Out of Jongno 3-ga station, we emerged into what seemed to be an ordinary small street and made a turn into a smaller alley. We were initially unsure if we were on the right track, but moments later Star Hostel Insadong appeared further ahead, allaying our fears. We were greeted by Kevin, the host. It was nice of him to give our luggage a lift up the stairs. Kevin actually gave us a choice between two rooms – a luxury unheard of even in high-end hotels – and I chose the one with a more conventional layout. He checked for the necessities first, then left us to settle down.
The room was clean, and its size was a cross between a guesthouse and hotel room – not too spacious, not too claustrophobia-inducing, just about right. The separate shower area in the toilet was a godsend – we no longer had to drench the sink! The motion sensor at the entrance worked more intuitively than the one at Best Western. The air-conditioning accorded us better control than the one at Best Western. Our only complaint was that the bed was a little on the hard side – but we could definitely live with that!
In fact the doggies didn’t seem to mind as they settled in rather quickly and began watching cartoons.
It was great to know that Star Hostel occupied a standalone building (e.g. no dodgy lobbies). There was a kitchen on the third floor, from which we would have our breakfast the next morning.
When it was about evening time, we set out to explore Insadong one day ahead of schedule. Because we had time, why not?
Insadong was about a street away from Star Hostel, and basically consisted of streets with shops bursting with traditional crafts, art galleries and restaurants. Our main aim, though, was to walk through Ssamziegil, an open-air shopping complex selling hip and quirky goods.
It was very well possible to walk from the ground floor to the top without climbing any stairs, because the walkways were gently sloped and ran in circles. It was an interesting concept that we’ve never encountered before! I guess it gave us an uninterrupted shopping experience, although we didn’t purchase anything.
According to Clara, this cute little character looks like her (perhaps due to the teeth)!
Well, until we were almost near the rooftop. We chanced upon a neoprints shop that rented out hanbok, which we could don to take photos! Neoprints was on our list, and what could seriously get more Korean than that? So we stepped in and surrendered 12,000 won for two sheets of neoprints! By the time we were finished, the sky was already dark.
Since the stores were all shutting down, we had a quick look at the rooftop and made a note to try the poop bread the next morning, before continuing with touring the streets of Insadong. There was a magic show at the end of a road, and the magician was quite humourous. He kept apologising ‘sorry my English’, and then followed it up with ‘sorry my face’, to crowd laughter. For the finale act he actually managed to conjure an orange out of nowhere! It was sad that not many people gave tips, but a while later we spotted him down the street performing to another crowd.
Multi-storey Starbucks’ were ubiquitous in Seoul, despite being a rarity in Singapore.
We managed to get some traditional pouches for our family from a souvenir shop. There was so many things to choose from, but we had a limited budget haha. Shops along the streets were shutting down as well (they always close so early!), so we decided to head back to our hostel, and grab dinner from there.
The noodle alley was still an option, as it was still full of people eating and chattering, but we popped into a 7-Eleven instead and grabbed a carton of juice, as well as these two instant noodle cups. They turned out to be very tasty, so no regrets there! With that, we crossed off eating from a convenience store off our list!
Leaving Busan early turned out to be a good decision! We had a better idea of what Insadong was like, and thus were able to adjust our itinerary such that Insadong would be the first stop the next morning, before we moved on to the rest of the sights.