18 hours of transit with a cold, feeling like your head is going to explode, on an Asian airline with teeny Asian sized seats, is not the best start to any trip…Food was awesome but movie selection fairly disappointing but all in all Air Asiana is not too bad.
Upon arriving in Seoul feeling like death warmed up, we negotiated our way to the airport limousine bus and into Seoul city. First impressions are of a huge and shiny city. We are dropped to our destination point which is the stop by the Ibis Hotel, where our lovely travel agent has advised that is a mere 2 minute walk to our Hotel, the Metro Hotel. Not a problem, except we are exhausted, H-J is sick and fading hugely at this point, its nightime so the streets are packed and…we are carrying 60+ kgs of luggage due to the fact that we are moving countries.
We successfully struggle and navigate our way to the Metro Hotel and plonk down our luggage with a sigh of relief as we now won’t have to move our bags for another 3 days. Only when we check in, we are told our booking doesn’t exist. Right. Too late of course at this point to ring New Zealand so we ask if there is a room available anyway so we can at least get some sleep and sort it out in the morning. Nope, the hotel is booked out. The receptionist does mention that they have a sister hotel so calls to arrange a room there for one night until we can sort out what the hell is going on. We ask if we can get a taxi and are told that it is a pedestrian only area so are left with the only option being to pick up all our luggage again and negotiate the 5 minute walk through the increasingly busy streets. She does however offer the services of the hotel porter with a trolley. The poor guy then pushes our stuff through people and over uneven footpaths while we embarrassedly walk behind cursing our travel agents existence.
So we stay the first night at the Royal Seoul Hotel, which is a very nice 4 star hotel. We are certainly grateful for the rest and shower by this point and enjoy a pretty awesome buffet breakfast in the morning. The credit card sucks it up for now and the first of many snotty emails to our travel agent is sent. We postpone the tour planned for the following day until the day after so we can get the accommodation situation sorted first. Sleep soundly. Yay, we’re in Korea.
We wake up feeling more positive and rested though I’m still snotty as hell. We pack up our gears, have some breakfast at the Viking Smorgasbord (?!) and proceed to lug our gear back to the Metro Hotel. We successfully check in this time and have a lovely double room, though we are told that due it being so busy (and us not having a booking) we will have to move rooms again the next day. Goody.
We ditch our stuff and proceed to head outside to have our first look around Seoul. Its 10 in the morning so very quiet in the streets. We meander around checking out the copious displays of plastic food in the windows, the gigantic video billboards and the plethora of signs in characters we are yet to understand. So far, so good. This place looks awesome.
As the day continued though the city really came alive and the streets we were walking down start resembling packed nightclubs and walking became like trying to get to the front of a really packed gig. Heaps of food spots, markets, cute (and i mean put them in a box and send them back to NZ and keep as pets kinda cute) Asian kids, skux (and cheap) clothes, moving electronic billboards and at night the dance music starts pumping out of heaps of shops and the neon lights take over. They also have stalls selling half foot high ice creams so naturally Dan had to try one.
Anyway, round lunchtime we decide to try and find something interesting to eat. We wander looking at different places and find a doorway to a restaurant that has no English signage, loads of Koreans sitting on the floor and delicious looking food so we head inside. The man at the door repeatedly communicates to us that he speaks no English and we wildly gesture our intention to point at stuff as a way of picking what to eat. He shows us a picture of a bunch of dishes so we nod, take off our shoes and sit down to await…well, we don’t know what we’re awaiting but judging by the food on other people’s tables it will be great. A large tray arrives laden with twenty different side dishes which are arranged on our table. Then a steaming pot of yellow, egg-like stuff, a plate with a whole fish, rice, soup…it keeps coming until the table is covered with more dishes than it can almost handle. We tuck in to what is the most delicious food and make a mess transferring bits and pieces into our rice bowls. The table of Japanese women beside us seem to find us quite entertaining but this works in our favour as they have a humungous bowl of a delicious looking chicken dish which they start sharing with us. By the end of the meal we are full, stoked with ourselves for being so daring and content in the knowledge that even if people find us hilarious that they will interact with us anyway. We get up to pay the bill and the second amazing revelation of the day is that eating like this is CHEAP. 21,000 won (about $22) for the lot!
A Skytower-esque structure looms over the skyline near where we are so we decide to head towards that and see what’s up. We climb a short hill then discover a cable car ferrying people upwards. The queue snakes around the car park and further up the hill but in true Korean efficiency actually doesn’t take that long for us to get to the end. The cable car is packed with more people than we would ever dream of in New Zealand but we get a pretty good view and are at the top of the hill in no time. As the car reaches the top platform there is a large snapping sound and the car we are in starts rocking wildly back and forth while the attendant who was going to open the door from the other side just stands there opened mouthed and gaping, his head going side to side like he’s watching a tennis match. The young Japanese girls in front of us scream and start crying. After a minute or two of this (seems like longer, funnily enough) the man finally opens the door and there is a crush as people all try to fit out the door at once.
Unperturbed (okay, a little bit perturbed) we arrive into an open area with awesome views of Seoul, a teddy bear museum, various restaurants and a ticket office for the tower that we are now standing directly at the bottom of. We head to line up for tickets but for some reason it dawns on us at this point to look at our itinerary for the tour tomorrow where we see that we are to visit this exact location. Sigh. We head back down the hill again stoked with ourselves for randomly finding stuff but also giggling that we almost paid to do something that we had already pre-paid to do tomorrow.
Famished from all our adventuring we decide we feel like a salad, rather than sitting down to an intense Korean feed. Oh and Dan had decided that another cheeky half foot ice cream before dinner wouldn’t hurt. After he devoured it with glee, we stumble across a restaurant called the Matching Mole that promises ‘diet salads’…and as soon as we saw the huge, laminated, over-ly pictured menu we should have run. But prepared to give everything a chance, we excitedly order the first thing that leaps out at us, excusing the spelling mistake.
I would now, accordingly, like to share with you the recipe for “Crap Orang Salad” – spelling English can be a problem hence hiring muppets like us to teach the nation. We decided to try the crap salad. There were many, way too many, ingredients in it which are a follows:
Deep fried crumbed crap (crab)
Boiled Eggs (aged)
Pineapple from a can
Macaroni salad with ham, corn, cream, carrots
And in H-J’s a cherry! Leading us to believe all the fruit was merely a can of fruit salad tipped over the lot.
Serve all together with a puddle of juice lurking at the bottom. Oh, and a rancid pot of lurid green wasabi mayo-like stuff on the side.
From an establishment claiming to be called the “matching mole” their menu is either ironic, or the chef really needs to be look at his dishes to reflect its name.