Food Adventure in Korea – Our Second Week – Part Three

Gyeongbokgung - Heungnyemun: The Second Inner Gate)

Hi, everybunny! We’re back to our *Adventures in Korea* series! In our first post, we were on the island of Ganghwa, and a few days later we moved towards Seoul. The second and third posts showed us exploring Dongdaemun and Namdaemun. The next part of our vacation took us to the palace grounds of Gyeongbokgung (경복궁).

Before making our way to the Palace, we walked to Tongin Shijang (통인시장 – Tongin Market), an old-style marketplace that sells food and souvenirs. They have a fun and quirky system where consumers use old coins to make purchases. You trade in some Korean currency, and the marketplace gives you coins to use for their dosirak (도시락 – lunch box). You can also use their coins for other kinds of snack food, but we decided to not use their coin system and just buy our light lunch with regular currency.

**Again, I want to share that I didn’t take my DSLR along, thinking that I would be okay with taking photos with my smart phone. The photos turned out alright, for the most part; however, they’re not of the best quality, so I apologize if they’re out of focus or blurry. And major credit to my sister, for taking a bunch of these photos! Plus, I’ve intentionally blurred people’s faces.**

Tongin Shijang - Wide View
Here is the marketplace! Each store is set up like little kiosks or stands.

Tongin Shijang - Old Style Coins
These are the coins that we’re supposed to use when purchasing lunch box items.

Tongin Shijang - Dried Vegetable, Fruit, Bark
A display of a vendor’s goods: dried vegetables, fruit, and bark.

Tongin Shijang - Food Kiosk
One of the many food stands inside the marketplace: this one is selling grilled and fried food-on-a-stick.

Tongin Shijang Grandma's Fried Tteokbokki
This is Grandma’s Fried Rice Cakes (할머니 기름떡볶이). It’s Tteokbokki, but a fried version, so there isn’t much sauce.

Tongin Shijang - Closeup of Fried Tteokbokki
Here is a cup full of (blurry) spicy fried rice cakes! Hot, chewy, and delicious!

Tongin Shijang - Grilled Meat and Vegetables
We also picked up some grilled meat and vegetables, drowned in sauce!

Tongin Shijang - Five Brothers Hotdog Kiosk
Kitty and I ate hot dogs. They had a choice of five different kinds.

Tongin Shijang - Hotdogs with Sauce
My cousin is helping us put sauces and toppings on our hot dogs! We got the cheddar and mozzarella.

Tongin Shijang - Kimbap
We couldn’t leave without eating the small rolled Gimbap. It looks a little blue, but that’s due to a blue canopy that we were sitting under!

We went upstairs and sat down in a seating area, quickly ate our food, and made our way over to Gyeongbokgung. Being that it’s a full day of walking around and exploring, we felt we should be diligent. Now, I would have shared with all of you how the palace grounds were magical; the sky was blue, the sun was shining brightly, and the halls and living quarters were vividly painted in an array of bold colors. Sadly, it was a bit windy and the grounds were dry, so there was a lot of dust being picked up. All of us were sneezing after a half-hour, and decided to move away from the area. We didn’t get to see the two pavilions, which is a bit of a shame. It’s been a few months since we were there, and I’m still bummed that we didn’t see them. It’s definitely on the list of places to return when we go and visit again.

However, the one lucky thing about going on this particular day was that we didn’t have to pay to get in! As we were walking in through the main gates, my cousin said that our entrance was free, due to it being the last Thursday of the month. The other way to get in for free was to dress up in a traditional outfit. There are neighboring shops that allow you to rent an outfit for a small fee. Get all dressed up, and you can gain entry!

Gyeongbokgung Collage
Small photos, clockwise, from top left: Young folks dressed up and walking along the stretch of the outer walls; the back side of Gwanghwamun (광화문), the main gate into Gyeongbokgung; Geunjeongjeon (근정전), The Throne Hall; Geunjeongmun (근정문), The Third Inner Gate. Bottom photo: Gangnyeongjeon (강녕전), The King’s Quarters.

The entrance fee into the palace also gives you free access to the National Folk Museum of Korea (국립민속박물관) right next door! We didn’t visit the museum on this trip, but it’s on the list for when we go back.

A brisk walk out of the palace led us to Bukchon Hanok Maeul (북촌한옥마을), a grouping of neighborhoods with houses built in the old style. We really enjoyed walking along the alleyways with all the beautiful houses!

Bukchon - Sign
A sign leading up into the neighborhoods.

Bukchon - Grape Soft Serve
There was a stretch of shops at the base of the hill, and we decided to stop at a café to have some refreshing soft serve. This flavor is grape!

Bukchon - Hill
Here we go up the hill!

Bukchon - House
One of the many houses along the narrow streets.

Bukchon Collage
Clockwise, from top left: Old-style wall and roof; Balcony with hangari (항아리), earthenware jars; an alleyway; view of the N Seoul Tower (N서울타워), commonly known as Namsan Tower; a quiet walkway into a group of homes.

It’s an area where the aristocrats would live, while working in the palace. I think it’s amazing that the area is still intact, with all of the old homes still built in reference to nature and its natural surroundings.

Bukchon - Fruit Truck
On our way down the hill, we spotted a fruit truck. We collectively thought it was cute, so we snapped a photo.

After making our way out of the Village, we walked just south of the palace grounds to Kyobo Bookstore near Gwanghwamun (교보문고 광화문점). If you’ve been following along this entire series and also checking out some of my recipes, my most recent one is about making a rice cake, called Yaksik! This bookstore is where I picked up my cookbooks. I’ll post a photo of my books really soon.

This is where our day came to a close. We went home and tried to get plenty of rest before setting out to the Rice Cake Museum (떡박물관) and Insadong (인사동).

Tune in next time for more adventures in Seoul!

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