After our Saturday morning in Myeongdong, I wanted to go to the DDP (Dongdaemun Design Plaza). I had seen tons of videos of it online and am just obsessed with its architecture and unique crashing-UFO design. It just so happened that the tail-end of Seoul Fashion Week was underway, so we had free entertainment! I previously posted about this while we were still in Korea, so you can read that here if you want.
These flowers are so pretty and light up at night!
I could have easily stayed here all day long and people-watched, but the one thing that I should say is that I spent a good chunk of our trip with this terrible Chasing the White Rabbit mentality, where I felt like we were running out of time, and I was in a near-constant state of panic that we weren’t doing enough. At the end of each day though, I went to bed grateful that we were even there at all, trust me! And even the times Henry got us lost, after my anger subsided I was able to reason that at least we were lost in freakin’ SEOUL. And honestly, that allowed us to see parts of the city that we might not have seen otherwise, lol!
The DDP was within walking distance from our hotel so we took a leisurely stroll back, where the intention was to “rest” for “an hour or so.” But first we got some piping hot croquettes from a vendor (mine was kimchi, I always opted for kimchi fillings whenever that was an option because my love affair with that fermented babe is real). Chooch got a potato one and I was so happy that he was actually eating things. Henry and I were afraid that he’s starve to death in Korea because he’s so goddamn picky. But he promised us that he would try things and he really did uphold his end of the deal.
If you read my Naksan sunset post from last week, you might recognize that wall. It’s the Seoul Fortress Wall and if we had followed it down from Naksan Park, it would have brought us all the way down to the Heunginjimun Gate which I photographed on our very first night in Seoul when we were half-asleep and shambling around in the dark like American zombies. When we made this realization the next evening in Naksan Park, I got so excited because I am always completely confused by maps and geography so it was cool to start having pieces of Seoul fall into place in my mind’s compass, you know?
You can’t go through the Gate, but look at the beautiful design on the ceiling!
After this, we walked down the street and popped into Gwangjang Market (formerly Dongdaemun Market which we were desperately trying to find, unbeknownst that it changed names) where Chooch confidently walked up to a vendor and ordered a fresh fruit juice. He was so proud of himself! Simple things like ordering a drink can be daunting in a foreign country and I give him major props for wanting to do this himself instead of relying on Henry and me. That kid is really going to go places someday, I’m sure of it.
We also got our first real Korean bindaetteok (mung bean pancake) and I was in clogged artery heaven.
This was in the plaza right next to our hotel (Hotel Atrium). Chooch was desperate for me to take this picture (Gwangjang fruit juice cameo!) and two young girls giggled when they walked past so my new dream is for Chooch to get a Korean girlfriend, move to Korea, and let me visit 10 times a year.
So then we went back to the room to “rest” which inevitably turned into a three hour nap because our bodies were telling us that it was 3AM. When we woke up, all of us, it was nearly 7PM. I felt like absolute shit. It’s been awhile since I last traveled this far (Australia was the farthest for me) so I can’t remember how badly my previous bouts with jetlag were, and I was also much younger too so probably more resilient at that. But when I woke up, I felt like I had the flu. Full body chills, feverish, just really awful. I was scared that I actually have the flu because I’ve been surrounded by it at work, and wouldn’t that just be my luck? To finally make it to Korea and wind up sick in a hotel room for most of it.
Henry said he was fine with whatever I decided to do but I refused to lay around in the room and wanted to at least go for a walk to see how I would feel. We walked to a nearby Paris Baguette where I had an Americano and milk bread, and then just like that, I was fine. I started to wonder if maybe that was my body reacting to the yellow dust?
We took the subway to the start of Cheonggyecheon so we could check out Cheonggye Plaza. Turns out there was some Earth Day event thing going on where they were turning off all the lights for an hour and having a small concert, so Chooch got to have his picture taken with a panda, which is all he cared about. Seriously, he could be having the worst day, but then someone will walk by in an animal suit and it’s suddenly a brand new day for him.
I think I will remember this night at the first time we were approached by locals, asking us where we’re from, etc. I had a nice conversation with a young guy at the stream about how he used to live in DC, and then earlier on our way to the stream, a young guy eating an ice cream cone approached us too. It was really exciting for me because I LOVE KOREANS and was so happy that someone wanted to talk to us. It was very overwhelming for us on thus first full day but there was just enough random kindness and helpfulness to make us feel less like aliens.
Also, most people just ignored us on the subway so that wasn’t nearly as scary as I had built it up in my mind and every single fucking day since we’ve been home, I’ve shed legit tears thinking about how much I miss it. I told Henry earlier today that I think I imprinted on the entire Korean transit system.
“Is that weird?” I asked.
“Not for you,” he said, unfazed by my soul-splitting admission.
We left the plaza and walked for a while but then HANGER set in so Henry frantically went into “FIND FOOD” mode before Chooch and I ate him alive.
Bosingak Bell Pavilion, which Henry kept calling a Palace and we were like NOT EVERYTHING IS A PALACE! Honestly though, it seems like no matter what direction you walk around Seoul, you will inevitably turn a corner on one of these ancient beauties. I loved it so much.
Originally, we were going to get pizza because I needed to judge for myself just how “weird” Korean pizza is supposed to be, but we wound up filling up on street food which is, in our defense, very easy and fast to do.
And so goddamn delicious.
I could eat hotteok for every meal. In fact, some random YouTube video about hotteok was just playing as I’m typing this and now I’m drinking a dixie cup of a tears/saliva blend. I’ve had hotteok at Korean food festivals here in the States but there is nothing like burning the fuck out of your mouth on that piping hot brown sugar filling while standing on the streets of actual Seoul, Korea — how was this a reality just a mere two weeks ago!?
Chooch got something from an Isaac Toast walk-up window and didn’t like it all that much, but I was like, “GIVE ME THAT” and then ended up eating all of it because holy fuck how do they take something so simple as bread and egg and cheese and turn it into God’s own hangover breakfast? There was something about the sauce, for god’s sake, that sauce. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it but it tasted something like honey mustard mixed with mayo? Henry, am I wrong? (LOL, like he would know, I barely let him have any!) We saw another Issac Toast window earlier that day when we were in Myeongdong and the line for it was about a block long. Now I understand why. I know that there is at least one location in Seoul where you can actually go inside and I kept saying I wanted to find it but then I kept getting distracted by all of the other shiny things Seoul has to offer, so I never did get another Isaac toast.
We started walking back to the hotel after that, and even though it was after 10 by then, all of the shops were still open. Chooch went to a candy shop and bought his own stuff and then promptly hid it from Henry in the hotel.
It was a good (and filling) end to the first full day. Please hurry up and get me back there ASAP.