A Stunning Night Tour in the Eastern Gyeongju Historic Area

Registered in November 2000 as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage, the Gyeongju Historic Area represents the honorable history & culture of the ancient capital in the Silla Kingdom. It can be divided into 5 major sections with a total of 52 designated cultural assets. The Wolseong Area (월성), one of the former palace sites of the Silla Kingdom, is within a convenient 10-min walk from Lucky Won Guest House where we were staying for the night. Thus, that was our first stop in Gyeongju-si after a short rest at the guest house.

Gyeongju Gyerim Forest (경주 계림, Historic Site No. 19), a forest associated with myths of Alji’s birth – the founder of the Gyeongju Kim clan; Imhaejeonji (임해전지, Historic Site No. 18), the crown prince’s palace; & Cheomseongdae (첨성대, National Treasure No. 31), the oldest existing astronomical observatory in Asia, can all be found in this area. From Lucky Won, we arrived at Gyerim & Cheomseongdae first as they are located very near to the main street. Gyerim is located between Wolseong Fortress & Cheomseongdae in Gyeongju National Park. It is free admission for both sites, but Gyerim is opened till 6pm only, while Cheomseongdae is opened till 10pm in summer, & 9pm in winter. As we only arrived there in the evening, we only managed to check out the observatory, but it was already good enough. Here are some photos for your viewing pleasure.:)

Cheomseongdae in the national park

Cheomseongdae in the national park

Beautiful kites flying high in the spacious national park lined with lovely cherry blossom trees

Beautiful kites flying high in the wide national park lined with lovely cherry blossom trees

The beautifully-lit Cheomseongdae at night

View of the beautifully-lit Cheomseongdae on a lovely night in spring, from a distance

Next, it was time to head to the magnificent Donggung Palace & Wolji Pond (경주 동궁 과 월지, 안압지), the site of the Silla Royal Palace. I can’t remember how long the walk took from the observatory, probably 20 min or so. But it definitely didn’t feel like a long dreary walk because we were busy admiring the wonderful cherry blossoms & archaeological sites along the way. No wonder they say Gyeongju-si is the museum without walls!

As it was a Saturday night during the popular Spring cherry blossom season, the Donggung Palace ticket booth was very crowded with long queues of visitors. Fortunately the queue moved quite fast so within 10 min, we got hold of the admission tickets (KRW2,000 / S$2.40 per adult). Without further ado, here are selected photos of the stunning historic site!

Amazing night view at the ancient Silla Palace & Anapji Pond

Mesmerising night view at the ancient Silla Palace & Wolji Pond

Wonderful reflections at night with awesome cherry blossom

Wonderful reflections by the pond at night with awesome cherry blossom

Breathtaking sight of numerous cherry trees blooming at the site

Breathtaking sight of numerous cherry trees blooming at the site

The remarkable architecture on site is lit up at night, creating enchanting reflections on the artificial Wolji Pond (used to be called Anapji Pond) situated at the northeast edge of the Banwolseong palace site. Because everyone wants to catch a glimpse of this awesome sight, it was so packed with visitors that night, until we didn’t really need to walk as we were constantly being pushed along the paths.😛 But we weren’t frustrated at all because the place was just too amazingly beautiful, & I guess everyone else had similar feelings too.:)

I totally agree to the view made by most travellers who had been here, that Donggung Palace & Wolji Pond is definitely an attraction not to be missed, especially at night. What a marvellous way to end our long but sweet tour from Andong to Gyeongju!:)

A Traditional Hanok Stay At Lucky Won Guest House (락희원 게스트 하우스)

It was time to check in to the guest house we booked for the night in Gyeongju city – Lucky Won Guest House (락희원 게스트 하우스) when we finally arrived in the city that evening. Before the trip, I had mentioned to my Korean friend that I would very much like to experience staying in a traditional hanok, because it’d be more memorable for a night in Korea’s historic city.

Thanks to her, we got this budget hanok guest house at a steal for 4 persons, only KRW 80,000 (S$95.60) a night! That meant only S$23.90 each! Wohoo~😀 One point to note about Lucky Won is that the owners (an elderly couple) do not speak English, & they only accept room reservations via phone. So I was indeed fortunate to have local friends travelling together for a hassle-free booking of the traditional guest house!

Located in central Gyeongju city’s Hwangnam-dong (황남동), guests at Lucky Won can enjoy the privacy of a peaceful stay because it is tucked away in a quiet alley off the main street. But upon leaving the guest house, just turn left, walk about 100m along the alley and you will be able to see the vibrant tourist street filled with many shops, restaurants and convenience stores. Getting to famous tourist attractions like Cheomseongdae Observatory (경주 첨성대) & Daereungwon Tomb (대릉원) is just a convenient 10 minutes by foot. Furthermore, there are also public buses that go to the bus terminal & railway station as well as other attractions in the city along this street. That’s what I call a perfect location for a private yet convenient stay in the city!

Lucky Won Guest House entrance

Lucky Won Guest House entrance

Upon arrival at the guesthouse, we were pleasantly greeted with the sight of its lovely courtyard garden surrounded by the guest rooms. There are a total of 10 rooms in Lucky Won, with the small rooms for 2 guests and big rooms for 4 guests. The room we booked for 4 was supposedly the big room, & we were lucky that our room was just next to the communal kitchen.

The lovely courtyard

The lovely courtyard garden

Different views of our big room

Different views of our big room (from top left, clockwise direction): looking out to the courtyard with a half-open door; our room with clothes rack & 4 futon mattresses in the left corner; “lock” the room with a traditional metal spoon; the compact private bathroom.

As you can see, the “big room” wasn’t that big afterall haha. But it fits 4 futon mattresses nicely with space to walk to the bathroom.😉 Nonetheless, the room had all the basic amenities we need: fitted with heated flooring, an air-conditioner (for warm summer months I guess), private bathroom with towels (small ones though, imagine those in traditional Korean saunas / 찜질방), hairdryer & CRT television. Do remember to bring your own toiletries as they aren’t provided here. Free Wi-Fi is provided throughout the hanok, but somehow when our room door was closed & I sat nearer to the bathroom, the signal was pretty weak. It was stronger nearer the door & strongest when in the courtyard.

The communal kitchen next to our room

The communal kitchen next to our room

As mentioned earlier, the communal kitchen is just next to our room. Besides the free Wi-Fi login details, there is also a reminder to take off your footwear before entering the kitchen written on the chalk board at its entrance. A shared PC can be found in the communal kitchen if you need one. We could also make use of the kitchen facilities as well as help ourselves to the free coffee, tea, water and instant noodles provided. I had a nice ramen breakfast the next morning with my friends, eating from the big pot, just like a typical ramen-eating-scene you see in the Korean dramas hehe. We could also find tourist maps and written advice about the city, with recommendations on things to do & what to eat around the area for reference, thoughtfully prepared by the owners in the kitchen.

Sleeping on the ondol floor with a thin futon mattress may not be as comfortable as staying in a modern hotel, but it’s definitely a memorable experience to remember many years down the road. At least I did what the traditional Koreans do when I visited the beautiful capital of the Silla dynasty! Try it for yourself next time!😉

Gyeongju Yangdong Village (경주 양동마을)

About 2 hours’ drive from Andong city is Gyeongju (경주) – the capital of the 1,000-year-long Silla dynasty known for its extensive historical remains, on the southeastern coast of South Korea. Our 1st stop after lunch in Andong was to visit Gyeongju Yangdong Village (경주 양동마을) located in Gangdong-myeon (강동면), 16 km northeast of Gyeongju, along Hyeongsang River (형산강).

The 2 most representative historic clan villages in South Korea are Yangdong Village & Hahoe Folk Village in Andong. Both were founded in the 14th-15th centuries during the Joseon dynasty and were designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2010. Yangdong Village is also listed as an Important Folklore Material No. 189. The location & layout of both villages surrounded by natural landscapes reflect the distinguished Confucian culture in the early part of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), looking out to the river & open agricultural fields, & sheltered by forested mountains. Each village includes houses of the head families, together with substantial timber framed houses of other clan members, as well as pavilions, study halls, Confucian academies for learning, and clusters of mud-walled, thatched-roofed houses formerly for commoners.

Currently, the village is inhabited with residents but it is generally open for tourism. It costs KRW 4,000 (S$4.80) per adult, KRW 2,000 (S$2.40) per teenager or soldier, & KRW 1,500 (S$1.80) per child for entry into the village. Said to be Korea’s largest traditional village, it will probably take you a day to tour the entire village, comprising of about 160 old houses & 500-year-old thatched-roof cottages. 54 of these homes are over 200 years old. They have been excellently preserved in their original state, offering a rare opportunity to view a variety of unique Korean traditional houses in person. Without further ado, here are some photos I took of the gorgeous village for your viewing pleasure:

Panoramic view of the largest traditional village in South Korea

Panoramic view of the largest traditional village in South Korea

The Americans have Starbucks cafe, while the Yangdong villagers have Yangdong-bucks Cafe to boast ;)

The Americans have Starbucks cafe, while the Yangdong villagers have Yangdong-bucks Cafe to boast😉

Bright & cheery cherry blossom trees outside the village restaurants

Bright & cheery cherry blossom trees outside the village restaurants

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Beautiful elevated village view as we moved uphill

Beautiful elevated village view as we moved uphill

More lovely cherry blossoms uphill!

More lovely cherry blossoms uphill!

Charming village blessed with picturesque surrounding natural landscape

Charming village blessed with picturesque surrounding natural landscape

It was a day packed with lots of things to do, so unfortunately, we had to leave the gorgeous village for Gyeongju city after around 1.5 hours at the huge heritage site. Personally, I find Yangdong more alluring than Andong with its houses built on the hill, although both are attractive. Hope I can visit again in future for a longer time!:) Ending this post with a collage of the beautiful murals near the village entrance….

Yangdong Folk Village 6

A Taste of Andong’s Food Specialties

Although we only spent half a day in Andong-si, but we still managed to tuck into 2 delish local specialties in the capital of Gyeongsangbuk-do – the Andong Jjimdak & glutinous rice cake!

1. Glutinous Rice Cake (찰떡)

Let me first introduce this well-loved-by-Koreans shop selling glutinous rice cake (찰떡) since the 1920s in Andong city – the Beongeori Glutinous Rice Cake Shop (벙어리찰떡). Technically speaking, this delicacy didn’t originate from Andong-si, but Beongeori is very popular amongst the locals, having been featured on various local television programs. We drove specially to the shop so that we could buy these rice cakes as snacks on the road.

The Beongeori shop currently run by its 3rd generation

The Beongeori shop currently run by the 3rd generation

Found the map of this shop on Naver

Found the map of this shop on Naver

This shop is conveniently located at 7-7 Hayima Road, Andong-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do (경상북도 안동시 하이마로 7-7), next to Andong Terminal so looking for the delectable snack shouldn’t be too hard. There are many different types of glutinous rice cake sold at this traditional shop, but my friend only bought these 3 types for us:

The rice cakes from bottom left in anti-clockwise direction: 기피팥고물찰떡 (original red bean rice cake), 청태콩고물찰떡 (powdered soy bean rice cake) & 붉은팥고물찰떡 (red bean rice cake)

The rice cakes from bottom left in anti-clockwise direction: 기피팥고물찰떡 (original red bean flvaour), 청태콩고물찰떡 (powdered soy bean flavour) & 붉은팥고물찰떡 (red bean flavour)

I think my favourite has to be the 붉은팥고물찰떡 red bean glutinous rice cake, because I love red bean & this one has generous fillings of the sweet stuff compared to the original flavour. Nonetheless all 3 flavours were yummy, & the texture is very different from the rice cake I have eaten before in Seoul, more sticky & chewy! Each piece of rice cake costs KRW 900 (S$1.10) but it’ll be about KRW 100-300 more expensive if you need to pack them into a box as souvenir. Try it if you ever visit Andong!:)

2. Andong Jjimdak (안동찜닭)

Andong Jjimdak (안동 찜닭), as the name suggests, originated from Andong-si’s Andong Gu Market chicken alley (안동 구시장 닭골목). It is a steamed chicken dish with starched noodles (Dangmyeon, 당면), various kinds of vegetables like cabbage, carrots, cucumber and potatoes marinated in a Korean spicy soy-based sauce. We went to the market to tuck into an authentic & scrumptious Andong Jjimdak lunch.

According to my Korean friends, the 2 highly recommended Jjimdak restaurants in the market are Andong Yujin Braised Spicy Chicken (안동 유진찜닭) & Hyundae Jjimdak (현대 찜닭) located side by side each other. As the queue for Yujin was slightly shorter, we joined the queue here instead of Hyundae.

Check out the authentic Andong Jjimdak at either Yujin Spicy Braised Chicken (left) or Hyundae Jjimdak (right)

Check out the authentic Andong Jjimdak at either Yujin Spicy Braised Chicken (left) or Hyundae Jjimdak (right)

It’s a small (or should I say tiny) restaurant with 2 levels, & customers would have to sit on the floor (the Korean traditional style) to enjoy the meal. Not the most ideal & comfortable situation for a meal, but well, just do what the locals do…. Glad that we didn’t have to climb up the steep stairs to dine on level 2 with a low ceiling!

Feeling lucky that there was a table for us on level 1!

Feeling lucky that there was a table for us on level 1!

The legendary Andong Jjimdak on a big plate!

The legendary Andong Jjimdak (KRW 25,000/ S$30) on a big plate!

I was in awe when the dish was served, as the portion was huge! It’s my virgin attempt at this famous dish & after the first bite, I fell in love with the spicy tender chicken. I loved the idea of having lots of vegetables to complement the huge chunks of meat that I was sinking my teeth into. At least it sort of lessened my guilt of eating too much haha. The dish got spicier as we tucked into the yummy dish, & the dongchimi (동치미, water-based kimchi with radishes) helped to neutralise the spicy sensation on my tongue. Although the serving was huge, 4 of us managed to finish delectable dish, feeling very satisfied thereafter hehe. Great that I managed to enjoy this in a group, else I don’t think I would have been able to try it out on my own…

I really enjoyed these tasty delights in Andong. Next time, if I return, I’ll try other local specialties such as the Andong soju (strong alcoholic liquor, around 50% alcohol content) & Heotjesabap, a variation of bibimbap served with soy sauce (간장) instead of the more commonly used hot pepper paste (고추장).:)

A Morning in Andong – Home to Korea’s Confucianism & Spiritual Culture

Andong city (안동시), the capital city of Gyeongsangbuk-do / North Gyeongsang Province (경상북도), is home of Confucianism in Korea. The scholarly city became a famous tourist area after a visit by Queen Elizabeth II in 1999. But for me, it was a Korean drama named Sweet 18 (낭랑18세, starring Han Ji-hye & Lee Dong-gun) in 2004 that ignited my interest to check out the city some day. The thatched-roof houses in the village where the grandfather lived in the drama exuded unique charm in my eyes haha.

12 years later, I finally stepped foot onto this charming city for my first self-drive holiday (specifically, I was only in the passenger seat hehe) with my Korean friends! Wohoo~ But because it’s about 3 hours’ drive from Seoul, I had to wake up super early on day 2 to catch the 1st train then express bus (6.20 am) out to reach my friends waiting for me in Daeso, Gyeonggi-do (대소, 경기도). From Daeso, the drive took about 1.5 hours before we arrived at the UNESCO World Heritage Site – Andong Hahoe Folk Village (안동 하회마을)!

Andong Hahoe Folk Village 1

The admission ticket costs KRW 3,000 per adult (S$3.60), KRW 1,500 per teenager (S$1.80) & KRW 1,000 per child (S$1.20) for non-Andong residents. Before we bought the tickets at the ticketing counter, we could already see many restaurants & traditional houses in sight.

Many restaurants selling the Andong specialty

Many restaurants selling the Andong specialty

Hahoe Folk Village is well-known for its traditional houses & home to descendants of the Ryu clan of Pungsan. Apparently, Korean actor Ryu Si-won (류시원) was born in Andong & part of the Ryu clan. It is also the birthplace of renowned Joseon Period scholars. The name of the village name means it is a village surrounded by water (河回村) as Nakdong River flows around the town’s perimeter. It is located at the foothills of Hwasan Mountain, an offshoot of Taebaek Mountain that rises up to the east. Surrounded by the thatched-roof houses, the large tile-roofed houses of the Ryu clan occupies the village centre, adding a unique charm to the village scenery. Without further ado, check out my photos below showing the well-preserved UNESCO Heritage Site that is still inhabited by its original villagers.

Andong Hahoe Folk Village 3

The attractive traditional houses in the village

The attractive traditional houses in the village

The indigenous Korean Fir planted by Queen Elizabeth in the village in 1999

The native Korean Fir planted by Queen Elizabeth II during her visit to the village in 1999

A charming rustic cafe in a thatched-roof house

A charming rustic cafe in a thatched-roof house

Have fun playing these traditional Korean games outdoor!

Have fun playing these traditional Korean games outdoor!

There are many noteworthy national treasures & monuments found in the village, including the Chunghyodang Treasure No. 414 (충효당) you see below. The overall structure in this house is typical of houses of high-ranking officials in the middle of the Joseon dynasty. There is also the Mansongjeong Natural Monuments 473 (Pinetree forest in Hahoe village). The Korean name means “Grove of Ten Thousand Pines”, planted on a broad sedimentary sand layer along the Nakdong River, with hopes of mitigating the wild energy of Buyongdae Cliff (부용대). It has great scenic, historic and cultural value.

Andong Hahoe Folk Village 7Andong Hahoe Folk Village 8

Various types of lovely spring flowers were also spotted as we toured the charming Hahoe Folk Village, & I’ve created a collage of these flowers for your viewing pleasure.

Lovely spring is here with beautiful flowers in bloom!

Lovely spring is here with beautiful flowers in bloom!

Due to time constraint, we didn’t visit Buyongdae Cliff, which is said to have the best bird’s eye view of the village at its summit of about 64 meters high. We left Hahoe Folk Village to proceed to Byeongsanseowon (병산서원) to feel the conducive ambience at this Confucian school. It was established by esteemed Confucian scholars to pay tribute to the memory of Seong-nyong Yu (1542-1607), who was well-respected for his writings and personality. Situated just in front of the school is the Nakdong-gang River, & the Byeongsan Mountain can be found across the river. With such a strategic location surrounded by nature, it provided a serene environment for the scholars to study in.

Different views of the respected Confucian school

Different views of the respected Confucian school

I didn’t regret requesting my friends to include Andong city to our weekend trip at all, as it felt like I was walking into the actual scenes of “Sweet 18” drama 12 years ago.:P Just a little pity that we only had 1 morning in the self-proclaimed “Capital of Korean Spirit”. If you love culture & history, don’t miss a tour in this charming cultural city!

Checking Out Yeouido Before the Official Spring Flower Festival

Yeouido (여의도) is Seoul’s main finance & investment banking district, home to National Assembly Building, Korean Broadcasting System (KBS) HQ, the iconic 63 Building as well as the famous Yeouido Hangang Park where the annual cherry blossom festival is held in Seoul. Despite the importance & central location of this island, I must admit I’ve hardly visited this area. In fact, based on memory, I think I have only been to Yeouido Park once briefly during my first visit to the country on a packaged tour 12 years ago.😛

Anyway, this time round, Yeouido was an unplanned last minute inclusion to my itinerary on the 1st day too. Thanks to Korea Tourism Organisation (KTO) Singapore, just 1 week before I was supposed to depart for my holidays, I received an email notification from them that I got myself a KBS Music Bank live recording ticket for the 1 April 2016 live telecast. For the benefit of non K-pop fan readers, Music Bank (뮤직뱅크) is a South Korea television broadcast program which airs live every Friday at 5.00 pm Korea time, showcasing performances of K-pop artists with a weekly K-chart countdown.

Although it’s a great opportunity to watch K-pop artists perform up close, but alas, I’ve sort of lost touch with K-pop, except for the drama tracks from watching all the Korean dramas. >.< If only such an opportunity arose 5 years ago, I guess I’d have been much more excited haha. I was strongly advised not to waste the precious ticket by the few people who knew of this, but I panicked at the thought of having to make last minute changes to my 1st day plan in Korea + scramble for value for money accommodation! >.<

Anyhow, I made it somehow & arrived at the Yeouido KBS Hall around 3.30 pm & was shocked to see the huge crowd waiting outside the hall. There were many locals & foreign fans (with KTO sign) excitedly queuing in line to enter the hall. Tired from all the standing (due to almost 1 hour delay in admission) + noise I had to bear, I forgot to take photo while waiting & even joined the wrong queue. That almost resulted in me being barred from entering the hall, but fortunately the lady in charge of foreign visitors was kind enough to let me in with a ticket. The only photos I took at KBS were upon entering the complex & before entering the hall for the recording (photo or video taking during the live recording would cause me to be chased out if caught):

Clear signage to point visitors to the correct hall at KBS

Clear signage to point visitors to the correct hall in KBS

Quickly snapped a shot with the precious ticket before entering

Quickly snapped a shot with my precious ticket before entering

Due to serious lack of sleep as I arrived in Seoul on a red-eye flight early in the morning with some “saga” at the airport, I actually dozed off during the recording several times, even though fans were cheering & screaming loudly as their idols appeared. My apologies to K-pop fanatics but I really couldn’t help it, & it didn’t help that I knew none of them prior to the show.😛 There were a few performances that I kind of enjoyed (in between my naps haha) though I don’t remember who the artists were or the songs they sang. An online search told me that I saw artists such as GOT7, BTOB, MAMAMOO etc, with GOT7’s Fly clinching the #1 title that evening. When the live recording ended around 6.40 pm, many fans in the hall were still reluctant to leave as they continued to cheer for GOT7 that won.

I left KBS & attempted to head towards Yeouido Hangang Park to catch some possible sight of cherry blossoms. Probably it was still early for flowers to bloom in Seoul, there weren’t many trees that had blossomed despite having 1,886 cherry trees around National Assembly Building. I guess if I had come here during the official Spring Flower Festival (영등포 여의도 봄꽃축제) from 4 to 10 April 2016, it’d be a beautiful place filled with lovely cherry blossoms.

Yeouido random shots at night

One interesting thing I spotted somewhere along the river was the row of various “Memorial Tree” planted by fans of various popular K-pop groups such as Girls’ Generation in the collage you see above. The one you see above (if you have sharp eyes) was planted by Taiwanese fans of Girls’ Generation on 5 Aug 2013 to commemorate the 6th anniversary of their debut. Gosh… like that also can?!

My next destination was supposed to be the Seoul Bamdokkaebi Night Market as recommended by my friend but I somehow got lost at Seoul Marina. It was not without a lot of walking before I eventually boarded a bus to get to the night market at Yeouinaru Station (서울 밤도깨비 야시장, Seoul Subway Line 5, exit 2). Apparently, this night market is only open every Friday & Saturday from 6.00 to 11.00 pm from 1 April to 29 October 2016. That means I was lucky to visit it on its 1st night of opening!:)

The attractive food trucks at the night market

The attractive food trucks at the night market: (from top left in clockwise direction) smoked snack (can’t recall what exactly was sold at this truck :p), churros, huge flower cotton candy, & takoyaki.

According to its official website, besides the 30 food trucks selling a variety of food around the world at the Food Truck Street (먹거리), and 70 booths selling handicrafts & household goods at the Shopping Street (살거리), you will be entertained by the street performances at the Performance Street (볼거리) too. Not sure if I was blind or what, but I don’t remember seeing so many food trucks & booths as mentioned? Nonetheless, I guess the food trucks attracted the most number of visitors, including me as it was dinner time & I need to replenish my energy from all the walking hehe. The cherry trees here seemed to be blooming beautifully & I took several selfies with the beautiful trees too.:)

Eating KRW 1,000 churros fresh from the oven under the cherry blossom tree

Eating the long stick of churros fresh from the oven under the cherry blossom tree

I was lazy to join in the long queues at most of the stalls so decided to only order the KRW1,000 (S$1.20) churros as the queue was relatively shorter. A sweet & scenic ending to my 1st day in Seoul as I enjoyed the fresh-from-the-oven churros under the big & beautiful cherry blossom tree!😀

Exploring Trendy Hongdae (홍대)

After taking a short nap in the apartment, I met up with my Korean friend for lunch at the trendy Hongik University district (Hongdae/홍대 as it’s more commonly known). Obviously it’s not my first time in Hongdae, but wow, so much has changed since the last I stepped foot there. Now there are Tourist Police booths in the area too, more convenient for visitors to ask for help if needed. What hasn’t changed a bit is the streets are still bustling with people, especially the young (& young at heart haha), even on a Friday late morning.

Thanks to my friend who did an online search for recommended Dak Galbi (닭갈비, marinated stir-fried chicken on hot plate) in the area, I had a delightful first lunch in Seoul at Sin Mi Gyeong Traditional Roast Chicken (신미경 홍대 닭갈비). Nearest exit from Hongdae Station (Line 2) is exit 9, and the restaurant is located between Gopchang Street & A Land Building (open 1100 to 2300 hrs daily).

Sin mi gyeong cheese fondue dak galbi

View from the restaurant on level 2

Different views of Sin Mi Gyeong restaurant

Initially I had reservations about ordering the Cheese Fondue Dak Galbi (치즈퐁듀닭갈비), because the normal Dak Galbi is already very filling by usual standards. So I couldn’t imagine how bloated I would get with the addition of (fatty) cheese! But since online reviews were saying it’s the best selling dish & everyone around us was also eating that dish, we decided to go for it. If you notice in the top photo of the above collage, 2 types of cheese were given, together with lettuce leaves for us to wrap the chicken, as well as some kimchi/ radish side dishes like any typical Korean meal.

According to the website, the restaurant was established since 1996. Only 99.2% natural cheese & 100% domestically produced, fresh unfrozen chicken stock is being used. Chilli pepper & sesame oil for the Gojujang sauce are personally bought & parched together in Chuncheon before bringing them into Seoul. The dak galbi is only prepared when customer makes an order, so it will take some time before the food can be served at the table.

No regrets after ordering this best-selling dish though (KRW 13,000, about S$15.50 for 1 person/ 210g serving), because it was indeed 맛있었어요 (delicious)! The cheese used was so fragrant & smooth it “glided” into our stomachs. As for the marinated chicken, it was tender and very tasty, blending very well with the smooth cheese. It must be because of their commitment to bring only the best quality food to customers! I already felt full before we could finish the whole dish, but it’s really worth the calories!:)

After a sumptuous lunch, we took a stroll down the street, browsing some shops along the way & feeling the vibrancy of the streets. Saw a Gong Cha bubble tea outlet & my friend commented it’s quite popular in Korea now. Pricing is similar to Singapore’s though. Knowing that I have a penchant for Korean strawberries, my friend brought me to A Twosome Place (투썸플레이스) for some Iced Strawberry Latte (KRW 5,300, about S$6.30) as it’s the strawberry season now & she mentioned this was one of the better cafes with the strawberry special menu. Very refreshing drink to wash down all the chicken meat we had haha…

We also happened to watch an open-air performance by a local indie band called 10 cm. The 2-man band’s performance seemed to be quite well-received by the audience. I didn’t know who they were but later learnt that their latest single “봄이 좋냐” (Do You Love Spring?) is a hit in Korea. An appropriate title for the season! The band name is also quite catchy & a Google search told me it came about because it refers to height difference of the two core members. What a name!😛

10cm's Hongdae performance

The following week, I revisited Hongdae via Hapjeong Station (Line 2 & 6, exit 5) with my classmate from Sogang University days for a dinner reunion. At night, the area is filled with numerous pubs for people getting together with friends over drinks. As I wasn’t really familiar with the numerous restaurants there, we just entered a restaurant randomly that serves Bo-ssam (보쌈). In case you don’t already know, Bo-ssam is a pork belly dish boiled in spices, & the meat will be wrapped in lettuce leaves together with the usual Korean side dishes before eating.

Bossam and Pork spine soup

Bo-ssam & Pork Spine Soup (감자탕)

I was busy catching up with my classmate since we hadn’t met since graduation, which was almost 11 years ago! So pardon me, I forgot to take photo of the restaurant or note down its name. But I remember it’s a small restaurant on level 2 opposite Trick Eye Museum. The staff recommended us to take the Bo-ssam & Pork Spine Soup set for 2 persons (KRW 30,000, about S$35.80) but gosh, the serving was too much for 2 ladies to finish…. Both dishes were very good, & I loved the spicy soup. Probably same for my friend so we managed to finish the Pork Spine Soup but had problems finishing all the Bo-ssam.

It was the first time I ate Bo-ssam (because I usually don’t take pork belly) & Soondae (순대, blood sausage made by boiling or steaming cow or pig’s intestines stuffed with various ingredients like dangmyeon). Surprisingly I kind of like the taste & the tender meat. The Soondae also tasted quite nice when wrapped in lettuce leave with Kimchi & Gochujang. But it was clearly an overestimation of how much food we could stuff into our stomachs haha.

It was a pity I didn’t have enough time to roam the youthful streets of Hongdae more thoroughly this round. But it’s alright, I still got to enjoy the trendy district through food & a free performance by a popular indie band!😉