After walking around the Gyeongbokgung Palace for a while, we decided to find the nearest exit and make our way to our next destination. We're tired and hungry and it's already well past 1 pm, so we headed for lunch. We walked towards Bukchon-ro and found ourselves in this one road with a lot of restaurants on the left and right. We took a quick stroll down the road and decided that the first restaurant that we saw looks promising.
The name of the restaurant is 돈까스 (Tonkatsu), or at least that's what I read on the sign of the place when we walked in. I'm not too sure either. Anyway, we walked in, took our seat, started to look at the menus (which are in a form of photo album with the pictures of the food and a sticky label with the name of the food on top of it), and ordered a couple of dishes. The food was pretty delicious and there were definitely things that we never ordered before. Here are some shots of what we ate:
After we got our energy back, we headed to Bukchon Hanok Village (북촌한옥마을) to see Korea's traditional houses—called Hanok—that date back to the Joseon Dynasty. Bukchon apparently literally means 'northern village'. When we arrived there, there are quite a number of people walking around, including people who came from out of town (at least that's our guess because they looked like tourists, but they speak Korean).
One interesting thing that we saw, after you walked up the hill, when you looked back, you can see multiple rows of hanoks with modern architecture of the city on the background. It was pretty interesting to see how the two co-exist in Seoul.
One tip for you if you want to visit Bukchon, look up their website and find the photo spots that you want to go to. There are 8 views of Bukchon that can be seen from different places, you just have to find the right spot if you want to see those views. We made a mistake on not finding out about these spots before we came. We also missed it on the map that we got from the information center (that we hold on into the whole time we were there and just found that out towards the end of our time there). As a result, we walked (and ran) up and down the hill in circles. I felt like I just had a work out session after we finished exploring Bukchon. But the whole area is very charming and we had a great time just looking at the architecture of the exterior of the hanoks.
After Bukchon, we walked our way towards Insa-dong. We passed the subway station and saw a couple of interesting things, one of them is there was an ajuhssi begging for money on the street. Nothing about it is odd, but what's surprising is the way they do it is very different than anything I've seen in other countries. If I remembered correctly, my Korean teacher told me that begging for money is something that is considered humiliating in Korean culture, thus the posture. I can't say this for sure though. Maybe someone who have a better insight to Korean culture can gives a better explanation about this.
Anyway, on with our journey, one of the place we want to visit in Insa-dong is Ssamziegil (쌈지길), a shopping center that has a pretty unique architectural structure. There are four floors with over 70 stores that sell different range of items. The feeling that I got from the area is that it's very young and artsy. The place was pretty packed with young people and families and the spiral staircases are not wide enough for the number of people that were there so we have to fight our way forward a little bit.
Here's the spiral staircases that connect the four floors together. All you have to do just walk forward and follow the staircase while you're doing your shopping, and eventually you'll find yourself on the top of the building. Pretty cool right?
After a long afternoon of walking (and what I called semi-hiking at Bukchon), we decided to take a break at Ddoong Cafe (또옹 카페) that is located on the top floor of the building. For those who doesn't know, Ddoong means p**p in Korean. I guess you kinda can guess from the graphics that they have on their store windows :p
Since the weather was pretty hot, we were (again) craving for something sweet and cold. So we ordered a couple of desserts for snack.