Seouly Moley

Trip Start Jul 09, 2007
Trip End Dec 20, 2007

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Sunday, July 29, 2007

Day 22- Seouly Moley
  We finally figured out that we can throw our 'cabs are too expensive' mentality out the window (especially when it comes to dragging all of our bags everywhere).  It only cost us 40 cents more to take a taxi to the station than drag all of our stuff up and down the stairs from the subway.  We got to the station around 11:00am, and I was able to finally get my hotdog.  We went to Steff's Hotdog (a Danish tradition for over 100 years), which is basically like a McDonalds that only serves hotdogs.  We were immediately informed that they were out of Viking meal, so I just got the Steff's Special.  It was fantastic- ketchup, mustard, raw onions, crispy onions.  It came with a Mountain Dew and sweet potato salad. 
  We expected the KTX, the fast train from Busan to Seoul, to be lavish and modern.  It sort of resembled a regular old Amtrak or even Metro North train.  It didn't seem to go very fast either.  The ride was also disrupted by a little boy behind us, who screamed the entire way.  The train station at Seoul was a rude awakening, we hadn't been to a really big city since Tokyo.  There were tons of people who pushed their way through the station.  Phil was hungry so we got a ramen and tempura meal at a crowded tourist trap in the station.  The food wasn't too bad. 
  The tourist bureau wasn't sure exactly where our hostel was, but gave us the subway stop we needed to get off at.  We squeezed our way into the subway to find out that they don't take bill money, only coins.  We didn't have nearly enough coins for the ride so we went to the change machine.  The change machine only accepted old bills (they had recently updated their money) and we only had the new ones.  The lines to speak to a teller were forty person deep, so we relented to taking another cab.
  We were trying to explain to the taxi driver where we needed to go, by showing him what the tourist bureau had written down for us, but he didn't seem to get it.  A very nice business man stopped to help us.  He called the hostel and was able to get directions for the driver.  I'm really going to miss the Koreans!
  Our hostel was located on the second floor of a run-down building on an alleyway street (although cars still seem to find their way down it).  Up the stairs, you walk through an internet coffee house (which looked almost Mediterranean) and up to reception.  The room was cute, and very simple.  We had our own shower/bathroom, TV, mini-fridge, and double bed.  The best part was the internet.  I was able to unhook one of their computer's internet connection and plug it into the back of the laptop.  We finally were able to post some of the blog.  We had the entire café to ourselves (after mine and Phil's bickering annoyed the poor German guy trying to check his mail). 
  Phil asked about a laundromat, and was told that there weren't any.  The woman at reception said that she could do it for us, but it would cost $7.  We laughed, and said that we would find a one on our own.  We went to a popular section of Seoul called Myeong-Dong, where the "night-life" of Seoul was supposed to take place.  But when we got there, it seemed that there were only shops and stands there.  I had told Phil beforehand that we should have eaten first.  He didn't appreciated my 'I told you so' comment.  He called me condescending, and I said that our entire trip had become just looking for food.  This all occurred in front of some onlookers at a place that had omelets and lasagna on the menu. 
  A few minutes later, we were happy again and seated at the Bier Halle.  A german-style beer house, which coincidently, had only one beer available- OB.  I was so excited to see beef nachos on the menu (I've been having major cheese withdrawal), and Phil ordered Shanghai sweet and sour chicken.  My nachos came out with squirted-on cheese wiz, but they were fine.  Phil was the first to notice that I didn't have any beef.  We asked the passing waiter about it, and he borrowed our chopsticks to leaf through the entire dish.  He pulled out a brown bit, about the size of a 2kt stone, and said 'the beef' (looking quite proud of himself for finding it).  His smile disappeared when he saw the look of disbelief on our faces.  Phil said, 'oh no, these are beef nachos, we want more than that".  The waiter reluctantly took the dish from the table and brought it back with a handful of the same size sausage pieces drizzled on top. 
  After dinner we walked through the crowded streets and stumbled upon an outdoor stage with a deejay.  The emcee was taking people from the audience, and lining them up.  He then announced that there would be a dancing competition.  The group looked horrified, and one by one they nervous shook their hips back and forth with their hands covering their faces.  After the contest, the emcee offered free beer to come on stage and dance.  Practically no one participated.  In America, people will strip down to their underwear and make animal sounds for beer.  It's a very different culture.
  On the way home, we discovered an adorable gelato shop and just had to give it a try.  The kids behind the counter were really cute, and we were able to make them laugh before leaving with our towering cone of macadamia, green tea, and peanut butter. 
Day 23- Closed on Tuesdays?
  Laundry seemed to take up most of our morning.  We found out that there really aren't any laundromats in Seoul.  Phil was able to talk the reception down to $5.  There was some insanity with the liquid soap, and in the end I'm not even sure they used soap.  We tried to find a bakery on our way to a nearby palace, and were dumbstruck when we weren't able to find any food places for at least a mile.  Instead, there was an endless stretch of sewing machine shops, lawnmower shops, and lighting stores.  On a side street we saw a sign for espresso and ran in.  We enjoyed two ham sandwiches (which took at least five minutes a piece to make). 
  When we got to the palace, there were huge wooden doors blocking the entrance.  A big sign read 'closed on Tuesdays'.  A tall red-headed American told us that most of the palaces in Seoul were also closed, but there was one very close that was giving group tours throughout the day.  He said that the English speaking tours were few and far between, but we could take a Korean one, and just slink-away from the group.  We were curious to know how a 10 foot tall red-head was able to "slink away" from anything in Asia, but thanked him and headed over
  The palace was really great.  We were able to sort of go on our own (we stayed behind a bit), and took some really great pictures.  The architecture was very similar to that of the temples we have seen, but the grounds were very unique and beautiful.  We got creative with the camera, and all of the people behind us began doing the same.  After the palace, we devoured two ices at the gas station across the street and went looking for a bookstore. 
  Phil wanted to buy a Chinese phrasebook, and we were directed to a huge bookstore in the center of Seoul.  We bought the book and leafed through it, as we drank a $1 beer in the food court.  A very nice Nepalese guy at the Indian Restaurant told us that there was a ping pong place nearby.  And so started a wild goose chase.  We must have walked the entire downtown Seoul area, until we finally gave up and went bowling instead.  Phil had the greatest game of his life, strike after strike.  We worked up quite and appetite, and went searching for Imsadong, the famous food area of the city.  We found a super cute bimbibop restaurant, and Phil was in his glory.
I was surprised when Michelle mentioned that she'd never tried bimbibop in New York.  It's a popular dish.  So I was on a mission to find her some and just in time as it was our last meal in Korea.  We strolled down a narrow alleyway just off the main drag which housed several dining options.  We found a cute little place that among other options featured a pretty picture of bimbibop on its outdoor menu. We started with our usual, a large Cass beer and small bottle of Soju.  We ordered the bimbipop (obviously) and the beef tenderloin casserole.  The house started us with five small plates including, kimchi, seaweed, sprouts, pickled daikon and spinach.  All very fresh and delicious.  Soon after the main dishes arrived, the casserole leaving a trail of steam, still boiling and smelling of beef and broth.  Our appetites grew.  The bimbibob was a beautiful dish; mixed vegetables and sea weed over rice with a very lightly fried sunnyside egg over the top.  The bowl is made of a thick stone and heated so its surface acts as a skillet while the dish is consumed.  A sauce is provided on the side and when applied the diner is to toss the ingredients in the bowl so the egg mixes and finishes cooking.  This one was as good as I've ever had.   The beef tenderloin was very good too and came with cellophane noodles and enoki mushrooms.  We poured some of the broth and beef into the bimbibop and had a tasty hybrid.  An excellent meal and bargain for about $18.  Korea, we will miss you and your many very affordable cuisines.
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