I decided to meet with my two new friends whom I met on the one day trip to Petite France and Garden of Morning Calm. We met on a Saturday, in Insadong (인사동) a little past 11:00 a.m. since we wanted to beat the afternoon lunch crowd.
In my opinion, midday is the perfect time to go to Insadong because it’s a popular tourist area. There are so many shops to browse and buy one of a kind souvenirs that you definitely want to spend a couple of hours looking around. There are street vendors selling everything from sikhye (Korean rice beverage) to socks.
I will talk more about that in a moment, first, we decided to go to Gyejeol Bapsang, (계절밥상) an all you can eat Korean buffet. Before we went inside the restaurant on the upper level there were two clowns walking on stilts, making twisty animal balloons. In the background, upbeat music played as a small crowd of children gathered waiting for a balloon.
I’m only sorry that I didn’t take any pictures of the food inside the restaurant, hunger took over and instead of capturing the moment I only thought about how I wished I didn’t eat breakfast. However, I wanted to share my first experience visiting a buffet in South Korea.
The restaurant is located on the lower level of the Insadong Maru building. Because we were so early the restaurant was not busy and we were able to pay the cashier and go inside without waiting in line.
Once inside the restaurant, we walked past beautiful glass displays of traditional Korean earthenware (옹기 or onggi) crocks. The restaurant uses the earthenware to store different sauces for the various banchan dishes.
The restaurant is rather large and has a relaxed vibe with enough space between the tables where you don’t feel as if you are listening to your neighbor’s conversation. The food selection is vast and plentiful. There is a selection of meats (pork, chicken, beef (including bulgogi), and seafood, additionally there are enough vegetable dishes for vegans to sample and enjoy.
Once you’ve sampled a selection of meats, salads: I’m talking about potato salad not the green leafy vegetables, but those are there as well, rice (brown + white available), and soup (my friend recommend the corn as the best) you’re free to roam over to the dessert bar.
If you’ve ever wanted to sample Korean rice cakes or red bean ice cream without the commitment this is the place to try Korean desserts. Otherwise, there is the usual varieties of ice cream: chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry, along with fresh fruit, and cookies.
We left the restaurant and decided to go window street shopping. The shopping area was filled with young girls dressed in traditional Hanboks’ they rented from a nearby shop. The other shops we enjoyed were the calligraphy brush store, hand-painted fans, and the music store.
Overall, I recommend visiting Insadong shopping area and while you’re there stop by Gyejeol Bapsang buffet, it’s well worth the price of admission.
Wishing everyone good health, prosperity, and happiness for the Lunar New Year!
If you want to read about other popular tourist attractions I visited in Seoul, South Korea check out my blog post on Cheorwon DMZ One Day Bus Tour In South Korea.