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Where do you hang out these days?
When Nicola and Sara smilingly asked me this question, I was lost in reflection.
They really loved Korea, so it must be somewhere new and marvellous. Where does the new generation hang out mostly? Hongdae (홍대)? Garosu-gil (가로수길)? And then, Sara said she wanted to go to Namsan Tower. Namsan Tower…? Did they want to go to a hot place?
Sara’s unexpected question stumped me for a second, before I had an idea.
“How about we go to Namsan and Itaewon (이태원)?”
I spoke with confidence for a number of reasons. Namsan had been like my back garden for 16 years, and from Itaewon to Kyungridan-gil (경리단 길) to Haebang-chon (해방촌), all these recently emerging hot and happening places were where I used to hang out with my friends in our school uniforms. Problem solved! No worry about a route for travel. The only thing left was to enjoy our time there!
A day trip in Seoul with bubbly girls. Let’s go back to that time full of laughter.
– An Australian who loves Seoul. She has a YouTube channel called ‘Seoul Love’ (서울 사랑) which she hosts in Korean as well. Unlike her slightly reserved exterior, she has an unexpected amount of charm.
– An Australian married to a Korean. She currently grows strawberries in Sancheong (산청). She met her husband, Mr. Sun-Hong when he was in Sydney to study. They then moved to Seoul after getting married. She has a YouTube channel called ‘My Korean Husband’, which contains stories that non-native women married to Korean men can relate to.
Namsangol Hanok Village (남산골 한옥마을) – [421 Bus: about 30 mins, Subway Lines 4, 6: about 30 mins] – Itaewon (My Sweet) – [Trolley Bus: about 15 mins, 405 Bus: about 15 minutes] – Namsan – [02 Namsan Circular Bus, Yongsan 02 Shuttle Bus: about 20 mins] -Haebang-chon – [about 5 mins on foot] – Kyungridan-gil – [about 7 mins on foot] – Seoul Ping-Pong Pub
Namsangol Hanok Village was the starting point… …to walk around wearing Hanbok (한복), traditional Korean clothing. Hanbok? You may ask, why wear Hanbok? Lots of foreign tourists wear Hanbok when they visit Seoul. In fact, I often see foreigners wearing Hanbok when I pass by Gyeongbokgung (경복궁) and near Insadong (인사동).
Sara and Nichola wearing Hanbok looked to be in harmony with the sights of the village. Pouring Korean traditional tea clumsily and throwing Tuho (투호), they reminded me of Korean girls with blonde hair. They especially loved trying out calligraphy, because they got to keep their writing in a frame. So they could get the souvenir after enjoying the experience!
We were going to have lunch in Itaewon. Nichola mostly ate Korean food with her parents-in-law, and on her first trip to Seoul in a long time decided to go to a fusion Italian restaurant called My Sweet. The restaurant is owned by Seok-Cheon Hong, a Korean entertainer, who owns eight restaurants in Itaewon.
While eating in the charmingly decorated restaurant, Nichola and Sara wouldn’t stop talking. Tirelessly, they talked about K-pop, Korean food, their love for Korea, and so on and so forth.
After lunch, we went to take a trolley bus. A new trolley bus, stopping at Gwanghwamun (광화문), Cheongae Square (청계광장), Myeongdong (명동), Namsan, 63 building (63빌딩), Hongdae, Sinchon (신촌), and then back to Gwanghwamun. Before we went up to the mountain, we got on a trolley bus to have a short trip around Seoul. The bus, modelled after an old trolley, took us back to the past and we involuntarily let out happy screams at the moment we saw it. The bus stop bell was also extraordinary. It’s an actual bell made of steel, where you pull on a string on the ceiling to ring it. Interpreting services are available for various languages, so checking the route first, then getting on the line you are interested in and putting on a headset is the simplest way to enjoy Seoul, completely.
Getting off the trolley bus at Namsan library stop, we saw Namsan right in front of us. Despite many shuttle buses, the nice weather made us want to walk up to the top. As we huffed and puffed while climbing the mountain, the sights of woodpeckers and squirrels offered us entertainment. It only takes about 30 minutes from the entrance to the tower, so, if time permits, it’s worthwhile to walk up to the top. The Seoul skyline was revealed in patches awaiting us between leaves.
The guardrail around the observatory was covered with sealed locks. People attach padlocks here to leave behind memories and symbolise love. Sara and Nichola went to find the locks they left before. Unfortunately, their locks couldn’t be found because of the sheer amount of locks left behind by other people who visited after them, but they left new memories instead of the missing locks before going back down the mountain
There is a road heading to Kyungridan-gil from Namsan. There is a new hot place called Haebang-chon-gil which has recently gained popularity among people sensitive about trends.
Shops with their own unique characteristics line the road where traditionally many foreign populations lived and thrived. Recently, a growing number of foreigners have started to run restaurants, and it reminded me of Itaewon. “I don’t feel like I’m in Korea!” said Sara and Nichola. It was unfamiliar to me but maybe familiar to them. Walking down the narrow road in Haebang-chon which was more familiar to them until a shop selling pots, we saw Kyungridan-gil across the road.
Many foods are recommended in Kyungridan-gil, so try not to give all your stomach space to the churros which seduce you from the entrance with their delicious sweet smell. There are many things on the road other than churros. Whole squid fried, grilled cheese sandwiches, ice-cream, and other simple and quick snacks were available. No need to worry about the taste, because cheap and good quality food are guaranteed along with excellent flavour.
Kyungridan-gil has distinctive characteristics which are different from Haebang-chon. If each shop in Haebang-chon-gil is more active, shops in Kyungridan-gil are more stable and arranged. Characterful artists’ workrooms and small, cute and famous restaurants hiding in each alley bring out the distinct characteristics of Kyungridan-gil. Sara and Nichola were busy taking photos in front of shops and wall paintings. They screamed out in joy at seeing the flower paintings on the stairs in front of Café Obey. Feelings of attraction to something cute and small have no borders.
he sun was going down. Since we walked a lot, exposed to sunshine in the daytime, I craved some beer. How about a drink? It was only a light and simple suggestion, but the reply was No. Surprisingly, Sara said she couldn’t drink beer. Then, Plan B.
Seoul Ping-Pong Pub, where I used to visit to see the handsome owner, is famous for its draft beer and hot dogs, but it’s also worth visiting for those who don’t drink beer, like Sara. That is because of ping-pong, the universal sport! Ordering two draft beers and a bottle of Coke, we headed to a ping-pong table. They were as unskilled as ever, but the game was a lot of fun. It’s not about skills or winning but about enjoying, so everyone should try. Tip: If your bad ping-pong skills embarrass you, slipping out for a sip of beer is a simple excuse you could use.
When we left the pub, it was dark outside already. Many people on the terrace in the shops next to the pub were enjoying the Itaewon nightlife.
“We had so much fun today.” Said Nichola, who was the last one climbing up the stairs. At that moment my thoughts were seized by a replay of the day’s trip through Seoul. In fact, the trip with two free spirited Aussie women in the summer’s hot sunshine was sometimes challenging, but with Sara who said she would show her pictures in Hanbok to her mother when she got back to her country, and Nichola who said she would definitely follow the same route as today’s with her husband, I thought I was a good trip companion. On the way home after saying good bye to Sara and Nichola, Itaewon felt different. To celebrate the successful trip, I went to have some more beer.
1.Namsangol Hanhok Village (남산골 한옥 마을)
Address: 28, Toegye-ro 34-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul, Korea
Telephone: +82 (0)2-2264-4412
Opening Times: 9 am – 9 pm, Closed on Tuesdays
2.My Sweet (마이 스윗)
Address: 4, Itaewon-ro 20-gil, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, Korea
Telephone: +82 (0)10-5350-2061
Opening Times: 10 am – 2 am
3.World Food Street (세계 음식거리)
Address: 118-83, Itaewon 1-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, Korea
4.Namsan Tower (남산 타워)
Address: 105, Namsangongwon-gil, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, Korea
Opening Times: 10 am – 11 pm
Telephone: +82 (0)2-3455-9277
Admission: Adult 9000 Won, Child 7000 Won
Address: 5-1612, Yongsan-dong 2-ga, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, Korea
6.Street Churros (스트릿 츄러스)
Address: 557, Itaewon 2-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, Korea
Telephone: +82 (0)2-749-1489
Opening Times: 9 am – 11:30 pm
Main Menu: Churros 2000 Won, ACHU set 3000 Won
7.Seoul Ping-pong Pub (서울 핑퐁 펍)
Address: 705 B1, Itaewon 2-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, Korea
Telephone: +82 (0)10-4799-1124
Opening Times:5 pm – 1:30 pm