I spent a week in South Korea last month – 4 days in Seoul, 3 days in Busan. I crammed a bunch of activities in such a short time, especially in Seoul. I decided to break up my summary of Seoul by each day. I already wrote about Day 1. Here’s Day 2:
We had a late start the second day, perhaps due to over-consumption of Soju the previous evening.
The first stop on our agenda was Gyeongbokgung Palace. This royal palace was built in the 14th century and was pretty much entirely destroyed by Japan in the 20th century during the Japanese occupation of South Korea. In 1989, the South Korean Government embarked on an intensive project to restore the royal palace. They have made significant progress, but it’s an ongoing effort and the full restoration has not been completed yet.
I knew of the Royal Guard-Changing Ceremony at Gwanghwamun Gate but had done zero research as far as times and schedules. As we were entering the main gate, we heard drum rolls. Perfect timing!
After watching the ceremony, we bought tickets to enter the palace for the equivalent of $3 USD. Here we are in front of Geunjeongjeonm, the Imperial Throne Hall.
The palace grounds are huge. We spent a couple of hours exploring and people-watching. Just like the Kimono Boom in Japan, there seems to be a Chima Jeogori rage in South Korea. There are many shops where you can rent a colorful Chima Jeogori (traditional dress) for the day and snap photos at all the palaces and temples with your authentic ensemble.
A single magpie. One for sorrow, two for joy… I wish there had been two at least.
Right outside of the palace grounds is possibly the weirdest statue I have ever seen in my life.
WHAT. IS. THIS!?!?
After a little research, I learned this is a depiction of a children’s game in Korea called Malttukbakgi (말뚝박기). The Seoulistic Blog describes the game as follows:
Team A has one person stand up against the wall and the rest of the team have all their heads up in someone else’s butt/crotch area (thus the sort of perverted part) to form what looks like a big ol’ horse. Team B then jumps up onto the human horse one by one, each jumping with as much force as possible. If anyone from any team falls to the floor, that team loses. If everyone stays up, then the person against the wall and the person in front will play a game of gawibawibo (rock, scissor, paper) to determine the winner. It’s just a fun a game that Koreans of both gender play.
I’m not sure how fun it sounds to have someone’s face in my crack or vice versa.
Traditional Korean Tea House
We stopped for afternoon tea on our way from the palace to Bukchon Hanok Village. Cha Masineun Tteul is a traditional Korean teahouse serving a wide menu of teas and a few sweet treats. We all ordered green tea and got a steamed pumpkin cake for the table and each enjoyed our own pots of green tea.
The waitress had to come over and show up to properly steep and pour the tea. It was a process and it wasn’t very intuitive!
Bukchon Hanok Village
Buckchon Hanok Village is a traditional Korean village with houses dating back 600 years ago. We walked up and down the streets and checked out the architecture. It’s crucial that you’re quiet though as these homes are private residences.
Bukchon Hanok village is technically in Samcheondong, an area known quirky shops, art galleries, cafes and restaurants. It’s a really neat area to walk through – you can easily spend hours window-shopping, people-watching and eating all different kinds of food.
At this point, we were getting pretty hungry were drawn to a nearby restaurant resembling a warehouse. I dug the atmosphere and the kitschy decor but when we received the menus, the options were limited to a bunch of unappetizing seafood dishes, a harsh statement coming from a half-Japanese person who eats seafood regularly.
We left and instead went to a delicoius hole-in-the-wall beer and Dakkochi Gui (chicken-skewer) joint right across the way. The restaurant’s capacity was literally like 8 people so we got close and cozy with our neighbors.
On the way back to the guesthouse, the girls and I spent about an hour in a drugstore checking out all the Korean face masks and skincare products. I especially loved the snail slime tester lotion. Snail slime is basically a mucus extracted from snails great for promoting collagen-growth and age-reversal. While I don’t think I could ever bring myself to eat escargot, I had zero issues with slathering snail secretions on my skin.
Hongik University Street
After resting for a bit, it was time to party! Hongdae is Seoul’s nightlife district. In addition to countless restaurants, bars and clubs, there are five major universities in the area so the streets are always crowded with students eager to party. The evening highlight was when local and professionally-dressed Duck-Kil Kim awkwardly danced around a pole to Katy Perry. He made excellent use of the bar’s props.
Here we are going from the bar to a club.
I’m not a huge club-goer, but this club seemed pretty typical except for the handful of locals dancing with face masks on. Asians, especially in Japan and Korea, frequently wear face masks to prevent themselves from getting sick or protect others from getting sick. I found it amusing there was even a black, nighttime mask variety – perfect for going out in dark clubs. Haha!
People came up to us and asked us were we were from. Unlike the other clubs I have been to around the world, the Korean clubbers were light-hearted and friendly – things felt less pretentious on the whole. A big bang to end another action-filled day in Seoul!