Anguk Seoul

17:05:00

Anguk, is another one of my favourite areas in Seoul. One where visitors can see sights including the Joseon Dynasty palaces, old-style Korean houses and traditional markets, and experience the history of Korea through their arts and crafts, as well as traditional food and tea. After our visit to Gyeongbokgung, we strolled along the high palace wall (and wondering how such strong and sturdy walls can be built by piling stones of different shapes and sizes lol) to head to Samcheong-dong.



Samcheong-dong

Sandwiched between Gyeongbokgung, the home of royalty during the Joseon Dynasty and Changdeokgung, the secondary palace, and also with Cheongwadae (President's Office) and Insa-dong to the North and South respectively, Samcheong-dong is said to have the ideal location in terms of Feng Shui, and is named for its clean water, beautiful neighbouring mountains and kind-hearted residents. Besides the distinctive cafes, shops and galleries, Samcheong-dong is also famous for its Bukchon Hanok Village, a popular filming location for many movies and TV dramas where members of the royal family and noblemen used to live during the Joseon Dynasty.

From what I saw when I was there, the 900 over traditional Korean houses were extremely well-maintained, and the entire area radiates a kind of serenity that is very different from what you experience is the other districts of a vibrant and modern city like Seoul, which is probably why many art galleries, trendy shops and cafes are taking up residence in renovated hanoks.



Samcheong-dong is huge and with so many buildings and small alleys, it can be a maze for people with little sense of direction i.e. me. This road map from www.visitseoul.net came in really handy for me to go in, explore and eventually exit the area with ease.



Walking down Samcheong-dong and back to the main road, we crossed the road to where Anguk Station is conveniently located and ta-dah, we're off Samcheong-dong and in Insa-dong. And this calls for another useful road map for the easily lost or tourists with a mission ^.^



Insa-dong

Insa-dong stretches between Anguk-dong Rotary and Tapgol Park at Jongno 2-ga, and is veritably a traditional arts center, with countless of painters, craftsmen and art lovers gathering along the narrow alleys of shops selling a unique variety of goods such as hanbok (traditional Korean costume), hanji (traditional paper), calligraphy materials, traditional teas, paintings, pottery and folk crafts. The "historic" feel is further enhanced via the snack carts selling temple food and various snacks such as the Kkultarae (honey skein) and Tteok (rice cake), and the various art performances and festivals held regularly, especially on weekends when vehicles are not permitted on the streets of Insa-dong.


Todok Gongbang, where you make personalised name stamps

One of the main attractions of Insa-dong is the Ssamzie-gil 쌈지길, a 6-storey multi-cultural shopping mall consisting of about 80 shops selling handmade crafts and designer goods that "combine traditional Korean beauty with a modern sensibility". If you are in for some handicrafts to bring back as souvenirs, Ssamzie-gil also offers a range of Experience Workshops at Basement 1 from 10.30am to 8.30pm for the making of pottery, mother-of-pearl crafts, hanji, woodcraft, fragrant candles, soap and more. Participation cost ranges from KRW 7,000 to 30,000 and the time required for each workshop varies between 30 minutes to 3 hours to cater to visitors with different time schedules.



If you are looking for a nice place to rest your legs, right opposite Ssamzie-gil is the Insa-dong branch of the reputed O'sulloc Tea House, a themed cafe that presents the authentic taste of Korean traditional tea and the principles of balancing mind and body through the fresh tastes of its teas and soothing interior. Specialising in green tea (well, they have an entire tea garden in Jeju!), the cafe offers a wide variety of juices, smoothies, ice-cream and delightful desserts. For some reason, they were out of their popular green tea ice-cream when we were at their Jeju tea museum so I was super glad to see one of the outlets here!


I wish I can try a bit everything!


Fresh Citron Green Tea | KRW 8,500
Green Tea Ice Cream | KRW 8,000
Green Tea Roll Cake | KRW 5,000 (pc), KRW 18,000 (roll)

Everything on this tray is superb! The Fresh Citron Green Tea was exquisite and refreshing, the Green Tea Ice Cream rich and tasty (I never liked Green Tea ice cream before I had this), and the Green Tea Roll Cake was a little too creamy for me, but I love the authentic and delightful flavour and how soft the roll was. If I have to choose amongst the three, my favourite will probably be the fresh citron green tea. By the way, there is a 10% discount coupon available here, so remember to print it out if you are including O'Sulloc in your itinerary!


Anyone knows who is she? She is super gorgeous, came in a big group and once they settled down, the people sitting opposite started interviewing her.



We just kept walking straight all the way to Jonggak Station (Subway Line 1) and came across this Avenue of Youth where we bought lots of items from Bang Bang, Innisfree, Missha etc and the random roadside stalls, most of which selling those cute socks Korea is famous for. There is also an underground shopping area linked to the subway station. Fortunately, it was their holiday season so the heavily discounted price during their national holiday helped to minimise the damage to our pockets. Some of the restaurants here looked pretty good too!

Another nearby attraction we actually planned to visit on the same day but didn't have time to was the Nakwon Arcade (it is on the map above), the biggest musical instrument shopping center in the world which also appeared in numerous TV programmes including Running Man, We Got Married and Shut Up Flower Boy Band.


Yup, we just had to go on another day and forfeit something else.
Both of us does music! How can we miss out on such a treat?


What you see inside, rows and rows of guitars


Keyboards and pianos..


My dream piano - Steinway. Isn't it beautiful? ^.^

There are hundreds of music stores selling winds, strings, percussions, pianos, electronic instruments, amps, speakers, audio and all other kinds of equipments clustered together here at Nakwon Arcade. It was said that there is no instrument that cannot be bought or fixed in this place. To me, this means that the competition is strong, and you will definitely get the best deals right here. While shopping, you may get to enjoy spontaneous performances by professional musicians too! How cool is that?

Amongst the many performance I ran into while I was there, the best was the accordion. Someone was playing the accordion somewhere, and it was so moving that I went around the entire floor to look for the source! If you are interested in music as well, Nakwon Arcade is located at Exit #5 of Jongno 3(sam)-ga Station (Subway Line 1, 3 and 5), and is open from 10.30am to 7.30pm everyday except on Sundays and public holidays.

Find out more about my Korea itinerary here,
Yvette

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