Neil and I celebrated two anniversary’s this past weekend – we’ve been married for two years and we’ve been in South Korea for eight months. We celebrated both with a trip to Seoul, where we enjoyed massages, Mexican food, shopping and sightseeing.
Aside from shopping and eating we wanted to do something romantic so I booked us for a couples massage at Healing Hands in Itaewon. We’ve had massages before, but not Korean massages and this was quite the experience. The first hour was bliss and I could feel all the stresses of teaching small children melt away. The second hour was a little more interesting… a combination of a foot, leg, chest and stomach massages and stretches that stretched parts of my body that hadn’t been stretched in a LONG time and probably shouldn’t be ever again.
Everything was very professional, no awkward nakedness or anything like that but there were some interesting and painful moments. A couple of times I opened my eyes and my masseuse was up on the table above me, pulling and pushing my arms and/or legs. When I snuck a look at Neil I tried not to giggle, as he too was being put through his stretching paces by his tiny massage master. After lunch we shared a few laughs about the experience and decided that we weren’t really fans of Korean massages but enjoyed it all the same. Tip – If you’re heading to Healing Hands they’ll charge you an extra 10% if you want to pay with your debit / credit card, so take cash or be prepared to cough up the extra.
Next up was Sinchon and a return visit to On the Border, an American Mexican chain and the reason we headed to Sinchon in the first place. We feasted on burritos, quesadillas, chimichangas, sour cream, guacamole and fruit margaritas. YUM! We enjoyed Sinchon a lot more the second time around. Turns out the area has a great collection of restaurants, shops, bars and love motels. If you’re looking for something a bit more chilled than the craziness that is Hongdae (one stop over) Sinchon is that place.
Double Margarita time
Sunday morning Neil and I enjoyed a yum breakfast – at the Hello Kitty Cafe!! Not as pink and cutesy as I was expecting, but fun all the same. Hello Kitty is pretty popular here, even though it was born in Japan…We enjoyed a nice hot drink, a hot dog and some waffles and I managed to add another picture to my ‘photos with giant things’ album.
Hello Kitty Breakfast
My giant Hello Kitty friend
We’d decided earlier in the week that we should see a few more of the touristy parts of Seoul so we made a visit to Gyeongbuk Palace and later Insadong.
Gyeongbuk Palace, Seoul
Gyeongbuk Palace, Seoul
On the edge of the palace grounds sits Hyangwon-jeong, one of the most painted and photographed places in Korea and it’s easy to see why. At this time of year the colours are really gorgeous. The pavilion is three stories high and hexagonal in shape; with access limited to the bridge across the lotus pond. This is one of the prettiest places we’ve seen in Korea and definitely worth a visit. If you time your visit correctly you’ll also see the changing of the guard (unfortunately we didn’t).
Hyangwon-jeong, Gyeongbuk Palace, Seoul
Ignoring the our sore feet we set off for Insadong - one of the more traditional parts of South Korea. At one time the area was the largest market for antiques and artwork in Korea. Many of the traditional buildings originally belonged to merchants and bureaucrats. Most of these are now restaurants and shops selling all kinds of Korean souvenirs; pottery, crafts and art. Aside from the shopping Insadong is also home to Jogyesa temple, Tongmungwan, the oldest bookstore in Seoul, and Kyung-in Art Gallery, the oldest tea house.
We spent a couple of hours shopping for gifts (you’ll have to wait until February people) and enjoying the relaxing atmosphere. By the time we left, the streets were packed with people eating, drinking and browsing the stores; Sunday afternoon in Insadong is super popular!
The bus ride back to Cheongju was a welcome relief for our weary feet! We spent some of it watching the wet Formula One on the bus TV but the majority was spent sleeping. Zzzzzzz.
Gyeongbuk Palace – Gwanghwamun Station, exit 2.
Healing Hands – Itaewon exit 2.
Cross the street to Hamilton Hotel. Walk two blocks, past the body shop until you get to Between. Healing Hands is on the third floor, across the street from the GS gas station.
Hello Kitty Cafe – Sinchon exit 3.
Walk straight for a block and turn right at the Nature Republic. Walk straight another two blocks until you get to Naughty Cat (an accessories store) and turn right. The Hello Kitty Cafe is on your right.
Insadong - Anguk exit 6.
Walk straight until you get to a shopping street on your left. Welcome to Insadong.
Sinchon - On the Border – Sinchon exit 4.
Walk straight along the main street. About 100 meters on the left.