If you’re visitng Seoul and looking for a hostel to stay at for a few days, I highly recommend BiBim Guest House. After taking a nice hot shower (which seems rare at other hostels I reviewed online), Panda cooked my serving of complimentary breakfast, part of every guest’s visiting experience. He and Konda make a great effort in making each guest feel at home by driving us to the subway station to avoid the cold and offering plenty of advice on what to see and what to pass up.
With one day, I could cover four areas of downtown Seoul – the Bukchon Village, Namsangol Hanok Village, the Myeong-dong Shopping District, and the Namdaemun Market. I started by taking the subway up north of the city to Bukchon Village, a neighborhood built with traditional Korean architecture.
Throughout the village, there are history museums and art galleries that you can visit for a small entrance fee. You can also learn how to tie traditional knots or create your own piece of calligraphy at one of their many workshops.
Feeling a bit hungry, I went inside a shop selling furniture and decor to ask the owner where was the closest bibimbap restaurant. She kindly directed me back towards the Anguk station where I got off for the Bukchon Village, and there I found a block full of soup shops and other eatery. I was determined to try a bowl of bibimbap because it’s one of my favorite Korean dishes that I can find in the states, so I walked into a restaurant next to the Anguk station just small enough to fit locals and tired shoppers stopping by for a lunch break.
Yes, it was different. The gochujang (spicy pepper paste) was placed in the middle of the rice rather than on top, and the rice simmered and clinged to the stone pot turning into a nice crunchy texture. The kimchi had just the right amount of pepper and the seaweed left a sweet and salty aftertaste, leaving me wondering and wanting more after each bite.
I headed toward the Chungmuro station to see Namsangol Hanok Village but first stopped at Korea House, a performing arts center next to the village featuring folk performances and a museum. I missed the daily performance but was able to walk through their gift shop full of award-winning wood crafts and trinkets.
A block down was the entrance to Namsangol Hanok Village, leading to five main Hanok houses representing furniture and household goods from the lives of the Korean ancestors from the Joseon Dynasty. Little snowflakes started to fill the air, and within an hour the grounds were covered with a soft white blanket. I managed to get a few photos in before the snow came down too strong:
I originally planned to walk to the Myeongdong district because it was very close, but in this snow I caved and took the subway one stop over to Myeongdong, where shopping begins underground in the subway station. Once you exit, Uniqlo, SPAO, and Nature Republic dominate the five or so blocks along with other popular brands sponsored by K-pop idols and actors.
Unfortunately, I didn’t bring enough money for leisure spending, but it may have been a good thing because I was tempted to try on so many jackets and shoes. Just looking at the displays made me want to change my entire wardrobe. My feet were getting really cold from the snow, so I found a Tom N Toms Coffee Shop to rest and warm up before I headed to my last destination.
I ate my Korean pancake paired with a freshly squeezed grapefruit tea and read the The Hunger Games. Before I left the states, I heard so many people raving about this book, so I decided to borrow it from my sister on Kindle. She warned me that once I start reading I won’t be able to put it down. She was absolutely right. I meant to finish a few chapters to take a break from walking all day, but I came out of that coffee shop finishing the rest of the book in four hours. I could have been wandering more of the city in this time, but my feet were so cold and it was still snowing outside that I was perfectly happy situated inside. I came across this gif on my friend’s Tumblr the other day, and it’s exactly how I felt when I finished it.
To celebrate the completion, I decided to check out my fourth and last stop in downtown Seoul for the day – Namdaemun Market, a tourist market selling clothes, gadgets, and souvenirs. By the time I arrived everything was closing up, so I decided to just get some food to go. A friend told me to avoid this area because it’s swarming with tourists, but I’m guessing the snow drove a lot of them away.
I took the subway back and enjoyed my kimbap and soup back at the warm hostel, chatting and meeting some Australian, English, and French students on holiday. I’d say my thirty-six hours in Seoul were spent very well but I definitely want to go back and see some palaces and museums when the weather is nicer. Now onto recounting my childhood memories in my hometown!