Getting there was not as straightforward as it seems, but we managed to track down the restaurant famous for its Samgyetang (ginseng chicken soup) with the aid of several policemen.
How to get to Tosokchon: From Gwanghwamun gate at Gyeongbokgung Palace, head right. Walk past a traffic light. At the second traffic light, turn right to Jihamun-ro (go on the left side of the road). You'll pass numerous cafes and cosmetic shops (Paris Baguette, Domino's etc) until you see the ubiquitous GS25 convenience shop, turn left into Jihamun-ro-5-gil and you'll spot Tosokchon's traditional exterior straightaway.
We were there before 12pm and while there was no line outside, the place was already packed. The patrons were either tourists or Koreans who were taking tourists around town. We were seated in the first of many Tatami rooms during the trip. If you are disinclined to kneel for long period of time, dining rooms with regular seatings were also available.
The auntie who served us immediately pushed to get 3 sets of the ginseng chicken. Having read reviews that the portion is huge, I asked for the menu. She grumbled to our table neighbors in Mandarin that we just wanted to check prices and they snickered.
Seeing that my dad had been speaking to her in Mandarin, they surely knew we understood what they were saying. Indonesians are kings of passive aggressiveness and having strangers talk about us right in front of us was a peculiar experience, one that was repeated throughout our trip. Just that morning, a different police officer cursed me under his breath when I dared to ask him for direction at the station. Then again, we encountered many helpful and lovely people during our stay, so it made for a somewhat polarising experience with the locals.
We ordered one regular ginseng chicken (15,000 won if memory serves) and one black ginseng chicken (22,000 won), which was supposedly more nutritious. This dish is great for cold rainy days or when you are sick. Both have the same delicious but somewhat bland taste (I think they are supposed to) and we added seasonings to little result. I prefer Chinese style ginseng chicken but the fact that the chicken was filled with sticky rice was nice. Admittedly, I am a fan of sticky rice with anything and as I learnt during my trip, so are Koreans and Japanese.
After lunch and some browsing around, I decided that the presidential residence, Cheongwadae (Blue House) would be deemed unexciting by my parents as you could only view it from the outside, so we went back to rest like the sixty year olds that we were (no offense to sixty year olds).
By sundown, which was 5-ish during Winter, we went in search of something a bit traditional - Korean barbecue - and I've read that you can't go wrong with Wangbijib in Myeongdong.
How to get to Wangbijib:
Take subway Line 4 to Myeongdong Station. Head to Exit 9. Go straight about 50m and turn right at the first corner. Continue for 70m and you will pass the shop above. Turn left and a few shops ahead, there is a shop front with a big red sign that says Beautiplex and a narrow stair on its right. Wangbijib is located on the second floor.
The staffs at Wangbijib spoke English, Mandarin, Japanese and I suspect, a couple other languages, so tourists wouldn't have a problem ordering. The place was always packed with both tourists and locals (they recommend calling ahead to reserve) but for once, we didn't mind it being touristy and quite pricey since the food was good. In fact, it was so good that we returned three more times (we were in Seoul only for 7 nights). The service was fast and efficient and unlike other barbecue joint, they do most of the cooking (may be a plus or minus).
They would recommend the most expensive set (Yangnyeom Wang Galbi / premium marinated beef ribs for 32,000 won) for good reason (they are amazing!) but their Sogalbi Jeongsik (around 8,500 ala carte & 20,000 won for the set) is also very tasty. If you'd like something cheaper, I highly recommend getting the Sogalbi sets and extra plates for sharing. You can also get one of their popular Saengsamgyeopsal / grilled pork loin (11,000 won). My mom is a fan of Korean style purple rice, and the one in Wangbijib was the first of many that we had during our trip.
Myeongdong offered our first glimpses into modern day Seoul. It's lively and filled with arrays of shops and street markets to as far as your eyes can see (not very 'cause it's just so bright).
Korean cosmetic shops (think The Face Shop, Etude, Missha) have at least 3 or 4 branches in Myeongdong and I could feel the Indonesians in me the urge to stock up to as many as my luggage would allow.
Up next: Seoul day 2
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Photos taken with Canon EOS 100D (18-55mm kit lens) & iPhone 4s, edited with VSCOcam