The rest of our time in Seoul was such a whirlwind! We woke up every day around 9am and would stay out until around 1 or 2am. Definitely exhausting!
On Sunday, we woke up and I was in charge of finding breakfast. I found a spot downtown that served Haejangguk aka hangover soup. It’s a stew of onions, mushrooms, and coagulated ox blood. Served with kimchi and rice! We found our way to the restaurant and suddenly realized no one spoke English. All of the menus were in Korean and all of the staff were perplexed that we couldn’t understand. Through some creative pantomiming, we indicated that we wanted the stew. Luckily the restaurant appeared to ONLY serve the stew, so that worked out in our favor!
It was really delicious and so filling! The ox blood had the consistency of tofu but didn’t have much flavor. We rolled ourselves out of the restaurant and down the street to Gyeongbukgung Palace.
Along the way we stumbled upon “Beautiful Day Seoul” which I can only assume is the equivalent of “Good Morning America.” They had set up a kid’s play land and we snapped photos with some of the characters!
At the palace, we wandered around and marveled at the throne room and recreation rooms. Joe enjoyed the folk museum and I enjoyed the free wifi. I’ve never been a big fan of ancient history – especially places that have been “reconstructed” so many times they cannot possibly claim to be original!
That evening, we went to an authentic jimjilbang! We went to Siloam which is walkable from where we were downtown. A jimjilbang is a spa… but so much more. Honestly it was the part of the trip I was most nervous about. Everything online indicated that it is the #1 thing to do to get a “real” experience in Korea, but it sounded so uncomfortable!
You enter the jimjilbang and are given a change of clothes and enter segregated locker rooms. (I was immediately yelled at for not taking off my socks when I took off my shoes!) Then you strip naked. BUTT NAKED! It was so uncomfortable at first as I was heading to the spa room, but then I opened the door and saw 100 other naked women who couldn’t care less. Half of the room were showers where people were rinsing off before going to the giant line of hot tubs. Each tub had different water – jade, charcoal, moss. There was even a cold tub where you could cool off! I didn’t get to go in the waterfall shower but I wanted to!
After the hot tub area, I returned to my locker to change into the jimjilbang clothes and go meet Joe in the “fomentation” area where the sexes are mixed. While the hot tub area was only one large room, the fomentation area was 5 floors! There was a sleeping floor, a gym, a common room, two cafes, and an entire series of rooms with different themes. We vowed to try each one! There was the oxygen room, the charcoal room, the heated “dug out” room, the loess room, the salt room, and the jade room. I didn’t like the last 3 as the entire floor was made of tiny balls that hurt my feet to walk on. Each room had dividers and you were supposed to lay on the floor and relax in the silence.
We spent around 3 hours at the jimjilbang and Joe was definitely glad I made him go with me. He even suggested returning the next day!
That night we went on a wild goose chase to find food. We started our search at 8pm and wanted Korean BBQ but couldn’t find anywhere that wasn’t outrageously priced or already closed. Finally, we found a spot in Itaewon after an hour of Googling. But first, Joe wanted something sweet to eat. After spending an hour on the metro and an hour finding Joe’s dessert shop, it was already 11pm! I opted to head home and catch up on sleep.
Seoul definitely wasn’t the easiest city to navigate. I have a pretty keen sense of direction, but I was still nervous about our plans to split up the following day!