We Arrive in Seoul & Mago Guest House

The KTX train got us from Gyeongju to Seoul quickly and comfortably. When we got to the Seoul train station, the food court was a welcome sight. We then took the Metro to our accommodation, Mago Guest House. The staff went out of their way to help us every day — booking our trip to the DMZ and even taking us to the bus station at 6 AM to catch our flight to Hanoi.

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James Eating Bibimbap at the Seoul Train Station
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Train Station Bibimbap
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Train Station Kimchi-jigae
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Entrance to the Excellent Mago Guest House

Myeongdong is a district (dong) of Seoul very near to our guest house. It’s filled with clothing shops, restaurants, tall buildings, and bright lights at night. We had to buy jackets here because the weather in Seoul was so cold! We treated ourselves to a gimbap lunch and then coffee at Hara Donuts in Myeongdong.

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Walking from Chungmuro to Nearby Myeongdong
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Delicious Gimbap from a Cafe in Myeongdong
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Hara Donuts in Myeongdong, Yum!
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Motorcycles are Trucks Here
Cheonggyecheon (Cheonggye Stream)

Cheonggyecheon is a beautiful stream running through the middle of downtown Seoul, between Myeongdong and Insadong. There are peaceful walking paths alongside the stream and lots of green space.

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Hanging Out on the Banks of Cheonggyecheon
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Cheonggyecheon Runs Right Through the City, Great Place for a Walk
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Lin at Cheonggyecheon
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James Looks Down into the Stream
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Walking Path Along the Stream

Insadong is a bustling neighborhood in Seoul. It was the best place we found for traditional art and souvenirs. There were many musicians performing in the street and lots of food carts.

Halmonis Shopping in Insadong
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Busy Street in Insadong
Gyeongbokgung Palace

We were lucky enough to arrive at Gyeongbokgung Palace during the changing of the guard. We watched the ceremony and then explored around the palace grounds.

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Drums from the Changing of the Guard at Gyeongbokgung Palace
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Changing of the Guard at Gyeongbokgung Palace
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Gyeongbokgung Palace Gate
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James at the Gyeongbokgung Palace Pagoda
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Gyeongbokgung Palace Pagoda
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Kimchi Pots at Gyeongbokgung Palace
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Sidewalk City Map Outside Gyeongbokgung Palace
Samcheongdong & the Best Coffee Shops We’ve Ever Seen (So Far)

Samcheongdong is a neighborhood near the Blue House (basically the White House of Korea). Samcheongdong ended up being our favorite place in Seoul and we visited several times. The neighborhood is filled with hip coffee shops, jewelry, art and clothing boutiques, cafes, and restaurants. Everywhere we went in Samcheongdong had it’s own unique style and character.

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aA Cafe
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Coffee Shop
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Woodside Coffee
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Coffee Shop with a Giraffe on the Roof
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Cafe with Rooftop Seating
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Cafe Menu
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Jazz Club in Samcheongdong
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Cafe Heaven
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The Streets of Samcheongdong
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Cafe Terrace
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Delicious Waffles & Ice Cream
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Snail Soup from Samcheongdong
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Crab Kimchi from Samcheongdong
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Cafe in Samcheondong
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Samcheongdong Boutique
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We Took This Picture for Jed
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Garage Coffee & Lounge
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Boutique in Samcheongdong
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Another Boutique
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Trendiness Overload
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Travelers' Cafe
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Sangria & Rice
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Kimchi Pancake
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Travelers' Cafe
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Inside Another Cafe
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Another View of the Cafe
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More Ice Cream Waffles!
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Another Dinner in Samcheongdong -- Soup!
DMZ & North Korea

We took a tour to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) near the border of North and South Korea. Our tour was closely monitored by the South Korean military. Our first stop was the Reunification Bridge once used to swap prisoners between the two nations. We then visited the Third Infiltration Tunnel, dug by the North Koreans under the border to facilitate a sneak attack on the south. There have been four tunnels discovered so far, but there are probably more. It was a long walk down into the tunnel, and at the farthest point we were only about 300 feet from the North Korean border. We then visited an observatory post and got a clear view directly across the border into North Korea. We saw the Kaesong Industrial Complex, a fake propaganda village, and a real North Korean village across the border. Our final stop as a train station built by the South Korean government as a gesture of unity. This train station will one day serve as the connecting point between the two Koreas, if their relationship ever improves.

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A Soldier Checks Our Papers on the Bus to the DMZ
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Out the Side of the Bus: Looks Like a Billboard, Actually a Tank Trap Rigged with C4 Explosive to Stop or Slow a Tank Invasion from the North
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Ribbons Tied to the Fence as Wishes for Peace and Reunification
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Barbed Wire in the DMZ
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This Train was Damaged in the Korean War and Saved as a Memorial
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Reunification Bridge in the DMZ
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Ribbons from South Koreans
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Prayers for Peace
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More Wishes Tied to the Fence
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Descending into the Third Infiltration Tunnel
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North Korean Liquor, Available Only Here
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James Looks Across the Border into North Korea
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Everything in the Background is North Korea
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Observatory Building on the DMZ Border
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Empty Train Station Built as a Gesture of Unity -- If and When the Koreas Reunite, This Railway Will Connect Them
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Next Stop: North Korea (Someday)
Han River & Ducky Boats

The Han River divides the city of Seoul into two halves: Gangbuk (north of the river) and Gangnam (south of the river). We rented a ducky boat and took a little spin on the river.

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View from the Southern Bank of the Han River
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James by the Han River, Seoul in the Background
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Getting Our Ducky Boat Ready
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Lin in the Ducky Boat
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James Having Fun Driving the Duck
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Another Duck Boat
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Ducks in a Row
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Duck, Duck, Goose
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Bridge Over the Han River
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River Bridges

Gangnam is the part of Seoul south of the Han River. The neighborhood was made famous internationally by Psy’s song “Gangnam Style”. Gangnam has many of the fancy brand name shopping and highrise office buildings. It’s the newest part of Seoul, only being developed in the last 50 years. We went for lunch at a famous barbecue restaurant and ordered the kalbi ribs. They were pretty good, but didn’t even compare to Mr. Park’s kalbi ribs. We’re convinced his are unbeatable.

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Tall Buildings in Gangnam
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CNN Cafe in Gangnam
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CNN Cafe
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Famous Kalbi Restaurant in Seoul -- Not Even Close to as Good as Mr. Park's Kalbi!
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Meat All Wrapped Up
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Meat and Soup
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Lin at the BBQ Restaurant
Bongeunsa Temple

We visited Bongeunsa Temple in Gangnam, a peaceful Buddhist temple surrounded by city skyscrapers. It was a great break from the hustle and bustle.

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Heading into Bongeunsa Temple
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Bongeunsa Temple Courtyard
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Bongeunsa Temple Paper Lanterns
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Bell at Bongeunsa Temple
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Bongeunsa Temple
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Bongeunsa Temple
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Lin at Bongeunsa Temple Statue
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Bongeunsa Temple Ceiling
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Bongeunsa Temple
Namdaemun Market

Namdaemun Market is a street market in Seoul’s city center. There were tons of street food options, clothing shops, kitchen shops, handbag shops, and everything else you can imagine. We saw a huge line in front of a food cart and decided if a cart was so popular, we should probably try it. We ended up getting the most delicious japchae in a fried pancake-like bread.

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Crowded Namdaemun Market
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Vendors at Namdaemun Market
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James Shopping at Namdaemun
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Namdaemun Street Food
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Namdaemun Market
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Shop in Namdaemun Market
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James Among the Crowd in Namdaemun Market
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Pepper for Sale in Namdaemun
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Fried Japchae Street Vendor
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Frying the Japchae
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Fried Japchae -- So Good!!!
A Sad Farewell to Korea

We bid a sad farewell to Korea at the Incheon International Airport. This is probably the most pleasant airport in the world with theme-coffee shops and delicious food options.

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Incheon Airport Food: Awesome!
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Charlie Brown Cafe in Incheon Airport
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Inside of Charlie Brown Cafe
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Charlie and Snoopy!!
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Our Plane Awaits
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In-Flight Meal

2 thoughts on “Seoul

  1. Annie

    This is a fabulous tour of Seoul. The photos are great and descriptions vivid.
    The Namdaemun Market is particularly interesting-colors super. People all over the world
    long for peace and happiness ala- the Ribbon Fence.
    You really did see Korea!
    Have fun-stay safe-looking forward to hearing about Viet Nam 🙂 Love Annie

    PS I want another ceiling… like the one in the gorgeous Bongeunsa Temple-

  2. Anne Watt Massey

    Wow…that was incredible…I am bidding a sad farewell to Korea now as well. The DMZ must have chilled you to the bone. I sure hope and pray that the new train station will be needed soon. Love you!