Hope you are well and enjoying your April so far! I am in Seoul for 3 weeks and every day has been a big, inspiring adventure… one that I want to share with you. And here I’m going to do just that with a round of pictures.
So settle in, relax and get ready for a quick trip to East Asia!
Above, I’m standing in front of part of the Gyeongbokgung Palace. It’s about 600 years old, and the first palace built during the Joseon Period. I like to always do the free English tours. This particular tour took about an hour, and I learned so much about Korean history…
I’ve also now been to every history, major art and cultural museum in Seoul, as well as all the palaces and monuments. I have to say that the evolution, history and culture of Korea is fascinating. I love how kind and polite Koreans are too, how they bow and are most always even-tempered. I love it!
These pics are taken in the Bukchon Hanok Village, where there are nearly 1000 traditional Korean houses in existence. With winding alleys, no cars and beautiful tiled roofs, it is an enchanting little section of town to get lost in!
Seoul is vibrant, and has 10 million people, but somehow it doesn’t feel overly crowded to me. I don’t feel claustrophobic the way I do after staying a while in other big cities like Bangkok, Calcutta, Manila, Beijing and Tokyo. The people are very polite and the city is very, very clean, and I think part of it is the surrounding nature that is everywhere. You see the mountains outside Seoul in many parts of the city, as well as the forests and the big river that runs through it.
One of my favorite things to do here is explore the little alleys that run through so many different parts of the city. Sometimes I’ll just walk in the alleys for half a day by myself, watching the locals eat in small cafes, talk with each other, sweep their storefronts, make some kind of craft, and a million other random things I observe.
There are endless carts of street food everywhere in Seoul, and I do love getting street food pretty much everywhere I travel around the world in some form. It’s such a big part of the local culture how can you not partake? Here one of my favorite street fares are the roasted chestnuts. These poor Korean women are wondering why this crazy girl is rubbing her belly and talking in a language they don’t understand about how excited she is about chowing down on their chestnuts!
The city lights up at night like a circus!
In the beautiful Secret Garden at Changdeokgung Palace, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
It was built melding together the harmony of nature into the architecture, with elements honoring the five elements and the mountains that rise up behind the palace.
The cherry blossoms are in bloom!!
Well this is interesting isn’t it? No you’re right, it’s creepy! It’s a super weird banana-apple hybrid. By the way, fruit is super expensive here, much more expensive than any other food group I’ve seen. I guess it’s mostly all imported, and/or there’s an issue with the local fruit farming situation. Our hotel has a great breakfast with lots of fruit, and I load up then, and grab some to make my GGS with, which I’ve been blending in our room!
Kimchi and fermented foods are the big thing in Korea, and are served at every meal. I only eat it at some restaurants though that I’ve become quite a regular at, where I know for sure the kimchi does not contain fish or oyster sauce. As you know, I’m a huge fan of fermented foods, but not so of fish sauce!
I love how Korean food includes banchan, which are these little side dishes. I love the greens one the best, and I get a few portions of them. While many Koreans might think how I eat here is “peasant” food, just the veggie banchan dishes and the doenjang jigae (bean paste stew) from the most casual, local little hole-in-the-wall cafes I find in the alleys with only Korean characters, I absolutely love it! I feel like I’m eating like a queen :).
The bean paste stew comes out literally with a rolling boil!
Here are some of the little papers I carry around with me to keep ensure they make the stew purely and that they don’t add any meat or seafood into it, and also so that they don’t bring out banchan containing little fishies or rolled egg.
Here’s my new tea friend (check out the Youtube video I posted that included this fun interaction with her explaining some of the teas) at a traditional tea shop. Besides tea, I am surprised by how popular coffee is in Korea as well now!
At my most favorite local cafe, they serve banchan that includes local Korean yams.
Hmm!! A whole feast of a meal to me, with the veggies and all the stew, is only $5-6.
This is Mamaki, who is a very knowledgeable Buddhist tea shop owner. She knows a lot about the local plants, and has a lot of interesting teas and dried plants in her shop. I spent a long time talking to her, and learned a lot! A few days ago I went climbing in one of the sacred mountains overlooking Seoul, and I saw some women foraging some of the dried mountain plants and herbs I believe she was talking about that day.
John and I love to sit on the floor in the traditional way of eating. This picture is taken at one of the few Korean vegan restaurants we have found!
And they serve my favorite! Roasted Kabocha squash!!
Here’s how they make the jigae stews, they get crazy blue-hot on fire and then they get put on plates and served to you still boiling hot.
Ah heavenly! Here is part of the feast we had at Banchon, which is a Temple Food restaurant founded by a Buddhist monk of 18 years. Temple food is all plant-based, does not use garlic or scallions (similarly to how those foods are avoided for the Pitta “fire” dosha in Ayurvedic philosophy), but incorporates some spiritual principles. It is truly delicious!
I love how all the palaces include these types of paintings which integrate the harmony of nature- the mountains behind the palaces and city, and references to the sun and the moon.
I also love how these ancient palace areas (some parts are reconstructed since they were destroyed during the various historical occupations) are right amongst the downtown city areas, and the big buildings and busy roads. They are part of the living daily life, and seeing the sharp contrast between the modern buildings and the old palaces is pretty striking.
The children are so bright and beautiful here. Full of light.
I’m so happy that my hubby John is here with me. We are not together during the days as we are working on different things, but we have some days off together and we have all our dinners together. The last time I was in East Asia I was a backpacker, staying in the cheapest hostels and guest houses, and with friends I met along the way but often alone too. I have to say that I really appreciate and am grateful that I come back to a nice hotel every night…and hubs!
This is the go-to Korean way of taking pics- double peace signs. So this is my homage back to my Korean friends!
I hope you enjoyed these pics and your trip with me to Seoul! These were all from my first few days of being in Korea, and there will be a Part 2 of pics…including hiking in the sacred mountain, the Cherry Blossom Festival and more. So please stay tuned!
I send my love,