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Korea | Overnight

Korea | Overnight

Erwan Heussaff

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Erwan checks out Seoul, Korea's influential culinary capital, and helps himself to plenty of BBQ, street food and banchan.

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- Korea seems to be the it country of Asia at the moment, identical K-Pop groups, eclectic artists and Korean actors seem to be taking over our screens. Food like kimchi and k barbecue have invaded our palettes thanks to the likes of David Chang and Roy Choi and finally, most of your tech at home hails from this small nation. The Koreans seem to be doing a lot right compared to the rest of the world. From being one of the most wired cultures where everything can be done through your smart phone to one of the most efficient work forces and for being renowned worldwide for their love of boos, Seoul is a must stop for anyone who wants to experience modern Asia in a city that is also so deeply rooted in traditional culture. The area is huge, yet always feels like an intimate experience. Walking around, you get a sense of the immense city that is Seoul but find yourself falling into districts and neighborhoods with their own established identities. Two tips, just stay away from the north and be weary of the soju. We're here in Seoul and I am absolutely so excited for this episode. One thing I didn't realize, the sun's out so it's kind of hot right now but I forgot to bring a coat and it's like eight degrees, we've been shooting Overnight, I guess so many times in different hot countries, I forgot what a cold country'd be like so tonight I'm really gonna suffer. So we're at the airport. The fastest way to actually go into the city, you have two ways, if you're more than three to four people, just grab a taxi, it's much faster. If you want something a bit cheaper, just go take the big train that brings you there within 40 to 45 minutes. We're staying at the Two Two House which is a really cool hipster haven kind of boutique hostel. We booked it through Airbnb. So it's a really cool place to stay. It's in the center of it all, nice in Hongdae. So it's a nice kind of relaxing location. Seoul's a very spread out place so there's lots of different places you can actually stay at. So it's very central to really focus and select the ones that you really want to be around all the central action. When I come to Seoul, I personally like staying in the areas of Hongdae and Itaewon, more laid back, kind of a hipster vibe, very kind of relaxed, lots of different places to see, not as crowded but still very interesting and still essential to the way people in Seoul live their lives. And it's also really coOl because here's always something at every corner that you can kind of discover as you go along. Seoul is a huge city with lots of different areas. This makes it difficult to establish a sense of direction. They actually are not designated by the government, just more so informally to distinguish the different areas. If you're like me, then you'll prefer Hongdae and Itaewon, places with lots of young people, bars, restaurants and a hip vibe. Seongsu is an up and coming district with lots of art spaces and cafes. Sinchon, Seodaemun, Mapo and Ewha all border the area of Hongdae and are not as central. Gangnam is probably the only place worth staying south of the river. However, it's crowded and resembles just a big modern downtown city. The Jogno and Gyeongbok areas are great for those who just want to see the traditional areas of Seoul. For our first meal, we had to get the very popular Korean barbecue and I'm so excited right now 'cause it's just served with all these different kind of flavors and little condiments that are around, some kimchi, some chili, there's some crazy Korean music happening behind me. We're the only ones in the restaurant, which is pretty cool. It's really cold out so it's fantastic to just be here and have a hot bowl of soup that comes complimentary with all these dishes and just the meat that you can just constantly grill for yourself. So we have some nice fat pork belly and then some kind of beef shoulder cut I think. I'm so excited to eat all this. So here we have a lettuce wrap, some perilla leaves, some nice beef. It's really fresh. Served with kind of like condiments. We've got some scallions over here, some chili, some kimchi, some onions. So you can kind of just put whatever you want in it and the fresh perilla leaf really just comes, everything comes together. She put one tiny little piece of meat in mine so I'm just gonna go ahead and steal another piece and add it to it, and then more chili 'cause I think she thinks we're tourists so she thinks we can't take the heat so I'm gonna add some of that on there and that's just gorgeous food. It's so simple and it's actually pretty healthy, quite surprised. So she put some eggs and she mixed it with more kimchi and more of the scallions so it's kind of like an omelette that's surrounding our grill pan. So all that fat has to seep somewhere and it's seeping into that egg omelette. I'm on a high protein diet so I'm not complaining. That looks really ridiculous. I'm just waiting for that pork belly to cook down before I can really just go right into it. Honestly, it's not Seoul, it's not Korea without alcohol. People here love to drink so we're doing it right starting at three p.m. and we'll be going all night. So we have our second dish here. Again, with the scallions. And I was just saying I love the flavors here. It's just spice, freshness from the spice and the kick of the kimchi, and the fermented soy beans that they put everything together. It's just like a perfect combination. And what I love is that the old lady, very motherly, it's like an instinct, comes to you and kind of puts it on a spoon for you so that you know exactly how to eat it so you don't mess around with it. I kind of feel like I'm in school again but, that's flavor, man, pure flavor. They don't mess around. Food is utterly a religion in Seoul. There are so many great places worth checking out. My suggestion to you is to come equipped with a must try list. Korean food is so diverse that you need to choose what dishes you want to try because some, depending on the region they're from, will only be available in certain restaurants. Asides from this barbecue street, you also have Janchun Dong, pig feet alley, or Yongdu dong, where you can have octopus. Other great traditional eats can be found at Tamra Sikdang, Handongkwan, Chawoongga, Tsokochon, Yoogane, Song Jook Heon, Yong Su San, Gyeongbokgung. It's great to see that the city is surrounded by majestic mountains and it gives this eerie feeling like this modern oasis just popped in the middle of such a gorgeous natural landscape. And true to this, Seoul has been able to retain a historic and traditional value with its crowded streets. To see most of the palaces and historical buildings, head onto the Gyeongbokgung Palace, and the Gwanghwamun Gate. From there you can walk to the Blue House, Jongmyo Shrine and the Bukchon Hanok Village. Seoul is chocked full of good street food so always keep your eyes open for different treats. Some of our favorites were the Odeng Fish Cakes, Drug Gimbap Long Sushi light fare, and Hotteok, a pancake with lots of sweets in it. So we're trying out the famous spicy rice cakes and we saw that they have blood sausage, quite popular here. Uh, yeah. Thank you. That's exactly what it states. It's basically like a rice dumpling with no filling. And it's just this really intense kind of red chili coating to it. But I can see why people would eat this in the winter. It's like super heavy. And the blood sausage, oh, shit he like hermetically packed it and everything. So you can see that these are really dark and stringy. You can kind of see the rice and the intestines still wrapped around it. Mmhmm, mmhmm, okay, the rice noodles, so we'll do this as well. So I got a lot of just jelly and mush in my mouth right now. I think I still want that fried chicken and some soju and alcohol, lots of alcohol. In this country, you have dumplings as your street food and kind of your fast food. Who the fuck would complain about that, right? I know we're gonna be eating a lot of pork and kimchi but if you can put it in a dumpling, for me, it just makes even more sense. And that steam that just comes out is just so invigorating. It makes you so excited to take it in. Even when it's hot like this, your hands are moist. We got pure meat, pork dumplings, steamed. They're absolutely massive. They're about three inches long. I hope this redeems the spicy rice cakes. Don't hate me, didn't like it, not my favorite thing. I think this will be much better than that. Sweet jesus, these are humongous. Intense, kind of very fresh, with all that chive in there. This beats hamburger any day in my book. This is perfect with a beer. It's fairly easy to get around Seoul using either their train system or some taxis. Just be weary of traffic. It can get pretty length at times. Once you've had your share of food and traditional Korean landmarks, Seoul is full of modern attractions that can keep you busy all day. Check out the area around the Common Ground for a hip feel of the city, hang around the streets of Yeonnam Dong for a really cool hipster vibe or Dongdae Mun Design Plaza. Also, do check out the amazing Hyundai Music Library or get inspired at the Leeum Museum or the National Museum of Modern Art. After all that walking, you could also opt for Korean Bath House experience. It's like something you've never tried before. So before kyochon, before bonchon, chicken seems to be, especially fried chicken, seems to be a huge thing here, beer. If there's a bear holding a chick that's holding a pint of beer, pretty much a good indication that we're in for something interesting. So we're listening to hipster music and I love it in Seoul, each time we're in a place they actually make you open your own beer. Makes total sense to me. Now, each time you see me traveling alone, you might think that I'm drinking this for three but there's actually two people right here. So don't worry about me too much. Chicken's about to arrive, some potatoes. One thing was already sold out. That's how popular this place is so hopefully it's good. Cheers. Who's gonna get fucked up? Erwan's gonna get fucked up. Chicken and beer seems to be such a quirky addition to the dining scene locally but has really spread all the way around the city and the world. Other places you can go to to get your deep fried fill are Hanchu, Ddobagi, The Fry Pan, Oksang Dalbit, and Sai Chicken. If you want another funky take on a Korean classic, try James Cheese for their cheesy Korean barbecue. All the weirdos come out at night. No, not really but it does feel that way sometimes. All of a sudden, the streets are flooded with well dressed hipsters, good looking girls and boys, all looking for revelary and random tents are set up all over the place where after work employees can huddle in the warmth and just continuously take shots of soju. If you see one, enter and be prepared to stumble out of it. Koreans are very talkative in bars and will gladly show you some of their most fun drinking traditions. Be a yes man and say yes to everything and you'll have a great time. Most of the activity is centered around Hongddae and Itaewon. Some of our favorite bars were Robin's Square, Southside Parlor, Sangsu-ri, Magpie, Wolhyang, Bar Da, Full Moon, or Le Chamber. If you're past the wee hours and want to have a bigger night, try out Pistil, Cake Shop, Club Move, Brown, Glamor or T Lound. And if you're still hungry after all that liquid courage, head over to the 24 hours shop Neunjip to absorb all that alcohol or wait for Ha Dong Kwan to open to grab breakfast. - I love that Seoul is just open 24 hours and that you can go anywhere in the city and just have an adventure. Go into a restaurant at two a.m. in the morning, drink soju and some gipsi and then around five a.m. go to a park and just run. It's a beautiful city, that's why I love Seoul. - Seoul is amazing. I have my friends here. I love the food, I love the night life. Everything you can ask for is actually here. But to top it off, I have my best friends here so I keep on coming back. - After a long night of drinking, wake up early and have some coffee at Coffee Libre, Yeonnam Dong, Blute, Anthracite or Take Out Drawing. And once you've had your fill, hit the markets. You could go to Gwangjang Market for great and varied selection of Korean street foods and small stall eats. Everything from pancakes to barbecue to fresh kimchi is available here and it serves as a one time big time food fest. Or you could head out to the fantastic Noryagjin Fish Market like we did. Just go to a vendor, choose your seafood, head up upstairs and have it cooked multiple ways. Make sure to be courageous. We chose our fish, basically our shrimp and our octopus. So I have in front of me, I call him Mr. Squiggles. Sorry to all the vegans out there. It's dead, it's pretty much dead, this is just like the nerve endings kind of moving around. It's sticky, it's sticking to my chopsticks, this is gonna be interesting. So I'm gonna grab a little bit of it, we'll start with a small piece. Nettle chopsticks are always so tough to eat with. And that goes into, ah screw it, I'll just use my hands, some sesame oil. It's like making out with a fish. It's moving around, it's chewy. Sticking to the side of my hand, but it's actually pretty decent. Tastes like sashimi. The head I'm not so sure about. It's not the best looking thing I've seen in my life. This looks like a sperm sac. I feel like when I bite into this, sperm's gonna explode in my mouth. Oh my God. It's like throbbing. I've eaten some things in my life, oh, that soju's coming back from last night. I feel the soju rising. I can understand how people can choke from this. That was good, tasty. The tentacles for sure, the head, I don't like head. I need some kimchi, man. This shrimp's so fresh. I asked for soup. I don't know where that is but I like the way it's cooked, it's almost toasted. That with this spunky soy bean kind of chili mix, rice. Mmm, that hit the spot, man. I'm good, I'm good. I came back from Seoul telling everyone I met how much I loved this city. It is such an unexpected place that just keeps growing on you the more you visit it. Probably not as popular for tourists compared to Tokyo over in Japan but the same overwhelming cultural experience hits you when you land on the peninsula. It has so much character and personality that it is difficult to compare it to any other place on Earth. Go out, get lost, talk to friendly locals who are always up to lending a helping hand, be a witness to what a truly grand and organized Asian mega city looks like and continuously take part in the continuous evolution of an already greatly embedded culture. Korea marches at the beat of its own drum and it tries to make you dance with it. Make sure to follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat for updates and behind the scenes pictures and videos. Here's a quick travel hack to make your travel life easier. You know that person, when you're going through security that's always fumbling for things, taking off the belt and the shoes and the jacket and everything, I tell people to always travel hand ready which means get a backpack or get a bag where you can really reach anything with your hands. That way you don't need to keep things in your pockets. Always travel with pants that don't necessarily need a belt and travel with shoes that you can just slip in and out of.

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