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Seoul 2023: Day 4

I swear my body is trying to kill me. Somehow I woke up at 1am this "morning", managed to fall back asleep at 2:30am, but was then wide awake by 6am. I was up so early that I decided to head down to Boulangerie in the basement of our hotel and grab some French style pastries to start our day. Admittedly that was a delicious decision but I am still upset that I was awake early enough for it to make sense.

In what I imagine will become a routine for us, we went back to Blue Bottle to get coffee to start our day. I even learned to write my name in Hangul (리드) so the baristas would know how to pronounce it. Every Asian, Spanish, or even German speaker I have come across always pronounces it something like "Ride" because the "ei" sound in English makes no god damn sense. 리드 is pronounced "Rideu" in Korean which I am much more likely to hear when it is called across a busy room.

Once we finished our coffees we headed back down to Cheonggyecheon and walked it all the way to one our few must-see attractions, the Dongdaemun Design Plaza. This isn't going to be everyone's cup of tea but as a designer Elsie was in absolute heaven. It is kinda hard to really even describe Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP). It's part cyberpunk building, part public space, part art exhibit, part design hall / incubator, part shopping centre. It is this amazing amalgamation of many different aspects of Seoul that we spent over two hours exploring. When we walked through what they call the "Design Lab" both Elsie and I immediately imagined ourselves pulling out our laptops and spending hours working in the space. It honestly made me want to go back into an office and collaborate with colleagues again.

After we completed our tour of DDP we walked back to the hotel but decided to take a different route along a street called "Eulji-ro". We were immediately overwhelmed by the fact that every single inch of this street (and especially the side streets) were consumed by small shops that dealt either in tooling, construction supplies, or appliances. It was easily the largest grouping of manufacturing retailers that I had ever seen in my entire life and to have it so close a major tourist site boggled my mind. When I got back to the hotel I found this article which talks about how that manufacturing district is actually being gentrified and those storefronts are being shutdown.

Back at the hotel we mapped out our evening and decided it was time to visit Insa-dong for some food. This is another one of those extremely touristy areas but because it is our very first time in Seoul we knew that we had to experience it at least once. Insa-dong is undoubtedly more interesting and varied than Myeongdong but it still caters to tourists quite a bit. On the 3rd floor of a random building we stumbled upon Manseok Gamagooi Annyeong, a pork-centric Korean barbecue restaurant. Even though we had just had Korean barbecue the night prior, the idea of pork belly had us salivating and we got a table.

First things first, we had the exact same awkward experience where our server cooked our meat for us without saying a word. I still have no idea if this is common practice or if they just don't trust foreigners to cook the meat properly. That being said, they did an absolutely amazing job and the pork belly and shoulder we ordered was incredibly juicy. Again we had the odd experience of being immediately presented the bill before we had finished eating. We would have loved to have ordered more pork belly but still not understanding what the customs were we just paid and left. To anyone visiting Insa-dong I highly recommend you consider 만석장가마구이.

With our bellies full we headed back to the hotel and with jet lag still kicking our ass we were in bed by 8pm.