The next day was a Wednesday, when Saucer had to work. Hence it was another solo adventure for me in the day time. In this adventure, I chose to go to Insadong, which is yet another street market but it focuses more on antiques, artworks and souvenirs. Armed with the subway map, I took the train and reached Insadong all by myself. I didn’t know where the starting point was, until I asked someone from the Tourist Information Centre (there were a few booths nearby) and found the entrance. This huge painting became my starting point.
Huge painting at Insadong
witch was at Insadong-gil!
The traditional street was filled with plenty of antique shops and art galleries. But I didn’t dare to go in for fear of accidentally breaking those antiques. 😛
Insadong traditional street
There were some souvenir centers here too, but of course the price was much steeper than those from Namdaemun Market.
Korea Souvenir Center
Beauty of Korea skincare shop
Korea Traditional Souvenir Center
After a while, I decided to go for lunch. This was the first time I had lunch solo in Seoul, and I was pretty nervous, simply because of the language barrier. I kept worrying on whether their menu would have English, whether their menu would have pictures, whether they could understand me, etc. I scouted for restaurants along the hidden alleys, which were deemed to have better food! When I saw a restaurant with English menu, I quickly decided to enter.
Restaurant on the hidden alley
One of the many restaurants spotted
I ended up going into the restaurant with the name Korean Cuisine Restaurant as shown below. I thought I loved the traditional architecture of the restaurant and the quaint entrance.
Korean Cuisine Restaurant
The entrance to Korean Cuisine Restaurant
I didn’t regret my choice! Once I stepped inside the restaurant, the waitress was oh-so-friendly. She seemed to know that I was traveling solo and did her best to make me feel comfortable, with a warm smile all the time. 🙂 Also, the menu had English names!
Nice chandeliers in the restaurant
Simple and cozy seating environment
This time, I ordered Dolsot Bibimbap (7,000won/RM21) which was Bibimbap served on stone bowl. As with all other restaurants, complimentary appetizers were served first. This restaurant served one of the nicest side dishes I had, with many choices too! Too bad Saucer wasn’t around to enjoy this with me.
Soon, the Dolsot Bibimbap was served with sizzling sounds.
There was a bottle of sauce served separately, and while I stirred the rice, I added in the sauce according to taste. The final product was a fragrant and delicious bowl of rice which was still piping hot!
Delicious and healthy Dolsot Bibimbap
After the satisfying lunch, I continued to explore around Insadong. I spotted a hip and trendy artsy place called Ssamzie Market and went in to have a look. Ssamzie market is a young place, filled with people who are young at hearts. It’s a market place packed full of craft stalls, cafes, jewellery and gift shops. It was fortunate that I was there during a weekday for I heard that it’s impossible to navigate during the weekends.
Staircase at Ssamzie market
I was really impressed with this market, everything was an art! Graffiti was all around the walls but I didn’t feel that it was vandalism but more of an art. Even the toilet entrance was filled with lots of drawings and words, but it’s actually very clean and modern. Very artsy.
Did you notice from the picture above that the corridor on upper levels seemed to be slanted? It was not because of the angle I took the picture, but the walkways were really skewed! Therefore, one could just walk on the corridor, window-shopping as usual, and before you know it, you’re at the top level! No stairs required! Unique eh? 🙂
Pseudo-Spiral corridor to go to the top level
Graffiti all over the place
One of the corridors in Ssamzie Market
There were so many craft shops and souvenirs in Ssamzie market, they left me in awe. I especially loved the architecture of the building and how arty they made it. Creative!
Continuing my adventure, I thought I covered most of Insadong already so I opened up my map and tried to search for any nearby attractions. One of the attraction circled in the map was this place called Min’s Club (Mingadaheon). According to the Korean Tourism website,
The original name of the Mingadaheon (Min’s club) was Minikduga (Minikdu’s home), but the place was renamed and remodeled into a fusion restaurant in 2001.
Minikduga is designed by Gilryong Park (1898∼1943), the pioneer of Korean- modern architecture in 1930. This house, which is located in Gyeongun-dong, is a historical building that helps to understand the changes in Korean architecture.
The exterior of the building looks like a traditional Korean house while on the inside it is decorated in a totally modern style. The house is decorated with Victorian furniture and a fireplace.
I took some photographs of the building that apparently marked the beginning of modern housing architecture in Korea.
Min’s Club restaurant #1
Min’s Club restaurant #2
After that, I decided to head towards the subway station to go to Saucer’s office. I found that I was much more observant with my surroundings and directions when I travel solo, maybe because deep down I knew that I had no one to depend upon other than myself! While walking towards the station, I passed by this park which looked serene and peaceful. This was apparently the Tapgol (Pagoda) Park, which was also the first park in Korea.
Tapgol Park opposite Insadong
Pavilion at the center of the park
The park got its name from the 10-storey marble Wongaksa Pagoda, which is also a National Treasure, in the park. The pagoda is considered by art historians to be one of the finest examples of Joseon dynasty pagoda art. It’s also one of the very few pagodas made from marble! Impressive!
witch with Wongaksa Pagoda
After my productive adventure, I took the subway to look for Saucer at his office. 🙂 It was already time for dinner by then, and we walked to a nearby shopping mall called IPark Mall to look for dinner. The IPark Mall is situated just next to the Yongsan Station, which is huge! Yongsan is also famous for its electronic goods, whereby there’s a huge building housing all sorts of electronic goods sold at an apparently cheaper price here.
witch at IPark Mall
For dinner, we randomly chose some restaurant in the Mall. Saucer’s colleague Sri was with us, so we had to choose some place which was pork/beef-free. He spotted this restaurant that sold fried rice and we headed in.
Seafood fried rice
Kimchi fried rice
Dinner was just average. We walked back towards their office after that since they still had some ‘minor’ work to do. This was the street that we had to cross, which was just in front of Ipark Mall.
Crossing the street in front of IPark Mall
Once we crossed the street, there were many street stalls selling the Korean broiled rice cakes or Tteokbokki. Saucer wanted to try those (what’s new), so we chose one of the stalls there. There was one particular stall which had exceptionally good business! It was also the only stall which had tables and chairs for the customers. We decided to eat in this stall immediately. With the help of sign language, we managed to order one portion at 5,000 won (RM15) which was big enough for 2 persons. It was a mixture of rice cakes with bean curds, vegetables, some sausages and so on. There was a variety of spicy and non-spicy, and we chose the spicy one.
And oh my God, it was SO spicy! But SO DELICIOUS! It was the best ever Tteokbokki that we had throughout our stay in Seoul, and we’ve had quite a few variants. This was easily the best version, even though it was very spicy, it was also addictive! I couldn’t stop myself from eating it while burning my lips and tongue in the process. *LOL* Especially yummy during the cold weather too! This definitely cannot be missed if you visit Seoul.
Delicious Tteokbokki stall opposite IPark Mall
Notice that they even provided free water for the customers in case they couldn’t stand the spiciness. We had cups and cups of those water. 🙂
After dinner, we headed back to Saucer’s office for them to settle their work. What was supposed to take 1 hour, ended up taking a good 5 hours! *gasp* We only managed to leave the office at 2am in the morning! *double gasp* Stay tuned for my solo adventure again on the next day when Saucer left for work! 😉