My First Solo Trip to South Korea: Day 3

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Palace grounds during spring

As I was traveling alone, I realized that while I felt lonely at times, I still had so much liberty to do what I want to do, go where I want to go, and eat what I want to eat without worrying about anybody else. I was my own limit. I checked my health meter and I actually walked at the average, 20 km everyday. Literal na walk till you drop. I remembered sitting in the subway for about 30 minutes because I was so tired from walking. First time kong sumuko sa lakaran. Hehe!

Day 3: Itaewon, Deoksugung Palace, Gwanghwamun, Tongin Market, Samcheondong, Insadong, Gwangjang Market, Cheonggyecheon Stream, Dongdaemun

On my third day of #Seouloflight, I decided to head first to Itaewon. Itaewon is a special tourism district where most international residents in Seoul can enjoy diverse culture, dining experience, shopping and entertainment. The restaurants showed influences from other countries through their design and menu. A lot of the shops sold imported goods as well. If you want to meet expats, they said that Itaewon is the place to go.

I arrived in Itaewon quite early so most shops were still closed. I just walked around and observed. Baka makita ko rin yung cafe ni Jo In Sung, eh. Accidentally, ang nakita ko yung isa sa mga locations ng Descendants of the Sun.😀

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Welcome sign in Itaewon

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Greek-inspired restaurant

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Pub where some scenes in Descendants of the Sun were taken

After a quick stroll around Itaewon, I went to the City Hall area to pay a visit to the Deoksugung Palace. I’ve heard of this palace before but gained more interest when it was featured in Infinity Challenge. What amazed me about this palace was the mixture of traditional Korean design and Western architecture.

The palace is also known for its Doldam-gil or stone wall road which is one of the famous roads in Korea. There was also myth that the wall was cursed and lovers who walked along the walls would eventually break up. Dare to try? 😉

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Seokjojeon – Western-style building inside the palace

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Inside the palace grounds

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Deoksugung wall

The weather was a bit gloomy when I left the palace and went to the Gwanghwamun Square. Gwanghwamun is a plaza where people can take a walk or sit while enjoying the scenery of Gyeongbokgung Palace and Bukhansan mountain. Situated in the square were two statues of Admiral Yi Sun-Shin and Sejong the Great. On one side was the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts.

During my visit, there were some tents commemorating the Sewol Ferry Tragedy that happened in 2014. On the much livelier side of the square were tents renting hanboks and a stage created for a program.

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Sejong the Great

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Gyeongbokgung Palace Gate

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Hop on Hop off trolley

Although Gyeongbokgung Palace was near Gwanghwamun Square, I did not go there anymore since I already went there last December. I headed straight to Tongin Market just few minutes from the palace.

Like some of the places I visited already, I discovered Tongin Market while watching Infinity Challenge and Running Man. It is one of Korea’s traditional markets and is known for its Dosirak or lunch box cafe.

I arrived at the market before 11am and the cafe was still closed. So I decided to look around the market first to survey the different banchan or side dishes. I saw different types of kimchi, galbi, pajeon, rice cakes, japchae, the popular fried tteokbokki, and a whole lot more. My mouth was watering from looking at the stalls.

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Tongin Market entrance

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Brass coins were sold in front of the market

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Ready to take on my 5,000won challenge

Then it was 11am and I walked back to purchase the brass coins for 5,000won. Included were 10 brass coins and a lunch tray/box. I walked around and carefully selected the dishes I wanted to try. I paid 2 brass coins for each food item that I chose. In the end, I had japchae, crab omelette, mandu or dumpling, kimbap and tteokbokki.

After using all my coins, I went back to the cafe’s second floor to eat. On the second floor were the utensils and free water. They also sold bowls of rice and sikhye. It was a cheap meal but I was so full. Sulit na sulit. Kakaiba pa yung experience. Before leaving the market, I placed my utensils to their designated bins as the cafe has a ‘claygo’ policy.

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Dosirak cafe entrance

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Wide selection of banchan

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What my dosirak looked like

I was still full from my lunch when I went to the Bukchon Hanok Village located in Samcheongdong. The village showcased traditional Korean houses. Guests can also enjoy some activities like weaving and trying the traditional Korean clothing, Hanbok. There were some stores selling traditional items and accessories and restaurants serving samgyetang and galbi.

While walking back to the main street, I passed by a cafe selling Filipino desserts -mainly shakes made from tropical fruits. I also saw dried mangoes for sale inside the cafe. I wished I had the time to ask the owner why he/she chose to have a Filipino-inspired cafe but the place was busy that time.

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Traditional houses

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Getting to know traditional houses in Korea

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Spotted a cafe selling Filipino desserts

On the other side of Samcheongdong is Insadong. Insadong is famous for its traditional antique shops, art galleries, tea shops and souvenir stores. Some stores sold hanboks, hanji or traditional papers, pottery, traditional teas and other folk crafts. Different food items were also sold especially desserts like rice cakes and puffed rice. From the main road, there were several small alleys leading to traditional Korean restaurants and small museums.

Some of the items I bought there were chopsticks and spoons, stainless rice cups, magnets, keychains and wallets. Also, I kept coming back in Insadong for the 10,000won Korean-style bags.

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Rainy day in Insadong

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Souvenirs sold in Insadong

Next on my list of traditional markets was the Gwangjang Market. Again, I found out about Gwangjang from watching Infinity Challenge and Running Man. The market has different sections selling cooked food, fresh produce, kitchen needs and other dry and wet goods. Outside the market, I saw some shops selling potted plants and seeds.

I loved the atmosphere inside the market. The smell of newly cooked food against fresh vegetables and seafood, the noise from different nationalities all gathered to taste Korean delicacies. Di baleng amoy palengke na ako paglabas, babalik-balikan ko pa rin to.

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Gwangjang Market entrance

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Different kinds of kimchi

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Late afternoon meal in the market

I arrived at the market late in the afternoon and a lot of people were already there from locals to tourists. Noticeably, the popular stalls have longer lines than the other stalls selling the same items. I quickly spotted the famous stall selling bindaetteok. The line for the tables was still long so I decided to takeout my order. The ajumma cut the bindaetteok or mung bean pancake in four and placed them in two paper cups.

I was busy eating and handling the cups when I spotted a slightly vacant stall selling mayap kimbap and sikhye. I bought sikhye and then chatted with the ajumma making the kimbap. Si Ateng nagbibigay ng sikhye nagbabalot din ng kimbap. Yung straw ko lasang seaweed. Haha!

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Gwangjang’s famous bindaetteok

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Mayap kimbap

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Bindaetteok and Sikhye

I was eating the whole day and was still full, so I decided to walk my way to Dongdaemun. Good thing, the Cheonggyecheon Stream is located just outside Gwangjang Market. While walking, I couldn’t help but admire the people behind this project. Placing a stream where people can relax, walk and hangout in the middle of busy streets. Sana kasing linis ng Cheonggye ang Pasig.

During Christmas season, the stream was adorned with colorful lights and decorations. A lantern festival was also held here every year. Occasionally, I would see children running around or riding their bicycles. Some would just sit down and watch the fishes or ducks in the water. Pwedeng tambayan ng barkada at pamilya. Pwede rin magdate, libre pa.

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A nice walkway in the middle of a busy street

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Stone steps

While passing by the stream, I saw some popular malls and a shopping complex selling mostly clothes, shoes and bags. Dongdaemun is famous for its shops selling wide array of clothing items and its night market. It is a known shopping area like Myeongdong and Namdaemun.

I was there in the afternoon and a lot of tourists flocked the malls already. I just looked inside some shops and left since I was not in the mood to buy new clothes. Personally, I prefer to buy clothes in Korea during winter. Hehe. Feeling ko mas fashionable at mura. I also saw a girl group performing outside. I wasn’t sure if they were any of those popular groups but I watched them for a bit anyway.

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Pyong Hwa Fashion Plaza in Dongdaemun

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Doota Mall

I didn’t enter other popular malls anymore and headed straight to Dongdaemun Design Plaza. DDP is famous for its modern structure and many shows and exhibitions were held there like the Seoul Fashion Week and the Style Icon Awards. There was an ongoing exhibition so I looked around for some souvenir items to buy.

Interestingly, most of the items sold were also handcrafted items. There was also an area selling SMTown merchandise. Ano, kahit saan ako magpunta may binebentang item ang SM?

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Dongdaemun Design Plaza

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Inside the DDP exhibition

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Coca-cola designed merch

When the sun was about the set, I went out to see the LED Rose Garden. The garden has thousands of LED roses that illuminate at night creating a very romantic ambiance. Reminded me of the LED rose garden in Everland.

Seeing a beautiful sunset from the garden with the roses shining one by one and the cherry blossoms in full bloom, I couldn’t help but be thankful for being there in that specific moment. I fell in love with Korea once again.

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Lighted steps at DDP

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Sunset from the LED Rose Garden

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