Friday, May 30, 2014

Insadong and Bukchon (Han-Ok Village)

Hello everyone!

One of the first places we visited in Korea was Insadong!  It's basically a long street full of shops selling Korean traditional (and also non-traditional) items.  The Seoul public transportation is really extensive so it's pretty easy to get just about anywhere from either the bus or the subway, and this was of no exception.

However, it's just a street full of shops with no sign that says 'Insadong', so it actually took us awhile before we realized that we had been in Insadong for a couple of blocks!  (we actually asked a seller where Insadong was, and he laughed and said, "this is Insadong!" haha)

The traditional items were fascinating, but we were of course more interested in the food items  haha
Korean street foods are just to die for, and there are so many different kinds!  I can't think of a single moment in Korea when we were hungry because we kept eating and eating and eating some more... so many foods to try!  I'll also do a food post later, but here are some that we experienced that day.

The first one we tried was the traditional King's candy. We saw the whole process of its creation (they call you over to their shop to show you, and the candy making process takes just about 5 minutes!) and it was so fascinating! They start with a block of honey, and they poke a hole in the middle.  Then, they stretch it out and add the starch as they do so to keep it from sticking, and keep stretching and folding it upon itself until there are more than 2000 strands of finely pulled honey!  When they stretch it out at the end of the pulling session, it looks like silk (lower left hand corner picture)!  After that, they put in a little nutty mixture, wrapped it up, and voila! a slightly sweet candy with the most interesting texture that is crispy, yet melts in your mouth.

The next is sort of but not really a traditional street food, but we enjoyed it nonetheless  ;)  Hodduck is a very popular Korean street food, but this was a new spin on it that I had never seen before.

I think it was more donut-y than Hodduck-y?  but either way, it was yummy  ;)

As we kept walking, we stumbled upon a little structure that was kind of like an outdoor mall with multiple levels, so we decided to take a look.  It was a building that was open on all sides with a large courtyard in the middle, and it was packed full of little shops!

One of the shops was a shop where you could take pictures wearing the Korean traditional clothing--Hanbok--so we decided to give that a shot! 
We chose my Hanbok from a lookbook that they gave us, and they gave David his Hanbok that complimented mine.  The whole process was a bit quick and we struggled a little bit at first.  The camera would give us 10 seconds to choose multiple backgrounds and then 3 seconds to pose in very quick succession. Most of the time, it took us 5 seconds to realize what was happening, and then 5 seconds to scramble to decide which backgrounds we wanted haha   Despite the stress(?) we had a lot of fun, and we are happy with how the pictures turned out!  ;)

The shopping complex was also full of little sculptures, and I think there is a scavenger hunt kind of a thing where you take pictures with each sculpture.  We didn't do the hunt, but we did find some of the ones we were supposed to find!  ;)

As I've mentioned before, Korea is famous for its street food, and it seems that the vendors are getting more and more creative..?  p**p shaped bread!   We were very tempted to try, but our full stomachs turned us away from this one  =p

We didn't end up buying very much, but we did enjoy walking off some of the street foods 

and trying on some glasses

and spotting other Korean traditional games like this one.  This is similar to hopscotch, and I used to play this alllllll the time~~~~~  does anyone else remember this?  

It seems that the Korean couples are very fond of leaving their couples mementos in public places, and we found one here in Insadong!  This one is called the 'Love Wall', and it is located in the top floor of the shopping complex.

We thought about leaving our own, but decided to save it for our Namsan trip, and left Insadong (and the couples) behind to explore Bukchon!

Bukchon is not too far from Insadong, but you do have to walk a little to get there.  The walk didn't seem too long, however, because the street was full of little trucks selling various items like this one.

I admit, we were kind of lost, but thankfully, there are many people in red vests who are walking around to help lost tourists like us.  If you get lost in Seoul (or any popular tourist destination), look for people wearing red vests, and they will point you to the right direction!  Finally, with a map the guide handed us, we managed to get to Bukchon, the Han-Ok Village!

Bukchon is basically a little neighborhood where all of the houses are built in the traditional (Han-Ok) fashion.  So you can walk around the neighborhood and feel transported back to the Josun times... but not really because there were cars and automatic locks and other modern features  haha  The juxtaposition was very interesting.

We enjoyed our walk around the neighborhood, but I wish we could have gone inside to look at the houses.  I realize that these houses are actually occupied, and are not just for display, so that was understandable, but after awhile, all of the roofs and walls look the same, no matter how beautifully designed they are.

The view at the very top of the hill was really nice though, despite the haziness of the downtown Seoul..

Later on, we were told that there are parts of Bukchon where you can go inside  and see the traditional houses, but sadly, we didn't find any.  I don't think I would make a whole trip just for Bukchon, but it was a nice side trip to take from Insadong.  If you plan on visiting Insadong, and want to take a walk among some Han-Ok (and take some pictures), Bukchon would be a fun little side trip!

On your way back down from Bukchon, you have to stop by this little hole-in-the-wall Dduckbokki shop! It's run by this sweet lady who has been running the shop for decades! 

The food was so delicious, and it was a perfect snack after the long walk (which we took to walk off the street food we had consumed not even an hour before...  haha).  Be warned, if you are planning on visiting Korea, you are going to gain weight.  mmhmm.  but it's all worth it, I promise  ;) 

 Thanks for stopping by, and have a great weekend!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Niece & Nephew photo album

Hello everyone!

I got to meet my cousin's twin children (so I consider them my niece and nephew) for the first time, and oh. my. lord.  They are so freakin adorable!!!!  I wish I lived in Korea so I could see them more often, especially since they are at such a fun age, but for now pictures will have to do..  beware, this post is going to be incredibly picture heavy. so if you don't want to see pictures of cutest little twin toddlers (boy and a girl), you may just want to stop reading ;)

So we began the day at my grandma's apartment with some snacks, and man, these littles love string cheese!  haha.   Between the two of them, they had 4 or 5 sticks!  Don't worry, we also fed them some fruit, so they weren't just eating cheese  haha

They are so curious, and after they had their full, they started walking around the house getting into anything and everything with a piece of string cheese in hand.  Though they are twins, they are fraternal, and it was really interesting to see their personalities developing so differently even at such a young age.  For example, the my niece was so interested in seeing herself in the mirror while my nephew had no interest, and the girl is much more outgoing and adventurous while the boy is more shy and cautious around new things.  

They are so entertaining to watch, so we had a good time laughing at their antics and just enjoying each other's company for a bit until the children got a little stir-crazy. 

When they got bored running around the apartment, David and I took them out for a 'walk' in the hallway while the rest of the family stayed a bit longer to talk.

So here's my cute-as-a-button nephew!

and here's my niece who reminds everyone of me when I was a toddler  haha

We walked up and down the hall so many times that I can't remember how many laps we did, but every time, the kids seemed to find something new and interesting. 

The apartment is pretty high up, so when they found a little crack in the wall, my niece was super curious and ran over to look and didn't seem to be phased by the height. However, my nephew was really cautious about approaching it at first  haha

Though once he got close to it, he seemed pretty interested in whatever was out there  =p

They also met a little neighbor friend, and it was too much to handle for a bit there while the three of them were together!  cuteness overload!!

After we said goodbye to the little friend, we went to go eat some lunch

and took a group photo along the way haha

Our lunch was Shabu-Shabu, which is basically a hot pot, but I honestly can't remember what it tasted like..  something about two littles running around and trying to feed them while they run around makes it difficult to concentrate  haha

Aaannndddd!!  We found David's kindred spirit in his closed-eyedness in photos!

too cute!

After lunch, we took the littles for a walk at a nearby university.

there were soo many steps, but they did surprisingly well!

can't even handle this cuteness!!

I don't know what it is about water, but the kids seem to be drawn to it, so we let them in the fountain for a bit.

They wanted to go in so badly, but once we put them in there, they didn't move from the spot we put them in!  They didn't even move when older kids came around to poke them and play with them  haha

After standing frozen in the spot for a bit, we pulled them out to head home.

Our walk back was also full of adventures for the littles.  Ants and Pigeons.  Can't get more fascinating than that!  ;)

introducing,,, my nephew, aka simba!  =p

It was such a fun day, and I hope we can see them again soon!!!