Today I arrived in Seoul - at around 5 in the afternoon. Fortunately Korea is only 3 hours behind New Zealand so there is no likelihood of jet lag. The flight was good with Korean Airlines keeping to their extremely high standards of service (with a smile all the way). For breakfast I had bibimbap (they described it as beef with rice and vegetables and I had to ask if they were talking about bibimbap - it is a shame they didn't just state that first). The bibimbap was delicious - though the little tube of gochujang (hot pepper paste) was a little small for my linking (I like my bibimbap to be super spicy). Also the sigeumchi namul (spinach side dish) was cooked but not seasoned - there was far too little garlic over all for my taste. Nevertheless it made me feel like I really was on my way to Korea. The bibimbap was served with miyeok guk (Seaweed soup) which was very tasty. For dinner we had three choices (two chicken and one beef) - I asked for the Korean food option and the hostess gave me one of the chicken dishes. I have no idea what it was called. It was rice with chicken in a very plain sauce with garlic. It was nice but definitely did not come up to the standard of the bibimbap. I wouldn't order it again.
We (my sister is traveling with me) caught a cab from the airport to the Koreana Hotel. The first thing we did was to seek out a place for dinner. We ended up in a very clean and bright restaurant down an alley way behind the hotel - I was drawn in by the very delicious looking photos of bibim naengmyeon. We ended up ordering the galbi jjim, however, because the restaurant owner recommended it. It was my first time trying it as I hadn't had a chance to cook Maangchi's recipe yet. It was amazing. It had a delicious soy based sauce and the ribs were braised with ginkgo nuts, chestnuts, jujubes, chills, and rice cakes. It was served with a delicious kimchi, oijangajji, pickled radish, and rice. I also had two glasses of soju (and had to take the rest back to the hotel for the rest of the week because it was so strong - especially after a 13 hour flight!)
After that we wandered around a bit and ended up at Mister Donut - Dunkin Donuts had no donuts left so we will have to wait to try their infamous tofu donuts. The flavors we picked were chocolate and coconut, pineapple cream, rice sugar, banana, coffee, and plain glazed. The texture was unlike donuts I am familiar with - being extremely chewy. They were not as chewy as rice cake but far more chewy than western donuts. The flavors were subtle and they weren't too sweet. Our favorite was the coffee one. I later found out that Mister Donut is a Japanese company - not Korean.
Other non-food related observations are that there are LOTS of people around on a Sunday night (including children), the people in general are extremely friendly and polite, and the weather is incredibly hot! Having come from the end of the coldest winter I remember experiencing in New Zealand it was quite a shock.
Our hotel room was upgraded for free (presumably because they saw that we are guests of the government) and the hotel service has been outstanding - there is a man employed to do nothing except stand in reception and bow to the guests as they arrive or leave! Amazing.