I was in Seoul for a short 5D4N trip last week and I’m back here sharing my exploits over there!
So, we landed in Seoul at 11.45 a.m. (their local time) after a close to 11 hours flight (O.O) and I was beat! I was running very VERY low on fuel and desperately needed some caffeine in my body to kick-start my brain to function alertly. Because we had such a short stay and a whole list of things to do, our itinerary (at least for the first 2 days) was quite packed. We basically got our T-money card and swoosh to take the airport railroad line (AREX) at B1 from the arrival hall (1F) in Incheon airport.
There are basically two types of train for the airport railroad line: express and all-stops train. The express train takes about 43 minutes to reach Seoul station, while the all-stops train takes about 53 minutes. As there was no significant difference in duration, we boarded the all-stops train as it was a lot cheaper than the express one. If you’re choosing between the two, I highly recommend taking the all-stops train. It’s clean, cheaper, almost as fast as the express one and it comes a lot more frequently as well.
From Seoul Station, we had to transfer to Chungmuro Station where our hostel was located. It was about a 5-minute walk as you transfer between the subway lines. Also, do note that you’ve to tap out at Seoul Station and tap in again as you switch from the airport railroad line to the subway lines.
Once we reached Chungmuro Station, it’s where our troubles begun. We managed to find the building where our hostel was supposedly located BUT! it was not there. We spotted these two guys having a chat and I went up to them, with my close to non-existent Korean (i.e. so I spoke in English and thank them in Korean), to ask them for our hostel location. One of them whipped out his phone and google-map for us and emphasised the key location, a pharmacy, where we would have to turn about a corner, to find our hostel. After he took a picture of the map on my phone, we thank them and joyously (attempted) to make our way to the hostel.
Alas, it was not to be. As we went round trying to find the pharmacy, we slowly found ourselves in the small roads, where factories were located. Dragging our luggage along as we meandered across the bumpy roads, I remembered thinking my luggage was unlikely to survive the journey to the hostel. Whatever people in the area were busy working or hustling along, it was difficult to confirm our location. At this point, we were simply lugging ourselves along the stretch of road. We decided to make our way to the end of it and get out of this area. But as we moved along, we spotted a man stepping out of a shop for a smoke.
So I went ahead and ask him where our location was and lo and behold, we managed to find someone who could speak Chinese! He actually guided us out of the area and walked with us in search of the elusive hostel. When he couldn’t find it, he helped us dial the hostel manager on his phone and managed to get the hostel manager to meet us to bring us to the hostel. Hallelujah!!! I was beyond grateful to meet such a kind soul in a foreign land. Once the hostel manager came, we bid out goodbyes with him and made our way to the place we would call home for the next 5 days. Turned out, we only needed to go further up and turn right at the initial building we found ourselves at to get to the hostel -.- Well done, us.
Now, with all the adventures, I’ve yet to mention the name of our hostel. Ironically, it’s called Rainbow Hostel. The hostel itself IS pretty small, but it sufficed. Especially, like me, if you see hostels/hotels as simply a place to rest the tired body at the end of the day. All I need in my living accommodation is for it to be safe, clean and secure. There was only 1 person in charge of the entire hostel and considering there was another couple checking in at the same time as us, I would like to believe that he was simply frantic and stressed when he first instructed us to wait outside the hostel. In the cold wind, mind you. Note that there are 2 doors into the hostel. Let’s call the one separating the outside with the waiting area, entrance A, and the other separating the waiting area to the stairs leading to the rooms, entrance B. I know it seems kind of confusing but I hope I’m making sense, lol. Of course, we eventually moved in and waited outside entrance B. Turned out, he was getting someone from the couple pair down so he could demonstrate to us the code and the way to open and close the lock for entrance B.
Anyway, after all the hassle, we eventually did managed to settle down. We took a short break before heading to Caffe Bene for a much needed cuppa coffee. Coffee prices in Seoul were similar to Starbucks and Coffee bean (maybe even slightly pricier), so Caffe Bene was our first and last cafe attempt for coffee in Seoul. Instead, we discovered our good friend 7-11, where we had banana milk and much cheaper packaged coffee (when needed) in our subsequent days.
Direction: Just outside Exit 6 of Chungmuro Station
(FYI: They have multiple branches across Seoul, this was just the one we visited)
Armed with liquid caffeine, we made our way to Noryangjin fish market for an early seafood dinner.
Noryangjin Fish Market
Nearest train station: Noryangjin station, Exit 1
Once you’ve come out through Exit 1, just make your way across this overhead bridge. At the end of the bridge, head down the stairs (through the doorway) and you’ll see the market. Alternatively, just follow the smell of wet and salty seafood and you’ll do fine.
A ginormous, decapitated octopus and its tentacles…
Gaebul, also affectionately known as the penis fish. I kid you not. I’ll have you know I got this title from wiki. Although, it is more accurately, a marine spoon worm. In case you didn’t know, if you squeeze this “fish,” water will spurt out just like when a guy’s peeing. Just look it up on youtube. 😉
Of course, you can’t come to Korea and not try this novelty dish, sannakji (live octopus). We eventually bought a small octopus, 2 small abalone and a snow crab from the stall owner, who could speak Chinese, for 30,000 won. We might have been ripped off but since both of us can’t speak Korean nor do we know what is considered cheap, we just bought our meal from her. We then head up to the 2nd floor (where the restaurants are located) to get our meals prepared for us for 20,000 won (including the frying of our crab roe with a 1 person portion of rice). Now, for the restaurant price, I would think it is quite legit as we saw quite a fair bit of Koreans coming in with their goodies for their meal. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong 🙂
These rascals were still squirming and wriggling on the plate as they were served to us. You eat the tentacles dipped in sesame oil and it actually does taste quite good. Once, you’ve gotten over the weird-ness of eating it. One of them even tried to squirm out of the sesame oil bowl (the smaller bowl behind the plate) when I dropped it from my chopsticks.
The shopkeeper will ask you how you like the abalone prepared: steamed or roasted. We chose roasted, although I was never a big fan of abalone. It was far too chewy and my mouth was way too tired from eating it. However, my friend really loved this dish. She said it tasted of the sea.
And the main star for the day, our huge snow crab!!!! The crab was steamed and we were provided scissors to dismantle it ourselves. Basically, other than cooking, the restaurant does not do much of anything else. Separating the meat from the shells was quite a hands-on experience. It was super fun actually. But because the crab shell was quite tough, it became somewhat tiring when you’ve separated a few of its legs from the body. Sometimes, I fear the scissors will break on me. Lol, irrationality.
Our crab roe fried rice. I actually cannot stand the taste of crab roe but this was done so well that you can barely taste the roe. Mixed with seaweed, this meal was simply perfection in a shell.
After our hearty meal, we make our way back to the station just as the sun sets, marking the end of yet another day.
We then headed back to Chungmuro station where we took the shuttle bus to Namsam tower, also known as N Seoul Tower.
Directions: Chungmuro Station, Exit 2. At the bus stop in front of Daehan Cinema (i.e. the bus stop right outside Exit 2), take Namsam Sunhwan Shuttle Bus No.2. Drop off at the last stop for N Tower.
From where the bus drops us off, it’s a short walk up this semi-steep hill to the top of the tower.
And I finally managed to get my camera settings somewhat right to capture the setting yolk and the beautiful colors it has created in the sky. ^^
The shyly peeking N tower amongst the foliage…
The over-rated love locks…
Enjoying some churros in the cold wind as the sun sets so that we can see the night view from the iconic Seoul Tower.
In case you’re wondering, I didn’t go up the tower. The view on the ground was more than enough.
As night falls, we left the tower (you can take the same bus back to Chungmuro Station) and headed to Dongdaemun for some window/actual shopping at the 3 main malls there: Doota!, Hello apM and Good morning city.
Directions: Dongdaemun Cultural and History Park Station, Exit 14
Take my word for it, it’s just so much more convenient to exit out from the above station than Dongdaemun Station. Note that they’re two completely different stations. Don’t make the same error as us. We basically wandered the about the malls until our legs were ready break apart before we headed back to our hostel to rest our weary bodies in preparation for an early morning. Till the next post, bye!