Seoul adventures, part 1 🇰🇷

View of one of the streets of Seoul, taken from the footpath

Our first stop for our honeymoon was Seoul, in South Korea. I actually liked it more than I thought I would. Although I don’t feel totally wowed by the city, I find it to be so interesting. One of my favourite things about Seoul is the cafe culture (of which I am obsessed in general, not just in Seoul), and the fact that you can walk down an alleyway and it can be so lively and buzzing, even into the late hours.

Day one: Myeongdong, bibimbap, Itaewon, and meeting Tara

On our first day we were pretty hungry after having landed early in the morning. Although we had our standard plane food on both flights (from Sydney to Haneda, Tokyo, and from there to Incheon Airport in Seoul), we were hungry and searched for some bibimbap after having a nap.

The view from the bus on the way into town
The view from the bus on the way into town
The view from our apartment
A view of Seoul from our apartment

I found a blog post that broke down the best bibimbap in South Korea. One was named Mokmyeoksanbang and looked really promising. We headed there, but after a hefty uphill walk we realised that it was a Michelin Star restaurant thus it was extremely popular, and we were not prepared to wait an hour for bibimbap… not when we were already famished. 😆

We ended up going to a restaurant called Gogung, in the area known as Myeongdong. Here is where we learned that Apple and Google maps were difficult to use in South Korea! Neither of us can read Korean and it took us a bit of time to get used to the street names and towns.

Our first meal in Korea
Bibimbap! Yuuuuum!

Afterwards we explored Myeongdong. Myeongdong is a popular area for Korean skincare stores, as well as jewellery and fashion boutiques. There are a couple of food stalls as well. Popular skincare brands had multiple stores in the area – Etude House, Tonymoly, Nature Republic and Innisfree were in abundance.

A street view down Myeongdong
The area known as Myeongdong
Crowds in the streets of Myeongdong
It was packed with people

Later that evening after yet another nap (ha), we met up with Tara, a blogger friend I have known since around 2009-2010. It was so great to finally meet and to have her show us around Itaewon, the town she knows best. We had kombucha (Tara’s shout! 😊), something which I have had little of but certainly enjoyed that night. We weren’t quite hungry yet so kombucha seemed like a great idea. Nick and I had the rose flavoured one which I thought was delicious. Tara went for the spiced cider. I have no doubt it tasted great too but I just love rose flavoured things!

Myself and Tara
Me and Tara!

For dinner we ate at Noxa Oriental. Tara suggested the tom yum soup so I had that with noodles. Yum! Nick went through a wonderfully spicy rice dish that fused Korean and Thai cuisines. He did well – I had a taste and it was pretty intense! 🌶

Day two: Noryangjin fish market, Gangnam (style), Korean BBQ & soju, and karaoke in Hongdae

We went to the Noryangjin fish market after a very much needed sleep-in. It was practically lunchtime by the time we got there. Again we struggled with the language although we were aware that you could eat somewhere in the fish markets. After we walked around looking at all the seafood we tried to go eat at a restaurant but the lady kindly told us we had to purchase some seafood then they would cook it. Although some vendors were encouraging us to purchase, we didn’t particularly feel like crustaceans (crab, lobster) and wanted fish, and some fish looked extremely large for a meal.

A view of the fish market from above
Look at all that seafood!
Some clams and shrimp lined up nicely
Some of the seafood up close
One of the vendors holding up a live crab
We were invited to take a photo holding it but we weren’t game, LOL
The steamed flounder we selected that was cooked for us
Our brunch/early lunch/lunch basically – steamed flounder

We spotted a man cutting sashimi and he seemed approachable and could speak a bit of English. With his help we selected a flounder to be steamed. Although he simply beat our flounder to knock it out, before handing it to a lady who worked for a restaurant, I found it difficult to watch other vendors actually spearing the fish. I dare say it is probably a little easier to witness compared to watching cows or chickens be prepared for food.

The lady took the fish in a bag to a restaurant, and we said we would like the fish steamed. It took about twenty minutes or so, but the dish was worth the wait! It had a lot of garlic and soy sauce, with bits of cabbage and carrot for taste. Eating fish with the bones in can be a bit of a challenge but we managed to eat the whole thing and enjoyed it thoroughly.

Tara had mentioned that Gangnam (popuparised by Psy and his hit song Gangnam style of course) would be a bit pricey but we paid the town a visit.

One of the side buildings with a Hikoco Coffee store
We headed to Hikoco Coffee for a drink

We didn’t do much there except people-watch and spend an hour walking through the underground subway mall. The mall was very much like something we had experienced before: market-style shops selling roughly the same thing. Similar to Mangga Dua in Indonesia, Paddys Markets in Sydney, or even Myeongdong that we had visited the day before, it was full of womens/girls clothes and jewellery stores that sold the same brands and same styles of products. Still a good way to entertain ourselves for a bit.

After that we hit the college town of Hongdae which was absolutely buzzing for a Sunday night. By our standards this was impressive, though we’re sure it’s the norm in Seoul. College students were enjoying their weekend with the shops, karaoke, food and even some groups dancing with a loudspeaker or singing. It seemed like entertainment for the public, but they also looked like they were minding their own business and having fun.

One of the streets of Hongdae
Hongdae was very lively and full of young people having a great night out
A side street with a couple of eateries tucked away
The side streets are typically less of a tourist trap
The main street of Hongdae with little crowds of people
The main street of Hongdae
A view of the crowds down another street with fashion and skincare stores
Nature Republic and Skinfood are just some of the skincare stores that are popular in Korea

We took the opportunity to have Korean barbecue. It was very enjoyable and we tried several different kinds of beef. (Side note – not really a PSA but I reintroduced meat back into my diet around July 2017.) We paired that with soju and I went to town on the kimchi and pickles. Nick isn’t a fan of those, unfortunately. 😆

Nick perusing a cow-shaped menu at a barbecue restaurant
ALL the beef please!
Nick pouring soju into a glass
We weren’t sure how big the soju bottles were because they were so cheap. The waitress was a bit shocked that we wanted two at first!
Beef cooking on the barbecue
Cooking the beef

We booked a karaoke room for an hour and sang some pop music. Thank goodness we managed to navigate the console and sing some English songs because I don’t think us singing Korean would have been very successful. There were maracas and tambourines and even a microphone on a rotatable stand. We could toggle the funky lights in the room as well to suit the mood. Nick and I scored about 97/100 on What Makes You Beautiful by One Direction. 😂 We also did pretty well on Viva la Vida by Coldplay (mostly Nick’s work though) and Hello by Adele. It was a good way to end the night.

Nick holding maracas in the karaoke room with a big grin
Someone is super excited for karaoke.
Inside the karaoke room
The karaoke screen with the fancy lights on

Look out for a second post recapping our Seoul adventures, soon!

You can follow the rest of our honeymoon adventures with the hashtag #thecookeshoneymoon on Twitter (mostly me) or on Instagram (mostly Nick). 💖

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i’ve never been to seoul and tbh, it’s one of the least countries i’d love to visit – like, it’s kind of at the bottom of my list but hey, everything looks great here and i’m happy to know you had fun! also, i can’t imagine standing in the middle of the crazy hubbubs and have all different brands of stores around me – i think i’d drool and go crazy over buying beauty stuff :))

p.s: nick being excited for karaoke is really funny (in a good way. i would have said ‘adorable’ but i’m not sure if that’s gonna sound inappropriate? uh…)

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It is fantastic that you were able to meet Tara! To know a blog buddy that long and finally meet would be very cool. It was also a bonus that she could show you around and tell you about the place. :D

Ahhh. That would be hard to see them spearing the fish.

The karaoke sounds like so much fun. Nice going on the score! :D

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Your Seoul adventures sound so lovely! I really want to make it to Seoul soon. Despite the fact that I’m not the biggest fan of Korean food, I do really want to experience the country. I love that you got to meet Tara! It sounded like such fun. It’s great a local was able to help you find some cool places too.

The skincare shops are like Starbucks — everywhere and in abundance. Korea’s obsession with skincare is too much for me. I 100% agree that it’s good to take care of your skin and treat it well, but at the same time… Like I said when we met up, I have a friend living there who’s struggling with their beauty expectations because the advertisements are just too intense and she’s starting to feel the pressure.

On a happier note, I LOVE Korean BBQ. I used to eat it all of the time when I was back living in the States and I miss it. It’s not cheap, but I love that it’s usually all-you-can-eat for a base price. Here it’s about ¥3500/person for K-BBQ, but the meat is always good quality and it’s so much fun to go with a ton of friends! I’m glad you got to experience K-BBQ in Korea 😉

I’m looking forward to the rest of your adventure recaps! I hope you’re having a lovely time. 💜

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Dolsot bibimbap is probably my favorite Korean dish! It has a “comfort food” vibe to me, and the one you got looks delicious, even if it wasn’t at the Michelin Star restaurant. I don’t think I could wait an hour either!

Yay, I’m so glad you and Tara got to meet! You two have known each other for so long!

Wow, the fish market seems to have a large variety of produce. I think that’s a neat idea that you can buy the seafood there and then have it cooked immediately. The steamed flounder looks really good!

Yum, I love Korean BBQ. (I actually didn’t know you’re eating meat again!) I think that’s funny that the karaoke room had things like maracas and tambourines, haha. Looks like it was fun!

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Glad you had fun in Seoul! It looks like a great place to visit and I love the photos you took. I can’t believe there are so many skincare shops in one place. I’ve heard a lot of great things about Korean skincare brands, but I never knew there were so many!

It’s so cool that you got to meet Tara! I love the photo of you both, and it must have been lovely to meet each other IRL after so many years.

The karaoke room you booked sounds like so much fun. I love the photo of Nick with the maracas – that’s amazing! And I’m glad you were able to find some songs in English, I bet that made it much easier!

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