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Seoul Visual Diary - Part 1

Posted on Monday, May 11, 2015

After 4 months of planning and mostly randomly whatsapping each other "I CAN'T WAIT TO GO TO KOREA!!!"... E-main and I finally went!!

We flew on Scoot because they had a promo in January, but on hindsight it wasn't the best flight to take because we had to transit at Taiwan - meaning what should have been a 5 hour direct flight to Korea ended up being something like 9 hours. Bleah!

What a QT haha.

But anyway our spirits were still very high throughout the arduous journey! Despite also missing our last bus from Incheon to Seoul because our flight was delayed, was pretty pleased to figure us out an equally value way to get to the city centre, so no problemos there.

First night's dinner was SO good. Our original plan was to order in Korean Fried Chicken + Beer delivery, but it was closed already! Fortunately there was this 24 hour Korean restaurant at the 1st level of our Airbnb apartment, and we had a really good meal that was just 8000won (S$10.00) per person for all this!!

I also love how banchan, or the teeny little dishes filled with assorted stuff, are always free everywhere (ok I know they factor it into the price of the mains).

Our airbnb! We got one queen size bed each and it smelt really nice! Even the Dove soap smells nicer than the Singapore one. Click here to check it out and book it through my link here then I get credits, muahaha.

We stayed at Jongno-Gu (pronounced "chungno-goo" we found out), which is walking distance from both palaces and also near the famous Ginseng Chicken restaurant Tosokchon (more about that later). The location was pretty central that we always paid between 3000-7000won (less than $10.00) to get to anywhere we wanted in Seoul by the cab. Yes, we were both awesomely lazy.

First stop the next day was at Changdeokgung Palace where we were going to do a shoot for The Ordinary Co and Still Product's next Lookbook! As tempting as it was to get touristy, it was important that we stay focused and get it done so that we could enjoy the rest of the trip!

Changdeokgung Palace is a UNESCO heritage site, and I can see why they picked this palace to be a UNESCO over Gyeongbokgung Palace (which we go to the next day!). Changdeokgung is much prettier with a more flowers, whereas Gyeongbokgung is what I would describe as more "austere".

While there were a lot of tourists (it was a Friday), it wasn't crowded because of how spacious the grounds are!

Much prettiness :D

Some behind the scenes! Follow @theordinaryco on Instagram for more sneaks of our Lookbook launch!

Didn't take a lot of touristy photos of myself since we were busy shooting! But couldn't resist this enormous pink flower bush on our way to the Secret Garden tour.

Finally take a breather from shooting to take our first photo together in Seoul!!!

It's quite sweet how much length they go to prop these old trees up and make it look "pretty" as well.

Secret Garden tour time! It cost us an additional 3000won (S$4.00~) on top of the 5000won (S$6.00~) entrance fee to the palace, but considering that the tour is a whopping 90mins long it's super value. Our guide was wearing a Hanbok (the Korean national costume) and spoke quietly in a heavy Korean accent!

I think I would have enjoyed the tour more if I wasn't trying dying from exhaustion half the time. The quaint sounding "Secret Garden" is enormous and has an unprecendented number of slopes which we spend half the time lagging at the back of the group and not listening to the guide,  HAHA. I tell E-main that based on our diet and how much walking we've been doing so far that we are so losing weight in Seoul.

I imagine if I were Korean royalty I would be summoning my royal manservants to carry me back to the main palace.

Korean architecture is really smart, they design their houses such that when you stick your hand inside, it's markedly cooler than the outside temperature - and there's no air-conditioning in play here.

And we're done with Changdeokgung Palace! Seriously happy + exhausted.

If you do any kind of foodie research regarding what to eat in Seoul, Tosokchon will probably pop up on your page somewhere. It's famous for Samgyetang or Ginseng Chicken Soup. Apparently it has massive queues during peak periods, but we intentionally decided to go for lunch today because it was already 3pm, and hoorah, we walked right in!

Once again, Korean meals are never complete without free stuff on the sides. Love ittt! Out of all the Kimchi I ate in Korea, my favourite was from here because it was tasty but not too sharp and sour. Some kimchi just likes to kick you in the face, which is not my thing.

Our meal also came with some free soju, which is SUPER strong and luckily E-main didn't take on my initial bet when I said we should down it like shots (I didn't know how potent it was either, haha). Needless to say, we couldn't finish it.

The chicken is stuffed with glutinous rice, and each regular bowl comes at 15,000won (S$19.00~) We go for the 21,000won ($25.00~) bowl, which comes with extra ginseng, just cause (you can see the shreds of it in the picture above!)

For more variation, we also order the Korean Fried Pancake at 16,000won (S$20.00~) which is stuffed with plenty of seafood and what I believe are spring onions, but I don't know my veggies well, k. The pancake is enormous and super filling because it's just tons starch, so this plus the Samgyetang are enough to make us very full! E-main and I are really proud of the fact that we never over-ordered throughout the whole trip :D

Afterwards we walk home at a leisurely pace for some nap time and to rest our feet :D Always super fascinated by how different trees are overseas, and that the weather is perfect. I overdressed a bit today because I'm scared of the cold, but the day time temperature is like air-con. It's suppose to be 20 degrees but feels more like 24 degrees in the sun. E-main and I got a lot of people asking why we were carrying winter coats around, haha.

After some much needed rest, we headed out to Seoul's CBD to meet John, who is Siang Loong (E-main's brother)'s friend from work. It sounds complicated, haha, but basically John is full Korean but speaks excellent English, which we were dying for because we have been having some serious communication breakdowns with all the Koreans.

Oops too busy taking pictures of the Korean Fried Chicken and yummy Honey Beer I forgot to take one of John :( He brought us to this trendy cafe called Chi Mc which was full of young people and even treated us to dinner. SO NICE.

But either way it was quite a pivotal moment in our trip because E-main, who loves languages, has been trying to ask the Korean people "how to say (insert random object) in Korean", and their English is so bad that they don't even understand that! So upon meeting John, E-main could finally break through and ask him how to say "how to say" in Korean, hahaha.

For me, I read up a bit about Korea's history and economy before coming down and I finally had a nice legit Korean person to ask my complicated questions about Korea's socio-economic conditions hahaha. It fascinated me why anyone born and bred in Korea would want to leave because they seem to have everything Singapore lacks, like a homogenous culture, chaebols, natural resources, land space, a domestic economy that strongly supports Korean products, and even a developed entertainment industry.

John also takes us to see this unique part of Korean architecture in which they turn their canals into lovely parks where young couples like to come and stroll. It's such a smart idea, and at first I thought it would be great for Singapore where land is scarce, but then am reminded that Korea is a temperate country - i.e. no torrential rain and thunderstorms like tropical Singapore that make canals flood over.

After that we say bye to John who has is flying off the next day, and make our way down to Myeongdong! The good thing about Korea, being an Asian country too, is that everything is open late (till 11pm)! So we still have things to see and street food to eat.

Handmade strawberry mochi!

We mainly do some window shopping to scout out what was available. There are many small winding outdoor streets that make up Myeongdong, and it's quite amazing how every little street is lined with more or less the exact same beauty stores - Etude House, Innisfree, Tony Moly, Nature's Republic, blah blah you get it. E-main and I get a lot of horrified looks from Korean sales people who don't understand why we aren't wearing make up at all, haha.

Anyway, that's just Day 1 in Seoul! Phew! I've never been a big fan of anything Korean - not their food, their dramas, their music or even their make-up, but I think after this trip I do quite like what Seoul has to offer and there's just so much to do, it's worth another trip back some time in the future! I'll probably be doing 4 posts in total for each day we were here, so check back like next week or something for more on what we did. Byeeee.