Thursday, 30 November 2017

A Week in Seoul

I have been lacking in the blog posts lately, sorry... just haven't found the time. I have been attending family events, meeting old friends, making new ones and also trying to keep the coding work up as well. But in all honesty it has mostly stemmed from feeling rather overwhelmed with the amount of things to cover since there has been so much going on!

First of all, there's nothing better then visiting somewhere when you have an enthusiastic host that is also one of your best friends. It makes all the difference when they know all the good local places, but also knows what you like and adjusts to that as well.

I had a fantastic week, and it was very packed. I thought it would be better to list em out in case any of you guys were thinking of visiting as well someday;

View from Bukhansan Peak



THE NIGHTLIFE

Itaewon - Is close to where the American army base is situated, so since then it has been built up more catered towards foreigners. There is a wide variety of shops, bars and restaurants to choose from, mostly Korean attempts at foreign foods.





I went to one called South Side, an American bar with a rooftop view. Strangely enough we weren't really in the south! Unfortunately it was too cold so it wasn't officially open at the time. When going drinking bars will typically give out unlimited free snacks like nuts or crisps, and encourage customers to eat as to not get drunk too quickly.

Gangnam - The most famous area and now more internationally recognized since Psy's song. Its a place that never really sleeps, and has a lot of bars, clubs, shops, and great places to eat all throughout day and night.

Karaoke bar in Gangnam

There are also some very interesting places in Gangnam. A favourite hangout spot for us is Rainbow, a hippy shisha bar. It sounds weird to say, but that's why we love it. A Korean hippy shisha bar in Gangnam! Its a relaxing place to hang out and drink, and a unique experience!

Jandari-ro (nearest station Hapjeong) - Up and coming location, quieter version of Gangnam. Maybe the 'older', more relaxed style place so I've been told. Here we saw the typical restaurants,
shops, arcades and karaoke bars, but we found this beauty... a gaming bar!






THE FOOD

Korean food is one of my favourites, but its not for everyone. For one thing most of the dishes will be spicy, so be aware! Most of the dishes will come with sides, which will be small plates of pickled vegetables, and of course the world famous kimchi.

Korean BBQ - This is classic first meal that a Korean would typically take his visiting friend to. You will be given raw beef, belly pork, or prawns to cook on a grill on a custom table. The idea is to get some meat with chilli paste sauce and wrap it in a lettuce leaf to eat. With all the sides like garlic, kimchi and rice, you can mix and match how you please!

The BBQ grill. This version has space for an omelette to fry on the outside.

Gingseng Chicken Broth - Another common food that Koreans like is their broths in a hot claypot. Most of the time this will come with a small bowl of rice to eat it with, as well as the sides. I've known my Korean friend a long time now, and in all this time I never tried this before! This amazing broth is a small whole chicken with rice inside it! The broth has gingseng, garlic and chestnuts as well as other herbs... awesome! The restaurant was pretty traditional, meaning sitting down style.





Japanese Ramen - Not traditional Korean, but we felt like some ramen and my friend knew this incredible Japanese ramen place in Gangnam! Great food to help cure my hangover!

Vatos, Itaewon - After meeting a developer in Itaewon, he took me to a Mexican taco place! It had some cool beers that I'd never heard of and tacos. In UK we don't eat these that often, so its hard to compare it, but for me it was great!

Manimal Steakhouse, Itaewon - This was an American themed slow cooked meat restaurant in Itaewon! There was so much meat that it would make Atkins dieters proud! 



THE SIGHTS & EXPERIENCES

Korea has a lot of amazing sights, and just the old school traditional but also on the flip side some really amazing futuristic locations! Something for everyone.

Cat Comic Cafe (Jamsil) - Gonna start off a bit weird. In Korea, cafe's are all the rage! Next to restaurants and shops, they're probably most common business! Of course you will see Starbucks and The Coffee Bean franchises around, but there are a ton of small cosy hipster coffee places too! My friend found an amazing cat cafe which specialised in having a huge collection of comics for you to read. It was so relaxing and fun to chill and have the cats wandering around doing that they do, which I'm sure is not caring what your doing!







You would go grab a comic book and chill in the booths. A cat might choose you when wandering around. 

Steam Room Bath Houses - In and around Seoul there are huge stream houses which basically have different varieties of sauna rooms on the top floor. These range from salt, clay, menthel, ice cold and increased oxygen rooms. The other floors contain other things such as baths, places to sleep or relax to read or whatever, a place to eat, table tennis and even a gym. You can spend up to 12 hours in there at one time, even overnight!

Amazing view from an overpass on the way from the Korean bath house

Gyeongbokgung Palace - Close to where I had the chicken broth, we went to check out the palace. Unfortunately we got there too late at like 4pm and it was closed to go inside. The view is still amazing though, and it was really contrasting to look one direction at this super traditional building and turn the other way to see Seoul's huge futuristic skyscrapers.



Koreans has made it a trend to dress up in traditional costumes when visiting the palace

Insadong-gil (Anguk) - This trendy area is touristy but has a cool outdoor hipster mall with a lot of unique shops. It spirals all the way but for you to check out the shops and the view







Outdoor game stall?

Cheonggyecheon Stream - This man made 10km stream cuts through the heart of Seoul is a great place to walk. At the time there was a lantern festival happening so there was cool displays of cartoon characters








Dongdaemun History and Culture Park - This amazing curvy building was designed by the same architect  (Zaha Hadid) that did the London Olympic swimming pool. It replaced the old Dongdaemun staduim. In fact one of the stadium lights is still left here.







Hiking in Bukhansan Mountain - If your up for a bit of a hike, you can try and reach the top which is 822m high. With their hobbies, Koreans are extremely serious meaning that they are totally over the top in kitting themselves out. Once you reach the top, you have an amazing view of Seoul. Just be aware that it gets quite rocky so trainers and heels could struggle






Korean flag posted at the top, 880 meters up!



Overall I had an awesome time, my friend really showed me why he loves Seoul so much, and I cant deny that its an amazing place! Hopefully if your thinking of going you will check out some of these places.

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