Seoul’s Itaewan is the absolute best place to satisfy a traveler’s longing for culinary diversity.
When I first heard of Itaewan it was just a little place in Seoul where all the foreigners went to pretend they weren’t in Korea. It was sorta a seedy place that the government was slowly gentrifying by taking down the traditional hanok houses in the area and paving over crooked, old-fashioned cobblestone alleyways and back roads. Crime is rumored to be a problem in Itaewan, but I’ve never had any problems.
Last weekend I hit the jackpot of Itaewan. Just one street parallel to Itaewan’s main drag, right behind the iconic Hamilton Hotel, is a traveler’s food hiatus. The street is completely lined with restaurants, all boasting a different kind of world cuisine.
Of course the first thing I did was go for the Thai food at Buddha’s Belly. Tom yum plus some fried rice served in the shape of a silly face. Then it was Tomatillo’s, where you can score some pretty decent tacos and some very decent margaritas. We scored three for the price of two thanks to some promo going on. There was French food, TexMex galore, Italian, western comfort foods, Egyptian, Moroccan, Brazilian, and Turkish. There was a beautiful pastry shop with miniature pies in the window, including a perfectly whipped-up lemon meringue, banana cream, and strawberry rhubarb. So, go have a food fest. We certainly did.
Also, there’s a love motel in Sinchon called Daisy and it is located at the end of the long string of love motels right outside the Sinchon subway exit, behind the small police station. Daisy is easily the cheapest of the love motels in that area, at around 50,000 KRW a night on weekends and holidays. The elevator is laughably small. Chris and I had to back up into it with our backpacks on. There are also no frills or fancies in this one. You get the basics: big fat TV on the wall, toothpaste, robes, water bottles, and juice in the fridge. But don’t expect the sheets to be super clean.
For a more luxurious and centrally located stay, we splurged on the Motel D’oro our second night. It’s right in the heart of Itaewan, just behind the Meat Packing building and Los Amigos restaurant. It’ll run about 80,000 KRW a night on weekends, which is relatively cheap for Itaewan. You’ll get the fancy little bag of toiletries and industrial looking condoms, along with some beverages (Coke in tiny cans) and a pretty massive bed with a great sound system that connects to your iPhone.
Side note: Investing in a plastic sheet is actually the best thing you can do if you plan on taking advantage of Korea’s love motel bargains. As awesome and quirky and generally affordable as they are, they’re not usually known for their cleanliness. Even in some of the nicer motels, I’ve found stains and pubic hair in the sheets. Recommendation: bring your plastic sheet and maybe a blanket and set up your own bed on top of the bed provided.