Geek & Eat: South Korea

Hiya everyone! With my two weeks in South Korea, I finally have a lot more I can add into the Geek section of this post, and if you’ve already seen my holiday bragging post, you’ll know that I have a lot to say about eating in South Korea!

GEEK!

OTAKU

Given the popularity of anime in South Korea, it’s not surprisingly that there are a number of places in which you can buy manga, posters, and figurines (more so in Seoul compared to other cities, but I’m positive that there would be places in Busan selling merchandise as well). However, at Myeong-dong station (and probably available in many other clothing shops) we found an amazing sock shop which sold Studio Ghibli socks! I have a bit of an obsessive love for socks, and these were absolutely amazing! I never saw anything similar in Japan, so keep an eye out for quirky anime merchandise if you ever go to South Korea!

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My Ghibli socks! (L-R) My Neighbour Totoro, Howls’ Moving Castle, Spirited Away, Kiki’s Delivery Service

ASIAN POP CULTURE

With the popularity of South Korea’s music and drama series, there’s no shortage of places to visit! The South Korean tourism website has a whole section dedicated to places you can visit that are associated with different dramas, and you can visit a whole host of places associated with entertainment companies, as well as specific idols and groups.

Obviously, there’s merchandise everywhere, so if you’re chasing stickers, postcards, calendars, mugs, jewellery, socks, clothing, or really anything, you won’t have far to look. Most of the major shopping areas in Seoul will have merchandise stores (especially in Myeong-dong) and there’s a lot in Busan’s markets.

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K-Pop merchandise! I actually bought a lot more, but to give as gifts. AND LOOK, T.O.P SOCKS!

With such a large number of famous entertainers in South Korea (and particularly Seoul), if you’re a massive fan, keep your eyes peeled, because you never know just who you might see… (on a side-note, any BTS fans out there? I want to brag 😛 )

HISTORY BUFF

We didn’t do much in terms of visiting historical sites and museums in South Korea, except for the time we spent at the National Palace Museum of Korea, Gyeongbokgung Palace, and the National Folk Museum. The two museums are in the same complex as the palace. There is a lot to see here if you want to visit everything, and so if you’re trying to fit it into one day, be prepared to get there early and leave late. However, it’s not very expensive to get into the palace, so you can always go multiple times, like we did. The National Palace Museum, rather obviously, focuses on aspects of Korea’s royalty, specific the Joseon Dynasty (both the longest and last dynasty of Korea). With information ranging from the members of the royal families, science during the period, court music, and so on, there’s a lot there for anyone interested in this time period! The palace itself is very maze-like, but there’s a lot to look through and see, from the guards at the very front of Gwanghwamun Gate right down to the expansive coffin hall and shrine at the back of the palace. The National Folk Museum is all about Korea’s people and their lives; right from the earliest archaeological records to modernity. I was really impressed with the set up and exhibitions in both museums, so if it sounds like something you’d like, you should definitely check it out!

EAT!

There is so much delicious food in South Korea! It’s definitely a place to go and eat! I recommend trying both street food and food from proper restaurants. The street food is safe and delicious (if you’re ever not sure which stall is offering the best quality, follow the crowd) and the restaurant food is amazing!

There are always several options when it comes to street food. If you like spicy food, tteokbokki, or spicy rice cakes, is an obvious choice. There’s quite a few varieties; in Seoul in was pretty common to just see your standard rice cakes, but in Busan we noticed that fish cakes or soondae (blood sausage) was commonly mixed in. Bungeoppang is the Korean equivalent of Japan’s taiyaki; red-bean paste enclosed in sweet pastry, and a must for anyone with a sweet tooth (plus perfect in the cold weather!). Another good choice for those with a sweet tooth is Gyeranppang, a sweet egg-bread cross cake. Other street foods that you see everywhere and may interest you include hotteok (filled pancakes), kimbap (“Korean sushi”), and odeng (fish cakes; served on a stick). I didn’t know the correct names of a lot of the foods I tried, but there are sometimes a couple of signs in English, or you can just watch them being made to know what’s inside 🙂

You can’t go to Korea without going to a Korean BBQ place! The concept here is to buy different cuts of meat (some marinated) from the menu and then cook them on charcoal grills that are set into the table. It varies in restaurants how much you cook yourself and how much the waiters cook it for you. Try to have a bit of idea what to do before going in, or else try and find a tourist-friendly place, because otherwise there’s a good chance the staff will expect you to know what you’re doing. There’s many BBQ places everywhere, and you can look forward to some delicious meat and an interesting array of side dishes. Having food being cooked in front of you seems to be a pretty common thing in South Korea, as our delicious meals of bulgogi and dak galbi showed. If you find a restaurant offering these dishes (designed to be shared among a group), try them out! South Korea is also famous for fried chicken. There’s a number of chain restaurants as well as small businesses, and it’s pretty common to go out for beer and fried chicken. Our first lot we had at the delightfully named “Cucurucu Chicken” in Jongno-dong in Seoul, which was delicious. We also tried Cheogajip in Busan (may be a chain-restaurant, I’m not too sure) which was better than the first restaurant. So good! If you want something a little different, Bon Gousse, a chain burger place, does delicious and interesting rice burgers!

Okay, that’s about all I think about to say for South Korea. Do you have any great dining experiences or any other interesting aspects to share for South Korea? I’d be happy to add them to my list for my next trip 😉

-S

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6 thoughts on “Geek & Eat: South Korea

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