After three full days in Busan for the first leg of the getaway to Korea with my girls and one day of settling down after arriving in Seoul, we were more than ready to take on a full day itinerary! In other words, behold! It is going to be quite a lengthy post!
[Korea September/October 2014]
30th Sep 2014 – Day 5
Gwangjang Market, Bukchon Hanok Village (Samcheong-dong) & Insa-dong
The first stop for our official first day in Seoul is at Gwangjang Market, where we planned to source for some breakfast over there and quickly check the place out before continuing with the rest of the itinerary planned for the day! No idea why we didn’t remember our little “tradition” of a morning selfie anyway!
Gwangjang Market 광장시장
I had always thought that Gwangjang Market is just one of the many popular destinations for most tourists visiting Seoul and decided to put it in the itinerary to check out what’s the deal about that place. But little did I know that the market is actually the very first market in Korea that has thrived through all these years to become what it is today!
Within the compounds of the market, you can find a large variety of goods from fresh produce to fashion apparels to handicrafts to household products to silk and other fabrics. And needless to say, my favorite area within the large market is the food alleys!
Then, it is said that there are three main food alleys in Gwangjang Market – Jeon Alley, Mayak Gimbap Alley and Yukhoe Alley. And the names, of course, means that you can find lots of eateries serving up bindaetteok 빈대떡, yukhoe 육회 or mayak gimbap 마약김밥 at the alleys respectively. And I really like how they always categorize everything so neat and clearly in Korea!
Anyway, I am absolutely clueless about which alley we were at but judging from the number of stalls selling bindaetteok (Mung Bean Pancakes), it seems like it is the Jeon Alley! However, there are quite a number of stalls serving up mayak gimbap (Mini Seaweed & Rice rolls) as well, so we might have stumbled upon both the Jeon Alley and the Mayak Gimbap Alley! Or perhaps the Yukhoe Alley too but I wasn’t observant enough and missed spotting some yukhoe (Korean Steak Tartare)! Haha!
And for our breakfast, we randomly picked one of the stalls serving bindaetteok and settled down to try two variants, an original one and another with minced pork inside. These mung bean pancakes are made of a batter of grinded mung bean and flour with other varying ingredients like scallions, beansprouts or sliced chilli that is pan-fried in a griddle until it is golden brown and crispy before serving.
These pancakes are yummy but pretty greasy to have them first thing in the morning for breakfast and we were really thankful that they are served with a dipping sauce made with soy sauce and vinegar concoction that helps cut the grease a little.
Anyway, food at the food alley in Gwangjang Market is typically stacked on the stall front while the grannies will serve you from behind the mountain piles they had prepared for business for the day. So don’t be alarmed if you are made to dine in front of an entire braised pig head just like us when we were enjoying our oden 오뎅 in a yummy seaweed soup this granny serves!
And one honest opinion, if you allow me, Gwangjang Market is way too touristy for me and the prices of the food available there were really quite pricy. Probably I haven’t seen something at the market that attracted me, but unless I will have more than enough time during my next trip to Seoul, I don’t think I will revisit again!
Map of Gwangjang Market and directions on how to get there!
Click for an enlarged view!
Bukchon Hanok Village 북촌한옥마을 & Samcheong-dong 삼청동
After our greasy breakfast at Gwangjang Market, we made a slow walk (my girls weren’t very please with the walkaholic in me! Haha…) to our second stop of the day at Bukchon Hanok Village where more walking will be involved as we explore the streets and alleys of the village to check out the different iconic view points of the village!
Changdeokgung (Palace) 창덕궁
We began our walkabout at Changdeokgung Palace! And I would love to head inside or go through a guided tour at the Huwon 후원 (Secret Garden) in Changdeokgung Palace but after spotting a fleet of tour buses ferrying a large tour group arriving and remembering the near death experience at Haedong Yonggungsa in Busan, I think I had a slight Ochlophobia! So with just a couple of photos at the entrance, we move on with our own walkabout!
Bukchon 1st View: Changdeokgung View
At Bukchon, there are a total of eight popular photo spots with views that shows the best characteristic of the village. We managed to check out a handful of them and the one above is one of them. It is supposed to be the panoramic view of the Changdeokgung. Hmmm… Not very impressed with the view at this photo spot! Either that or I need a longer neck to enjoy this view better! Hehe…
No, we didn’t teleport from Bukchon to a zoo or what! That is just a wall mural! Anyway, I’m not sure if wall murals are popular in Korea or what but they were pretty fun to have around! Or at least, we see them as photo opportunities according to our creativity and here’s another one!
Bukchon 3rd View: Gahoe-dong Museum Lane
There are a couple of craftwork studios and museums around in Gahoe-dong, especially the ones located along the same alley where the third view of Bukchon is. Most of the workshops there are privately-owned and aside from just an exhibition of folk art objects, garments and other traditional items, some of them they open their doors to welcome guests to experience hands-on at Korean knot-making or fabric dyeing.
Well, we obviously forgot that we could peek into those hanoks and check out the craftwork studios and exhibitions! Haha…
In case you are wondering, Bukchon is still an active village! Although quite a number of the hanok 한옥 were converted to luxurious B&Bs for tourists who will like to experience living out in these traditional houses, there are actually residents in each and every other house!
Bukchon 5th View: Gahoe-dong Alley
The hanok found along this alley is considered the most authentic since the government had taken extra efforts and caution to maintain and make sure these traditional houses in this cluster remains in excellent shape!
And the hanok here uses more brick red colors for the wall patterns on the exterior facade. The brick red colors were really vibrant and cheery and it accentuates a different mood as compared to those around the third view with the rustic wood color scheme!
Bukchon 6th View: Gaheo-dong Alley
The sixth view is actually along the same alley as the fifth, just that it is the view from the top of the slope down! By the way, will you like a swanky next door neighbor like me? Haha!
By the way, did I get too carried away with the photos and forgot to elaborate more about Bukchon Hanok Village? Hehe… The neighborhood surrounded by Gyeongbokgung Palace, Changdeokgung Palace and Jongmyo Shrine is actually home to hundreds of hanok (Korean traditional houses) that dates back to the historical days during Joseon Dynasty. And ‘Bukchon’, which literally translates as ‘northern village’, came about as the area the village covers lie to the north of two significant landmarks of Seoul, Cheonggyecheon Stream and Jongno.
In fact, there are two such hanok villages within Seoul itself, namely the Namsangol Hanok Village 남산골 한옥마을 and this one we visited and mentioned in this post.
Aside from wall murals, there are also a couple of Before I die walls that we came across in Korea. One of them is spotted in Samcheong-dong while we were exploring the Bukchon Hanok Village. And this is the best line I’ve ever seen! My dear fellow Singaporean, I don’t mind wishing that I will get to see Singapore win the World Cup too!
Map & directions of Bukchon Hanok Village & Samcheong-dong!
Click for an enlarged view!
Located in the heart of Seoul, Insa-dong offers alleys after alleys lined with stores retailing precious old but traditional goods, galleries, traditional restaurants, teahouses and cafes. Every weekend, some streets are blocked off from traffic and booths like Korean Candy merchants and fortune tellers will be set up along the streets and there will be traditional performances and exhibits as well!
Basically, the entire town is an arts and cultural space!
At Ssamziegil, the area is uniquely designed in such a way that the corridors form a spiral-like stairway that leads you from ground level to the rooftop garden 하늘마당 ‘unknowingly’ as you are checking out the 70 over shops offering handicrafts, souvenir, art galleries, restaurants and more!
And since Ssamziegil has been marked the ‘Special Insa-dong within Insa-dong’, we just have to check it out!
All I can say that both Samcheong-dong and Insa-dong are really unique and different as compared to the other areas within Seoul. It will be pretty interesting to soak up all that history, art and culture atmosphere for a change! But items on sale here are actually rather pricey (Considering most of them are handmade and unique…) so don’t be expecting to shop much here unless you’re one helluva art fan!
Map of Insa-dong & some simple directions on how to get there!
Click for an enlarged view!
Since we weren’t hungry yet after exploring Insa-dong, we make a long hop over to Sinchon-dong area and end up having dakgalbi 닭갈비 for dinner! It was good and rather affordable since there are multiple numbers of universities nearby actually!
Not like we didn’t have enough for dinner but remember I mentioned that our favorite spot in our apartment is at the pantry area? Yeah, that’s because that’s where we are able to prepare and eat our supper or random musings with the street food in Seoul every night! Hehe…
And that’s the end of our first day in Seoul! The first and one that is more art, cultural and history packed!
More posts from Korea September/ October 2014 travelogue series:
- Day 1 – Seomyeon Shopping District, Gwangalli Beach & Gwangan Bridge
- Day 2 – Gamcheon Culture Village, Jagalchi Market, BIFF Square, Gukje Market & Gwangbok-ro Fashion Street
- Day 3 – Shinsegae Centum City, Haedong Yonggungsa & Jong-ga Daebak Jib
- Day 4 – KTX Busan to Seoul & Myeongdong
- Day 5 – Gwangjang Market, Bukchon Hanok Village (Samcheong-dong) & Insa-dong
- Day 6 – Edae Shopping District
- Day 7 – Gangnam and Sinsa-dong Garosu-gil
- Day 8 – Ihwa Mural Village and Namdaemun
- Day 9 – Hongdae (Hongik University Street)
- Day 10 – Hangang Park
- Day 11 – Bupyeong (Incheon) and Cheonggyecheon (Seoul)
- Day 12 & 13 – Flashback and Goodbye Korea (for now)!