I almost talked us out of visiting Seoul Forest because I thought it might’ve been too far – so glad Tie changed my mind. It was definitely the highlight of our trip. Seoul was full of beautiful fall foliage when we visited, and Seoul Forest was the epitome of it. Just check out the photos.
When we first visited Gyeongbokgung Palace, we realized that it’s closed on Tuesdays. So please don’t make the same mistake! I should’ve checked beforehand. Newbie mistake ^^;; We took either the 402 or 405 bus there. It’s very accessible and close to Insadong and Bukchon Village as well. Admission price is only ₩3,000 for adults. The palace opens at 9am, but closing time varies according to when you visit. Double check the web site to make sure.
While Tie is working on a post about our First Class Korean Air flight experience, let’s start blogging about our latest trip to Korea before I forget everything. The first leg of our Asia trip was in Seoul. When people think of Seoul, they probably imagine tall buildings and a very metropolitan area. True, but if you want to take a break from the city, Bokchon Village is within walking distance from Gyeongbokgung Palace. There you can find some beautiful hanok (traditional Korean houses). Just remember to keep your voices down, as this is also a residential area. There are signs reminding you of that everywhere. The paths are pretty well-marked – just be on the lookout for maps. There’s an observatory as well as several small shops. At the very end there is also some street food and places you can pick up souvenirs.
In this day and age, it’s important for us to stay connected when we are outside of the country. You need a way for your loved ones to contact you and access Google Maps to look up directions every once in a while. It’s also very convenient if you get ever get lost, want to look for a place, or just want to do some research while you are out and about. While planning for our trip to Japan earlier this year, I had to figure out how to have internet access while we were going from place to place. There are a few options for staying connected:
When we first arrived in Shinjuku, it was really late at night. Originally we were planning on having a late dinner at Omoide Yokocho (aka “Piss Alley”), which is known for their yakitori (grilled chicken skewers). But all the stores were closing down so we opted for Coco Curry instead. Japanese curry isn’t like the yellow curry you might be thinking of. I feel it tastes more like mildly spicy beef sauce. And it tastes great with a meat patty, eggs, and rice. Coco Curry is a chain restaurant in Japan, so I’m not too sure how the quality is compared to regular restaurants. We’ll be back for more curry this time so I’ll let you know then! Japanese curry is actually something that’s less common here in New York, but you can definitely find it in the East Village.
The delicious dry fish broth ramen we had at Ramen Nagi.
Usually when we’re finding a place to eat in New York, we would use Yelp for recommendations. But since it’s not very popular in Japan, we had to kind of wing it and do some research online beforehand. We’re lucky that there’s good Japanese food in our city, but there’s still definitely a distinction between ramen here and ramen there. In NYC, we usually just order a specific ramen from the menu. In Tokyo, at least from what we’ve experienced, many places specialize in one type of ramen. And you get to select the firmness of the noodles, the amount of oil, and how strong you want the broth flavor to be. Best part is, oftentimes you can order from a vending machine first. There’s no tipping in Japan, so basically you’re paying for your meal in the beginning. Once you’re done eating, you can just get up and leave. Saves so much time!
When in Japan, you gotta check out an onsen (hot spring). We bought 2-day Hakone Freepasses and took a Romance Car to Hakone, which is close by to Tokyo. Romance, in this sense, means “adventure.” It’s an additional surcharge on top of the cost of the pass, but it’s an express train and has spacious seats, food + drinks on board, and large windows. We got a bunch of nice views of the areas outside the city. Remember to reserve your seats early so you can sit in the front or rear observation decks of the train.
After deciding which countries to visit, it’s time to find and book the flights. The countries we are visiting this time around are South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, and Macau. Since I’m the one in charge of picking airlines and flights, I got right on it and started looking for flights to those countries. I decided that the flight path for us was going to be JFK (New York) -> ICN (Seoul) -> NRT (Tokyo) -> HKG (Hong Kong) -> JFK (New York).
Whether or not you’ve ever watched a movie from Studio Ghibli, I still highly recommend visiting the Ghibli Museum. A bit far from Tokyo, but easily accessible by train. Here you get to see Hayao Miyazaki’s vision come to life and relive your favorite Ghibli films. Tickets to the museum are only 1000¥, but you have to order them online or by phone if you don’t live in Japan. Or you can do what we did – ask a friend in Japan to purchase them for us from Lawson (convenience store chain). You’ll get a designated date and time on your ticket to avoid overcrowding.
One of our most memorable dinners was at Kani Douraku. There are a bunch of locations in Japan, with the honten (main store) being in Dotombori, Osaka, but we went to the one in Shinjuku. Actually, it felt like there was one Kani Douraku for every few storefronts at Dotombori. The restaurant always has a giant 3D crab in the signage. Here, you remove your shoes before entering the dining area. I recommend getting a reservation before coming, as I hear there’s usually a wait. Lots of Chinese people seem to love eating here.