On our trip to Bali, we arranged to have a five day lay-over in Seoul, South Korea. Coming all this way, we figured we might as well see a bit of Seoul, a place we hadn’t visited before. In addition, adjusting to the time difference and exploring this huge city seemed intriguing.
Before leaving home, I had checked on trip adviser on how to get from the airport in Incheon into Seoul. Someone had posted the bus and its number and the ticket price right there. Super helpful! We walked out of the airport, found the bus stop and off we went. Traffic was very heavy in the late afternoon. Rush hour! When we got to our destination, the driver gestured to us and helped retrieve our luggage. Next, what would seem easy as pie, was to walk to the hotel. We could see the illuminated sign from the bus stop, but wouldn’t you know it, the entrance was hidden away in a tiny side street. After walking in circles for a while, we finally arrived. The Noble Hotel is fairly small, the rooms are tiny (by American standards) but functional. There was a coffee pot for hot water, a big screen TV on the wall and a giant bathtub. They also had a washing machine in the basement for us to use. That was a luxury , as we always travel very light!
Our location was perfect! A few minutes of walking, and we were in Insadong, the artist and restaurant area. Once this neighborhood had mostly traditional, wooden houses, now few are left. There was a tea museum nearby, where we had cinnamon tea and quince tea. I had never had anything like it. Delicious! We also came across quite a few coffee houses. The young generation of Koreans prefer coffee over tea. A lot of these cafes had a “Starbucks” look and needless to say, the “real thing” was available as well. The food everywhere was tasty, and always served with several small side dishes of pickled veggies, kimchi, and rice.
Also within walking distance were three palaces and a shrine. We checked out those out, watched the changing of the guards, visited Baskin Robbins, where some of the flavors are quite different from here. I had green tea ice cream, and it was super tasty.
One morning, we went in search of a buddhist temple we had heard of. It had a restaurant , where we ate a very inexpensive, yet incredibly delicious variety of vegan foods.
We also checked out a local market/bazar. This one was underground, immense, and everything from kimchi to pianos to fish to freshly made tofu to shirts to chili peppers to rice to ….. could be bought. There were some small food stalls for the hungry. I picked up a big bag of Korean chili peppers to bring home with me! It has a delightful flavor, spicy but not over the top hot and is used for making kimchi.
Our days were packed with new sights, tastes, aromas and sounds! Although most Koreans did not seem to speak English, every one of them was kind and helpful nonetheless.
On our way home from Bali, we had a nine hour lay-over at the Incheon Airport. Right in the international terminal is a hotel, where one can rent a room by the hour. It was reasonably prices, very clean and there was no need to go through security again. We showered, napped, checked our email and then had plenty of time to go go have one last meal in Korea! It was a vegetarian mushroom and Doenjang (Korean equivalent to miso) stew. Of course it came with all the delicious trimmings of pickled veggies and rice. As we were sitting upstairs, we noticed a procession of men and woman, colorfully dressed in traditional and palace guard costumes walk through the terminal.
What better note could one want to end such a lovely adventure on?!