Monday, August 15, 2016

Seoul, South Korea 2016: Shopping, Sights and food!

You know what, Seoul has not been in my line of sight as a travel destination before. I don't understand the obsession with Korean skincare or makeup and I am not truly a big fan of some Korean food. Well, an opportunity arose for me to combine work with leisure and since I was going to travel with a long time buddy and colleague, of course I said why the hell not. What an awesome trip it was!

Shopping

I got caught up in the shopping. Everything was relatively more affordable here than in Singapore. Now I understand why ladies bring back so many skincare products from Korea, I became one of them.

The skincare prices here are definitely cheaper than in Singapore so it makes sense to stock up in Korea.

Myeongdong

It is a crazy place. Please park all husbands and sons somewhere before venturing forth. It is a paradise for women. So many things to see and buy. From apparel, accessories to beauty products. You can find almost all known brands of Korean skincare and cosmetics at every corner. So if you missed one, no worries there is bound to be another around the corner. The SAs here are very keen to make sales and they can be quite pushy. But if you are nice to them and speak a little Korean and they throw in a lot of samples for you. So smile and say Anyoung Haseyo! Many stores also give you a tax refund there and then if you happen to spend more than a certain amount.


The triumphant hunter showing off her spoils of the day.

Crazy crowded Myeongdong
Combined haul
Lotte DFS

We ventured inside Lotte DFS to buy the more prestigious brands like Sulawasoo. I did not enjoy the experience at all. It is so crowded with people and they are noisy and very pushy. The SAs there were so harassed they were not smiling at all. I did manage to get what I want but I would rather venture to a departmental store get what I want from an attentive SA, queue up in peace and deal with the hassle of claiming tax refund. Not going to another DFS store ever again.

After doing some research, I finally cave it and bought some cushion packs to try out.




Ehwa Womans University

You can't go into the university but you are allowed to walk around the outside area. The streets surrounding Ehwa Womans University have plenty of shops selling women's accessories and clothing. You can get great buys but I didn't enjoy myself, namely because of the heat, I don't really enjoy Korean fashion (everything was in free size aka for tiny tiny girls) and after 10 stalls everything looks the same. But they are really cheap so if you like hunting for good bargains you should visit.





Dongdaemun

This is where you go if you like Platinum Mall in Bangkok. You can get really good bargains but again you can't try the clothes and the sizes are really small. There are also a few malls that sells upmarket stuff. This isn't a place I would visit again.




Namdaemun

I think it is best if you visit during the day, more things to see. It is something like Gwangjang market. We visited in the evening so many stalls were closed for the day. You can get cheap souvenirs here. I do have to add that we did price comparisons of certain souvenirs at different places and they are all the same. Bargain at your own risk, there are some really grumpy vendors.





Sights

Isnadong

Isnadong is a quaint little shopping area where you can get souvenirs. The little alleys have that traditional feel and is good for taking pictures. You don't really need  lot of time there. One thing I have to say though, travelling in June is torturous. It is very hot and humid. 31-32 degrees celsius. It saps the energy out of you and make exploring really tough.





There is a really cool little mall that sell many handmade crafts if you are into that sort of thing.


Need to take a break and enjoy some cold bingsu
Crazy cat lady simply cannot resist cat knick knacks
Changdeokung Palace

There are so many palaces, I decided to visit the one which is a UNESCO Heritage site. After the trip though, my pal says that Geongbokung Palace was more interesting and grannd. You decide. You need to pay for the Secret Garden tour because if you don't you can't get to go further in other that the few main buildings at the entrance. The tour takes about 1.5 hours and requires you to walk up and down slopes so it is not for the elderly or for little kids. 







Very nice tour guide telling us about the Secret Gardens



Food

I notice that traditional Korean food is actually much cheaper than food you buy at cafes or fast food restaurants. I ate kimchi everyday in the hopes that I would eventually develop a taste for it, unfortunately it did not happen. But I discovered quite a few favourites.


Naengmyeon- Korean cold noodles in chilled broth
Mandu - vegetable dumplings
Gimbap
Fried chicken!







Korean BBQ
Many variations of the bingsu
Two places you have to go if you enjoy street food.

Myeongdong

The food vendors start setting up their stores from 5 to 6 pm onwards, I'm not sure what time they stop selling though. They don't sell traditional food per se, it is a mish mash of the greatest kind. All things fried and unhealthy! Somehow you can't go wrong with the many kinds of desserts they sell.








Waffle with vanilla ice cream and honeycomb on top, it was so good I came back for seconds.

Osulloc for the best green tea desserts
Gwangjang Market

If you like visiting traditional markets, you will enjoy Gwangjang market. We went on a Sunday morning so it wasn't as busy as it was supposed to be. There is lots of stalls selling traditional Korean food that is cheap. The stalls in the middle seem to be most visited. Just look for a stall with many people and squeeze in.






If you want to take pictures with the octopus, you need to pay for it and eat it. We didn't dare.






We chose the safest bet of vegetable and meat dumplings.

Mung bean cake
Here are additional pictures taken at Goyang where I spent some days for work purposes.





I thoroughly enjoyed my maiden trip to Korea and I'm planning to bring my mom for a visit next year in June. Hopefully the weather will be cooler. It was very easy to get around Seoul, the subway was not as complicated as in Japan and many attractions are quite near each other. I understand why ladies go crazy over beauty items now, it is so much cheaper.

Have you been to Korea? What are some of the places I missed and need to bring my mom?

2 comments:

  1. Oh what a fabulous trip! I went to Bali end of July to early August and it was fabulous. Now as I grow older I plan my trips so much better and it was so good to get away properly. I have been to korea in the past with my mom and grandmother but it was some years ago and we were on a tour. We didn't get to see any street food or night market unfortunately but I would LOVE to visit one in the future if I were to go back!

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    1. Bali is one of my fav places to visit, I saw your pictures on IG, makes me wish I was back there again. Seoul is very easy to get around so you ought to do a free and easy trip. The street food is amazing.

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