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A trip to Seoul.

Real Korean food was not as delicious as I had expected. The restaurants at Ampang’s Korean Village would beat the restaurant I went to hands and feet down. I think I went to the wrong restaurant (it’s opposite my hotel atop a little hill), but apparently it’s one of the better ones so I really can’t say. The bibimbap was mediocre at best (overcooked egg, bleh) and bulgogi was simply disastrous. The only redeeming point about the restaurant was the sundubu (korean tofu soup), which was heavenly….very wholesome and at just the right spiciness.

Mediocre bibimbap.

Worst bulgogi I’ve ever had.

Even the side dishes were unpalatable. Note delicious sundubu at the bottom of picture.

My dessert – Korea’s version of Vitagen.

I stayed at the Hilton. It has a casino attached to it. I was given complimentary casino vouchers worth 10000 won, which is about RM 38 and I didn’t use it. It certainly isn’t an amount to shout about but back at home, Dad dispensed some advice regarding some 50/50 gambling technique using the roulette. Think I might give it a shot next time.

My room.

There’s a shuttle bus departing several times daily from my hotel to the town of Itaewon.

Itaewon is also, along with Insadong and Seoul Tower, one of the most popular areas in Seoul for tourists. Major hotels such as the Hyatt and local landmark the Hamilton can be found here as well as dozens of shops and services aimed at tourists. Some of the best leather products in Korea can be found here at reasonable prices (haggling is expected) as well as all sorts of trinkets and souvenirs. Counterfeit goods and clothing are ubiquitous and of varying quality, but some genuine goods which are produced in Korea for the international market and have “fallen off the back of a lorry” can be found at bargain prices. Genuine Korean handicrafts are perhaps of better quality and value elsewhere in the city. A gentleman strolling along the market will inevitably be asked the question “Would you like a tailor made suit?” and while Bangkok remains the undisputed capital of decent, bargain tailoring, Itaewon has plenty to offer in this department.

Source: Wikipedia

Traffic in Itaewon. Picture taken from the back of the bus.

Itaewon was peppered with stalls selling all kinds of knick-knacks from Korean cutlery to fridge magnets to socks with Bae-Yong Jun’s likeness emblazoned across them. It’s essentially a tourist trap. The sellers were not very aggresive, most of the time they just sat and stared at you till you disappeared from their lines of sight. Some did call out but they’re generally not very pushy. You can definitely bargain with them but please don’t be ridiculous, you’d get dirty looks and scolded in a language you don’t understand (btw, this is discovered from observation and not from personal experience, hehe).

The souvenir stalls.

As I walked along the street, I also came across men gambling in broad daylight. Four of them were congregated at the staircase, each with one foot propped on top of a stool. They were loud and seemed angry. I thought they were harmless but nevertheless I decided against taking pictures of them.

Bought my Mom a set of Korean cutlery for her new kitchen-to-be. They are fine looking stainless steel chopsticks and spoon and they cost me 22000 won, which is about RM 84.

The uncle I bought my Mom’s cutlery from. Very sweet and obliging man even after encountering a cheapskate bugger like me!

Fruit seller.

Snack stall.

At some random street.

Korean ginseng. Make you strong.

Strong Korean men at work. Sorry Mom, didn’t see any Rain lookalike.

Coffee and roasted squid.

Snack section in Korean supermarket.

I also went to Itaewon’s underground market, where I bought personalised tags for my brothers. The man was really skillful, he did the embroidery free hand and with no guide whatsoever. Just an eye for cursives and years of experience. Premium gift shops in Pertama Complex should weep.

Itaewon’s Underground Market.

The embroidery shop.

The master.

He sold the tags from 2000 won or RM 8 onwards depending on size and motives. Here’s a video of him sewing the name John on a tag.

Korea must be the only place on earth to have a market for burnt rice….

Burnt rice.

It’s a business trip so I didn’t have enough time to explore other places. However, it was still a really pleasant trip in spite of not getting to eat any live octopus (……my scardycat colleagues -_-). Next time, next time!

P/S: RIP Steve Irwin. Why do good people die?

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