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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Empty Train Station Built as a Gesture of Unity -- If and When the Koreas Reunite, This Railway Will Connect Them
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.
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.
We visited Bongeunsa Temple in Gangnam, a peaceful Buddhist temple surrounded by city skyscrapers. It was a great break from the hustle and bustle.
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.
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.