Kimchi, kimchi and yet more kimchi. Fermented vegetable “en masse” with an amazing amount of garlic, chilli and other spices, and in every shape, type and form you can imagine! When you arrive in Seoul, a mere 56 km from the border with North Korea, you would be forgiven for thinking you were on a different planet. They’ve got everything there, and nothing that doesn’t exist! It really was a different world, miles away from absolutely everything! If the words bibimbap, kimchi, gimbap, mandu and japchae mean nothing to you, then that should change as quickly as possible – ideally by visiting one of the city’s many local markets, whether large or small, and enjoying your fill of these freshly prepared delights! And no way should you be allergic to the smell of fish, because there’s no escaping from it! Dried and fresh, deep-fried and preserved; you’ll find it all. But do meals in Korea always come with so many side dishes? Yes, most definitely! A typical Korean meal will be accompanied by between 5 and 10 side dishes, all included in the price, and often you can order as many refills as you like. You could say they’re our bread, salt and pepper. And if you happen to like spitting on the ground without having worry about the consequences, or just generally like spitting, then you’ll love Seoul, because that’s considered normal behaviour there (well, that’s the impression I had anyway!). There is one hard-and-fast rule, first try the really good food, and then decide whether you want to keep the various flavours in your mouth (and I would say most definitely) or not :).
Not to be missed
- Bibimbap, kimchi, gimbap, japchae, pajeon & mandu (dumplings) – just try everything!
- Kwangjang Market for authentic Korean street food
- Namdaeum Market, a market with over 10,000 shops that has been in existence since 1414!
- Enjoy the sunset from Inwangsan Mountain, about an hour’s walk from Deoksogung Palace in the city
- The “in” quarters of Myenong-Dong and Itaewon – totally crazy, but absolutely not to be missed.
- The “Parc” restaurant in Itaewon
- Bukchon Hanoi Village! Be sure to visit the Bukchon Sonmandu there for the best dumplings and “Naengmyeon noodles”. They are served in a large bowl, and there’s a pair of scissors on the table so you can cut them into the length you want.
It’s important to know that…
- … Taxis are very cheap in Seoul, and the best way to get from A to B – but make sure the meter is on so you’re not ripped off.
- … Google Maps doesn’t work in South Korea, so just ask for the Korean app, and you’ll be fine.
- … Most young people speak very good English, whereas the older ones tend not to speak a word. So having a translator with the main words is a big help!
- … The South Koreans are very proud of their country and their culture, and this should always be respected.
- … In Korea, you start counting your age at 1, not 0. So if you think you’re 30 here, in Korea you’ll be 31. (But actually, it’s not done to ask a Korean directly how old they are.)
Text: Nadia Damaso
Bild: Nadia Damaso & Tanja Wüthrich