Our third day in Korea, Andrew and I were left on our own to navigate the city. We had tackled the metro when we arrived so getting around wasn’t too bad. Our first stop was the Korean War Memorial.
I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. The War Memorial had gotten some really good reviews online, but it was much more than just a memorial. Instead it’s a relatively large museum dedicated to the history of the Korean War. Our first stop was to look at some of the planes and weapons used during the war.
Look! In Korea you get to climb all over the exhibits!
We spent a couple of hours there. Admittedly, I knew very little about the Korean War beforehand, so it was a great opportunity to read about the history of the war and the world’s involvement. They had a bunch of other interactive exhibits. Andrew and I snuck into one of the 4D movies with a large group of Korean schoolgirls.
We also partook in some of the many Korean (or maybe it’s just not-gigantic-American) sized beverages.
By the time we were finished there it was lunchtime, so we decided to take the metro a few stops over Itaewon. Itaewon in the international area of Seoul and we figured it would be interesting to check out for a little while. When we got there though we somehow took a wrong turn and ended up in the Muslim section of Seoul. As we were both rapidly approaching the hangry part of the day, we dropped in on an Indian restaurant for lunch. It wasn’t bad, but also nothing special.
I had read that there was one Jewish temple in all of Korea and it was in Itaewon. Andrew obligingly followed me around the neighborhood until we stumbled upon it back off the main road. It was just a little house in the middle of a neighborhood. We knocked on the door hoping to meet someone, but no one answered so we left. There are only about 500 Jews in all of Korea (that’s fewer than came to our High Holiday services here in MD). I was mostly just curious to see what the temple was like and find out a little bit more about the Jewish population in Korea, but alas, it will have to wait for another time.
On our way back toward the metro Andrew and I stumbled upon the main drag of Itaewon which has dozens and dozens of restaurants of all different varieties lining the streets. Whoops. By then we were ready to go though, so it was off to the next destination!
Dr. Henry had told us N. Seoul Tower was for tourists, but since we were tourists we decided to go anyways. We figured it would give us a nice chance to get an overview of the whole city.
They do the whole lock thing like they have in France. But being Asia, there are far more cellphone cases than I imagine there are in France.
We took a cable car to the base of Seoul Tower. Also, I don’t know how to use the settings on my phone.
Going up the tower is…how you would imagine going up a tower is. You take an elevator to the top and then you can walk around the observation deck to see a full 360 degree, cloudy view of Seoul.
When we got to the top, I found a NASA sticker! There were also many many tiles with handwritten messages on them, but I couldn’t figure out what they were or how they got there.
Then, as appropriate for Korea, I found a postcard of these moderately creepy kitties taking a selfie and I mailed it from the highest post office in Korea (because it’s at the top of the tower). Fact: I had to wait for some other girl to mail her postcards because I couldn’t figure out which slot they were supposed to go in on the mailbox. Guys, I make things that go into space.
Because it was a bajillion degrees (not really, it was a comfortable 82 or something) and Koreans (except me) don’t get hot, I was a sweaty mess (because not very much AC) by the time we got back from Seoul Tower. As we walked through the area back to our hotel I decided it was imperative that I get an ice cream cone. Apparently ice cream cones in Korea are very tall and have frosted flakes at the bottom.
My friend Malice (from derby. Her real name is not Malice, it’s Elena. She has the exact same name as someone I went to college with and sometimes it’s confusing.) lived in Seoul and suggested we take a walk along Cheonggyecheon Stream. The stream was renovated as part of an urban renewal project in the early 2000s and it makes for a very pleasant walk as the sun is setting.
After our walk, we went back Myeondong to have dinner. Having been intrigued by the variety of vendors lining the streets we decided to forgo a sit down dinner for a dinner of street food. Good idea? GREAT idea.
We started with some spicy tteokbokki, which are rice cakes in a spicy sweet chili sauce served with fish cakes. We bought them from a stall with a nice lady who smiled at us a lot and stood around her cart alternating eating them with a toothpick and wiping the sweat off our brows.
We then moved onto dakkochi which is chicken on a stick that came with our choice of spicy sauces. Again we stood around the cart eating our chicken. However, at this cart, the vendor had snips so you could cut the end off of your stick after you eat the chicken to make it easier to eat the lower pieces. Brilliant. I was the unfortunate victim of a flying stick shard incident, but came away unscathed.
As we walked around, I had seen many people eating these crazy potato things. Apparently they are called Tornado Potatoes and they are ridiculous looking and kind of hard to eat. They are double fried and then the edges are dipped in what appeared to be the powdered cheese from an instant mac and cheese box. It was a bit of a disappointment.
I was starting to get full, but Andrew wanted to try some grilled squid. We found a cart that seemed fairly popular and I watched as the vendor prepared the squid for the people in line in front of us. Basically he took a whole, grilled squid, cut it up into bit sized pieces using kitchen shears and dumped the whole thing into a bag, still warm. There were a bunch of other squid-related snacks, but one can only take so much squid in an evening.
Our last snack was sausage-on-a-stick. It came with two sausages (on-a-stick) and two battered and fried rice cakes. Andrew liked them, but I thought they were only ok. I was also stuffed with street food at the time so that might have had something to do with it.
We officially made it through our first full day in Korea on our own! We didn’t lose anything, we didn’t lose ourselves, and we managed to eat well! Hurrah!