve shared elevators with couples in their 50s) go for some “alone time.”  They’re not sketchy, or really dirty or in bad shape, these places. It’s that most Koreans live with family, so they go there for a few hours in the afternoon (30$! 6 hours! From like 5-11 you get the palace…..and only like 50-60$ on weeknights. 70-80$ on weekends).  When you travel, in smaller cities, this is often all you have anyway.

So, in short, if the motel looks “cheesy,” covered in neon, or decked out with weird wallpaper with weird things like Marilyn Monroe quotes or fake plant pictures….it’s probably a love motel. And it’s definitely a unique Korean experience.

Central Seoul – City Hall/Namdaemun

To the West of Myeongdong is the business area surrounding City Hall and Namdaemun Market. To be honest, I don’t know much about this area. It’s a normal area, totally fine, but for night time action and food, you’re still going to end up over in the Jongno area.

Itaewon

Itaewon comes up often in the discussion. Itaewon is a perfectly fine neighborhood for those seeking trends. Itaewon is no longer the “foreign ghetto” it used to be. All of the old dive bars that were once full of foreigners (aka white people)…..are now trendy, fairly expensive restaurants and lounges.

There’s actually realllllllly good foreign food here. My friend Gemma runs Fat Girl’s Food Guide which is the go to source for all foreign food in Itaewon and Seoul, so definitely check that out. If you’re looking for Korean food, it’s simply just not in Itaewon.

Itaewon does have cheap guesthouses…..but it does not have good transportation. It is only connected to Subway Line 6, which means you’ll have to do a transfer or two on the subway to get around. It is on the other side of Namsan from Myeongdong and that area, so a taxi is easier. There are buses in Itaewon, but they don’t really go where you need them to as a tourist.

Gangnam

Shout out to my hood! Gangnam is where I’ve called home for the past three years now. Gangnam technically means South of The River, but for tourists it’s simply the Sinsa/Nonhyeon/Sinnonhyeon/Gangnam Station corridor and the surrounding areas. Gangnam has the best transportation to literally everywhere in Seoul (a bus to anywhere!) and has all the same food and nightlife options as Hongdae….

BUT……..

As a tourist, it’s much harder to navigate. This area just doesn’t see many tourists. Mostly business men with translators and corporate contacts. Since it’s a business area, to most visitors, they only see the offices and main streets (which are quiet after 6 PM). The real neighborhood and restaurants are in the back streets. There are some great places, but you’ve gotta know what to look for…..and some language skills help, too.

Also, as a tourist, Gangnam is kind of far. To get to any tourist area, it’s going to be about 30-40 minutes one way on the subway. Yes, there are buses, but at rush hour the traffic can be bad and the buses PACKED.

Hongdae

Hongdae is kind of THE go to area for all tourists now. That doesn’t mean it’s a shitty tourist neighborhood…but it’s because it’s the most vibrant. There is ALLLLL KINDS of food, shopping and nightlife open all day and all night. Daytime is a bit more quiet, but at night time Hongdae is on 100.  There’s literally all kinds of Korean food, street food, dessert cafes, you name it! The bars and clubs are open every night and somebody is always out.

Hongdae is on Subway Line 2 which runs a circle around the city. This means that you can get to central Seoul in just 20-30 mins or so depending on which stop you use.

Hongdae is also on the AREX line, making it easy to get in and out of the city to ICN and GMP airports. There are also a large number of AirBnBs and guesthouses keeping the accomodation costs down.

Up Next: One Day Layover and Tour Ideas for a Quick Seoul Visit!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2018: What’s Ahead + Tourist Tips

Greetings everyone, I’m back!

As we all know, 2017 was a roller coaster of emotions, jobs, and income. I changed to a residency visa, had to quit my job suddenly, find a new one, and then take two months off in between….before going back to my old one!

Then I got F visa fever and got 100 jobs and burned myself the fuck out….so bad I couldn’t do a damn thing for this website!

As an after school English teacher, to make it even more exciting, every January/February is filled with doubts and uncertainty about your future. The school you’re with has to re-sign a contract with your company….if you’re lucky. You can be the best teacher around (I had perfect satisfaction surveys for two years), BUT the schools can change their mind for any reason. It’s also typically when you get a new prinicipal, which my school did.

I was toying with the idea of quitting after school teaching, BUT then I got an offer I couldn’t refuse! So now, instead of a 20 minute walk to work…I have to take the subway just five or six stops. Not the end of the world for a commute, about 35-40 mins door to door (15 mins of which is walking to the subway), so it could be worse! And only FOUR classes taught per day!

I was also offered a job at the Korea Tourism Organization, but I decided against that job. It required me to move three hours away by bus (so no commuting), but the job started five days after I was offered it…..and I was NOT ready.

So I’m going to be doing my after school job on weekday afternoons. I’m sticking to doing private classes near my home without any bullshit commuting back and forth ten times a day. I really wanna go back to the old company I used to teach adults, but that won’t start until April. So for now, it’s just me and the after school gig.

Also, if I did the tourism job, I couldn’t do this website and build up my business. And this is what truly makes me happy. So let’s get back into it, shall we?

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I decided to start with some very generic tourist information….but it’s stuff I get asked EVERY DAY, a thousand times per year! There’s a lot of information out there, but I want to make it simple.  I don’t want to overwhelm with pictures and video….just concise info!

So let’s begin with the FIRST of many tourist tips……..The Neighborhoods of Seoul and how to choose where to stay!

2018: A Plan, A Pause, A Thank You

Soooooooooooooo Happy New Year everyone! I just wanted to take some time to write a quick update since it’s been soooo long. While I purchased the domain a full year ago, I finally got going with the site and doing tours this past Fall.

Slowly but surely, thanks to you, I’m doing more and more tours. In the past month alone, I’ve met visitors from Australia, the UK, the US and even India! You Know Who and I also went to Thailand for our Christmas vacation!

But, sadly, I’m working tooooooooooooooooooooooooooo much these days.  I can’t really post like I want to. I’m doing a lot of private classes (around 9 hours a week) to get my income back up after a summer without work. I have my normal after school job on weekdays for five hours, too.

Even more exciting? I took a part time job at Korea Travel Easy (KTE). Korea Travel Easy is a startup about one year old that offers shuttle bus tours, private transfers, concert tickets and more to visitors when they come to Korea. I’m working here around 10-15 hours per week as well!

My main job with KTE is creating product posts and content for now, BUT with time, I’m doing more traditional marketing roles with airline partnerships, newsletters, etc…..something I’ve dreamed of doing in Korea for years!

I THINK and HOPE and PRAY finally I can say goodbye to teaching kids from March! I will be forever grateful for the opportunities and experiences ESL teaching and has taught me, but it’s time to move UP and ON! FINALLYYYYYYYYYYY!

My goal is to do a mix of adult private classes, devote some proper time during the week to this website and business, and then keep increasing my hours at KTE until I can go full time comfortably.

So now all in all I’m working about 45 hours plus per week. Yes, they say determination and hard work is key, but I literally cannot keep the hours in a day.

So for those visitors who are coming here looking for fresh content, please be patient! I’m still happy to do night time tours, but I can’t do any cute Weekend Trip posts as often as I want.

Thank you all for your support and love! 2018 is going to be the year to take this business above and beyond…..but just not today :-)!

 

Yeosu Weekend Trip: Food & Restaurants

Welcome to Part Three of Five on my Yeosu weekend getaway with you know who! Part Two featured Tourist Sites & Attractions, while Part One was an overview to the City of Yeosu.

Today I want to get to what is, arguably, Yeosu’s strongest point. FOOD. The entire Jeollado Region of Korea is known for having THE best and often cheapest food in the entire country.

Yeosu is famous for three things: agujjim, seodae hwae (sashimi), and soy sauce marinated crabs (ganjang gejang)..

Agujim is a braised fish dish served all over Korea. Yeosu is famous for it. Technically, the fish is “braised angler,” but 90% of foreigners wouldn’t know what the hell kind of fish that is (and it’s kind of ugly). So I’ll describe it. Chunky, flaky white fish. No annoying as fuck tiny bones. Clean taste. Good texture.

I would say it’s braised in spicy red pepper paste, spices, soy sauce etc.  But to quote Wikipedia:

“The dish is seasoned with hot chili pepper powder, doenjangganjang (soy sauce), minced garlic, and chopped scallions to make it spicy and hot.[2] However, other ingredients such as kongnamul (soybean sprouts), mideodeok (미더덕, Styela clava), and minari (미나리, water dropwort) also play an important role in giving agujjim a refreshing and fragrant flavor.[2][3]

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Agujjim, braised fish with spicy sauce, bean sprouts, vegetables

This dish was our first stop on the list. We went to “You Know Who’s” favorite place when he was a kid. Many of his friends said it had become super popular over the years and changed, but You Know Who still loved it!

The restaurant name is 조롱박 which does not translate to English easily…..literally Jo Long (or Rong) Bak . Google Maps has an even worse English name for it, Jolongbag. It’s true meaning is a dried out gourd used to drink rice wine. Presumably, this gourd is used to hold the rice wine vinegar, seasoning, food, ANYTHING 🙂

 

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In Korea’s small cities, literally EVERY seat is on the floor. Good luck finding a table!
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Included with these dishes is a variety of sides and a big bowl of rice topped with salted, dried seaweed. As we ordered both dishes, we got all the side dishes. The variety can vary based on which item you order. BUT, all have unlimited refills.

We also ordered another dish, seodaehoe. This is another example of Korean not translating well to English haha. Seodae is a type of sole, and hoe (pronounced “hway”) means raw. Served like sashimi. The pieces are very firm, nice and chilled, similar to tuna sashimi, tossed in a spicy, sour, rice wine vinegar and red pepper sauce. Also mixed in are cabbage and some various onions. VERY tart and refreshing.

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Seodaehoe, Sole Sashimi Marinated in Rice Wine Vinegar, Red Pepper….

Total cost for our meal: 40,000W. Now, you don’t have to eat this much. In fact, you can order just either of the dishes. One is more than enough. But we were being glutttonous and HANGRY!

That afternoon, we did A LOT of sightseeing. So, our next meal was for dinner at the Yeosu Fish Market. Again, these terms are searched in Korean, so they might not display in English on your phone or computer.

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Yeosu Fish Market By Day
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Blurry camera work is endearing, right? Somehow, I only took TWO blurry pics. Inside are rows and rows of stalls like this. All are literally the same price.
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All quiet for the night…

At the fish market, you choose any stall. Honestly, they’re all the same in price and quality. The worker will chop up your fish at her stall and plate the sashimi.  While she’s doing that, you will go to the “restaurants” next door. Choose any one that has a seat.  There, you will pay a small table charge of around 2-4,000W per person.

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The row of restaurants where you eat your purchases.

The restaurant staff will serve you beer, soju (of course, for extra) and free side dishes. After you eat all of the raw fish, they use the fish bones (from your fish) and make a spicy stew out of it. So all in all you get a giant meal out of this fish.

We spent 30,000W for the big plate of raw flounder (off-white color) and 10,000W for the raw squid (bright white color). We also spent around 20,000W on alcohol and the table charge. So all in all 60 for the two of us.

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Flounder “Sashimi” (Squid, too) with side dishes and a regional soju.
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My FAVORITE sauce for dipping is a spicy, vinegary fermented red pepper sauce. SO tart, sour and a little spicy!
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Spicy Stew from Fish Bones

 

After the fish market, we tried to go to Romantic Pocha Street, but they shut down oddly early. So we just visited a random hof near our motel. Nothing special to write about really. Some fried shrimp for 20,000W.

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Scrimps!!! Also included was some soup and random side dishes like CORN SALAD. Mmmmmh Corn and Mayonnaise!  AND YES, that’s cabbage covered in mayo and ketchup. No, I didn’t eat it.

 

The next day, we woke up and headed back downtown. As You Know Who grew up in Yeosu, we had a nice chat with the taxi driver about the changes in Yeosu and everything. So, logically, we asked him to recommend a lunch place. And we ended up at Daeseong Sikdang.

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Exterior of Daeseong Sikdang.

They have all the usual suspects of key Yeosu menus, so we went for fried fish. At 10,000W per person, we received two kids of fish: 삼치 (Spanish Mackarel, pronounced samchee) and 갈치 (hairtail fish, pronounced galchi).  One portion featured both fish pan fried and cost 10,000W per person.

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The main course. Big hunks of fish! While it may look small, it was very filling portions for a lunch. And heavy (but in a good alcohol soaking sort of way).
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Kimchi is the name of the game for these side dishes at the top. Then on the left is a root vegetable, followed by some black beans and nuts in a sweet syrup. Bottom forefront picture is hardcore……it’s a kind of fish intenstines made into a spicy “sauce.” Slightly sticky, very funky, and you just eat it with rice.
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The other goodies from forefront to the right: eggplant in sesame oil and seasoning, bean sprouts, tofu, fish cake and spicy pepper, and some sort of green that was pickled/Korean-ized. Great descriptions, i know.

 

After our lunch, we headed over to the rail bike by taxi, did that quickly, then taxied back to Odong Island.  The good news about, really, every tourist place, is that, of course they have snacks and people hustling everywhere. Some of it is tourist crap, yes, but some of it is really good…. like this random street stall.

The lady was selling warm breads/pastry snacks from her tent. The crowd of old people meant the product was on rotation and was fresh.

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Only three choices here: “Flower Shape Bread” (really just the mold stamp is the shape of the national flower), waffle pie, and Old Style Hoddeok (Cinnamon Sugar pancake-like pastry)
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The Flower Bread, filled with Red Bean. Sweet, buttery, moist, way better than I expected.
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Hoddeok is a puffy, gooey cinnamon sugar pastry. But this is old style, which meant it was VERY thin and crispy.
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The aforementioned thin, crispy hoddeok with red bean bread

 

After exploring Odong Island, it was time for the MAIN EVENT…..soy sauce crabs!!!!!!!!!!!!! Soy sauce crabs are a Yeosu specialty. A) Because they’re delicious and B) they’re CHEAP.

In Seoul, at a popular place, ONE person costs 45,000W. In Yeosu? The MOST popular place is 10,000W for all you can eat crabs!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

What are soy sauce crabs? You know Wikipedia has the answers!!

Gejang or gejeot is a variety of jeotgal, salted fermented seafood in Korean cuisine, which is made by marinating fresh raw crabs either in ganjang (soy sauce) or in a sauce based on chili pepper powder. The term consists of the two words; ge, meaning “a crab”, and jang which means “condiment” in Korean.[1] Although gejang originally referred only to crabs marinated in soy sauce, it has begun to be called “ganjang gejang” these days to differentiate it from yangnyeom-gejang (양념게장). The latter is relatively a new dish that emerged since the restaurant business began to thrive in South Korea.[2] “Yangnyeom” literally means “seasoning” or “seasoned” in Korean but refers to the spicy sauce made with chili pepper powder.”

Soy sauce crabs are the main event, but there are also a spicy version in gochujang, seasonings, etc. (which secretly I liked better at  the first place):

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The soy sauce variety
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The Spicy Version

Now, while they aren’t the sexiest or cleanest food to eat, they are DAMN tasty. like GAH. So good we ordered 2.5 kg of them to our house.  This allowed us to eat at #2 Most Popular Place and we ordered from #1 Most Popular Place.

You Know Who’s Friend recommended we try a place called Cheongjeong Gejangchon. They are famous for their 갈치조림 (Braised Cutlassfish, pronounced Galchi Jolim). They also serve the crabs as part of your sides and you can get one refill of each.

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Restaurant Interior (Again, see, no chairs! All on the floor!)
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Braised Fish with Radish, Onion, Spicy Sauce, Seasonings Etc.
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All this for 16,000W per person. From left, the side dishes: kimchi, seaweed, a soybean paste crab soup, more white kimchi, black beans (slightly sweeet), shellfish, the crabs and then three kinds of jeotgal, which is like a salty fish innards/kimchi.
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Soy sauce crab. How to eat? Just bite and squeeze the meat out! The legs you can crack to get the other meat out. Soy sauce crab meat is NOT cooked.

 

We  STUFFED our fat faces that day, whew! Then we headed over to the other MOST POPULAR CRAB PLACE, 황소식당  (Hwangso Sikdang).

We just ordered a jar of soy sauce crabs to our house in Seoul. Very cheap, 30,000W for 2.5 kg. We ate them for almost a whole month, but they became TOOOOOOOO salty so we had to throw a few crabs away. This month we’re gonna get the spicy seasoning (yangnyeom) ones.

After making our purchase, we hopped in a taxi back to Romantic Pocha Street for the last two hours before our train. We literally squeezed every second of time full of activities. It was PERFECT.

Romantic Pocha Street has TONS of different dishes, with some more famous and even people wait in line for them!

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So this is a cold noodle dish, with vinegary, sour, spicy red pepper sauce. Tossed with it are some onions and lettuce….BUT a very unusual blend of pig’s feet, blood sausage, and sea snails. All sound strange, yes, but all delicious.

We picked one that was full and had like one table left. Random. Luck of the draw.  At this point in the trip, we were tired of seafood hahaha. It was all delicious, but we wanted some MEAT!

So we ordered a rather interesting dish…..that still had seafood! Sea snails are common here (whelk if you will). They’re very meaty, not so much fishy. Also tossed in were some pig’s feet which have AMAZING seasoning.

We got a little drunk, then You Know Who raided a bubble tea cafe and bakery for the train ride home.

9 PM and we were at the train station and took the Midnight train back to Seoul!

This is where I’d usually write something cute and witty, but whew, so busy that this post took TOO LONG! Stayed tuned for the last installments…sooooooooooooooooooonnnnnnnnnn……….

Yeosu Weekend Trip: Tourist Sites & Attractions

I’m quite busy these days with my new schedule, but I know I’m long overdue for this post! So today I wanted to share the places to see and go while you’re in Yeosu.

Still to come:

Part Three: The Food

Part Four: The Nightlife

Part Five: Accomodations/Transportation

My last post was an overview to Yeosu. Yeosu is a gorgeous coastal town at the faaaaaaaaaaar south of Korea, around 3-3.5 hours from Seoul. It’s famous for it’s beauty from the bay, spectacular bridges, the Aquarium, Rail Bike….and THE FOOD!

Yeosu does not have a subway, but there are some buses. However, for the average tourist, the buses are not that easy to use. Even more, the buses are not THAT frequent and still don’t take you door to door….so taxi is the preferred way to hop around.

Most attractions are clustered around two places: Yeosu Expo Station and by Lee Sung Shin Plaza/the boardwalk park by the water.

This Google Map has pins for all the main places. **My computer is set to Korean, so I have to post things with Korean links. It SHOULD translate to English for you. If not, please do let me know!**

 

After I finished work, I headed down to Yi Sun Shin Plaza. Yi Sun Shin is very famous in Korean history for using the “turtle ship” to defeat the Japanese. With only 13 ships, he defated the Japanese fleet of 300.

Yi Sun Shin Plaza Yeosu
Yi Sun Shin Statue in Yeosu

In the downtown, they created a giant statue with roundabout and a big plaza for public events. Towards the waterfront, there is a replica ship you can go inside to see how the ship was setup, how it worked, their uniforms and duties, etc.

Yi Sun Shin Turtle Ship Yeosu
Replica of the famous turtle ship at Yi Sun Shin Plaza in Yeosu. Two levels inside.

After we walked around Yi Sun Shin Plaza, we headed just around the corner to lunch at Min Su’s favorite childhood place. Fun fact: Many if not all restaurants in Yeosu were required to have some kind of English menu thanks to the Expo  a few years ago. While we didn’t check (we speak Korean, of course), this is good news for most visitors.

Jwasuyeong Food Street
Jwasuyeong Food Street, home to tons of popular restuarants serving Yeosu’s classic dishes.

 

After lunch, we took a quick 3,000W taxi over to the Expo Area and visited the Aquarium. Yeosu was home to the World EXPO in 2012 which was a big deal at the time, but now the whole Expo site is eerily empty and unused….except for this massive aquarium. The aquarium is of average size and has your standard array of animals. Worth a quick look.

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Yeosu Hanhwa Aqua Planet (Or, simply, The Yeosu Aquarium)

After the aquarium, we walked about 10 minutes down to the GIANT elevator tower to access the cable car. As it was around 5 PM, there was quite a long line to access the elevator. Yes, you could take the stairs, but as you can see, there are a lot of them. We waited about 30 minutes for the elevator.

Yeosu Cable Car Elevator
The giant elevator to take you to the cable car entrance for Jasan Park
Jasan Park Cable Car Elevator
That’s A LOT of fucking stairs.
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Yeosu Cable Car, Jasan Park View
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Yeosu Cable Car, Jasan Park Entrance View

The cable car area was VERRRRRRRRRRRRRY busy with people. In fact, we waited around 30-45 minutes to board. Before you view anything, take pictures, go to the ticket window or machine FIRST. Get your tickets. They issue you a number and your number is called in groups of tickets. Then it is your time to board.

Yeosu Cable Car Night View
Cable Car Night View. Much prettier in person. Cell phone + window + amateur = blurry.

The cable car dropped us off in Dolsan Park, which was a short walk to where we were staying. We stayed in this area since it was cheap. A motel in the tourist area was priced at 100,000W or so, but this hotel (a short 4,000W taxi ride away) was 70,000W. There are other hotels in Yeoseo-dong that cost around 60,000W (but it’s a further taxi).

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View from Dolsan Park (walk down into the park area from the Cable Car Entrance)

After a quick rest and phone recharge, we called a taxi for pickup to take us to the Fish Market. This area was very quiet, so you can’t just easily flag a taxi on the street. Downtown Yeosu, no problem though. Yeosu has two fish markets, one big that is more for trade…..and then the smaller one across the street.

The big fish market was closed by 8 PM on a Saturday, so one of the ladies told us to go across the street. This fish market was definitely busier, but did close around 11 PM.

 

 

The fish market has many stalls, but honestly all have the same kinds of fish and prices are clearly listed and all cost the same.

 

 

You buy the fish from the staff and they sashimi it right there on the spot. Then, to the side of the market are a row of restaurants. Choose whichever one you like as they’re really all the exact same. You pay a small fee, like 3,000 or 4,000W per person to sit. The restaurant will give you side dishes for free and take your fish bones and prepare a spicy fish soup with it.  First you eat all your sashimi, and then when you’re done, they will bring out the soup.

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Yeosu Fish Market Restaurants

After our dinner, we took a walk to see Min Su’s old elementary school and where he played as a kid by the water. It’s actually a VERY beautiful spot at the base of the Dolsan Bridge.

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Small “beach” (mostly shells) at the base of Dolsan Bridge. GORGEOUS Night Views!

From there, we hopped in a taxi (3-4,000W) to Romantic Pocha Street which was closing up early. We visited again Sunday night and it was BUSY! Many places didn’t have a seat.  Pocha is a term for street tent where you can eat and drink. It’s definitely an old Korea vibe.  These pictures are from our visit on Sunday night:

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The row of Pocha (Street Tent). Some are so popular they have lines of people waiting outside. I believe it was #11, 12 and 13.
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Our neighbors dining and drinking pocha style
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If the pocha all fill up, there is this picnic table area. You can bring your own food and snacks from a nearby convenience store OR order pocha food to go!
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Our cozy pocha. Hard to see, but that’s where all the magic happens, that cart. Tables are packed in tight!
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View from the pocha and waterfront…selling anything and everything.
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People everywhere enjoying the waterfront.
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Yeosu at night along the water….they went heavy on the neon, but it’s very beautiful with the water at night.

On Sunday, we woke up late and headed for lunch at a restaurant recommended by our taxi driver. More on food later. Then we took a 6,000W taxi to the Rail Bike. We made a reservation online to avoid the wait. The rail bike is very simple. An old train track has been converted to allow bikes that run on the track. The reservation is an hour, but with a short wait to get on the bike, bike to the end of the path and turn around is just 35-40 minutes.

Yeosu Rail Bike View
Ooooooooooh pretttty…..
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Yeosu Rail Bike Course
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Don’t come. We cute. Also what a bitch of a pose to get this shot!

After the Rail Bike, we hopped a 4,000W taxi back to Odongdo (Odong Island). It is an island that is next to the Expo Site and the Aquarium, but we saved it for the second afternoon so we’d have enough time. It offers gorgeous views of the Bay, water, nature, everything.  You just walk across a short bridge. Takes around an hour or so to walk the whole perimeter of the island.

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See where it gets its name?

After our walking tour of Odongdo, we headed out for the infamous soy sauce crabs. We closed out our night at Romantic Pocha as previously mentioned……then on the KTX back to Seoul!

Up next……….. FOOD FOOD FOOOOOOOOD.

Yeosu Weekend Trip: Part One

You may have seen on Instagram or Facebook that I took a little trip to the coast last weekend. Welllllllll, it was AMAZING.  This trip came about as the perfect combination of schedule and timing.  I have a lot to say, so I’m going to break this into several parts.  Today is just an overview (other posts coming soon).

Part Two: The Sights and Tourist Attractions

Part Three: The Food

Part Four: The Nightlife (Coming Eventually :-))

Part Five: Accomodations/Transportation (Coming Eventually :-))

This past weekend, I visited Yeosu . Yeosu is a very small city of just 300,000 at the faaaaaaaar southern coast of Korea, just under 3 hours from Seoul by KTX train. The cost is around 47$ one way. There are buses available. They take 4.5 hours and cost 30-35$.

 

Yeosu is a very spread out city, but most of the action happens around Yeosu Expo Station and Lee Sun Shin Plaza. You can easily walk around here. While there are public bikes available to rent for 1,000W per hour, you need a Korean phone number and knowledge of Korean to use the machines.

There is a Rail Bike located just outside of the city, around 6,000W by taxi from Lee Sun Shin Plaza. Around Yeosu Expo Station, there is Hanhwa Aqua Planet, Odongdo, and the Cable Car from Jasan Park.

Yeosu is a very quiet city, but gorrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgeous! It is perhaps my favorite ocean side city in Korea, even better than Busan. Since it’s small, it’s very quiet and there’s not much party, but there is VERY beautiful scenery.

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View of the Bay and Dolsan Bridge at Sunset
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Odongdo (Odong Island)
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Hanging out at a “beach” underneath Dolsandaegyo (Dolsan Bridge)
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Downtown Yeosu

A friend offered me a part time job working an English festival on Saturday morning. My friend, his other co-workers, and I all headed down to Yeosu on Friday night. We took the KTX from Yongsan Station and stayed at the Elena Hotel. The Elena Hotel is not right in the downtown tourist area, but a short 5,000W taxi ride from Yeosu Expo Station.  It is next to the main nightlife area, Yeoseo-dong. The nightlife is literally right behind the hotel. Lots of fried chicken and meat restaurants here. The bigger restaurants all have English included on the menu.

On Saturday, I woke up early to work the English Festival at the Yeosu Community Center. The bf came down from Seoul that morning while I was working. He arrived as we finished by 1 PM and off we went on our first mission: FOOD.

Yeosu is famous for seafood, seafood, SEAFOOD! There are many types of seafood available, and more on that later. You know I don’t spill the tea that easily.

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Yeosu’s Most Famous Dish: Soy Sauce Marinated Crabs, Ganjang Gejang
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Yeosu’s Other Representative Dish: Seodaehoe, a raw fish marinated in rice wine, fermented red pepper paste, and vinegar. Tossed with sesame seeds, lettuce, green onions, cabbage. Served chilled.

My boyfriend actually was born and grew up in Yeosu. He moved to the nearby city of Gwangju when he was 16, so this was a nice trip back for him. First, we headed to one of his childhood favorites…..

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Lunch at Jo Rong Bak, a Yeosu favorite!

Part Two comes later this week!

Bongeunsa Temple + Biking on the Han River

Bongeunsa Temple is a famous temple in Gangnam since it’s traditional, yet smack in the middle of the city. Skyscrapers and traffic surround it, yet it maintains a quiet, peaceful atmosphere and is the real deal as any other temple. It’s also right next door to COEX Mall.

 

I’ve lived in Gangnam for almost two and a half years. I’ve passed this temple about 100 times, but FINALLY went last weekend!

After a nice brunch at NY Burger & Bagel in Hannam with my friend Gemma (Creator of A Fat Girl’s Food Guide),  I met another friend at Hannam Station (Google Map) for a bike ride at the Han River.

The City of Seoul offers a public bike sharing service called Seoul Bike. It’s available for both residents and tourists! The cost is dirt cheap, at 1,000W for an hour. You can return these bikes at any other docking station. If the other station is full, you can even hook it up to another bike that’s already there and return it that way. Follow the above link for detailed instructions, how to register, and to download the app.

It’s a very convenient way to get around, but the app does take some effort as the process can be confusing or difficult for visitors. Even for me, I had to try it a few times before I got the hang of it!

Since I can speak Korean, I used the best map app for bikes. ***A quick word about Map services.**  Google Maps does not work well in Korea. The government and Google don’t play nice. It has very basic functionality for public transit, but does not offer walking or biking directions.  I would recommend Kakao Map. It offers English support. You can also copy and paste Korean addresses and names and get the best directions that way if you’re comfortable.

Kakao Map is great since it shows which roads have bike lanes, how long it will take, even the expected and highest inclines of the journey. A PSA: even if it says there is a bike lane, 99.99% of people will walk in the bike lane and all over the sidewalk, so prepare to ring that bell and go around and zig zag.

Biking across the Han River is absolutely one of the best things to do in Seoul. After six years in Korea, every time I cross the river, I can’t help but stare and stare and stare and stare……………………………..

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That wind was no joke….still cute, though!

 

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View of Seoul from the Yeongdong Han River Bridge at Sunset

The Han River bisects Seoul. Along the banks of the river, essentially is one giant network of parks, bike lanes, exercise areas, walking paths, swimming pools (opening dates vary yearly), picnic spots, rock climbing walls, festival areas, night markets…….

If you don’t want to hassle with the Seoul Bikes app, there are many small bike rental stands available along the river. This link mentions their locations as well as bike paths, rules, etc.

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Biking along the Han River at Sunset

 

So we made it to the Bongeunsa area and returned our bikes. Below are some shots of the area and the temple. It is a nice, quick visit for an hour or so. I’m also not religious  and have seen maaaaaaaaaany temples in my time around Asia.

At sunset, there was the bell/drum ceremony with foreigners participating. You can even do a Temple Stay!

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Map/Brochure with Chinese, Japanese, and English
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Jongru Bell Pavillion
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Seonbuldang, with the Million Dollar Samseong-dong iPark Apartments in the Background

 

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Maitreya Buddha Statue
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The Dharma Hall (Main Entrance)

After our bike ride, we walked the short ten minutes to my house and got ready for a night out………

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Korean Beef BBQ Spot near Sinnonhyeon

Up next, I’ll FINALLY spill some tea on my neighborhood bars and restaurants….

That Gangnam Life

Since the blog is fresh, I wanted to take the time to share a little bit more about myself, my social life, etc.  As I mentioned, I live and work in Gangnam near Seonjeongneung Station. I work as an after school English teacher at a nearby school in the afternoons. It’s a nice 20 minute walk to work.

Gangnam literally means “South of the River,” the River being the Han River that divides Seoul. The northern part of the river is older Seoul, where everything began. Gangnam development only really began in the 1970s (ish) as it was allllllllllllllllllll farm land then. It was developed specifically to be the new business area.  Gangnam is technically Gangnam-gu (gu = District), Seocho-gu, and even Songpa-gu, so what Seoulites consider Gangnam is quite large.

Gangnam itself is about 1-1.5 hrs from Incheon Airport depending on traffic/where you’re coming from. To Myeongdong it’s about 40 minutes by bus. To Hongdae, 45 minutes by subway. Gangnam is in the Southeastern area of Seoul.

The best part? You can literally get ANYWHERE in Korea from Gangnam. Well, except Jeju. Express Bus Terminal is in Gangnam, offering buses to other cities like Busan, Gyeongju, and Daegu.  The SRT high speed train also opened recently at Suseo Station, allowing us to get to the same cities by high speed train. It’s closer than KTX for us and even slightly cheaper.  Gimpo Airport is only 30 minutes by Line 9 Express, but bring your patience, because Line 9 is craaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaazy crowded.

Allllllllll the major businesses are here, so it’s teeming with office workers during the day. It’s also known as the place for THE best education in Korea, so there are many families packed into high-rise apartment complexes and small apartments surrounding the schools.

Gangnam is viewed as the “fancy, super expensive” neighborhood, which it can be, but that is not my Gangnam! I happen to think of my neighborhood as VERY normal, but better in some ways. It’s extremely clean with Nazi-like trash men, street sweepers, trash trucks, all that stuff.  Not only do the trash men sort the household trash for collection, they even go as far to sweep the streets of leaves and general debris every morning!

Here are a few shots of my hood. The main streets around it are covered in offices, businesses, traffic. What you’d expect as it’s the newer part of Seoul.

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Sunny Afternoon in the ‘hood!

When you move off the main street, you find tons of residences all around you.  The giant apartment towers/family complexes are self serving with everything in one central location. Most single people live in small buildings with several one room apartments. The streets are narrow and dense with buildings and car traffic.

Somehow, despite all of this, my neighborhood is PIN DROP quiet. Like I still don’t know how it manages to be this quiet. People are all around, but you wouldn’t know it!

 

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Typical Gangnam Neighborhood Street (Not Sure Who Put Up the Soju Cut Out, But I Love Them)

There are several meat restaurants, izakayas and Korean style bars in my neighborhood. I stay around my house when I want a quiet night out. Fried chicken, meat, seafood, it can all be had within a short walk.

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My Neighborhood Pork Place

 

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Moksal, Pork Neck, which has a nice, crispy fatty edge. Perfect with just a dash of salt! Real meat needs nothing else!

And below are just two of my favorite Japanese places nearby. Yes, I know, it’s Korea, but Japanese bars and food are verrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrry popular. The first place is a nearby izakaya that nails the decor!

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100 for Authentic Vibe!
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Nagasaki Jjampong – The broth is similar to Japanese Pork Ramen, but it’s full of seafood, noodles and DELICIOUSNESS.

Below is a Japanese “fish cake” bar. This place is always so busy I couldn’t get a seat for almost two years….only ten seats in total! By cake, I mean they form fish and flour together. In Japan, they call it kamaboko. In Korea, we call it Odeng or Uh-Mook.

 

 

BUT for true nightlife, I head just one (express) subway stop away to Sinnonhyeon Station. THIS is real Gangnam nightlife. And not douchey club Gangnam. Normal Koreans, meeting friends, eating, drinking, singing the night away.

My next post will be devoted to my home away from home (and where I do most meetups and tours), Sinnonhyeon Station!

Seoul Day Trips – Chuncheon

Chuncheon is a popular destination for both tourists and Koreans alike. Tourists go for places like Nami Island, Petite France and the Chuncheon Rail Bike. Chuncheon is also the home of dak galbi, a unique Korean dish made of spicy chicken rib meat, sweet potatoes, onion, and cabbage sauteed in a pan. It’s absolutely worth a try since this is typically not available at many places outside of Korea.

Recently, the boyfriend and I took a day trip to Chuncheon to see one of his favorite singers, Sohyang. Seriously, though. Her voice. Chills. And that good Englishee, too.

To get to Chuncheon, there are many ways. For our day trip, we took the ITX train to Chuncheon (1-1.5 hrs or so from Seoul) near our home from Wangsimni Station. Most visitors can take the train from Yongsan Station. There is also a subway, but it takes around two hours and a seat is not guaranteed.  We went all the way to Chuncheon Station for our short day trip, but most visitors get off at Gapyeong Station for Nami Island. You can reserve ITX tickets here.

**For visitors who wish to do a day trip with ALL of the activities (Nami, Petite France, etc.) together, the Gapyeong City Tour Bus is recommended as the attractions are spread far apart and would require expensive taxis. You cannot rely on public transit within Chuncheon for far distances.**

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Early morning, hungover ITX train to Chuncheon…but we stay cute of course.

After stopping by the concert venue, we headed to Chuncheon Myeongdong Dak Galbi Street for lunch. I ALWAYS go to the same spot over the years, Myeongdong Il Beon Ji Dak Galbi. Typically this sauce in Seoul is just a lot of red pepper, but it tastes richer and deeper here. Chuncheon is also famous for makguksu, a cold noodle dish.

Chuncheon Myeongdong Dak Galbi
Before
Chuncheon Dak Galbi Finished Product
After Cooking. Not the sexiest, but you get the idea!

After our lunch, we took a short 4,000W taxi ride to Namchuncheon Station area for bike rentals.  There are MANY bike rental shops in Chuncheon. We tried many cheap Korean services, but they were sold out for the day. The rentals in the park near the lake tend to be expensive (like 5,000W for one hour). Instead, we just asked the tourist desk at the station where to go. They directed us to a shop just down the street from the station named Alton. MAP BELOW.

We paid 10,000W for the whole day for proper mountain bikes. Not shitty rentals. Real mountain bikes for real riding. We even had the bikes until they closed at 9 PM, so literally all day. While the cost was higher, the time value and bike quality was worth it.

The concert was held at Uiam Park (MAP BELOW), a ten minute bike ride from Namchuncheon Station. The park has very clear, detailed bike paths with English maps and signage. At the park, there are maaaaaaaany paths to take and go. The lake is huge and if you really want to bike, you can really go all day all the way around the lake.

Chuncheon Bike Gang
This bike gang will FUCK.YOU.UP.

After our concert in the evening, we took an ITX train back to Wangsimni Station (again since it is near hour home). All ITX trains start and end at Yongsan Station.  We had dinner in our neighborhood at a delicious lamb skewer restaurant…… more on that later!

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My favorite neighborhood spot for lamb skewers

The Beginning (Or, Who The F Is This Guy?)

Well, finally, the website has actually started! It’s been a long, lazy, stressful, challenging year….but I did it, folks. In really slow baby steps.

While the purpose of The Real Seoul is to meet visitors and show them an amazing time, I do have to tease you with blogs, blogs, blogs: amazing food write ups, activities, and other things that are The Real Seoul.

But first, before all that, I want you to know me. Where I come from, how I got here, all that. So let’s do this!

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My name is Michael Hollifield. I’m 33 (34 in just two weeks to the day). My last home in America was Atlanta, GA, but I grew up in Spartanburg, SC. I moved here in August 2011 on a whim. I was previously working in marketing in and loved it. But, I worked for a small business and was laid off. It was a perfect time as my apartment lease also ended. I searched around the world for teaching jobs.

Did I care about teaching? Absolutely not. I just wanted to live in a new country. In all my search, it turned out that my friend’s co-worker previously worked at the same academy in Korea that wanted to interview me.

I moved to the suburbs of Seoul and worked at a kindergarten and elementary school English academy for three years. It was hard, I busted my ass, but every day I loved life here more and more.

In 2014, I moved to Seoul for a change of pace. I lived in Itaewon, studied Korean, and prepared to apply for business school by taking the GMAT.  I got another teaching job. Unfortunately, after two years of trying, the business school plan was not meant to be.

As I stayed here year after year, I realized that I needed more than teaching. That I really wanted to make Korea my forever home.  So, I started the process to become a true resident of Korea and get a residency visa that allows complete freedom and independence.  More on that later.

So here I am, residency visa in hand. It’s fresh, too, from August! I’m still teaching by day, but I’m focusing more and more on this website and business every day.  Once I realllllllly get going, say in one year, I hope to make this my permanent full time job and say goodbye to teaching!

I currently live and work in Gangnam. Yes, that Gangnam. I LOVE my neighborhood. Not for Gangnam Style, not for fanciness. But it’s the best damn neighborhood in Seoul. I can live cheaply, eat cheaply…. and have the best transportation options, cleanest streets and quality infrastructure at the same time! I can’t wait to show off my neighborhood to you.

Oh and since you might have come here for Gay Nightlife info….yes, I’m totally gay. Living with, obviously, a Korean boyfriend! We definitely still go out to the gay bars and I absolutely can show you a great time there.

It is my goal that you love Seoul as much as I do in the short time you are here. That I can share with you what I love and what Koreans are so damn proud of. That you can love soju as much as I love soju.