Saturday, 22 March 2014

Myeongdong - Seoul - South Korea, Korea


After a long flight from Singapore to South Korea taking approximately 6 and a half hours, we finally touched down and boy, was it tiring. Seoul was absolutely freezing cold with temperatures hovering around the 0 degree to 5 degree mark. Brrrrrr.

The best way of getting from Incheon International Airport to downtown Seoul is via the airport limousine bus as it is convenient and cost effective at 10,000 KRW, taking approximately an hour and a half, traffic permitting. The reclining seats are comfy and leg room is spacious. It also appears to be the transportation of choice for passengers travelling to the city as services are frequent and they stop a number of locations. Another popular mode is the Airport Railroad Express (AREX) rail line or the regular train as it is cheap and you can avoid the traffic jams but then it can be confusing for the first timer to Seoul. A taxi is the easiest of the lot as it offers a door to door service but it costs a lot more and you might have to pay hidden fees such as tolls. We alighted at Myeongdong and walked to our hotel just a few minutes away.

It was a big challenge to navigate around the city as their roads and streets are very confusing or it may have been the map we were using that had missing street names. Having travelled to a number of countries, I have found that that most places have easy to read signage and you can pin point where you are. But here, we had trouble finding restaurants and places of interest and circled around areas many times before actually finding a place. Yet, their metro system was really easy to use and you can easily get from one place to another thankfully. 

Myeongdong is one of the primary shopping regions in Seoul and was named one of the most expensive shopping streets in the world. It is heavily populated with tourists and is highly popular with locals.

There are plenty of shops from the big name department stores, international retailers to little boutique stores. The dining options here are plentiful such the regular fast food restaurants you find in America, family owned restaurants, western restaurants and a number of Asian restaurants that specialise in different cuisines. 

Streets are lined with fashion stores, cafes, restaurants and beauty/cosmetic stores. Every second or third store is a cosmetic stall literally. They even have staff standing outside trying to bring you into their store with free samples. Getting additional free samples is considered normal and the more you spend the more you get. I love freebies :) Korean brands such as The Face Shop, Nature Republic, Laneige and Innisfree are reputable and have good quality products. Most stores don't open till 11am and close at around 10pm.

Street food is literally everywhere. It is available on every corner and the variety on offer is practically endless. There is just way too much to try and if you're game enough, there are things you may have never seen.Street vendors bring out their food carts and set up stores along the shop front as night approaches from about 5pm. It gets extremely crowded at night as it seems to be the 'IT' place to hang around. 

The 'Twisted Potato Chip (2000 KRW)' is a sliced, twisted and swirled potato that is deep fried and then coated in a cheese flavoured salt. Crunchy and delicious.

'Handmade Sugar Candy (1000 KRW)' is handmade of white sugar, then caramelised until golden brown. I looked on with fascination as the lady made shapes and characters. It tasted like burnt sugar but was strangely addictive. 

The 'Green Tea Red Bean Korean Pancake (1500 KRW)' is a popular Korean street snack. In Myeongdong, I noticed a few scattered about here and there. A green tree flavoured glutinous rice pastry that is filled with brown sugar and peanuts, which is then deep fried. Comfort food at its finest in the winter season.

There was this mochi stall in front of the hotel we stayed at that had a queue every single day without fail, from when if opened to when it closed. On certain days, it sold out even before closing time.  'Strawberry Mochi (KRW 2000)' is a mochi filled ball with a whole strawberry and red bean filling. A bit sweet for me.

'Flat Bread with Brown Sugar (1000 KRW)' is my favourite street food of the lot. On the side of the street, there was this mini truck, where a man was rolling out fresh dough at the back and then toasting in an oven of some sort, which left me curious as to what it was. Selling food from trucks is normal so don't be alarmed. The bread was crispy on the exterior and oil free, it was absolutely divine.

A short walk from Myeongdong takes you to Namdaemun Market, the largest traditional market in Korea with more than 10,000 stores selling a range of goods such as clothes, souvenirs, ginseng, food and accessories at affordable prices.

The 'Chinese Buns (KRW 1000)' caught our attention as there were so many people queuing up and people tend to line up for delicious food. Pork and vegetables enclosed in a soft steamed flour bun was well worth the wait. 

Myeongdong is full of life and buzzing with excitement. It's a must visit destination if you're in Seoul as there is plenty to see and do.

Myeongdong Station
Seoul Subway Line 4
Exit 5, 6, 7 or 8


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