Monday, March 31, 2014

Seoul Day 7: Dongdaemun Toys and Stationery Street Market

Today, being our last day in Seoul, we decided to take it slow and aimed for an early night. The previous night, we had the kids over in one apartment till past midnight while their parents explored parts of Dongdaemun, which is open till 4am.

These traditional family-run restaurants are very common, and we found one near our apartment at Chungmuro opposite Tmark Hotel. It was a convenient place for us to get traditional Korean fare when we wanted a quick or packed meal. This morning, we're here for breakfast before moving out. The kids had dumpling soup, and we tried the cold noodles with egg, both the spicy and non-spicy versions!
We decided to go back to Dongdaemun but explore something more child friendly: the Toys and Stationery Street Market at Dongmyo Station (just a stop after Dongdaemun Station). The market is probably a lesser known area as compared to the Stationery Alley in Namdaemun Market. It has a comparatively lesser crowd and is away from the main Dongdaemun Shopping area. Still, it retains a very charming nostalgic atmosphere, a good and relaxing place for a lazy afternoon.

We got out of exit 1 and walk straight for about 50 metres. Turn right at the very first right lane. We chanced upon one of the 'must-try' street pancakes. They came in either green-tea or blueberry flavour, and the filling (largely honey and chestnut) was so addictive. At the same store were some traditional skewered fish-cakes that came with the most unique onion vinegar soya sauce you brush over before eating. All this fresh-off-the-pan warm food was perfect for a colder than usual week in Seoul!

Good food keeps following us everywhere! Here's the street-side vendor with the killer pancakes and steaming skewers!

Imo cooks up the pancakes with blueberry dough...

The look of satisfaction: the pancakes are served in a paper cup.

The skewers are steaming and dripping with special sauce brushed over... yummm...

As usual, we set up our base camp at one of the cafes and went out in batches. This time, the guys were the advance party and the ones who got lost. Simply because Mummy gave them the wrong direction. (Oops). The daddies found themselves strolling down 'Aquarium Street' and 'Shoe Street'. Their first thoughts were that the ladies were not going to be too impressed with this place. However, just before turning back to return to base-camp, we chanced upon 'Toy and Stationery Street'. Following a short browse of the stalls there, they made their way back to the cafe to link up with the mummies.

Coffee joints were all over the place. We based ourselves here as it was right next to our favourite pancakes...

And it had amazing honey citrous tea! We warmed up with drinks before heading out.

Aquarium supplies? The ladies will not like this part of Dongdaemun...

The men get lost in Shoe Street, with rows and rows of footwear. Lots of options here but didn't look like a place that guarantees authentic branded shoes. Nevertheless, there were many options for everyday working shoes, sandals, slippers sneakers and other pretty and casual shoes.

We reach a junction with a sign that shows us where we wanted to go!

Finally found something the ladies with will interested in at Fashion Street.

Pretty good assortment of jackets and other accessories across a wide price range.

There was some fresh produce being sold here too. Besides the usual fruit and vegetables, there was a stall with a nice selection of dried food and nuts.

What's a market without street snacks? Ahjuma serves up small cakes, and if you prefer something warm, how about steamed sweet potato and corn on the cob?

Today Daddy had to try this: traditional Korean goodies!

Daddy's a nut for nuts, so here we go! A close up of the snacks we tried.

Stalls selling pancakes were quite common here.

More of our favourite pancakes.

The mommies left the kids with the daddies, but just for a short recee before returning to round everyone up. The reason? They had found an awesome toy shop (which led to an entire street of awesome toy shops) they were convinced the kids just had to see.

The gateway to toy haven! This turns out to be our favourite shop! What inside?

Toys for both boys and girls. When we step in, we see model cars, dolls, LEGO sets, and...

... soft toys and more!

Wall to wall!

We stroll down the street as the sun begins to get lower, and we see crates and boxes of all sorts toys... 

Imagine the expression in the eyes of the children who were with us!

But this is not just Toy street, it's 'Toys and Stationery Street'. We managed to get some stickers and such for our friends back home.

The children got each a small present to take back with them to remember Seoul with. We made our way back to the cafe to link up with cousin who had to mind the baby, and got distracted by our favourite pancake stall once again. Some of us couldn't get enough of the fishcake and pancakes, and we were on the verge of sacrificing our dinner for this instead! We also couldn't resist trying out the sandwich cafe next door,...

They also sold omelettes and fresh fruits.
Something more balanced for the kids besides pancakes.

A hearty sandwich-to-go will last us till we get back to our apartments!

Instead of heading back to Chungmuro via Dongmyo, we hopped onto the subway at Dongdaemun exit 6. As it was peak hour, a sudden rush of people caused us to break contact with each other. Daddy and the girls went down the escalator while the rest of the group took the elevator. We were not able to find each other after that, and after some confusion and unnecessary worry, we had the right sense to link up at Caffe Bene back at Chungmuro near our apartments. The good old mantra of "íf we ever lose each other, make your own way back to the apartments" seemed to have worked. We were relieved and Mummy gave the girls big hugs upon seeing them.

We had a simple packed dinner of dumpling soup at the apartments to facilitate packing and getting ready for our departure the next day. We did not forget something special to celebrate the final night: ice-cream! A yummy family farewell to our wonderful stay in Korea.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Seoul Day 5: Namsan Tower and Myeongdong Night Shopping

Mummy and cousin visited Namdaemun Market earlier this morning to beat the crowd and cram in an additional shopping experience before meeting the rest of the gang at Caffe Bene. The plan was to take the cable car to Namsan Tower, have some cute and fun time at the Teddy Bear Museum, savour the view from the Namsan Tower Observatory before heading back down to Myeongdong for some shopping.

However, the simple plan turned complicated. We got off at Myeongdong Station Exit 4 and walked all the way straight till we see the sign that says Namsan Oreumi. It is a glass elevator that takes us up all the way to the Namsan Cable Car Station so we don't have to grace those steep slopes.

When we got there, it was under maintenance and we asked the staff, he said he had no idea what time they would finish. Dejected, it seemed like we had no choice but to walk the slopes after all. With a stroller in tow, the steps up seemed like an hour long, even though it only took us about 10 minutes to move the whole gang along. We got two way tickets for the Cable Car (Adult 8500 won, Child (more than 36 mths) 5500 won. One way ticket: Adult 6000 won, Child 3500 won) and were finally on our way.

Sign for Namsan ORMI Incline Elevator

So near yet so far

The sign that determined our route

How our journey should have been like if the glass elevator was working.

Nonetheless, we made it to the cable car.

The kids had the best view.

Up we go...

Winter fog filled the sky. Imagine the scene in winter where everything is covered in white snow.

Finally arrived at Namsan Tower.

Getting ready for Spring.

Gyeongbongsu - beacon hill site. Used as a communication station in the past. Smoke signals by day and fire signals by night.

Rehearsing for afternoon's martial art performance

To our dismay, the Teddy Bear Museum has been replaced by Alive Museum (another Trick Eye Museum). We were so looking forward to seeing those cute teddies again. As for Alive Museum, having had a great time at Hongdae's Trick Eye Museum, we gave it a miss to have more time doing other things. We bought tickets for only the Observatory Deck (Adult: 9000 won. Child: 7000 won).

The cities and figures in km written on the glass panels - the distance from Seoul's Namsan Tower to the respective cities.

Serene view of Seoul's city skyline, balanced with nature.

For a 500 won coin, you can get a better look of the surrounding.

There is a souvenir shop and candy store in the middle of the observatory.

Panoramic view of Seoul.

Restaurants and souvenir shops on level one.

Go to the roof terrace and you would see walls of locks. Lovers come here to place locks on the wall, signifying everlasting love. Doesn't the place ever face the problem of (locks) overcrowding?

Just simply amazed by the enormous number of locks.

By the time we got to the parade square, a crowd had gathered for the Traditional Korean Cultural Performance.
Plate spinning.

Engaging the audience
Potato snack on the way down to the cable car station.

Fried and twisted. Just the right snack for the hungry kids.
Too hungry to venture to Myeongdong. Ended up eating at the Korean restaurant at the Cable Car Tower. Food always tastes extremely delicious when you are hungry.

It was almost 5pm by the time we finished our late lunch and we were ready for some serious night shopping at Myeongdong. We traced back our steps and arrived at Myeongdong Station Exit 6. Myeongdong was getting crowded so we decided to find a café to house all the kids and bags while the adults move out in batches. I must admit, we had really good strategic planning and teamwork.

Busy Myeongdong Night Market.

Selling everything related to fashion.

Attempting to understand all the different skincare products in one of the many skincare stores along Myeongdong

No shopping is completed without street food and snacks.

Myeongdong has a range of restaurants to choose from too. We entered one for a late dinner before returning to our apartments to retire for the day. The day had been long, with all the walking, but nonetheless a fruitful one.

Barbecued beef patty...

Budaejjigae on a cold night warms us up.