Part 1: Nick’s first days in Korea before hitting the road!
I am a little difficult to travel with because I get overexcited and have too many things I want to do. Despite his jetlag, Nick was a good sport while I dragged him around the city!
First meal in Korea—- Korean BBQ!
We stayed in Myeongdong, a popular shopping area in the center. There was a cat cafe I found online and after struggling the lack of sign posts and street names, we managed to finally find it. Unfortunately, it had been converted into a restaurant. We tried to ask the woman there for help anyways by making gestures of petting a cat, and when she started to lead us to a table to sit down, we realized our efforts were futile. We decided to walk north heading toward a music market and stumbled across another but it was closed in the morning! Fail. We gave up and eventually made it to the Nagwon Music Mall.
After browsing and window shopping for a while, we ended up Insadong, another tourist hotspot for souvenir goodies and restaurants. Spicy pork stir-fry and tofu soup!
More walking brought us to Gyongbokgung Palace. The first and largest palace from the Joseon dynasty. There are two picturesque ponds on the grounds, and even a palace within the palace, for the King’s son who wanted more independence. More pictures were on my camera which is down the loo now.
At night I brought him down to Banpo bridge park to meet Jihee for dinner. We had some snacks outside of the convenience store first (quite common here) and eventually ended up at a Vietnamese place for some pho.
The next day was a trip to Itaewon to pay for our DMZ tour. On the way, we passed by the Korean War Memorial and Museum, only from the outside. Itaewon is expat central, with a US military base and lots of international restaurants and bars. English everywhere and big clothes stores. Not as in the size of the store, but the size of the clothes. Foreigners have to shop here because the little Korean sizes are usually too small!!! We made our way to Craftworks, a bar with 20 or so craft beers and good indie music! Nick in heaven.
A Korean baseball game was not to be missed! Nick had never seen baseball before so I insisted, and I was looking forward to comparing it to American baseball. We met Celine and another American guy who had been staying in my guesthouse and is biking around Asia for a while. I hyped it up because I thought the fanzone would be similar to the crowd at the Korea University vs. Yonsei games, but I was wrong!!!. There were cheerleaders and people singing and dancing along, but not from where we were in the cheap outfield seats with not a whole lot of people.Tip for future reference: it is super cheap so just get the next level up for the few extra dollars more and you will be in the section that is actually full of fans and singing and dancing. The game was a bit boring otherwise to be honest, which is kind of how I feel about games when I go in the US.
Part 2: A welcome return to the big city and last indulgences before Nick’s return to Saudi Arabia.
This time we stayed in Sinchon, a popular area for university students, and the hunt for a cat cafe continued…. And in the search, I stumbled across a puzzle cafe! I will have to go back another time… only I don’t remember where it is. And finally Table A cat cafe!!! My favorite was the grey fluffy one, but there was also a spastic one that played with us but then freaked itself out and ran away ever few seconds. A Chinese boy had a way with them and managed to keep one with him while he watched videos and the munchkin cat (extra short legs) climbed into his bag. Note to self: next time bring bags to lure the kitties to you.
Some other wanderings around Sinchon… With a piano in the street! This couldn’t be done anywhere else I think without getting broken or stolen.
…. and another craft beer bar! Neighborhood Taphouse. Good beer, and great pizza! Both of us were very happy here.
The next night we tried out Hongdae, a trendy clubbing area, and we were searching for a craft beer bar and burger joint I had found online. We found the right location but it had closed down! Never trust the Internet! We ended up going to another place called Burger B’s, sampling some beer there and just around the corner was Magpies, a recommended craft beer bar. Maybe a little too cool for school, but still nice to sample some other beers. In general, I prefer Sinchon to Hongdae, a bit smaller but still full of bars and restaurants, just more manageable than big ol’ Hongdae.
The next day I had orientation at my university and when I got back, we set off to the cinema since it was raining. At Yongsan station, it is a subway station, train station, shopping center and cinema all in one! We entered through and got lost in the electronics section…. Geek dreamland. Computers, phones, cameras, TVs everywhere!!! Anyway, we saw Everest in IMAX 3D!! Good film, somewhat predictable but beautiful scenery and I still shed some tears. Makes me want to go to base camp (only that far) someday. Leaving the cinema, we discovered the outside was being attacked by cartoons!!!!
Next…. We needed to kill time until Nick’s flight so we made our way to a puppy cafe back in Sinchon!!! I love these places. Just such a happy booster. There are a bunch of other unique cafes around too… Like a sheep cafe and a camping cafe (tents and camping chairs). Those will be found eventually.
To finish off Nick’s last evening before going to the airport, we concluded that it is impossible to find places in Korea but once you find them, you just keep going back, so we went to Neighorhood again… Just can’t have too much pizza. Clearly my honeymoon of immersing myself in Korean cuisine has ended and now I can allow myself to indulge in the Western eats.
Throw in the DMZ tour and that is the whole trip! I will try to write the post about that tomorrow.