We woke up listening to a local news channel and heard that the Vietnam president is in town for a state visit. He was there for a proposed joint venture project with the South Koreans. Ho hum.
We got out of the subway in Insadong and the first thing we noticed was a motorcade with a limo in front with Vietnam and South Korean flags. Walking through the shops we saw a bunch of people staring at a small shop. We saw folks in suit with an earpiece and they look so serious. They finally started to move along and we saw a group of well dressed women shopping.It is expected that Insadong has been the first place to visit on most foreign dignitaries.
Insadong is the main art and antique district in Seoul. It used to be the a wealthy district during the Joseon era till the Japanese occupation. Wealthy residents were forced to sell their belongings and hence the district became an antiques alley.
This is the most touristy area in Seoul. The street are lined with galleries and souvenir shops. On the weekends, they close the street to give way to pedestrians and some street performers.
This shop only sells paint brushes of all kinds.
I still could remember the smell wafting from those dried goods. It was said that those are the same items the monks used on cooking Buddhist temple fares.
There is a long line for these pancakes. You could see those are made fresh on site. The lady said it has crushed peanuts and sugar. It was made too sweet for my taste but I like that the dough was chewy and crunchy on the ends.
My sister went in for seconds.
An open mini-mall called Ssamziegil (pronounced sam-see-gil). It has cute boutiques where you could find unique items. It is a bit pricey for me but I cave in when I bought my personal stamper.
Inside Ssamziegil. The top floor has nice coffee shops.
Tucked into a side of Ssamziegil are an alleyway of traditional Korean restaurants. Our guidebook mentioned that this is the place to get our favorite Korean fare, the seafood pancakes.
We got our usual ban-chan. I couldn't get enough kimchi here. I like how they make it on the salty side and not too spicy. It's just about right.
The Seafood Pancake. This food is usually associated with drinking the local drink called soju. Our server was surprised we didn't order any liquor. It was so good, very nice and crunchy.
We continue walking after eating all that food.
The guidebook mentioned that Insadong is unique that is the only neighborhood that requires its stores to have their signage with hangul characters. This is the reason that we have a hard time trying to find a restaurant since we can't read the names. Good thing the street names are in English.
Can you spell Starbucks?
So far, this has been my favorite place in Seoul. Sure its touristy but I would like to know this place more intimately and explore its small alleys. We went up to a couple of small galleries. My sister was even tempted to buy a painting but balked at a $5k price tag. Oh well. If there is a chance I could come back to Seoul, Insadong will definitely be my first stop.
I am wrapping up my Korea series with about 2 more posting on the pipeline. It is a weird feeling similar to the sadness that I felt knowing that I only have 2 more days before I head back home. Conflicting emotions indeed.