Cheonggyecheon River Walk
Ddo-ong (Poop) Café
A smiling, giant plush poop covered in plastic flies greets us at the entrance of the Ddo-ong (Poop) café. Inside poop pillows, paper poop ornaments hanging from a tree, and toilet flower pots decorate the cozy room. We place our order at the counter and find a table.
Our cheesy rice arrives in a toilet shaped bowl while the cappuccino and green tea latte are served in mugs decorated with a small blue poo. After coffee, we walk around the corner to enjoy a fluffy, chocolate poop shaped pancake.
Leaving the cafe, we walk through small streets and alleys of Samcheong-dong with small shops selling soap flowers, tea, coffee, souvenirs, thimble size succulents, art, and local food. We order two honey filled hotteok, Korean pancakes, from a small shop.
After a great first impression of South Korea, we plan to visit one of the most popular palaces in Seoul, but first we stop at 3355 Hanbok Rental. Now only worn for festivals or celebrations, the hanbok was the traditional Korean dress only one hundred years ago. The women’s dress resembles a bell. The jacket is fitted to flatter the upper body, while the billowing, flowing skirt covers the legs and feet giving the the appearance of floating over the ground.
Having the options of royalty, commoner, or modern costumes we begin browsing the once traditional Korean dress of a ruler. Picking out a navy skirt to match Mitch’s outfit, I unknowingly choose the hanbok of a queen complete with a long plastic sword through a fake braided hair piece at the base of my neck. Since the skirts have no pockets, we are given a small matching purse to hold our belongings. After being dressed and styled, the royal king, queen, and princess are ready to visit Gyeongbokgung Palace.
Destroyed by fire in the fifteen hundreds, Gyeongbokgung Palace, also known as the North Palace was restored between the eighteen fifties and nineteen nineteen. The palace architecture feels as if we are in another century, but from inside Soeul’s skyscrapers can be seen towering above the roof of the Gwanghwamun Gate. Just entering the palace, we are asked for our first of many photos with other visitors dressed in modern hanboks.
Walking further into the palace grounds, mountains are visible behind the serene Gyeonghoeru Pavilion, originally used for entertaining foreign visitors. Stone animals along the bridge accessing the pavilion ward off evil spirits. The reflection of the pavilion glistening in the pond among the lush vegetation and mountains is beautiful.
Approaching 6:00pm, the palace guards begin herding visitors towards the gate and the time in our royal hanboks is nearing the end. As the sun begins to set, we walk back to return out costumes.
The Streets of Seoul
Climbing the stairs to one of the many restaurants, we occupy a window table with an open view of the streets below. Nearby, we see a table of rowdy businessmen wearing black pants and white button down dress shirts. Complying with Korean culture, we order a fruit tray with soju and makgeolli, a milky colored Korean Rice Wine. Using both hands, we sip the makgeolli from a small bowl as a colorful arrangement of fresh grapes, kiwi, apples, and melons arrive.
Continuing to explore, we have a seat inside Beer Works. We order an Alejandro Wheat Ale and a stout. Our beers arrive with two small bowls of gummy bears and pretzels. Finishing our drinks, we walk to another nearby restaurant for our first authentic Korean barbecue experience. We sit at a table with a small grill. Pushing a small button on the table, a waitress arrives to take our order. Returning with several small bowls of kimchi, pork, vegetables, rice, and cheese, we begin cooking our dinner.
On the way back to our hotel, we see the thirty-three story Samsung Jong-Ro Tower built in nineteen ninety-nine designed to appear the top level is floating. Tomorrow morning our train leaves for Busan at 10:00am.