가자 Korea Diary Part 5: Traditional Side of Seoul with the Koreans - Ikseondong, Gyeongbokgung, Insadong, Cheonggyecheon

Finally, here's my 가자 Korea Diary Part 5! Writing these posts gives me mixed feelings! The photos bring back all the good memories to me but going through the whole chunk of shots and having to pick out the decent ones and then edit them - that's a lot more work than it seems. Although I have to admit, I love the final outcome of every ME-LOVE-KOREA posts. Even if there's nobody reading my blog today, I believe I'd still do it for myself! The Korea tourism organisation should hire me to work for them because I shower so much love on Kimchiland! 

In Part 4, I wrote that I went to the 1st Shop of Coffee Prince @ HongDae because I had a 1-2 hours to kill. When the meeting time was nearing, I headed back to HongDae's subway exit 8 to wait for Eunjee. Guess what I found! 

♥♥♥ HUBBY ♥♥♥ I feel like I am living the excitement from that day as I typed this blog post even this was from 9 months ago!

♥♥♥ OMG ♥♥♥ Ambassador of About Me!

While waiting for Eunjee to show up, I had a chat with the staff members who were working in that shop. For the very first time, I decided to speak Korean on my own. It's super rusty but the girls there were so amazed and they told me that they'd give me some YongHwa cards if I were to buy anything on that day. 

Hell ya, you bet! 

I told them I'd come back at night because I didn't want to carry a bag of thing with me throughout the whole day. 

I WANT ALL! ♥♥♥ 

Just to clarify, I didn't just buy it merely because of YongHwa oppa. I didn't really bring much skincare with me to Korea and my skin's super dry to the extent that my foundation was having a hard time gliding smoothly across my skin. I tested it on my hand and let it sit for a couple of hours, then I went back for my purchase at night. So it's not exactly a bimbotic impulse purchase but YongHwa oppa's face was definitely a huge push! 

Met up with my girl. Our sneakers sorta matched! We headed off to take the subway and meet another mutual friend of ours. 

My first time taking the subway in Korea and I was blessed to have Eunjee to show me around. 

In my 가자 Korea Diary Part 2, I recommended some apps that are really useful for your stay in Korea - remember to read it! Seoul Subway app is one of them as it shows you which line to take/switch/get off to get to your destination. 

When you open the app, it looks like a huge maze like this. Remember to turn on your location services on your phone for it to work optimally. 

Don't worry, you don't have to know Korean to use this app. Just type in the English name and the app will help you find that station of your desire.

See the green circle? That's our destination. The app found it for me without me having to finish typing the full name of that station. 

We were at Hongik University. 

If you are wondering why 'Hongdae' can't be found on the app and didn't I just mention that Eunjee and I were at Hongdae? 

'Hongdae' is actually a short form of Hongik University. Hongik 홍익 (Hongik) is the name of the university and the word 'university' in Korean is 대학교 (Dae-Hak-Gyo). When you combine both together, you get HongDae!

Back to the topic, so as you can see from the screenshot, we were at HongDae and we were heading to Jongno 3 Ga 종로삼가. That means we had to take the green line and then switch to the purple line at that intersection station. 

First time taking subway in Seoul and it was so crowded. 

At Jongno 3 Ga, we took exit 6 and waited for Kevin and off we go to Ikseondong 익선동. Being greeted by Bart at the start of our journey! 

GOSH~ I hadn't seen Kevin for a few years. I used to study with him in the library and pester him with all the Finance questions and he's an investment banker now. 

I am pretty hesitant to share this gem Ikseondong but I believe it's no more a secret after the popular K-drama Goblin's being filmed here. According to Eunjee, this place used to be the hipster place for the locals as young artists and entrepreneurs started to open businesses like handicraft shops, cafes and restaurants. 

You can definitely see a lot of creative elements just from the mural arts in the 2 photos above. 

Then we arrived at the real Ikseondong! Here's my first taste of Hanoks (traditional Korean houses)! 

Ikseondong is one of the oldest neighbourhoods of Seoul. In this bustling city, these Hanoks from the 1930s are well-preserved with minimal renovations. 

I'll be introducing a more famous neighbourhood with Hanok and also the traditional Korean clothings in my upcoming posts! That's definitely one of the precious moments in my entire life. Stay tuned! 

OMG, I really should stop using exclamation marks...but I can't contain my excitement when I talk about Korea! Sorry not sorry! 

Couldn't believe that I was actually seeing them with my own eyes after watching them in K-dramas and K-shows for so many years. 

Just a heads-up, this place is like a mini maze, the alleys are narrow, intricate and intertwined. 

Even the locals Eunjee and Kevin had no absolute idea of the direction, we just walked around aimlessly. 

Comic shops are near to extinction nowadays! What a rare find in Ikseondong! I told you this would be a treasure hunt, didn't I? 

We had our lunch at Ikseondong 121 (익선동 121) - a famous curry place 카레 맛집.

I did the mistake of being too carried away when I was with friends that I totally forgot to shoot photos of all our dishes and the restaurant itself. 

Ikseondong 121 is typically famous for their 'Half-Half Curry' 반반 카레 (ban-ban ka-re) dishes. You get to choose 2 curry flavours of your choice. Perfect for someone like me who's super greedy. Their prices are totally affordable, median range is from 6500won (6.5 dollars) to 16000won (16 dollars), depending on what you order. 

I ordered tomato curry and mango curry with chicken and that was 7500 won (7.5 dollars).

Ikseondong 121 (익선동 121)
Address: 30 Donhwamun-ro 11na-gil, Ikseon-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea (서울 종로구 익선동 11나길 30돈화문로)

Opening hours: Weekdays 11am-10pm; Weekends 11am-8pm (Closed on Mondays)

Contact number: +82 (0)2-765-0121

Facebook: www.facebook.com/ikseon121

Website: www.ikseon121.blog.me

If curry is not your thing, remember what I wrote back then in my Part 3 - the tips to help you find scrumptious and famous food among the locals! 

After lunch, under Eunjee's recommendation, we went to Ellie Cafe to chill. This cafe was ranked on of the must-try coffee shops in Seoul. 

Upon entering, Ellie Cafe gave me a feeling of "The West Meets South Korea": lots of wood, features of a traditional Hanok and with European styled decorative items and utensils.

The glass ceiling brought in natural sunlight in this chilly autumn afternoon (I wonder how it'd feel like in the summer though, maybe they'll need full blast AC). 

The small Hanok at the front is converted to a bar where customers go to to place their orders. 

Ellie Cafe serves alcohol (it's not Korea without alcohol), coffee, tea and even desserts. 

I heard the desserts are really good at Ellie Cafe but because all 3 of us were in food coma, we only ordered drinks. 

Kevin and Eunjee, who were my tour guides of the day! 

Earl Grey tea, hot Cappuccino and iced Americano - a cozy Saturday afternoon done right!

Ellie Cafe (엘리 카페)

Address: 21-6 Supyo-ro 28-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul 03133, South Korea (서울 종로구 수표로28길 21-6)

Opening Hours: Sun-Thurs 11am-10pm; Fri-Sat 11am-11pm (Closed on Mondays)

Contact Number: +82 (0)2-2135-3360

Then we headed off to take a stroll around the area and ended up walking to Gyeongbokgung 경복궁.

To preserve the traditional Korean culture, in this area, you will find many places with only Korean words (ie Hangul). 

This is a roadshow brand, I believe it's Innisfree. Unlike the other Innisfree stores where you see the big ass "Innisfree" word in English plastered across the store, this one only has Hangul at the storefront. Though I believe every hardcore Korean beauty fan will be able to tell just from the products and the interior of the shops. Very interesting huh! 

Walking through the busy streets around Gyeongbokgung area to find our next destination. 

We walked into a small alley and arrived at Kiwa Taproom기와 탭룸 for beer at another Hanok. 

With an open yard, Kiwa Taproom is a cozy spot for catchup with friends. The place is not very big so the seating is quite limited. Better head over earlier to secure your seats. We were lucky enough to get the very last table that afternoon but we had to sit on the floor.

They have quite an impressive beer line-up and they even change up their menu every month. I'm not an alcohol-drinker but I did my homework for you guys - their signature is Mungyeong Brewery's Jeomchon IPA which has been on their menu since their establishment! Homer Simpson would be really happy here :P They also serve cold brew coffees (why didn't I order that?! hmm...) and also some small dishes to go with your drinks if you feel like having a bite of something. 

Kiwa Taproom took their name from the grey rooftop tiles. In Korean, tiles are called 기와 (ki-wa). 

I love this little lamp!!!

They even provided some blankets in case you are feeling cold or for girls to cover themselves up when sitting with short pants/skirts. 

3 glasses and the deep-shit talk commenced! 

We talked about moments that we shared in Korean Student Society back in Melbourne University and also our biggest dreams. At that time I mentioned something to them and we burst out laughing. Who would've known that half a year later from that glass of beer, I'm on my way of living that dream life - my 1st baby step! NOT SHARING MY SECRET THOUGH :P

Kiwa Taproom 

Address: 74-7 Yulgok-ro 1-gil, Sogyeok-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea (서울 종로구 율곡로1길 74–7)

Opening Hours: Weekdays 2pm-1am; Weekends 12pm-1am

Contact Number: 
+82 (0)2733-1825

Website: www.kiwataproom.com

이대로 시간이 멈췄으면 좋겠어... (If time could just stop)

What a perfect Saturday afternoon. At that point in my life, I had not had a chilled Saturday for several months so I was really thankful (this photo makes me so happy ~) 

I posted this photo on FB and one of our seniors replied "시간이 멈추면 밥은 어떻게 먹고 똥은 어떻게 싸니" which means "If time were to stopped, how could you eat and shit?"


Kevin had to leave early to meet up with another friend so Eunjee and I headed to Insadong 인사동 which wasn't too far away from where we were at.

Insadong is located in between the 5 Grand Palaces of South Korea and it's a famous tourist attraction. You can find art and craft products, calligraphy items, souvenirs, street foods, restaurants, some Korean roadshop skincare brands and also some Chinese food.

My favourite was this spiral shopping mall named Ssamzilgil 쌈지길.

Let's go and see what's in there! 

We were greeted by shit, very literally! HAHA! 

This is a Korean hot pancake (a famous Korean street food) in the form of a shit emoji! 

"The Poop Amusement Park" where you find various types of poop related products.

In Korean, 놀이동산 (nolidongsan) means amusement park. They played with the Hangul words and swapped 동 with 똥(which means shit/poop), keeping the same pronunciation. Here you have Fion's translation - you are welcome ;) 

Ssamzilgil is a spiral shopping mall established at the end of 2004. A modern concrete building among the Hanoks and it's been called "Special Insadong Within Insadong". With over 70 stores and 3 levels, Ssamzilgil is a hipster place where many artists and young entrepreneurs set up stores to sell products of their own designs. Most of the things here are pretty rare, so if you are looking to get a unique souvenir, this place is your choice. 

Eunjee ♥

Spotted a fancy restaurant behind Ssamzilgil. What a way to enjoy the breeze of an autumn night. 

Blurry selfie because of the bad lighting. Many of my friends said that Eunjee looks like EXID's Hani, what do you think?

Not forgetting that there's a rooftop garden on top of Ssamzilgil. This is where you spot the cute Korean couples. I swear the Koreans always make people envious of their PDAs!

Couldn't decide on what to have for dinner so we ended up taking a long stroll. 

We arrived at Cheonggyecheon 청계천.

The Cheonggyecheon stream is about 10.9km long and runs through the areas of Doksugung Palace, Seoul Plaza, the Sejong Centre, Insa-dong (where we came from), Changdeokgung Palace and Changgyeonggung Palace.

This is not really a tourist spot but a chill romantic dating spot for the locals.

Still feeling clueless, we decided to head back to HongDae.

By that time, my camera had died on me. Both Eunjee and I were exhausted too so we ended up having fish cakes at a random store for dinner.

Of course, I didn't forget to return to the shop and bought this! ♥♥♥ The store manager gave me so many freebies despite me not spending the minimum threshold! Perks of knowing how to speak (a little) Korean.

Totally loving this country ♥♥♥ See you in Part 6!

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