This past April, I took three weeks off from work to explore Asia on my very first trip abroad EVER! I spent a week in Tokyo, a week in Seoul, and a week in Taipei. These are my adventures.
Second stop: SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA
The second stop on our Asia trip was Seoul and I was so friggin’ excited. Why? K-POP BITCHES.
Okay, k-pop wasn’t the only thing that made me excited about Seoul, it was also the food (um. KBBQ, duh). Here we gooooooooo.
Day 1 (our first full day in Seoul)
On our first full day in Seoul, we started off the day at Isaac Toast, which was right across the street from Hongik University. It was a quick and yummy breakfast although I made the mistake of ordering a lemonade. Lemonade in South Korea is not the same as lemonade in America. It is carbonated and remind me of Mountain Dew. MISTAKE. Was hoping for some real lemonade as I am a lemonade fiend, but alas it was not meant to be.
We stuck around the Hongdae area for a bit and looked at all the random shops. After walking around, we eventually got hungry again and had lunch at Kyochon Chicken.
ZOMG, cannot even begin to explain how amazingly delicious and perfectly crispy this chicken was. Korean fried chicken is legit the best fried chicken I’ve ever had. We ordered the classic Soy Garlic flavor and it was so good. The plate came and at first, I thought there was no way we were going to finish all this chicken. I was wrong. After the first bite, we devoured the chicken so fast, I was sad when we got to the last piece. There are actually a couple of locations of this chain in America now. If you live close to one, you should definitely try it!
After stuffing ourselves full of chicken, we headed over to Myeongdong to do some shopping. And boy did I shop A LOT. I went overboard and bought way too much stuff with the mentality of “When am I ever going to be in South Korea again?!” Terrible.
The shops in Myeongdong are close together and the sales ladies are super aggressive. A tip: if you can’t find something you want in a specific store like Aritaum, just head down the block a bit and you can probably find another Aritaum to go in and find what you need. All the stores there are in multiples and are in close proximity. Below are just a few of the stores that I shopped at:
- Olive Young
- O-Lens (yes, I got colored contact lenses…YOLO)
- Moonshot (YG-owned brand)
- Too Cool For School
- Chosungah 22
- Tony Moly
- All Mask Story
- AND SO MANY MORE
After expending all of our energy shopping, we got dinner at Yoogane Dakgalbi (Chicken Galbi), which is spicy grilled chicken with vegetables. The servers actually cooked it for us right on the table and it was almost too spicy for my sensitive taste buds.
Afterwards, we called it a night and headed back to our Airbnb.
We started off day 2 in Seoul by going to Gwangjang Traditional Market for breakfast. Although, we got a little bit lost, we eventually found the food zone and the mung bean pancakes! It was so good! I miss it.
Our next destination was Changdeokgung Palace, also known as the East Palace. Changdeokgung also houses Huwon (Secret Garden), which unfortunately had very limited guided tours and we were unable to get tickets. Take note! If you want to go to Huwon, you have to book that ticket way in advance if possible, especially because there are only a few tours in English (other languages include Korean, Japanese and Mandarin).
The palace itself was quite a maze of hazy buildings with long walkways in between. The Main Hall was a grand sight to behold with tourists crawling all over the stone foundation steps.
We headed on over to Dongdaemun Design Plaza next. Honestly, I thought we were just going to do a quick walk-by because really…what is there to see other than the building. But we actually ended up spending quite a bit of time there. Not only is the plaza itself really cool (architectureeeeee), but there was also the Design Lab that we poked around in as well with interesting knick knacks and memorabilia. Also, in the Design Lab, I finally found a duffel bag for all the super extra things I bought. Yay! And BONUS. It was a Hello Kitty duffel bag.
Afterwards we got hungry and went to get Korean fried chicken at Kyochon Chicken…again. NO RAGRETS. It was delicious.
Then we headed down the block to Cheonggyecheon River. It was awesomely scenic to walk along the river. There were stone walkways to go back and forth across the river and the sun was setting over the towering buildings on either side of us.
We walked all the way to the end of the river where it opened up into a plaza with a small waterfall. After heading up some stairs near the waterfall, we came across…a giant meditation group. No seriously. A giant group of people were just meditating at the top of the plaza in perfectly straight lines. It was fascinating. Still to this day have no idea why they were there.
We rested at the plaza for a moment and watched the rest of the sunset cascade over the city until only darkness was left. The plaza looked amazing all lit up at night.
We eventually got hungry and walked down to Myeongdong in search of food. Our initial goal was to find Sundubu (Tofu Soup), but after walking the narrow alleyways in between shops, we decided to just get street food instead. It was delicious and greasy and everything you could want in street food albeit some of it was a little expensive for my taste. My favorite thing that we got was the Hoddeok. It was filled with bulgogi and glass noodles. It really hit the spot.
After a long metro ride, we arrived in the Gangnam district where we explored Garosugil, a super cute area with a lot of shops and cafes. I resisted the urge to buy things because I had already went well above my spending limit earlier in the week on all things beauty and skincare.
We didn’t have a planned place to go eat so we walked around until we saw a menu that appealed to us. It was this cute little hipster place on the second floor of a very unassuming building. The guy who served us was super nice and spoke English. And he complimented my Korean speaking skills! Score!
We headed over to the SM Entertainment offices next. Other than the excitement of seeing a k-pop office in real life, there wasn’t much there.
We wandered around a little bit more before heading to a PC Bang (PC Cafe) to drop Brian off to play some games. While he was playing games, I headed a couple blocks down to go to 1million Dance Studio. It’s a super famous dance studio with over 5mil subscribers on YouTube.
I’m a huge fan of the choreographers at this studio so I was super excited that I would have the opportunity to take a class while I was in Seoul.
A couple of notes when you go to 1million Dance Studio:
- If you’ve never been there before, you have to register.
- You can pay for multiple classes upfront or just the one you are signing up for.
- You line up before the class starts in the area next to the actual studio
- There are two floors of the studio. You can check the class schedule online for which classes will be where.
- NOTE: The class schedule changes frequently so be sure to keep checking if you really want to take class from a specific instructor.
- Classes are taught in a series. The instructor will typically teach one piece split into multiple classes and if you miss the first class…you’ll have to catch up on the 1st part of the piece by yourself. They will sometimes review, but only very briefly as the class is focused on teaching the next part of the piece.
After feeling super refreshed and happy from class, I went back to the PC Bang to pick up Brian. We decided to find a KBBQ place because you can’t come to Korea without getting KBBQ!
We went to this place we had passed a couple of times in Myeongdong, but we hadn’t realized it was basically pork only. WHERE’S THE BEEF?! I’m not sure if it’s because that’s a cultural preference or if it’s because beef is just really expensive to get in Korea, but we were a little shocked. Still delicious though and still better than what we could get in the states…
Stay tuned for Part 2!
Check out the other posts on travel in Asia: