After paperwork for registration on Monday and Tuesday were over, I got to go on a Seoul City Tour! The tour was arranged and organized by KUBA. The price of the tour was 40,000 won (US$35.80), but the tour was definitely worth at least twice that amount.
Our first stop was the National Folk Museum. It was too crowded and our groups were cycled through pretty quickly so I managed to read about a few things.
Small dolls doing the farmer's dance to relieve stress and promote production.
Model of emperor's entourage.
Traditional Korean clothing.
Next, we visited the Gyeongbukgung Palace. The palace was so beautiful and well kept. It is located in northern Seoul. I was surprised to see right sky-rise buildings bordering the palace walls. This speaks to what a treasure the palace since it is seems untouched by the alive and growing city.
After the palace, we got to see the Cheong Wa Dae, which is where president Lee Myung-bak lives. Koreans call it the “Blue House”, just like the White House in the US. For security reasons, we didn’t get to go in but photos were allowed.
At noon, we headed to In-Sa Dong. I really love it there.
Fun fact!: My KUBA buddy for the day told me that in Insadong, all restaurant signs are in Korean, not English. I feel this added to the atmosphere.
Starbucks Coffee sign in Korean
The street was lined with carts and stands selling tiny trinkets. There was tons delicious street food to try. I got to try Hotteok, a Korean rice flour cake with peanut filling. It was only 1,000 won (90 cents!) and I really enjoyed the experience. The cakes were fried right there on the street out in the open and they are eaten piping hot. I also got to try tteok, which is also a small dessert made with rice flour but it is not fried. The tteok I got were filled with red bean. Everyone, no matter from where or what background, enjoyed hotteok and tteok :)
There were even little stunts at these food vendors! One was ice cream. The ice cream was churned by hand and the seller joked with his customer. He pretended to throw a huge ice cream lump at the audience and he flipped an ice cream cone around. There was also a stall where a man turned a lump of sugar into a silky curtain of strings. He joked and played with the kids that no one had realized that he was already done pulling the sugar with his incredibly fast hands. The adorable little Korean kids all loved it. They were laughing, giggling, and smiling – never taking their eyes away from the sweets. I think the kid inside me (and everyone else) really loved it too.
We ate lunch one of In-Sa Dong’s restaurant that was located in a small alley way. I can’t read Korean, but my buddy told me that the name translates to: “Wow! So good!” According to my buddy, In-Sa Dong is the place to go for more traditional food. The restaurant had tables and chairs, but I was in a lucky group, and we got to sit in a private room with the traditional floor sitting. We had bulgogi, a spicy soup, and fish! The fish was my favorite part.
Fun fact: Why do Koreans us metal chopsticks?
A: Because long ago, the royalty took to using golden chopsticks. Then a fad started and the common folk started using metal chopsticks to imitate the royal trend. It’s a small detail, but its amazing how long lasting small things can last. (source: KUBA buddy eating with us).
At 4:00 we left In-Sa Dong to go see NANTA, a comedy performance that was a perfect blend of knives, drums, and Salmulnori. What a show! The entire show was non-verbal, so the entire KU foreign audience enjoyed the jokes. I was laughing so hard the entire time. Sorry, no pictures of the performance so go see the show! They have performed all over the world. I felt this performance alone was worth well over the 40,000 won city tour cost.
And that was my exciting tour day in a bundle. Next up is Thursday and Friday, where we got to explore the city on our own. Until then, Anyeoung!