Seoul, South Korea
Now that we were in Seoul, we had to hit up the main tourist spot – Gyeongbokgung Palace. There is a changing of the guards at 10AM. You don’t need to pay to see it or to go into the main courtyard. We met up with our new Aussie friends we met in Busan – Nhung & Elane. Jenn & Elane rented Hanboks from Hanboknam 한복남 경복궁점 – ₩10000 for traditional Hanbok rental. Be aware it will take about an hour to go through this process but wearing a hanbok gets you free admission into the palace. If you don’t wear one, adult admission is ₩3000. You also wear it over your clothing so if it is hot outside, dress accordingly.
We wandered the grounds for a good while. Famished, we went to Gwangjang Market 광장시장. Fresh fruit grapefruit, watermelon & strawberry smoothie ₩5000. All the stalls generally sell the same thing but there are at least 2 famous stalls courtesy of Netflix shows. We shared tteokbokki, chicken feet, pork knuckle, kimchi, pork mandu (dumplings), mini kimbap (drug kimbap) & japchae, ₩9500. Nhung recommended trying Rice punch (Sikhye: 식혜) ₩2000 and it was delicious.
Walked to the DDP (Dongdaemun Design Plaza) 동대문디자인플라자. Spaceship-like building featuring Bellygom bear. Nhung also collects vinyl toys like me so we both ended up choosing the same blind box & getting the same exact figure.
Made our way to Myeongdong to check out the heart of the shopping district of Seoul. This is the place to buy skincare for the better price. Loads of food stalls line the streets in the evenings. Grabbed a Muscat grape mochi ₩4000. We ended up checking out Lotte Young Plaza (the more affordable portion of the Lotte malls). Might’ve bought more toys.
As we were walking around, we ended up bumping into some familiar faces – Sabrina & Mark we met in Jeju on our tours. We had booked to see Go See Cookin’ Nanta (₩47000 for VIP seats) & when we walked in, seated right behind us were more familiar faces – Noelia & Joeli who we also met in Jeju on our tour.
The show was so much fun. For the most part, a non verbal performance filled w/ lots of kitchen knives action & other utensils to create amazing musical beats as well as mixing in acrobatics.
After the show, we walked the street for a bit in search of food. I was approached by a person who just said “Hello, I think I know you”. Turns out I do know him. Bumped into Patrick who plays for Boston Hurricanes in the 9Man Volleyball world and his girlfriend Sharena. Volleyball just brings people together is what I found with this entire trip of mine.
As the street stalls were about closing up for the evening (1030PM) I grabbed Jajangmyeon ₩5000, a baked sweet potato ₩5000 & Hotteok ₩2000 to end the night.
Seoul, South Korea
We checked out Bukchon Hanok Village. It’s a village mixed with traditional & modern houses filled with artists, tea houses, art galleries and homes.
From there, we walked over to the Insadong Neighbourhood. Spent a good amount of time at Ssamzigil 쌈지길 – a 4 floor shopping complex that features cafes, galleries & workshops that mix modern and traditional Korean art. We also walked along Insadong Eat Street. I picked up some cute stickers from Dusoon.
We had bulgogi bibimbap for lunch ₩8000 at Sadong Myeonok 사동면옥.
We walked around Itaewon and saw some spots where some K-Dramas were filmed. It was rather empty there. Maybe it was the time of day.
We hopped back on the train to Starfield Coex Mall 스타필드 코엑스몰. The interior of the mall also had a track and field design to help with navigation but also very clean looking. There was a pop-up that looked cute so we lined up for it not knowing what was happening. We visited the popular Starfield Library.
Back to Hongdae & ate dinner at Chicken Bus 치킨버스. We got Black garlic fried chicken & honey butter fries (i also had a Terra beer) ₩34500.
Seoul, South Korea
Breakfast courtesy of the hotel. From there, Jenn and myself went on separate adventures for majority of the day. Jenn went for a solo hike up another mountain.
I started off taking the bus over to get a view above the city at Eungbongsan mountain. It’s a relatively short and easy walk up for views overlooking the highways, Seongsu, Gangnam and you can also briefly see the Namsan Tower. There’s even some badminton courts & workout machines up top (restroom nearby too).
The trail path will continue down and lead you towards Seoul Forest where you will cross over the bridge to Seongsu. Seongsu has been described as the Brooklyn of Seoul and I can attest to it but also some Toronto vibes but a little more hipster. Loads of coffee shops/cafes and just overall vibes.
Seoul Forest Park 서울숲공원 reminded of a much larger version Trinity Bellwoods back in Toronto & a Guildwood vibe with art sculptures.
At the edge of the park, it leads you to a shipping containers area called Under Stand Avenue 언더스탠드에비뉴 – support start-up/local businesses. I got a marker drawing done from Acorn Caricature for ₩7000 in about 5-10mins.
Since Seongsu is known for their cafes, I went cafe hopping. I checked out NUDAKE Seongsu 누데이크 성수점 (present dessert like art work), Daelim Changgo 성수동대림창고갤러리 and Cheonsang Gaok 천상가옥. At Cheongsan Goak, I got a sesame latte ₩6800, walnut croissant ₩5900 & yakgwa croissant ₩6500.
It being a weekend, there were loads of people out and loads of pop-up shops with lines everywhere including one that went around a literal square block for a Milkis x Cinnamoroll pop-up.
I walked endlessly through the streets and randomly was looking for a toy store. It turned out the store I went to was heavily invested in Toy Story toys. Unknowingly, I walked up the street and turned to find a pop-up event that was Toy Story x Jjurus at another set of shipping containers called Common Ground.
Tents filled with nostalgic Disney memorabilia and other characters including Pingu and other toys from the early 1990’s era. I checked out all the tents and was overwhelmed. Went to seek a bit of shelter and found even more toys but the urban designer vinyl figures that included Tom & Jerry, Tweety bird, Small Monster Lab etc. Igloo Toys had a 1 month pop-up in the common area inside the containers. I picked up a goofy cactus figure to add to my collection ₩63000.
At this point, I had wanted to walk through Seongsu Handmade Shoes Street (성수동 구두거리) area but didn’t have time.
Hopped on the bus to head over to Banpo Rainbow bridge to meet up with Elane & Nhung for the Han River Food Festival. It was really packed. It took forever for us to even find each other. Jenn was also meeting us there but there were no WiFi connections & that took much longer as well. She ended up borrowing someone’s phone and called us and we eventually found each other. The lines for food were incredibly long. We stayed for sunset, saw a bit of the lights & water on the bridge, browsed a few stalls and went back to Hongdae.
We were famished. Nhung & Elane took us to their Kbbq spot called Yook Gab. We ate marinated grilled galbi, LA grilled beef galbi, Grilled skin on pork belly, kimchi-jiggae, gyeranjjim (steamed egg) ₩34975ea.
Nhung & Elane had planned to go out clubbing but in the end, they just ended up hanging at our hotel until 2AM instead of a club until 630AM.
Bukhansan, Seoul, South Korea
In Jeju-do, we hiked South Korea’s highest peak of Mt Hallasan standing at 1,947M. We took on Seoul’s Bukhansan’s Baegundae peak at 836.5M. It is the most popular trail yet has challenges to get to the top that are totally worth it.
You get a slight incline at the beginning with a mix of dirt trails to small rocks which eventually become bigger rocks & a little bit of stairs. The further up you go, there are ropes & cables anchored that you use to help pull you up.
Difficulty wise, it’s been said this is a 4/5 hike. There’s also 2 routes you could take to the top – one is about 4KM and the other is 4.2KM so we opted for the shorter one.
You think you are somewhat at the top when you see the stone entrance but that is only the beginning of the ropes going up. The views are amazing and worth it from up top. At the very top, you can get a photo with the Korean flag and the stone engraved with the height. It was rather smoky from the top. Hazy Seoul.
What goes up, must come down. We decided to goto another peak instead of returning the way we came. We continued to Yeongbong Peak. We had to go down in elevation to then climb back up then finally back down to exit the park. All in all including us hanging out up top for awhile, we started around 1230PM and were back down by 530PM. There is a little convenience store where you can get a little treat as a reward. I got a Watermelon Pop ₩1000.
We made our way to Myeongdong and met up with Elane for dinner. Jenn wanted to try Army stew so we ate it at Nam Ki Nam budae stew 남기남 부대찌개 명동점한식. We got the 3 person BudaeJjigae for ₩36000 & Jenn added on 1 freshly cut up octopus that still squirms & suctions as you eat it.
When Jenn was flying to South Korea, she saw a face that looked familiar but didn’t think anything about it until, that friend messaged her and said the same thing. Coincidently, it was actually her friend and ex-Volleyball teammate Ann who flew in on the same flight and also happened to be flying out on the same flight as us. We met up with her after dinner in Myeondong to chat for a bit.
We finished the night getting bingsu at Sulbing 설빙 명동점. I got the black sesame with red bean mochi and sliced almonds ₩10900.
Seoul, South Korea – Vancouver, Canada
Final day in Seoul with 29°C weather and it was scorching.
It was also a trippy day as we went back in time getting back to Canada.
Started off the morning in Seoul going for a walk through Hongdae with Elane. I wanted to see some fun stores like Ader Error and Yeseyesee and just the rest of Hongdae area.
Jenn joined us for 32CM Ice cream from 32 Parfait. I got the Berry Mango mix in a cup ₩3000. Nhung joined us for lunch at Hong Kong Banjeom 0410 홍콩반점0410 홍대입구역점. We ordered the Jjamppong ₩7000, Jajangmyeon ₩6000, 4 piece Gunmandu ₩13500 & M Tangsuyuk ₩16900.
Walked a bit to digest & stopped off at Baskin Robbins. Grabbed the Jeju Udo peanut ice cream sandwich ₩3800.
We grabbed our bags from our hotel & took the 6002 airport bus ₩17000 (we paid with our T-Money cards but you can also pay cash). We said our goodbyes to our lovely new friends we met in Busan at the beginning of the trip & became good friends since then. Some tears were shed by Elane. It was an hour ride in a comfy bus to the airport.
At the airport, there are Tax free machines you can scan your passport & receipt barcodes. You have to goto the tax free counter by gate 28 after going through security to claim your money. There are also no convenience stores past security for Terminal 1 so unfortunately we weren’t able to use up our remaining T-Money card money.
We flew with Air Canada (9h35min) & landed into Vancouver to 27°C weather.
$9.45CAD for the Skytrain + bus transfer from the airport. Jenn and myself parted ways on the train. In Vancouver, everyone I was meeting up with is volleyball related. I stayed with my friend (old teammate) Miranda & her family (Tom & Benji) but also nearby lived other volleyball friends – Lena & Rebecca.
Funny enough, my first snack of Vancouver – a cookies & cream ice cream sandwich. For dinner, we ate sushi for dinner from Happy Sushi. Jetlag, I don’t know her. After dinner, I went with Becca to sub on her co-ed Volleyball team playing at the Richmond Oval. I was very rusty but it was fun. I got to meet & play with Cameron, Tayah, Zach & Tai. It was a good way to start my time in Vancouver. Vancouver was my buffer to winding down my giant trip.