Tourist Tips: Short Layovers + One Night in Seoul

In this version of tourist tips, I’ll tackle the short layovers that many arrange for themselves. On TripAdvisor, there are tonnnnnnnnns of questions about what to do/where to go/where to stay for a super short visit.

Not sure how to get from the airport to Seoul and back? Check here.

I advise that if you do not have six hours or more for a layover, don’t bother to go into Seoul on your own. This is because it takes around two hours from landing to make it into Seoul. If you get off the plane quickly, no bags, no line at immigration, it can be faster….but it is minimum one hour from the airport into Seoul just for bus/train alone. And you should leave Seoul three hours before your next flight (one hour transit, arrive two hours early). If you have a six hour layover, as you can see, that’s barely two hours in Seoul to explore.

If your layover is less than six hours or so, consider one of the free transit tours.

Incheon Airport Free Transit Tours

There are many kinds of transit tours available through the airport. Korean Air and Asiana also list tours on their website, but from a quick glance – they’re all the same and the ones offered by the airport office themselves. These depart at various times and require a certain amount of time with your layover.

These can even be done without a visa (even though your country may require one as a regular tourist).

Please check dates and times carefully:

Incheon Airport Free Transit Tour Information

Personally, if I had enough time to go into Seoul, I’d do it myself.

Where to Stay in Seoul

My previous post and full detail on the neighborhoods can be found at the link here.

But, if you are visiting for just one evening and depart the next morning – I would choose Hongdae. Simple access from airport, lots of food/nightlife choices to get a sampling, good shopping. Easy to pop in and pop out and see a bit of something.

If you have time the next morning (flight departs in the late afternoon or evening) – stay in central Seoul. If your flight is before even say 2 PM, you won’t have time to do much. Depart at 2 so that means airport by 12 and leave Seoul by 11….and Seoul is not busy very early in the morning. If you are in Central Seoul, you can wake up really early and see palaces and walk around a bit…if you want.

What To Do/When in Seoul

If your flight lands in the afternoon (3 PM or later): Simply, you will be too late to visit any of the tourist attractions in central Seoul as they close around 5-6 and last admission is one hour before or so.

Central Seoul at night is busiest in the Jongak/Jongno 3 Ga area. This is where everyone goes after work (specifically the Jongak Avenue of Youth). The Avenue of Youth name is misleading, as there are just a few shopping stalls, BUT there are tonnnnnnnnnnnnnns of bars and restaurants. It is very much a local street for Koreans, but because it’s central Seoul, they do offer English menus….without the feeling of being in a tourist hellhole :-).

Other than that, Myeongdong for instance, is dead by 10ish. If you’re in Central Seoul, it’s a cheap taxi to Itaewon, but there’s nothing Korean about Itaewon as far as food and culture. It’s a trendy date spot for young Koreans to enjoy foreign food now.

The other area to go, as mentioned, would be Hongdae. It’s always open, always something to do.

My previous post and full detail on the neighborhoods can be found at the link here.

 

One Day Central Seoul Tour

Many people often ask what they can do for one long day in Seoul. For that, I simply answer: the main downtown area. The Jongno/Myeongdong/City Hall area is home to all of Seoul’s tourist sites, plus many major markets as well. You can absolutely 100% get a good representative feel of Seoul.  These markets and tourist sites are also in the middle of the original downtown area, meaning that there’s a mix of old Korea with the new working class.

I tried to make a Google Map with walking directions, but Google Maps doesn’t work here for walking. I included links in the bold so you can get more info on your own. So I’m just gonna do it the old fashioned way.

On that note – for Maps. I’ve said many times before, Google Maps works for basic transportation directions. For walking directions, download Kakao Map or Naver Map. They are Korean Map services that are up to date and feature street view etc. They also offer English support (as long as your phone device is set to English). For subway, download Kakao Metro.

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NOTHING in Seoul gets going until 11 AM or so. The only places open will be breakfast rice and noodle places. All other stores will be very quiet.

So, if you arrive early say 4-5 AM. Take the first bus or train into Seoul Station. From there, you can visit Siloam Sauna directly behind Seoul Station. They offer luggage storage. You can shower, enjoy a traditional sauna experience…the food is even good. Large spaces for napping, even rooms for those that snore! Honestly, this is my favorite sauna in Seoul and every time I go, I stay there for 5-6 hours.

So let’s get started on the day around 10-11 AM. I’d head to Gwanghwamun first. Gwanghwamun is a giant public square and gate that leads to Gyeongbokgung Palace. There are some memorials, statues, and even a Hangeul (Korean Language) museum underneat the King Sejong Statue.

Now you’re hitting lunch time. To the west of Gyeongbokgung Palace there are two popular choices I’d recommend: Tongin Lunchbox Cafe OR Tosokchon Samgyetang (Ginseng Chicken Soup).

If you want to have a faster or lighter lunch, go straight into Gyeongbokgung. Exit East by the Folk Museum and grab some street food/snacks in Samcheon-dong.

As mentioned, you will also be right at Gyeongbokgung Palace. It’s the main palace in Seoul. I would absolutely try to be here for an English speaking tour guide (or get an audio guide), because I think without that, it’s just a bunch of empty buildings. There is also a changing of the guards ceremony that is very popular. Follow the link above for details on times etc.

After Gyeongbokgung, be sure to exit on the east side by the National Folk Museum. Also a nice air conditioned (or heated) area with bathrooms to catch a break. Exhibitions at the museum rotate often. There is also a “traditional old Korean neighborhood” from the 50s and older in the area.

When you exit on the east side of Gyeongbokgung, you will be in Samcheong-dong. Samcheong-dong is home to many cute cafes, local shops, places to grab street food…but most importantly to tourists – the Bukchon Hanok Village. Also right outside the East Gate of Gyeongbokgung is the National Museum of Modern Art (if that’s your thing).

After you explore the village and Samcheong-dong, continue south to Insadong. Insadong is a tourist area, yes, but there are tons of small restaurants and cafes with a very traditional vibe in the alleyways around the main road. If you stay on the main road, it’s just tourists. Venture out and around and you’ll see lots of cute stuff.  Another area that’s REALLY HOT these days is Ikseon-dong that’s nearby. 

You’ll be walking along all day, but by this point you’ll be in the main Jongno area.  There are a few more areas to see in the Jongno area depending on time:

Jongno Avenue of Youth – a small shopping street of 0 importance BUT surrounded by TONS of restaurants and bars with English menus, but very local feel (chicken, BBQ, everything is here)

Cheongyecheon Stream – famous park and stream running right through the middle of Seoul

Gwangjang Market – Seoul’s oldest operating market. Famous for bindaedeok, mayak kimbap, and all kinds of other foods and dishes

These are all close by to Insadong and depend on how much time you have left.

Presuming it’s the end of your day tour – hop on the subway just 2-3 stops to Seoul Station. Taxi can be fast, but traffic can be BRUTAL in the downtown area. Catch the AREX back to Seoul Station (either Express or All Stop) around 3 hrs before your flight. Takes one hour back to the airport, and arrive two hours early before your flight as recommended.  I always risk it and stay a little later, but that’s my risk and mine alone 🙂

Other Popular Areas of Central Seoul

Many people always ask – Can I go to Dongademun in a day? Myeongdong?

The answer is yes. But you’ll have to edit your day to revolve around those areas unless you want to run around A LOT. The tour course I’ve listed above is very general, come in, knock it out, head back to the airport.

As far as Myeongdong, I say skip it BECAUSE it’s just big brand makeup shops and clothing stores. This can be found everywhere in other areas of Seoul where you go on your day tour. AND not to mention the food is for tourists, so the street food isn’t the cheapest or most authentic.

Dongdaemun isn’t really that special, IMO. Again, tourists love to go, but it’s nothing I’d recommend going to in one day. Just shops and shops and shops. More to see than the inside of a mall for a day.

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That’s all for today’s tourist tips – up next I’ll cover SIM cards, WiFi and apps!

 

 

 

 

 

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Tourist Tips: One Day in Gangnam – An Introduction

I recently wrote a nice blog post for the team at Trazy! Trazy is a wildly popular travel services site for Seoul. They offer any and everything – private cars from the airport, tickets to Nanta, day trips to the countryside and ski resorts…even entry passes to Club Octagon!

Since I focus on tours in the Gangnam area, I wrote up some information about Gangnam, the history, the neighborhoods, transportation etc.

I always recommend visitors enjoy the Gangnam or Jamsil area for the day before our meetup. There are many things to do for the entire afternoon…and then stroll on over to Sinnonhyeon to meet me for dinner!

So this post is kind of shameless. Just copy and pasted with some links for you to get more info on the places…..here goes!

What Is Gangnam?

Anyone that comes to Seoul is already familiar with Gangnam, thanks to the suuuuuuuuper popular song from 2012, Gangnam Style:

Yes, it’s home to wealthy people, fancy cars, and celebrities, but that’s just one tiny pocket of Gangnam. Gangnam literally means “South of the River” and encompasses basically the entire southeastern region of Seoul including Seocho and Jamsil, not just Gangnam Station area. Gangnam was actually farm land until the 1970s or so and did not really become fully developed until the 80s (or later, depending on your definition of developed). So everything you see in Gangnam is “new” by Korean standards.

Gangnam itself is divided into several main areas (dong means neighborhood in Korean):

Cheongdam-dong : True Gangnam Style, home to all the celebrities, fancy cafes, expensive cars.

Nonhyeon-dong: Standard Gangnam. Offices on the main roads and tons of quiet neighborhoods, residences and local restaurants/bars on the back streets.

Sinsa-dong: Home to plastic surgery clinics, more businesses, more residences. Also home to Garosu-gil.

Samseong-dong: Another residential area of Gangnam. Home to COEX, Bongeunsa Temple.

Seocho-gu (Gu Means District): Standard Gangnam. Home to many businesses and high rise apartments.

Fun fact. Gangnam-daero (Road) is actually the dividing line between Seocho and Gangnam Districts. The average visitor won’t notice a difference, but for residents it’s a matter of where you pay your taxes and who provides services.

Songpa-gu: Songpa is actually a huge district that is considered Gangnam, but it spreads east verrrrrry far. Many, many, maaaaaaaaaaany high rise apartments. Also home to Jamsil Station and Lotte World.

Hotspots & Places of Interest

***The bold titles of each section are also links to Google searches for more information, pictures, etc.***

Gangnam Station:  Gangnam Station is actually the busiest subway station in Seoul and has a huge underground shopping center. Great for cheap women’s clothes and accessories!

Gangnam Station Exit 9 and 10: Major shopping street. Every major Korean and foreign brand AND a GIANT Kakao Friends store!

Gangnam Station Exit 11 and 12 (behind the main road): Looooooooooooong alleyways with TONS of restaurants, bars and cafes!

Garosu-gil (Sinsa Station Exit 8): Garosu-gil means “Tree Lined Street.” The main street is home to more Korean and international brands. Also home to Korea’s only Apple Store. The highlight of Garosu-gil is actually off the main road – there are TONS of dessert cafes, tiny restaurants, cute bars, and more to explore!

Hallyu K Star Road (Apgujeong Rodeo Station Exit 2): Also home to the Galleria Department Store and Apgujeong Rodeo Shopping/Nightlife Area, this road features many of Korea’s fanciest luxury brands. Fun Fact: This neighborhood is SO fancy, all of these luxury brands have giant stand alone stores here AND even a store right down the street inside the Galleria Dept. Store…..which makes you wonder, WHO buys all this stuff!?  But, K Star Road features many cute character statues for your favorite K Pop groups. If you’re wanting to find a celebrity, it would be here. They live and shop in this area.

Seonjeongneung Tombs: (Seonjeongneung Station Exit 3 / Seolleung Station Exit 8): Home to two sets of tombs, this is actually a very beautifully landscaped and relaxing park.

Bongeunsa Temple (Bongeunsa Station Exit 1): A traditional Korean temple right in the middle of the city. Great contrast between past and present, traditional and modern!

COEX (Bongeunsa Station Exit 7 / Samseong Station Exit 5 or 6): The world’s largest underground shopping mall! Home to a giant Megabox movie theater, tons of shopping and food, Kimchi Museum, Aquarium…even a Convention Center, TWO Intercontinental Hotels, a Casino….and even the City Airport Terminal that offers Check In, Immigration, and Bag Drop for your flight.

Jamsil Station: The area around Jamsil Station is often called Lotte Town by locals. It’s home to Lotte World, the amusement park, as well as Lotte World Tower, the123 floor skyscraper. Lotte World Tower features not only a giant shopping mall with duty free shops, restaurants, an aquarium….but a luxury hotel, residences, and the observatory at the top.  There is also a Lotte Hotel next door and TWO Lotte Department Stores literally across the street from each other. The CEO of Lotte Group lives in Lotte Tower and the company has all of various HQs in buildings surrounding the entire station.

Gangnam – Transportation & Getting Around

Traffic in Gangnam can be quite brutal. Gangnam is the business hub of Seoul, so many people from all over Seoul and the suburbs come here for work. There are buses available to literally every corner of Seoul and the surrounding area (and buses to other cities at Express Bus Terminal). The subway lines in Gangnam run east to west, so it’s easier to pick a subway line and walk the remaining distance north or south. Don’t really try to transfer in Gangnam subways as you’ll go out of your way. You’ll spend more time changing lines than if you just walked.

Subway Line 9 is perhaps the best part about Gangnam. It has an Express train that can take you all the way across to Gimpo Airport in roughly 30 minutes…but it is PACKED at rush hour! You can then just cross the platform at Gimpo Airport to change to the AREX and be at Incheon Airport in another 40 minutes.  There are many airport limousine buses to Gangnam, but be warned in bad traffic it can take almost 90 minutes!

Where to Stay

Most people that stay in Gangnam are business travelers for work. I strongly believe Gangnam is the best neighborhood to live in (infrastructure, neighborhood cleanliness, services offered, etc.), but perhaps not the best for a tourist.  As a tourist, you’ll be hopping around all day and it’s at least 40 minutes to Myeongdong and central Seoul, and 45 mins – 1 hr to the other side and Hongdae depending on where you are going.

BUT if you stay near Subway Line 9, it is very easy to transfer to other subway lines by Express train. You can be at Seoul Station in 15-20 minutes, Hongdae in 40, and so on.

Try to stay near Subway Line 9 and an Express Stop (Sinnonhyeon Station, Sonjeongneung Station, Bongeunsa Station).  Most of the action (shopping, nightlife, 24 hour vibe, busy streets and activity) is around Sinnonhyeon Station.

 

 

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.

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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….

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.**

Chuncheon ITX Train
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