If you want to eat cheap, one of the many useful things Russ learned when teaching English in Korea years back was to hit up a kimbap joint. For the first 'Korean meal' of our trip we went for the cheaper eats.
We found MyeongKa KimBap within walking distance of our place in Seodaemun. Kimbap places typically have an orange store front, just look for kimbap, or kimbab (김밥), or kuksu/guksu (국수) in the name.
We ordered KimchiBokkuemBap (김치볶음밥; kimchi fried rice) and Chijuh Ramyeon (치즈 라면; cheese ramen) with tteok-bokki (떡볶이; Korean rice cakes). The bokkuem bap was good and tasty, the cheese ramen was different yet satisfying. In Korea, the cheese typically used for cheaper dishes is American-style sliced cheese, so it adds a different cheese taste than what might be expected in North America or Europe.
After the morning meal we headed towards Seoul Station (서울역) and later, Gwanghwamun (광화문).
The bus, metro, and high-speed-rail systems unite at this central hub. Here you'll also find a lot of information if you need to get to other places either within Seoul or to the rest of South Korea.
Adjacent to Seoul Station is a raised walkway that stretches from Seoul Station Square to Namsan pedestrian overpass and then to Hoehyeon Station in Namdaemun Market. This raised walkway, known as "Sky Path", or Seoullo 7017, was once a deteriorated overpass that Seoul didn't want to give up. Instead, a project called the "Seoul Station 7017 project" commenced in November 2015 turning it into an interesting and comfortable path for pedestrians. Created in 1970, this 17-meter high overpass was overhauled within the past few years to preserve this part of history of Seoul. The Netherlands won an international contest to design this path for pedestrians, which was completed May 20th of this year, 2017.
So we got to see and experience this newly created path. From Exit 2 this walkway gives a decent view of the city. The plants are each labeled with their respective scientific names. Other than the casual stroll though this sky park, you can also enjoy a foot bath with the locals and relax your feet. You’ll be doing a lot of walking, so consider this treat for your feet.
After the skywalk we ended up in Namdaemun and walked by City Hall where massive protests of all forms occur.
We were soon greeted and surprised by the Friendship Festival that was going on along the Cheonggyechon-ro Canal. Here countries from all over the world shared their cuisine and liveliness. We even got to see the parade that came through.
Before reaching Gwanghwamun gate, you'll be greeted by two large statues of notable figures from Korea's grand history: General Yi SunShin and King Sejong. Take the time to tour the museum found at the King Sejong statue and learn about the history of Hangul, King Sejong and General Yi.
Gwanghwamun gate stands tall in front of Gyeongbukgung Palace (경복궁). The palace is a must see when in the city.
Gwanghwamun Gate is free of charge. * Gyeongbokgung Palace - Adults 3,000 won / 2,400 won (for more than 10 people) - Teenagers 1,500 won / 1,200 won (for more than 10 people)
But if you rent hanbok (한복) traditional Korean clothes the entry fee is waived. There are a bunch of rental stores around the area, check different stores for a good price. The rental is not expensive at all, we saw a place that was 3,000 won for 30 minutes.
Operating Hours January-February 09:00-17:00 March-May 09:00-18:00 June-August 09:00-18:30 September-October 09:00-18:00 November-December 09:00-17:00 * Last admission: 1 hr before closing
We weren't able to tour the palace that day so we went to Itaewon with Russ's friend, Zack. He was also showing his brother's friend, Jake, around Seoul at the time. The more the merrier!
Itaewon (이태원) is an area referring to Itaewon-dong in Yongsan-gu that is popular area for expats, English teachers, U.S. military and residents of Seoul. If you need a break from Korean food, then check out Itaewon, where there's a wide selection to choose from, Pakistani, Mexican, Italian, French, and more. Over the past few years Itaewon has developed from a grungy, yet fun expat city into a more modern (and a little more boring) typical Korean city. So visit while you still can, because in a few years or so this place might become unrecognizable.
We all went to Phillies, a very popular bar for foreigners in HaeBangChon, otherwise known as HBC. Zack is part of a Canadian hockey league in Korea. Sam was surprised to hear of a such a thing. It's actually a really legit league, with a draft, a website, a schedule, and a whole bunch of guys who just want to play hockey. It's actually ball hockey, so the game is played on a court instead of on an ice rink. There's still hockey sticks and goalies with a bunch of padding. Phillies was hosting their draft, free beers for all.
After a few hours at the bar, Russ and I decided to find some grub. Zack suggested a sammich place next door, Casablanca Sandwicherie, Moroccan food. It was a bit on the pricier side for sandwiches, but it was good to try something different. We got chicken Moroccan sandwiches that had fried potatoes in it (but the server told us it was fried tomatoes?). Russ ordered a green pea soup that was really herby, but he still enjoyed it.
South Korea, Seoul, Yongsan-gu, Yongsan 2(i)ga-dong, Sinheung-ro, 33
We decided to shoot home after eating the heavy sammiches (as the kanaks were setting in) to get some rest.