Day 1 Nine Tree Hotel Myeongdong, Gwangjang/Bangsan/Chungbu Markets, N Seoul Tower
Day 2 - Hanbok rental shop > Gyeongbokgung > Tosokchon Samgyetang (lunch) > Samcheongdong / Bukchon Hanok Village / Traditional tea house > Kyobo Bookstore (Gwanghwamun branch) > Myeong-dong (street food for dinner)
The second day of my Seoul trip was highly anticipated because it was my very first hanbok experience day! Ever since I started watching Korean historical dramas (saguek), I wanted to try on hanbok because they look so elegant; it would be so fun walking around the royal palace in hanbok!
There are a number of royal palaces in Seoul, but due to lack of time, I guess we could only explore one of them; decided on Gyeongbokgung, since it's the most popular and iconic one.
Prior to the trip, I did some research on places to rent hanbok; there are many shops in areas such as Gyeongbokgung palace, Samcheong-dong, Bukchon Hanok Village, Insadong etc, so much so I was spoilt for choices. In the end, settled for this particular shop, Hanbok 3355, Samsam-O-O which is located a short walk from Gyeongbokgung.
My plan was to visit the shop early at 9am, get dressed and head to Gwanghwamun gate by 10am to view the royal guard changing ceremony. When I made reservations, the staff replying my email assured me that we would be ready before 10am and make it in time for the ceremony.
Unfortunately when I reached the shop at 9am, there was a group of tourists who arrived at the same time, making it difficult to select hanbok. To make matters worst, the staff on-site didn't seem to get my reservations and there were some confusion for a while :(
By the time we selected our hanbok, dressed up, did my hair and all, it was past 10am and we missed the ceremony :(
Gyeongbokgung Palace (경복궁)
Alas, we only caught a glimpse of the royal guards matching past from afar Gwanghwamun Gate :(
Never mind, we did get our photo taken with the chief guard. I wonder how bored the guards feel? Having to stand there during their guard duty hours and take countless photos with tourists?
Heungnyemun Gate Compound
After photo-taking with the guards, we proceeded into the palace grounds where we were granted free admission for wearing hanbok. Haha. Then again, the admission fee is actually very affordable.
But then again, it was embarrassing too, coz there were so many tourists around. Funny thing, there were some tourists who requested to take photos with us. LOL! Actually there were quite a number of tourists and locals who dressed up in hanbok too, not just us :)
Council Hall where the king routinely discussed national affairs with his court officials.
Hyangwonji Pond and Hyangwonjeong Pavilion.
After walking around for more than an hour, we were famished and proceeded to Tosokchon Samgyetang Restaurant, located about 10mins' walk west of the palace. This is supposedly the most famous restaurant selling Samgyetang (ginseng chicken soup) in Seoul, with its premises within a hanok (traditional house).
Tosokchon Samgyetang (토속촌 삼계탕)
When we reached, there was already a long queue and we waited about 15 mins to get a table.
After the wholesome lunch, we decided to return our hanbok, because it was actually a little cumbersome to walk around in it. I would love to wear it for the whole day, but I kept stepping on the inner skirt! Aiyah, I'm too clumsy lah, seriously cannot be one of those elegant traditional ladies :p
Time to explore Samcheongdong-gil 삼청동길 which is to the east of the palace.
Cha Masineun Tteul (차마시는뜰)
HB ordered a Yujacha (citron tea), a traditional herbal tea made from the citrus fruit yuja, whereas I tried the Omijacha or Omija hwachae, meaning "5-flavour tea", a kind of traditional drink made of fruit herbs called omija. It is usually served during hot summer days as energy replenishment and for quenching thirst.
We also ordered a mochi dessert which was not on the menu (saw two Japanese ladies beside our table eating it). The mochi was so chewy and yummy. One piece had traditional red bean and dried persimmon filling, whereas the other had chocolate praline filling.
After hanging at the tea house for a while, we proceeded to the nearby Bukchon Hanok Village (http://bukchon.seoul.go.kr/eng/index.jsp)
In fact, this area remains a residential neighbourhood and many residents still reside here. Some of the hanoks are converted to guest houses.
When we were strolling around the area, indeed there were a lot of visitors taking photos, and at every junction or few hundred meters, there were actually ahjumma and ahjusshi holding signage reminding visitors to lower their volume.
Thereafter, made our way to Kyobo Book Store Gwanghwamun Branch 교보문고 광화문점 (http://www.kyobobook.co.kr/index.laf) as we liked to check out the book collection there. Besides Korean books, there are a small selection of English and Japanese books as well. The bookstore is huge and hosts CD/DVD/record section, IT and accessories section, stationery and novelty items section, lifestyle products etc.
We ended up spending more than an hour there, I bought a Korean cookbook in English language and Korean language beginner guide book, whereas HB grabbed several English Engineering books which are priced very reasonably (much lower than SG and even US).
After that, we took a cab back to the hotel to drop off our purchases and headed out to Myeongdong shopping street.
This fish-shaped "corissant" made using puff-pastry and comes with several fillings was super yummy, very crispy and buttery.
Ppopgi 뽑기 is a traditional Korean sugar candy, I knew about it through K-drama! But I didn't try :(
Rainbow-colour cotton candy.
Another popular snack, strawberry wrapped with red bean and mochi. Quite yummy!
This seemed to be quite popular street food too, Fried chicken and rice cake in spicy sauce. It was not bad, but the sauce was a little overwhelming, and tasted nice only when eaten hot.
We only tried a few stalls as these street food were rather filling and we simply didn't have tummy space to hold more. There were many more stalls that I didn't manage to take photos as it was too crowded.
Stay tune for Day 3 where we visited Namdaemun, Ewha Women's University, Hongdae Free Market and Hongik University Street.