Korea – a journey beyond boarders (Part 1)

Korea has been on our wish list for a while. Since Maggie’s brother Daniel was just visiting Seoul, it was a perfect opportunity to meet up and discover Korea together. We made two blog posts, simply because there would be too much information for just one.

We arrived on Sunday morning at 7.30am at the Incheon Airport in Seoul and were welcomed by Daniel and Jinhee, Daniel’s fiancee. Our hosts for the next few days got up early to pick us up. After a cup of coffee we made our way to our hostel to drop off our belongings. We got there by Metro in about 90 minutes, which gave us enough time to chat up and to learn about the do’s and don’ts of the Korean culture.

Our hostel was not touristy at all, and thanks to the research of Jinhee and Daniel, we had a specious, comfy and central place to call our home for a week. We started the culinary feast with Kimbap, a vegetable and rice roll in seaweed.  As it was already close to lunch, we made our way to a Korea Buffet restaurant, where we waited for about 2.5 hours to get in. Plenty of time to discover the surroundings in the meantime. As we got in, it was self explanatory why the wait was so long. Fully packed with people and delicious foods. Since it was all-you-can-eat, we spent a good amount of time talking, eating and trying to remember as many dish names as possible. With the high amount of meat in their cuisine, I already liked Korea much better. Ssam Bap will be something I certainly introduce into my own cook book one day. After this delicious meal, the night flight took its toll. Tired and surely blown away by all the impressions on our first eight hours, we napped at Daniel’s flat to regain energy. After a restful hour, we went to Han River where we enjoyed a water and light show, completing a long and beautiful first day in Korea.

Monday morning started off late, as we met the owner of the flat to check in into our hostel, to figure out how we are going to handle the next few days. Thanks to Jinhee, the language was no problem. We headed directly to lunch after this to eat Samgyetang, a traditional chicken stew with Korean Ginseng. As Jinhee had to work afterwards, Daniel went with us to the Gyeonbokgung temple, where we arrived just in time for an English tour. After visiting one of the biggest temples from the Joseon-Dynasty, we were in desperate need for an ice cream. With sugar in our bellies, we went to the Jogyesa temple where we completed the days visits of temples. Back at the apartment of Daniel, we met up with Jinhee again and went together for a delicious fish supper. We were also properly introduced to Soju, a distilled beverage, made from rice, potatoes and wheat or barley. As a desert, we went to eat Patbingsu (shaved ice), which was not only delicate in our mouths, but surely convinced our eyes too. Shaved ice is easy to make and is also low on calories, depending on how much stuff you add.

Tuesday was a history lesson, which no book or lecture could provide. The war museum in Korea is a majestic building and therefore a big reminder of what has happened between 1950 and 1953. I still feel embarrassed about how little I knew about this war, which torn a nation apart within 3 years and destroyed thousands of families. Deeply touched and with a lot of impression, we left in direction of the shopping district Myeongdong. Due to some rain, we took a longer coffee break. I also introduced Daniel to Tschau-Sepp, which made good use of the waiting time. As the rain did not stop, we decided to go to a Korean cinema. Impressed by Daniel’s Korean skills, we got tickets which allowed us into the correct film at the correct time. Perfect, one might think. Something no one anticipated was that in the English movie with Korean subtitles, the apes (Damn of the Planet of the Apes) would be speaking in sign language with each other. And of course, the sign language was only translated in Korean. After all, it was not bad, because the sign language was not used too often.  In the evening, we enjoyed some Chicken and Beer and headed back to our hostel.

On Wednesday, we enjoyed a touristy day. In the morning, we visited a traditional Chinese market. For lunch, we ate Shabushabu, a hot pot like meal which was glorious! We also visited Insadong, an artistic area with beautiful shops and local specialties. In the afternoon, we headed to the airport to pick up Josine, Maggie’s sister, from her flight from Canada. Gangnam was the district where we ate supper and ate our first spicy but still very tasty supper.

Since it would be too much to put everything into one blog post, this is where Part 1 ends. As you can see, we did not only eat lot’s, but we also saw a lot. I am note sure how we can thank Dan and Jinhee enough. Their preparation, patience, guidance and commitment made this trip unforgettable. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

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