Korea & Taiwan 2015 (4/10) – The King, the Art, and the Food Stalls

Korea & Taiwan 2015

  1. Out We Go Again
  2. Hwaseong to Gangnam
  3. Korean Fried Surf & Turf
  4. The King, the Art, and the Food Stalls
  5. Myeong Dong Kyoja
  6. On To Taichung
  7. Eating All Day Long
  8. Happy 90
  9. This is How We Breakfast
  10. Signage & More

After realizing that our neighborhood cafe’s breakfast was inferior to the convenience stores, we went to 7-Eleven this morning instead.  Then, after the routine feeding/cleaning/diapering, we were ready to head out again.

If you need wine at 5:30am, make sure to exercise restraint and buy only one glass at a time.

View from our breakfast venue, a.k.a. hotel room.

This time, we took the subway to Euljiro 1-ga and walked along Cheonggyecheon, the creek that went through the middle of the city.  It was a very nice public space featured in several movies and music videos that we’d seen, but we didn’t descend to it because we were pushing a stroller.

It was a cold morning.  But the last time I saw this creek, it was so cold that none of the green stuff survived.

Our first major destination of the day was Gyeongbokgung, the main palace of Joseon Dynasty.  We did not take subway to the Gyeongbokgung station, because we wanted to walk through the Gwanghwamun Plaza starting from the south end.  Seoul, or its former life as Hanseong, quite interestingly resembled Beijing.  The setup reminded me of the Forbidden City, its main gate Tiananmen, and the Tiananmen Plaza in front of the palace.  Even though the Korean version of all those seemed miniature in comparison, the parallel was just fascinating.

Statue of Yi Sun-Shin, the legendary naval general who went undefeated against Japan’s much larger fleets with his turtle ships.
In the back was Sejong Daewang, the greatest king in Korean history.

While waiting for the palace to open, we ducked into this cafe for some warmth.

What a friendly bus!

Gwanghwamun, the main entrance to Gyeongbokgung.

The second free admission in a week!  Luck was on our side!

The main hall where presumably a lot of serious business was done.


Xuan was quite happy with the boxed tea grandpa gave her.

Royal guards at the front entrance.

Hong trying to eat all the napa near the palace before they turned into kimchi.

After the palace, we returned to Insadong and paid Alive Museum a visit.  Phil and Julia shared with me pictures from this place a few years ago, and I was highly intrigued.  So when I came across its description during the trip planning, I immediately knew that we all had to come here.  The Alive Museum was an interactive art gallery that allowed you to photograph with paintings that provided optical illusion.  It was hilarious, and we all had a blast.  Big kudos to my parents for playing along when I asked them to pose for some embarrassing pictures.

10k gold is pretty rare, I’ll give you that…







Although I told them to do this, I was impressed by how natural my parents made this heart look.





This is Ting roasting me to feed a dinosaur.  Kind of how I felt on the plane.

Somebody loves coffee!


Laughing too hard made us all hungry, so for lunch we picked the first restaurant on Insadong-gil that we came across.  It was an ox tail soup place that also had some cold noodles that were somewhat vegetarian, so it worked for my family.  The place had raised heated floors, which we enjoyed sitting on.


By this time, I came to an appreciation of this thing that I read about: a lot more people spoke Chinese in this city than English.  Two of the waitresses here, like the server from yesterday and several others that we came across, commanded perfect Mandarin so my parents were at ease.  In comparison, nobody really spoke English outside our hotel.

On our way back to the hotel for our nap, Hong snatched some street food.  Then we almost got lost in the underground streets on our way to the subway station.

In the evening, we were rather not in the mood to carry our kids on and off the subway again.  As soon as my parents returned from the old town after their afternoon excursion, we dragged them onto a cab and drove back into the old town.  We asked to be dropped off at Gwanjang Market, a large in-door complex filled with food stalls.  Dinner was a la carte from various stalls.

I would have loved to eat this, but not sure why I did not order.  Ate a foot, though.

Mung bean pancake.

You can always trust the pissy-looking aunties to sell the best food in town.

Ahh for real food.

One thing we bought to take home was the mayak kimbap, literally the “narcotic sushi roll”, which was a specialty at this market.  The name meant that it was addicting like drugs.  At first sight, though, they look like the disgusting cucumber maki in the corner of your “50% off sushi platter combo”: just seaweed rolls with rice and some veggies inside.  The initial taste was also not at all impressive – it was cold with some picked stuff and a funky green leaf in it.  But it was sort of a reflex to take another bite.  Then a third.  And before sunrise, my family devoured two whole boxes of those mayak kimbap rolls.  That was the strangest food item ever – I don’t think I even liked it, but I couldn’t stop eating it.

After dinner, we walked to Dongdaemun for some late night shopping.  Seoul put New York’s “city that never sleeps” title to shame because it had Dongdaemun, an entire shopping district that operated from 10am to 5am, plus Namdaemun, another shopping district that ran from 10pm to 5pm.  I was far from a shopaholic, but I did value the option being able to buy a new tie, should I decide to need one any time of the day.  These shopping districts were so large that it’d take hours just to walk by every shop, so I had a hard time understanding how they sustained business for 19 hours everyday.  Had a great time here with Phil five years ago, when we shopped till we dropped (without actually buying a thing).  This time around, because of the kids, we dropped before we shopped, so the visit to Dongdaemun was quite brief.

Uh, these Line Friends again.


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