I feel like so much has happened over the last five days, and yet, at the same time, nothing has happened. The hotel is pretty cool. We initially thought we’d only be here for one night, but we have yet to leave. There is a great bakery (breakfast, anyone?), where we have eaten at least twice a day, every day, since arriving. And then also a bunch of fast food and other restaurants, plus a shoppette. Honestly, there is plenty to keep me entertained here, that it is really difficult to motivate myself to leave the hotel considering the cold. But P is like a kid on fun dip and has had a rather difficult time keeping still. So no worries, we have explored some!
Friday (Day 3):
So after knocking out the important stuff for the day, P & I went exploring. We just stuck to the neighborhood right outside the post gates. It is no surprise that this area is the foreigner hubhub of the capitol. What was a surprise, however, was the complete LACK of Korean food in the area. There was a ton of Turkish food, Greek food, French food, American fastfood (MickyD’s, KFC, Taco Bell – evidently you pay approximately 10 bucks for runny meat, as if TB isn’t bad enough!), Hard Rock Cafe, Outback (Mom, it is not the same one we went to 10 years ago;once we get settled, I am finding it so I can recreate some pictures!), even MEXICAN! But finding Korean cuisine took some effort.
We moseyed through shops and alleys, enjoying ourselves, and keeping an eye out for a good Korean restaurant. Let me tell you a secret, this is not the neighborhood for the awesome deals everyone hears so much about. There is plenty of cool stuff to be seen and even occasionally buy, but you definitely won’t be finding the good deals here. That’s okay, though, because I do know which town we will be hitting up for good shopping!
As we walked along, I caught a whiff of something wonderfully sweet. I eyeballed the nearby vendor’s cart, and could not believe what I saw. It was hoddeok, a sweet and amazing pancake filled with an even more amazing brown sugar/cinnamon paste. They smelled just as delicious on Friday evening as they did 10 years ago. Absolute amazingness. When I would travel with my parents, I would always get one or four when we’d stop at the Korean rest stops (btw, the rest stops here are really cool in my memories, so I’m curious to see how they stack up in reality). P looked at me like I was insane when I insisted we stop and buy a couple from the vendor, but he definitely enjoyed the delightful pancake as much as I did.
Eventually, we found a Korean restaurant. From the outside, it looked very nice and even had a little English written on the signs (“Traditional Korean Bar-B-Que”). We figured with the English, we would likely be safe from the epic attack on our bowels that sometimes affects people shortly after moving to Korea (which we were, this is not some ironic foreshadowing by any means). We each had a soup and rice. I had bulgogi soup, which was actually quite yummy. I am a huge bulgogi fan, but I have never had it in the soup form. P had another beef and veggie soup, which was also yummy. Oh, and I don’t know this because he so kindly offered me a bite. I know his dish was good because our soups were mixed up and we didn’t realize it until halfway through. Whoopsie!
Overall, it was a very cold, and very nice day. We came back shortly before nightfall, since I am a pansy and cannot handle too much cold, long johns or not. But on the plus side, it should be in the 30s by this weekend! And it’s a long weekend too! Hurray Lunar New Year!
Saturday (Day 4):
We braved the subway system:
This picture does not even remotely do this place justice. Literally everything you could ever imagine could be found in this place. Granted the prices were astronomical, but let’s face it, super cool stuff! We killed a few hours here, enjoying riding the escalator.
On our way back to the subway we stopped at another food vendor (they had McDonalds and such, but really, this stuff is barely any good stateside, I’m not too keen on eating it here), and got these interesting dough balls filled with an interesting bean paste. Google tells me they are called gyungdan. When you bite into them, they are actually rather meh tasting, but the aftertaste is really sweet and good. Strange.
Saturday night we made a trip to Seoul Tower (which can be seen from our hotel room window). We made reservations at the revolving restaurant.
We got there about an hour early, and the views just from outside were amazing (I feel like I am using “amazing,” “awesome,” and “wonderful” a lot… Sorry, folks). But it was definitely cold, it was a little bit of a hike from where we were dropped off, plus they had to keep the AC on to keep the windows in the tower from fogging terribly.
After about 30-40 minutes on the observatory deck, we went upstairs for dinner. We were entirely under dressed, and the revolving-ness of the restaurant actually made us a wee bit nauseous. But the food was so insanely good. P had cod, I had Korean steak, but this, this is what made it worth the frigid temperatures and the nausea:
Now this, this, is pork belly and cheese. A very soft cheese. And the pork tasted like bacon, only it had a texture somewhere between pulled pork and pork chops. And both are smothered in a sweet sweet syrup, and (you can barely see the green behind the pork) APPLE PUREE. I thought I had ordered apple sauce, and was a little thrown for a loop when this was set in front of me. But dear baby Jesus, YUMMEROONI!!
P and I were very tired by the end of the meal. It was probably 9PM or so when we finished up, and to that point, it was latest we had stayed up.
PS- Notice the mountain in the tower picture, the entire area is hilly and mountainous like that. It is REALLY cool how the city is built on the hills. I really need to take a picture sometime. The apartments and building are all built on top of each other. It really reminds me of legos, minus the primary colors.
Sunday (Day 5):
We did not do a damn thing. We stayed in and watched hours of How I Met Your Mother. The jet lag finally caught up to me, and I was not up for braving the cold. We did go get dinner with new friends at this neat little Greek place (I told you there is very little Korean food in the area). Very, very good. I need to learn how to make spinach pie.
Monday/today (Day 6):
Today, P and I went down to the post where he will be stationed. It is much smaller than Seoul, but I think that is a good thing. Things are a little quieter (minus the constant drone of airplanes and helicopters), and there are actually HOUSES! Not just highrises! And what’s really nice, is that Seoul is a mere 20 minutes or so away! So our home will be in a calm place, but are still close to the hustle and bustle of the city.
We ended up finishing things up about an hour before the next bus came. And guess what was next to the bus stop?? THE KATUSA SNACK BAR! So we will not have to travel far for good Korean food once we get settled. What is even better is that this snack bar carries grape squishies, as any good Katusa Snack Bar should. Grape squishies are only the most glorious drink in the whole wide world. Grape juice with peeled squishy grapes soaking inside. YUM YUM YUM!
Well, it is time for me to get going, I have a big finance test tomorrow (bleh) that I am NOT prepared for at all. Toodle-loo!