Soul to Seoul: A Travel Diary
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Long time no talk! I took a two-week break while I traveled to South Korea to visit my family. After spending a day in Jinjoo to hang out with my grandmother (and introducing Brian to the extended family), we spent almost all of our remaining time in Seoul. While it was so much fun not having any pressure to take a million photos, I did miss having the structure that a blog gives me. I thoroughly enjoyed my break and I’m ready to start blogging again!
Today, I wanted to give you guys a brief overview of what we did while we were in Seoul. I thought of writing a travel guide but I don’t really consider myself an expert on Seoul to write up a legit guide. Instead, I’m listing where we went, what we did, and (most importantly) where to buy K-Beauty products!
where we visited
Gangnam: Oppan Gangnam Style! Admit it- you totally thought of that son by Psy when you read the word “Gangnam,” didn’t you? Gangnam is like the Beverly Hills of South Korea and, as you can imagine, a high tourist and shopping place. Great for when you need to pick up a few cosmetics or skincare products.
In the evening, there are lots of tented bars called pojangmacha or pocha for short. You can order your fill of soju (Korean distilled spirits) and cheap light beer with awesome appetizers. We got a bottle of soju to share with Korean sausages. We went to one in Gangnam but they’re honestly everywhere
The Kakao Friends store is worth checking out. Based on characters of the popular Kakao Talk messenger app, the store offers various products from pajamas decked out in Ryan the Lion pattern or a cute Apeach the Peach wireless mouse (what I got).
Gyungbokgoong: One of the royal palaces of South Korea. If you’re a history buff, this is a must-see. The palace is surrounded by a huge gate in front to ward off invaders and is protected by mountains from behind. You can rent hanbok, or traditional Korean clothes, to wear around the palace to get a feel for what life in those times would have been like. I wanted to do this but it ended up raining the day we went so we nixed the idea.
Insadong: The Korean traditional neighborhood. All the signs are required by law to be written in Korean (including Starbucks). It’s a great place to shop for souvenirs.
Be sure to check out the stands making Dragon’s Beard Candy.
Also, be sure to go to the alley called Samziegil which has many shops full of products made in Korea by local artisans
Jongro: An area that’s largely underdeveloped due to many of the buildings being owned by co-op boards, but FULL of character! If you go to Jongro 3-ga at night, there’s an alley that basically a Korean Oktoberfest.
Namdaemoon Market: A series of large malls that sell items on the cheap. If you’re a fan of haggling, this is the place to do it!
Where we ate
Gwanjang Market: Known for lots of small stands that serve food on the cheap.
You should definitely try a live squid dish if you’re in an adventurous mood. If not, you should try a Korean pancake made with scallions and kimchi. Try it with makgulli, a Korean traditional rice wine. So delicious!
Also, you should try yookhae, a raw beef dish. Have it with a mix of soju and beer for a fun evening.
Tongin market: A fun market/cafeteria to visit in . For about 3000 Won (that’s about $3), they give you a handful of nyang (traditional Korean money used in the olden days) that are used as tokens in exchange for food to be placed on your lunch tray.
Definitely try the ddukbokgi - a spicy rice cake dish that’s savory and delicious! John Kerry famously ate there back in the day!
Shinrae/Shillae: A small neighborhood that’s bustling both during the day and at night.
There’s a tall building sells exclusively soondae, or Korean sausages. Literally, every floor of that building is a different soondae restaurant. They’ll grill it right at your table in front of you. Plus, they give you aprons to wear so you don’t get your clothes stained.
I also did a quick haul video on Instagram Stories. Please feel free to check that out here.
Most flights arrive at Incheon International Airport. It's easy to get from Incheon into Seoul on the train and transfer to the subway.
We took the subway around, as the traffic in Seoul is really bad. All of the signs are in English (as well as Korean) and the announcements are made in English, so it's fairly easy to navigate even if you don't speak Korean.
There is no Uber or Lyft in South Korea but a similar service is offered through the popular Kakao Talk messenger app. If you don't want to download the app plan to take taxis or the subway.
Wifi is pretty widely available (including in the subway trains!), but if you want data, you can buy a sim card at the airport. Brian bought one with 7 days of unlimited data for about $20.