South Korea Notes
I spent some time in Seoul, South Korea, here are a few notes from my trip.
- I spent the full time in Seoul. Though I had planned originally to go to Busan as well, I had been hopping around a lot of cities so just wanted to stay in one spot.
- I did slow it down a bit, but still saw a number of interesting spots.
- Stayed in the Hongdae area, which had a number of very lively pedestrian streets. It’s a young area and there is a college there too.
- As I was wandering around Seoul, I walked by this place which just looked like they were selling large stuffed animals, and had people taking photos with them. It seemed a bit odd — this was called a character store, and apparently in South Korea it’s a very normal thing. People just go and take pictures or buy souvenirs of their favorite characters, who are usually emojis from popular messaging apps.
- Seoul has many themed cafes. Though I did not go to the weirder ones, I did hear there was a meerkat cafe where there are meerkats. And other animal cafes or weird themes. I did go to one which I think was called drawing cafe, and everything in it looked like it was part of a 2D drawing. All the furniture was painted white with black outlines. It was a good photo spot. There was another cafe I saw that had little cubby areas where you could just chill out. Anyways, cafes are a thing.
- One of the days there was a big protest. Actually, as we were walking it was quite confusing to figure out what was going on. Later, it seems we learned that there were actually four different groups going on, with different messages about South Korea, the relationship with North Korea, the US, and issues surrounding the president. It was confusing as we walked initially to see many older Koreans waving South Korean and US flags, wearing South Korea / US pins. Though after walking more there were certainly a range of views.
- Some of the main sites are temples, we went to the main one which is called Gyeongbokgung Palace. Coincidentally, right as we arrived they were having a changing of the guard ceremony. Also it seemed to be a popular activity to dress up in traditional Korean clothing and take photos there, though we did not do that.
- Walked around Bukchon Hanok Village — which was an area with a number of traditional houses. It was a popular tourist spot, but also clearly a residential street. So there were a lot of signs just asking people to be quiet. But also it was packed with people taking photos.
- Visited Noryangjin Fish Market — there was an old and new market area. On one floor they sold a lot of fish, and on the third floor there were a bunch of sushi restaurants. I had some sushi there, it really was great and seemed super fresh.
- Went to Nanta Theater, which was an interesting show. It was a slapstick comedy meets kitchen/cooking show. So they are doing drumming, comedy, and miming with pots and pans. It’s interactive and strange, but overall was fun. Maybe a bit too long for me.
- The TrickEye Museum was another weird one. It’s an interactive AR / photo museum. Lots of the walls are illusions that you can stand in and take funny photos with. Additionally, if you download the app that goes with the museum, then as you bring your phone to look at a design, it comes to life with an augmented reality video. And they had an ‘Ice Museum’ section — just was freezing in there and had some ice sculptures.
- On the Hongdae walking streets it was quite common for there to be a lot of street performers dancing and singing K-Pop (Korean pop music). It’s quite a scene, some times later at night they had huge crowds.
- I checked out a few good markets. Namdaemun Market. Gwangjang Market, which had the noodle stand that was featured on the Netflix Street Food show. Also, the Myeongdong market area, which included a wide array of street foods. One of the more interesting ones Dragon Beard, which was a stringy honey candy stuffed with either nuts or chocolates. The guys at the stand put on quite a show as they folded the block over and over and over until it was extremely thin. Also, several places were selling Oreo churros. Not that that seemed Korean, it just seemed a bit different.