Our final stop through Asia was Seoul, South Korea. My mom and I both had never visited Seoul and were excited to explore a new city. When my mom’s friends decided last minute to join us, we were even more thrilled. The more the merrier! That’s always been my philosophy when traveling!
First impressions of Seoul. The first person I notice when walking down the streets of Seoul is a young girl with a bandage on her nose and a chin cloth strapped to her face. Evidence of the plastic surgery culture in South Korea. Every block seemed to be selling face products and make up. Aside from the obvious beauty and cosmetics craze, the streets were clean, the people were courteous, and food was amazing!
Our first day consisted of shopping. When you travel with four middle-aged Asian women, the first things they want to do in a new city is go shopping. I didn’t mind because my mom and I planned on stocking up on Korean face masks, which are five times more expensive in the U.S. $1 face mask pieces? I bought 50… I also love Korean fashion and bought up a few tailored shirts from both street vendors and department stores.
We started off in Myeong-Dong, passing through delicious food carts and street food vendors on our way to the shops.
Then we each went off on our own to shop:
Lunch! After shopping, we went in search of some Korean food. We spotted a restaurant that was filled with young hip locals and decided to give it a try. Tteokbokki with ramen, cheese pizza, salad, and blue lemonade. A random combination and perhaps evidence of the East meets West cuisine, but it definitely hit the spot after hours of shopping!
The shopping continued into the evening where we checked out Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP) and Dongdaemun Shopping Center.
The next day, we finally did some cultural exploring. Changdeokgung Palace. We arrived just in time for the English tour and wandered the spacious palace and gardens with 20 other tourists and a guide. The Korean palaces were immaculately preserved, and I loved listening to the history of the old Korean dynasties.
In continuing our day of cultural enlightenment, we decided to go to Tosokchon for the famous Korean ginger chicken soup. As suspected, the line was 2 blocks long, but the line moved rather quickly. Within 45 minutes, we were sitting on the straw floor in a traditional Korean dining house sipping ginger infused chicken soup with other groups of tourists. Did I enjoy myself? Sure. Would I visit again? Probably not. Maybe it was the strong medicinal aroma or the lack of chicken flavor in the soup, but one time was enough for me…
Then it was off to Insa-dong Street, Seoul’s cultural antique and art hub with traditional teahouses, bookstores, art galleries, and crafts shops. A fun place to explore, but it was way too crowded for me. I picked up a few cotton scarves and called it a day.
We ended the night was a traditional emperor’s dinner. Call me tacky, but I much prefer Korean street food and BBQ than the colorful but flavorless dishes that Korea’s past emperors used to dine on every night…
On day three, while the others continued to shop, my mom and I went off on our own to do some more exploring, visiting other palaces and neighborhoods. We decided to start the morning off at Bukchon Hanok Village, a district that still had over 900 Hanoks, traditional Korean houses. It’s still residence to many locals and has become a popular filming location for Korean period dramas. I loved visiting in the morning when the streets were relatively quiet and weren’t overrun by tourists. There’s not much to do in the village aside from wandering around and getting lost amongst the beautiful Korean houses.
Just a 20 minute walk away was Gyeongbokgung Palace, the first royal palace built in the Joseon Dynasty and the largest of the remaining palaces in Seoul. My mom and I headed over and caught the last half hour of the English tour. The gardens here are just breathtaking! This palace is definitely worth a see!
With our last night in Seoul, we decided to get Korean BBQ and hit the street food when the sun set. I loved checking out the various food stalls and trying a little bit of everything.
Night market street food:
Such a fun time in Seoul! As always, I just wished we had more time to eat!