Speed Run: Showing Off Korea to my Best Friend
During my first month in Korea, I was lucky to have my really good friend Clara come visit me in Korea! This is big for me as this is the 3rd time in Korea, but I have never had a friend visit me here before!! I was excited to be able to show off the Korea I love~ (Tour guide mode: activated)
Clara is originally from Germany but she had spent the summer in Africa; therefore, it was a perfect opportunity to visit me because of the close(r) distance! Of course, I won’t be going through everything we did but, here are some top picks!
You cannot visit South Korea without visiting Gyeongbokgung Palace (경복궁) so of course I took Clara there. It was a beautiful day, weather wise, so it was wonderful just exploring the palace grounds. Honestly, one of my favorite parts was walking around and seeing so many visitors wearing hanbok (한복, traditional Korean dress) in all these various patterns and colors. We decided against renting hanbok this time (although it will grant you free entrance into the palace) just to save some $$$.
We arrived at the palace at the perfect time for the royal guard changing ceremony as well, which is something I haven’t seen in such a long time. We also stumbled upon a library within the palace too which I, surprisingly, had never seen before!
And to my surprise, there were actually a couple people doing work/studying there. It would be really interesting to study there one day! Just for the vibe~
After the palace, we also visited Jogyesa Temple (조계사) and walked around Gwanghwamun plaza so that we could get acquainted with King Sejong--who is an iconic figure to Koreans and Korean language learners alike for having created the Korean alphabet (Hangul).
We also visited Gwangjang Market! (And Tongin Market but no photos from that…) We came here to find some souvenirs for Clara’s family but also of course, we came for the food! For some hearty, traditional Korean dishes.
After we did our walk-through of the market to survey the ~options~ we basically had to just choose a spot with empty seats because the market was quite busy. For lunch we got knife-cut noodles (칼국수) and cold soybean soup (콩국수).
I tried the soybean noodle dish for the first time since it is a seasonal dish, only served when it's warm outside. It consists of wheat noodles in a cold soy milk broth and for taste, it is usually served with a side of sugar to mix in with the dish. I was unsure of it at first when the stall owner set it in front of me--but it tasted good!
I also NEEDED Clara to try some Hotteok (호떡) at the market which is a fried, pancake-like pastry usually filled with sugar and peanuts! It is probably my favorite Korean street food!!
Besides burning the roofs of our mouths because of the hot liquid sugar…Clara approved!
Namsan Tower at night can be considered as one of the best nighttime views of Seoul--especially when you take the cable car up to the bottom of Namsan Tower (which is situated on top of Namsan mountain).
It is definitely a popular place for couples… so be warned that you might be made to feel quite lonely. But! At night, the city view with all the lights is so pretty! So worth it!
Bukchon Hanok Village
Another place I showed Clara around was Bukchon Hanok Village (북촌한옥마을) which is an area near Gyeongbokgung palace with residential housing and cafes with many traditional Korean houses (한옥).
Because it is a residential area, it is important to not be too loud and boisterous as tourists since these are people’s homes! The area is also home to a lot of really nice cafes which was the main goal of my visit with Clara. I had a lot of school assignments and Korean studying to do… so we did some exploring with some fair of cafe hopping--drinking delicious coffee and cake!
This last point will just be a focus on the variety of Korean food I tried to introduce Clara to--as someone who had not eaten much Korean food. At the end of the trip, I asked Clara what her favorite Korean dish was and she answered two things: 1. Jjimdak (찜닭, braised chicken) 2. Cheese Balls*
*Clara wants to add that this is only the case when the cheese balls are filled with actual cheese (like mozzarella) and not cream cheese--and extra points for not being sweet.
I am so happy to have had Clara visit me in Korea--figuring out what aspects to show her was limited in our short amount of time together--but it was so special for me to share Korea with someone from my life back home. Who would have thought that when we said our goodbyes at Columbia graduation in May 2023, that we would meet up again in Seoul, South Korea! Until our next meet-up! <3