Art Seoul Tastes

Seoul, South Korea: Out in the Insadong jungle

After returning from a rather depleting trip to Nami Island on our supposedly last day in South Korea, my sister and I decided to extend our stay for another day because we didn’t want to end the trip on a low note.

We had spent much of the day waiting in line for the train, the taxi, the bus, and, finally, the ferry to Nami, and this sorely tested our patience. While the island itself is beautiful in autumn, I wouldn’t recommend going there on a weekend because tourists—both local and foreign—flock to the place. It’s a tourist trap, and the legions (yes, legions!) of people walking around the island take away from your overall enjoyment of the place. (It took a bottle of soju over lunch for us to finally calm down. Haha)

Needless to say, we were pretty disgruntled by the time we got back to our guesthouse in Hongik. And because we didn’t really want our first Korea trip to end with both of us feeling pissy, we turned a blind eye on the exorbitant airline rebooking fees (“This is our Christmas gift to ourselves,” my partner in crime reasoned) and extended for another day.

It was, it turns out, the best decision we had ever made. :D

We opted to spend our last day walking around in Insadong, a quaint neighborhood in the heart of Seoul that’s famous for its traditional antique shops, boutique galleries, street vendors, wooden tea houses and restaurants.

The moment you step out of the train at Anguk station, you’ll get a sense of the creative atmosphere that awaits.

Seoul Fall 2013: Insadong

Seoul Fall 2013: Insadong

Seoul Fall 2013: Insadong

We were pretty hungry when we arrived so before anything else, we decided to have our last lunch in Seoul in this restaurant.

Seoul Fall 2013: Insadong

One thing I love about Korea? You never go hungry while waiting for your main dish to arrive.

Seoul Fall 2013: Insadong

I don’t have any specific restaurant recommendation in Seoul, because every place we’ve been to had really good food. All hits and no misses. This beef bulgogi hot pot, for one, was to die for. I would go back to Korea for this—and all the other food we ate during our weeklong stay :D

After lunch, we were like two children in a playground. Insadong is ABSOLUTE HEAVEN for creative junkies like my sister and I.

Seoul Fall 2013: Insadong

Seoul Fall 2013: Insadong

Seoul Fall 2013: Insadong

Seoul Fall 2013: Insadong

While shopping in Insadong is a little more expensive compared to Dongdaemun and Namdaemun, it’s said to be one of the best places to shop for traditional Korean art, products and souvenirs.

Seoul Fall 2013: Insadong

Seoul Fall 2013: Insadong

Seoul Fall 2013: Insadong

Seoul Fall 2013: Insadong

Our favorite place, however, would have to be Ssamziegil.

Seoul Fall 2013: Insadong

Seoul Fall 2013: Insadong

Ssamziegil is a shopping complex that houses numerous stores that sell everything from fashion and art to food and accessories. Even when you have no plans of shopping (read: your plans will change), I highly recommend you pay this creative complex a visit.

Seoul Fall 2013: Insadong

Seoul Fall 2013: Insadong

Seoul Fall 2013: Insadong

Every corner is a visual feast.

Seoul Fall 2013: Insadong

Seoul Fall 2013: Insadong

Seoul Fall 2013: Insadong

Seoul Fall 2013: Insadong

Seoul Fall 2013: Insadong

It’s not just the walls that are covered with art. The floors are, too.

Seoul Fall 2013: Insadong

Seoul Fall 2013: Insadong

Seoul Fall 2013: Insadong

And the ceilings.

Seoul Fall 2013: Insadong

And even that tiny crevice below the stairs.

Seoul Fall 2013: Insadong

And when you make it to the deck of the building, you’ll find yourself facing this quirky corner.

Seoul Fall 2013: Insadong

Seoul Fall 2013: Insadong

Seoul Fall 2013: Insadong

You also get a great view of the street below.

Seoul Fall 2013: Insadong

Or you can just stare out into the sunset.

Seoul Fall 2013: Insadong

To say that this was the best—and most packed—day of our trip is an understatement. It didn’t end in Insadong, of course. We spent the rest of the night and the early hours of the morning wide awake in our home district of Hongik. Our flight was at 9 in the morning so we had to be in the airport by 6 so we ended up not sleeping until we were safely inside the plane back to Manila.

Our trip ended with half-awake, alcohol-laced conversations with new friends about the many things we’ve observed about South Korea during our respective stays. It was a great way to cap off a memorable first time trip to the land of koreanovelas. :D

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10 comments

  1. I didn’t think it’d turn out that way but Seoul is now one of my favourite places. You were right about the food – all hits and no misses! It’s AMAZING. I would be happy to go back and can’t wait to get the chance to cos there were still so many areas we didn’t get to go to when we went – Insadong included!

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    1. Same here, actually. I had low expectations of Seoul—actually, zero expectations—so when we finally went, I was totally blown away. Definitely making another trip there soon. Especially since my usual go-to place for eating and shopping (Hong Kong) now has Visa restrictions. haha. :D

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      1. Hong Kong’s loss, South Korea’s gain. So annoyed with that Visa restrictions. I wanted to go to Hong Kong next year! :p

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  2. Ah, I was waiting to see some good Seoul food and you definitely didn’t disappoint! I can’t even tell you how mouth-watering that beef bulgogi hot pot looks. And banchan is one of my favorite parts of Korean food. Just that and some rice and I’m good to go. Just had some soondubu a couple nights ago but after seeing this post I am ready for another round of Korean food!

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    1. After my trip to Seoul, I have been keeping myself from eating Korean food because my diet needed to “normalize”. Haha. I swear, my sister and I ate so much on our stay there that we both ended up gaining a few happy kilos! Our favorite would have to be the Samgyeopsal, a pork belly dish grilled on the tabletop. The meat is just sooo good and all you need is ssamjang, lettuce and garlic, and you’re good to go. We had that almost everyday we were there. There was also this spicy stew that I forgot the name of but it was really filling and delicious!

      Okay now I think I want Korean food for lunch! :P

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  3. Hi Tricia, Seoul looks incredible! I would love to go. A bit of a distance for me though. I live in Nottingham (city of Robin Hood :-) ) England. I’m starting up an online gallery of international art and would love to get in touch with a couple of traditional artists from Insadong. Next time you are there it would be amazing if you could ask for contact details of a couple of artists? I have a Korean friend in England who would be able to translate for me. I’m off to get some food now after looking at all of those tasty dishes. All the best, Becky

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Becky, thanks for dropping by :) Yes, Seoul is truly one of the most interesting and vibrant cities I’ve been to recently. You should definitely make the long trip from Nottingham (a place I also long to visit, btw) and explore it yourself. :D No trips back planned yet, but will keep your request in mind when I do find myself back in Korea. Cheers!

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  4. Hi, as soon as I can I will be making the trip to Seoul. It looks like there’s a real buzz there. The Boryeong Mud Fesitval was on our BBC news in July, now that looks like fun!!! If you ever get the chance to come to England I would be more than happy to show you around all of the tourist (and more importantly non tourist) sites.
    Becky

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    1. Hi Becky,

      This response is long overdue…Thanks for dropping by the blog :D

      Reading your comment just brought me back to my Seoul trip…no Boryeong Mud Festival when I went, but was lucky to have caught an art and culture festival while I was there. Definitely holding you to your invite to show me around England’s non-tourist sites. I am quite a fan of the street art there (based on the photos I’ve seen anyway!) and can’t wait to explore the place someday. Do let me know, too, should you happen to be in the Philippines. Always fun to take fellow travelers around my favorite haunts in the city ;)

      Cheers,
      Tricia

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