I took the trains to Tapgol Park in the morning. On the way the delicious smell of Gyeran Bbang (egg bread/cake) invited me over to a little stall. Finding it cheaper than the vendors at Myeong-Dong, I shelled out the won and got myself a warm little grilled bread/cake item with an egg on top. The bread/cake itself tasted similar to corn-bread and had a sweet, grainy texture. The egg on top was completely cooked; I would have preferred my yolk to be a slightly runny, but that would have been difficult to eat while I walked down the streets.
Tapgol Park was a peaceful oasis in a busy and boisterous city. There were many seniors strolling in the park. I stayed for a while just relaxing and walking around before leaving for Cheonggyecheon Stream. It was not that hard to find, but did look different from the pictures as I arrived in winter and the day was cloudy.
Still, I went down for a leisurely walk and to listen to the running water before going to my next destination, Unhyeongung. Unhyeongung is a small royal residence in the Jongno district. Inside, you can participate in activities such as trying on traditional dresses, joining the tea ceremony, and braiding beaded bracelets.
Inside the residences, there were life-size dolls depicting the lives of the officials and servants who lived there long ago.
There were few tourists, and a few girls in traditional robes taking pictures. There were a small display at the left of the residence where the royal robes and ways of life were shown to the public.
I crossed the street and ended up somewhere, I think, at Insadong Street, where the traditional folk items were sold and where Miss Lee Cafe was located. I passed by a catholic church and some galleries and signed my name in one of them that celebrated the female body.
After crossing the street and turning right, I found myself inside a hidden alley where I found more galleries, a traditional tea house, and a restaurant that featured Gaeseong traditional dumplings.
The garden-like space was beautiful and peaceful, but I was more attracted to the mandou (dumpling) house. Emboldened by hunger, I walked right in. It seemed to be a well-known restaurant, but I was mostly attracted by the pictures of huge dumplings >.< The menu thankfully had English translations and pictures. I asked for the acorn jelly set that cost 13000 won 🙂
The dish was bigger than advertised on the menu, and had 3 fist-size dumplings and a salad with acorn jelly in it. The dumplings were pork-based and had, if I remember correctly, Chinese leek in it. The meat was minced very finely and was soft and light. A vinegar- and soy-based dipping sauce was provided. The salad was dressed with sesame and pepper oil so was bursting with salty and spicy flavour. The acorn jelly was springy and provided a cooling effect to the pepper oil that dressed the salad and the kimchi.
A group of Japanese and Korean ladies were in the table beside me. I understood from their conversation that the Korean lady was a local who was taking her two Japanese friends on a tour. When I got up to go to the washroom and passed by them, I excused myself in Japanese and they were surprised to find that I was not Korean. They called me over after I left the washroom and offered to show me where to go. When they found out I was alone and a student, they remarked that I was very brave and wished me luck \^o^/ It was a little funny because I also spoke another language to the servers earlier and everyone in the restaurant stared at me puzzled at what kind of Asian I was, lol~
After I received the directions to a nearby street that had traditional tea, I thanked the ladies and went off my merry way. The Korean lady was right and I soon find myself in a packed street full of vendors and cafes that featured traditional Korean tea. However, after looking at the prices and the menu, I decided against having the tea as most items were things I already had before in some form or another.
The street was bustling with tourists. There were many food vendors who spoke other languages, and I noticed many Chinese tourists there. It was a little strange finding so many vendors who knew Chinese but hardly any Japanese. I sampled some traditional candies made with molasses and nuts, and wandered around the city looking for a temple. As it turned out, it was the same temple I visited before, Jogyesa temple, haha~
It was getting dark, but since I recognized the roads and streets from the day before, I returned to the front of the Gyeongbok Palace to ask the guards for directions to the famous Tosokchon Samgyetang (ginseng chicken soup). I know I had it earlier, but apparently this one was the best in Korea and was close by so I thought why not~@.@ The guards were not very helpful but a policeman who walked past me was, and showed me the right way to the restaurant. It was past 6pm at that point, and the temperature dropped, so I thought it was perfect timing to have some hot broth 🙂 The restaurant was almost full, but no lineup, which was unexpected from the reviews I read. However, it was great that I was immediately seated, so no complaints!
The menu was translated into both English and Chinese for the tourists, and I did notice there were far more Chinese than Caucasian tourists. I chose the Tosokchon ginseng chicken soup, the basic version, for 16000 won. It came with the usual two types of kimchi, garlic cloves, and ginseng wine. The chicken was tender, but slightly drier than the one I had at Baekje Samgyetang. The broth was also different in that it had pine nuts and no ginseng adventitious roots in it. The ginseng taste was stronger, and not sweet at all. The herbal taste was mild, and the milky soup had a slight gelatiny consistency due to the glutinous rice. The kimchi was moderately spicy and garlicy, which I finished with the help of the tea and broth. This time, for the ginseng wine, I poured it in as I was about to finish the soup to change the taste. It was interesting, and the alcohol warmed my intestinal tract 🙂
I found myself back to one of the stations and admired the stone statues on display of the legendary Girin, which the sign introduced as a holy creature that protected the palace and city. As it was dark and late, I decided to conclude my day then and made my way back to the guesthouse for some much-deserved beddy time ^o^