Seoul 2013 : Day Five

After Day Four's big adventures sightseeing, we decided to spend the majority of Day Five in Insadong, one of Seoul's best shopping districts. We had several items on our list that we wanted to look for, and while not very successful (we couldn't find a scroll or a piece of celadon that we "had to have")… we did get the biggest ones checked off—a name chop (a name seal) for Milo and a piece of artwork for the house. We started the day early (surprise, surprise) and ended up in Insadong just as shops were starting to open. This allowed us to stroll down a relatively empty street, window shopping and taking in the sights and atmosphere...

{Sculptures at the entrance to the street…}

{The main street in Insadong}

Aside from the main street in Insadong, there are alleys upon alleys that hold all sorts of hidden treasures down them...

{One of the many alleys}

{Spotted in an alley}

{The alleys even have directories at the entrances!}

{There is also some humor tucked away in alleys…}

{The smaller alleys have decorative directories…}

We made our way down Insadong-gil, popping in and out of shops. After a block or so, we stumbled upon a vendor making traditional honey candy. They do this by taking a piece of fermented (frozen?) honey, stretching and shaping it into a circle with their hands then folding it over and over (and over!) on itself… when they are done they have 16,000 strings of super fine honey wrapped around their fist. It's amazing and delicious! (Plus, it reinforced the skip counting that Spencer has been learning in school…)

How could we not get a box to enjoy later?! If you want to see these guys in action, there is a fun video here. After stowing our goodies away, we continued on...

And found one of our first destinations of the day… The name chop shop!

This shop was the same place that we got Spencer's name chop created as well. So even though there were many other options to get the name chop done, we knew we wanted to go back to this places. Spencer picked out the piece of stone that the seal would get carved into, then settled in to watch it be created. Now both boys have gorgeous name chops of their birth names.

While we were waiting, I saw this posted on the desk… It turns out that they created name chops for the President and the First Lady as well!

After we had the name chop made, we were getting really hungry… so we decided lunch would be next. My friend, Kristin, had blogged about a dumpling place when she had traveled. She described them as the best dumplings they ever had. So, I knew I wanted to hunt them down for Spencer, our dumpling fiend. It turns out the restaurant was near the name chop place—down an alley. And…. oh. my. word… it seriously delivered! I'm now drooling thinking about that meal…

{Here's what you see as you walk down the alley…}

{And here's what you see when you look into the alcove…}

{The largest dumplings… EVER.}

{We chose the dish that you cook on your table…Amazing.}

After lunch, we spent some more time wandering down Insadong-gil, and peeking into intriguing looking alleys.

Aside from shops and restaurants, Insadong is also filled with all sorts of incredible street food vendors. While there were many yummy-looking and great-smelling choices… we decided to go with Hoddeok. I fell in love with this tasty treat the last time we were in Korea, and was biding my time until Insadong to have it again…

Some of the other runner-ups:

Hoddeoks in hand, we crossed over to get the perfect accompaniment … Starbucks!

With coffee in hand, we wandered back down Insadong-gil, making a few last decisions on souvenirs and finally choosing our piece of artwork for the home. It was only mid-afternoon when we finished walking back up the street, so we decided to head over to Jogyesa, which was right around the corner from Insadong. Jogyesa is the center of Zen Buddhism in South Korea, and while not a very large property… it is incredibly moving to walk around there. Our experience was audible as well as visible, as we could hear the monks chanting while we were there… I don't really have words to sum up what it was like to be there. It was very moving. So, in honor of that, the next series of photos will have no captions… Just enjoy the beauty that I tried to capture...

I know my photographs don't do this place justice. It's just simply too hard to capture the beauty of it. (Especially when you have a tuckered out five-year-old asking "can we gooooo now?!") I could have spent hours there. Literally. I mean, even these old cans were beautiful...

After visiting the temple, we jumped back on the subway and headed back to the hotel. Our second meeting with Milo would be the next day, and we wanted to have a good dinner and an even better night's rest. We decided we were in need of some comfort food (and some English) so we headed back to the Brick Oven Pizza we had been too earlier in the trip. It was the right decision… we enjoyed the meal even more than the first time! After dinner, we headed back to the hotel to rest up for our big Christmas Eve plans.