Visiting Seoul – Sep 2018 – Random Updates

I visited South Korea again.

This time, it was a relatively short trip (6 nights) compared to my visit last May (12 nights) and to be honest I didn’t do much but the ‘beauty’ of my trip was that I only stayed in Seoul.

Gone were the days where I city-hopped to chased sunrise/sunset across the coastal cities.

For this trip, all my accommodation was in Seoul and the focus was kind of catching up with friends and trying to figure out what’s the next big trend that I can write about.

1. I took Asiana Airlines (OZ754/OZ753)

It was my first time taking this airline (well, tickets were affordable at $567) and I thought that it would have been cool to take a Star Alliance flight but little did I know that.. it’s quite a disappointment from my expectations. I guess I have been too pampered in my travels this year (JAL, SIA, Cathay) and forgotten that not all full-service airlines have a proper in-flight entertainment system.

The departing flight delayed for more than an hour (we departed at almost 5am) but it was understandable as there had been a typhoon the past couple of days. Anyway, the departure flight’s in-flight entertainment was the old school system where you can’t select the movies/shows you want to watch whenever you want it. You surf through the channels and watch it and whatever timing it has elapsed until. You are not able to start/pause/stop. This was the super old school way.

What can be worse.. for our return flight back, there wasn’t even a TV at every seat. The only TV you could watch was the sharing one above.

On hindsight, no in-flight entertainment wasn’t that bad after all as I could sleep and catch up on my sleep.

2. Never trust the weather forecast too much

Prior to my trip (like one day before), the weather forecast predicted rain on 5 out of 7 days, of which some were heavy rain. As a result, I decided to Iug my rain boots (bought from my taiwan trip) to Korea as I did not want my shoes to get soaked. Also, I decided to leave my sunblock and sunglasses at home as I thought I wouldn’t have any chance to use it. Well.. not that I am complaining.. but for my actual trip, it only drizzled once on the evening of the first day, and on Monday – the only free day I had where I planned to visit the island Jebudo. Well, my visit to Jebudo has once again been pushed back to.. the next trip(s). It was on my list to visit places since 2012 and.. it is still on the list. If I didn’t recall wrongly, the temperature ranged from 18 to 28. It was hot in the day and cooling at night, but not to the extent that I need to wear a jacket.

3. Stayed in two locations – Above the Han River & Below the Han River

I stayed 4 nights in this hotel and it was located at Cheongdam, a rather pricey district of Korea. It was useful to stay at the South part of Seoul as we were closer to the places that we wanted to visit – especially Coex and the Apujeong/Garosogil district. It was a pretty basic 3-star hotel, nothing to shout about but the most useful thing was that it was right at the airport bus stop. We barely have to walk 50m from the bus stop to our hotel. The sad thing about this area is that there isn’t much to do at night around the area. There’s a sundae place near our accommodation where we had supper on one night. It was pretty delicious and I love the fresh pickled raddish and I ate a lot of it.
The downside of this location is that it is not near any train station but on the other hand, the buses were very convenient! I mainly used Google Maps for my direction wayfinding and it was pretty good 90% of the time. Alternatively, you can download Kakao maps which is available in english too!

[Somerset Palace] @ Anguk
The room was so so so spacious! It came with a sofa where my friend could laze on before she bathes and a dining area with a small kitchen. There was also a washing machine/dryer which allowed us to wash some of our clothes before we head back home.
It was also the first time I stayed in the Anguk area and I was so happy when they catered to my request of having a room with the palace view. Despite visiting Korea 4 times, I have yet to enter Gyeongbuk-gong cause it’s like those places that you tell yourself that there’s always a next time. As a result, I’ve still not visited the palace. heh. Neither have I worn the Hanbok. Then again, it’s not my kind of thing to pose for photos but sometimes I’ll be put in no-choice situation (like my kimono-wearing in Japan) so let’s wait and see.
Yep, this was my view from the window and I love it to bits 😀
The Anguk area was a very nice place to explore. My favourite part is the stretch that brings you to the Samcheongdong area which has a lot of cafes and filming location spots. I wished I had more time to explore the area..

4. I repeated my no repeat food challenge again!

For my previous South Korea trip where I travelled to random cities, I challenged myself to not repeat the food I ate for 12 days as I wanted to prove the point that Korea has a wide variety of food! I created a #norepeatkoreanfoodchallenge hashtag on instagram. This time round, I was successful again!

Here are some interesting food that I’ve eaten which are worthed mentioning:

Raw Beef Sashimi @ Changshin Yukhoe 창신육회

Address: 198-2 종로 Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea 서울특별시 종로구 종로 198-2
Nearest Train Station: Jongno-5-ga, Exit 8

This restaurant was recommended by my korean friend! There’s quite a number of choices at the gwangjang market but I guess they should be pretty much the same.

I’ve eaten one or two slices of raw beef sashimi sushi before in Japanese restaurants but to eat beef sashimi as a main meal, it was a first time for me. To get the best of both worlds, we opted for the two-in-one raw beef and octopus set. When served, the Octopus tentacles will still be moving and there was one that stuck on to my metal chopsticks and I didn’t want to eat it, fearing that it will get stuck somewhere in my body. I waited for that piece to stop moving before putting it into my mouth.

Raw Crab Sashimi @ Jin Mi Sik Dang 진미식당 真味食堂 

Address: 186-6 Mapo-daero, Gongdeok-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul, South Korea 서울특별시 마포구 공덕동 마포대로 186-6
Nearest Train Station: Aeogae (Purple Line), Exit 4

This restaurant was once again recommended by my korean friend! She said it was famous as the current south korean president, Moon Jaein, had dined here before! Furthermore, there was a variety show which featured this place recently. Reservations were required and despite booking more than a week in advance, we were unable to get the 12pm slot on a Wednesday. She ended up booking the 2pm slot for us. You could only make reservations by phone and according to some blog/website I’ve read, the owner can understand chinese.

Random thought: do you find it difficult to make reservations in korea for places that only accept reservations via phone call? I’m toying with whether this can be a chargeable service for people without a korean friend/airbnb host/hotel concierge to assist you with the booking. I feel like this service would be super useful in Japan and Korea. If you think that this is a viable service and you are willing to pay a small token for the service, do leave a comment or email me if you’re shy!

As seen from the photo, it is a spicy dish so please be prepared. There’s only one menu option available: 35,000W each which will give you one raw crab, together with a table full of side dishes. There was this amazing seaweed (not the usual type) which I ate a lot of. Similar to the other korean restaurants, the side dishes were refillable.

Fret not, gloves are provided so you don’t really have to dirty your hands while eating! I’m really impressed that they are able to serve us crabs with a lot of egg roe (which is part of the highlight). I’m not sure if there’s any proper way to eat it but I mix the egg roe and crab flesh together with the rice, put it on the seaweed and eat it up like a mini kimbab.

I didn’t take much photos of this place because I was busy eating and catching up with my korean friend but I found another blog who has a more detailed experience and review: http://www.seoulfoodie.com/blog-1/jinmi-soy-sauce-raw-crab (From the blog post, it seems like they increased their price from 31,000W (in 2015) to 35,000 (in 2018)).

Cry Cheeseburger @ Samseong (Coex area) – Better than Shake Shack?

Address: 996-17 Daechi-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, South Korea 서울특별시 강남구 대치동 996-17
Nearest Train Station: Samseong, Exit 1 (Green Line)

Visiting Coex? You got to try this cheeseburger shop which is known to be the in-and-out burger of South Korea! I kind of gave up on Shake Shack after my average experience last year so discovering the awesome Cry Cheeseburger was a splendid surprise. This might just be on my to-go list in my future visits to Korea!

Well, for a start, the price is pretty affordable! The burger is 3,000W; double patty is 4,200W and the cheapest set is just 5,800W (for a drink, burger and fries). The milkshake was only 3,500W!
In comparison, a burger alone at shake shack will cost you 6,900W and their milkshake is 5,900W.

The patty may not look huge, but the serving was pretty decent and I shared the set (cheese fries and drink) with my friend. I love the fresh onions and cheddar cheese and the sauce combination.. It was such a satisfying meal.

Anyway, this brand is pretty popular and i’m sure it will get more and more popular in time to come so.. good luck queueing =p


5. I drank a lot of coffee and visited a lot of cafes

67soho @ Nonhyeon-dong

Nearest Train Station: Hak-dong, exit 8
Pretty Cafe, nice music and ambience with a lot of props available for that instagram photo.
수목금토 (Sumokumto) @ Nonhyeon-dong 

Nearest Train Station: Hak-dong, exit 6 or Nonhyeon, exit 8

When we were in this cafe, I had a little lost-in-translation moment and I ended up getting the cold brew coffee when I wanted the milk tea after realizing that they didn’t sell cold brew latte. Anyway, it was a very pretty space which looked like a make-shift sidewalk transformation (not sure if it was a deliberate concept). Anyway, this district was a little hilly and slopey so be prepared to climb up/down if you’re coming here by public transport.

General Store @ Samseong (Coex)

Address: 945-25 Daechi-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, South Korea 서울특별시 강남구 대치동 945-25
Nearest Train Station: Samseong, Exit 4 (Green Line)

We visited this place after our lunch at Cry Cheeseburger. The coffee was great but there isn’t much sitting space in the cafe. If I didn’t recall wrongly, it was just 2 tables and a high chair area. The coffee in Korea hardly disappoints me.

Mint Heim @ Hongdae

Nearest Train Station: Hongdae, exit 9 or Hapjeong, exit 3
The colour brought me here and I’m glad the cafe is full of mint colour. I’ve been liking the colour mint for quite some time so everytime there’s a chance to get my hands on some minty colour stuff, I’ll get a little excited! As it was pretty late and we were full from dinner, we only bought a cake in this cafe. It was pretty delicious and I love the mint taste too~ The only mint thing that I ain’t putting in my mouth is mint leaf. Ha.
Coffee Montage @ Gangdong-gu

This cafe is located in a super random area which I just happened to be that morning. Nevertheless, the coffee was good and the sampler set was a comfortable balance for me to try everything. I really loved the vanilla ice cream for the affogato. The only downside was that this cafe didn’t sell any food and.. I kind of drank coffee on an empty stomach but all was good.
<I wish I have the knowledge to describe coffee more but I’m curently still in the process of learning more about coffee so rather than giving crappy comments, I’ll drop my coffee talk till the day I become skilled enough to comment>
Cafe Burano @ Hongdae
Nearest Train Station: Hongik University, Exit 1 (Green Line)
A friend of mine recommended this cafe for brunch (their serving is really huge) but I chose to eat Issac toast and I wasn’t hungry enough to eat here. Settled for a Latte which was pretty decent. This cafe is pretty spacious and can accommodate quite a number of people. I guess I’ll be back someday for the brunch menu.

6. I tried tarot cards reading at Hongdae

Prior to my trip, I was researching for cool activities to try out when I was in Korea. This was in the list, together with the rent-an-oppa service. I couldn’t find a day to fit in the ‘rent-an-oppa’ service and it was pretty pricey at ~70usd. #maybenextime
Initially, I thought that it would be tough looking for a tarot card shop that can spean english/chinese but after walking down the streets of hongdae, you will be able to spot a few shops with the ‘english speaking’ signage.
Anyway, Tarot cards reading was cheaper at 5,000W (as advertised) but I was charged 10,000W but I didn’t bother to haggle as I could have possibly asked more questions than I should. Not sharing too much about the details of my questions but I would say that the person was pretty smart in digging for information indirectly and explained her answers in a way that suited best in terms of counselling. Nevertheless, she was pretty accurate in some areas which.. I will wait and see if it comes true. Then again, tarot cards are not like fortune telling but I guess its an option when you need a confirmation/second opinion on tough questions that you have in your life. Conclusion: she gave me an answer but then again my own fate lies in my own destiny so.. let’s wait and see 😀

7. It’s cheaper to buy cosmetics online

I know I’ve been ranting about this forever but it still disappoints me time and time again.. Shopping for skincare/cosmetics seems to be a lot cheaper from gmarket, than in the actual shops itself. I’ve been so pampered by their past promotions to the extent that I do not buy items that are not on sale. The was in the laneige shop at myeongdong comparing prices with their online sales and I realised that the sales online were 15 to 35% cheaper than in stores. The cost savings were so significant that even if I had to pay for shipping, the overall price would still be cheaper :/ Another brand that I use – Labiotte – barely had any sale item but I bought their items at 1 for 1 pricing many months ago online. Furthermore, gone were the days where the brands shower you with samples. The shopping experience is no longer as attractive as before. Well, the only plus point they’ve made to date was that they allow instant tax rebate in certain bigger brands. This was the only improvement I could identify. Apart from that, the experience and savings is much better online.
[The things I couldn’t do this trip..] 
1. Jebudo – I’ve yet to visit this island despite it being on my list since 2012. On the day that I was planning to visit the island, it was forecasted to rain and.. it did rain – for the entire afternoon+evening. The last time I planned my visit back in 2013, the skies were totally dark before we boarded the 1 hour bus ride and we decided to drop it eventually. Somehow, I wonder if the visit is kind of jynx as there’s bad weather everytime I plan to visit.. Oh wells.
2. Facial in Korea – I wanted to experience a facial experience in Korea since skincare is such a big industry here. Sadly, I did not make prior arrangements and I was unable to secure a last minute booking! I thought it would have been pretty cool to try out and the price is relatively comparable to what I would have been paying in Singapore..  Oh wells, maybe next time.
Parting thoughts
Apologies for my poorly written post but I hope that you will find whatever relevant information you require. Should you require more information or have any queries about whatever that I’ve written, feel free to leave a comment or drop me an email and I’ll try to help in ways that I can.

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