It has been quite some time for me to fly a rotation to Seoul in South Korea. If I think about it, it probably rounds up to over a year alltogether. That is pretty long, I would say, no? But if I take a closer look, this lack of presence of mine does not date to desinterest or even dislike, no, I am just too busy doing my beloved westbound flights and private travels that my mind was so constantly occupied with them, that I just have completely forgot about going again sometime.
So what a coincidence, that my employer had rolled out a new “Restaurant style” service concept in Business Class just a few months ago which has finally debuted at my homebase Munich on all Asian flights at the end of October 2015.Being already trained on the new standards, I can be found on Eastern bound flights more regularly until March 2016. That is when the entire network will feature the new service concept.
But I am not here to tell you more about what´s happening onboard, I would like to tell you about my stay in Seoul. A Year after. Two nights. During Wintertime.
Arrival days are mostly ruined days, especially when you worked your way through the night over from Europe. Even though we actually landed an hour ahead of schedule, I did not make it to bed before 1pm. The transfer from Incheon Airport into the city is quite long and a jetlagged body and mind is often way too full of beans to go to sleep straight away. At least I am. So I did a little bit of this and a little bit of that and then finally switched off the lights for 3 1/2 hours of well-deserved rest in the heavenly bed of my room.
As I had brought some photography work with me from home, I spend a little time on editing pictures before I decided around 6pm that it was the right time for a hearty Bibimbap meal at this place around the corner from the hotel.
That locus (I don´t even know the name of it) is everything but fancy, but the two elderly ladies running the restaurant (or rather bistro) are always happy to see any of the flight crews on stay.
And it´s a perfect match for the first night. Cheap, tasty and a short way back to the room! It could not be better. Just a quick stop at the underground mini market right besides to fuel up stocks on drinking water and a few moments later my head falls once again onto the soft pillow to start the next day ready for action.
And it´s a groggy day! Grey, rainy, lacking colour. If you have a hard time motivating yourself to do things on days like this (which sometimes occurs to me as well), make yourself a list of things that you would like to see before you arrive. That gives your stay structure and minimizes the risk of falling into jetlag despondency while traveling.
And try to start your day with a little fitness. Since I got up at 6 am, there is nothing better to kill time with and get activated than with my favourite tunes in the hotel´s gym. Just a little workout, not too much. Because it is going to be a long and exciting day!
My first stop today is the Miel restaurant in Seoul´s fashion and art district Cheongdam-dong (close to Apgujeong Rodeo subway station). This combined café and art gallery houses changing exhibitions and a very interesting interior design inspired by that of a beehive. Cheongdam-dong is particularly hip and trendy, so don´t expect there too many budget places for breakfast. But Miel´s urban location and architecture make it a cool place to hang out and enjoy a good coffee and some tasty dishes along (Note: Miel does NOT open before 11am!).
I opted for a light late breakfast consisting of the Fresh Berry Lassi, a large Café au Lait and the Softshell Crab Salad. While Lassi and coffee were both perfectly satisfactory, the Softshell Crab Salad was simply uneatable. I have had Softshell crab many, many times before and am very aware of the fact that this dish has a very distinctive taste and flavour. But the one today, even though it was perfectly deep fried and crisp, was just a tick too much for me. And I felt sorry, since it had nothing to do with quality issues. So in the end, this 44,000 won “brunch” left me hungrier than I had expected earlier.
Nevertheless, I can still highly recommend Miel for a visit. I heard, their desserts and sweet pancakes are to die for:).
After strolling around the backstreets of the nearby neighbourhood for a while (there are tons of cool cafés, bars, restaurants and goofy shops around) I am heading back to Gangnam to check out the Rooftop Kloud at the Mercure Ambassador Hotel. It is late afternoon and after that fatal experience at Bau Puppy House, I urgently need some mental liquid recovery. Too bad that this rooftop bar does not open before 6pm. A visit is highly recommended though! The stylish and very friendly hotspot offers seating in and outside in a chique yet comfortable atmosphere and serves deliciously prepared cocktails and longdrinks with fantastic views of the glittering skyline of Seoul at night. The Negroni was well done and the highly motivated bartenders also suprise with individual creations made to your personal preferences, if you decide to leave them free hand.
Hotel Mercure Seoul Ambassador Gangnam Sodowe
In order to kill the waiting time, I stop for a delicious Latte and an awfully soft and exquisite White Chocolate Macadamia Cookie at Bakersfield Bakery a few blocks away from the hotel. Bakery chef Moon Heung-Nam, as I learned later on, ran the bakery shop at the Westin Chosun Hotel for over 18 years. Bakersfield offers a wide range of great breads, paninis as well as amazing desserts and mouthwatering cookies and scones. Moon uses mainly organic flours from France and Canada and the shop has also vegan bakeries on offer.
Yeoksam-dong 817-18, Gangnam-gu
Seoul, South Korea
And as if my stomach has not yet been taken care of enough today, while I head back to finally spoil myself with the longawaited urban refreshment at Rooftop Kloud I take note of this extremely well designed Japanese Restaurant called Senmin located right in between Bakersfield and the Mercure hotel.
The interiors are sleek, elegant yet typically understated. The restaurant offers seating at light wooden tables or around the Teppanyaki grill, where you can watch your dishes being prepared freshly and right in front of you by the cook. As I am not that hungry and am definitely not looking to have sushi in Seoul, I just opt for some little appetizers.
The readymade displayed bacon-wrapped scewers are the perfect choice for me. They come with different ingredients such as chicken, octopus, garlic, asparagus, beef, porcini mushrooms or shrimps (and others) and form the ideal choice for a light but satisfying nibble. Just the drinks menue appears at first a very limited. Senmin is a traditional Sake restaurant. Therefor, you will have to compromise your wish for wine or beer to softdrinks or the typical Japanese spirit. The quality is great and comes at a very reasonable price (I payed for six scewers and a Sprite roughly 20 EUR). Even if the staff speaks rather poor English, the service is very friendly and caring.
The next morning it was time again to take flight back home.
I am always surprised that Seoul is quite a controversial destination for many of my fellow co-workers, some either love it or they hate it. Personally, it is one of my best kept secrets in terms of dining, shopping and experiencing the rich Korean culture and broadening the travel horizon.
Other than Tokyo, Singapore or Bangkok, Seoul will convince you with its very own, special charme.
I am looking forward to my next rotation there, that´s for sure. And maybe I was able to convince you to consider a visit yourself. Maybe even just as a stop-over while being on the road to Down Under? Safe travels, folks!