I arrived home after embarking on my 3 week adventure in Seoul and I’m already missing it. Here is a look into what I did, ate and learned during my stay!
Before I went on my trip, I made sure to compose a list of all the touristy things to do and other places of interest to visit. Also during the preparation process, my friends and I contacted someone online to stay with through the website ‘couchsurfing.org’ where you can find people all over the world who have room. Sounds sketchy, but our host was very kind and even made time to show us around. If you don’t have anyone to stay with in Seoul and want to save money, this website is definitely a great way to meet people. After everything was planned and finalized, I was ready to go!
What I did
After the long and tiring 16 hour flight, I had finally arrived at Incheon Airport. It may have been due to lack of a good sleep, but it felt like a dream actually being in Korea. I hadn’t even left the airport yet and already was starting to see idols everywhere!
Our long journey was not over yet as we had to take about an hour long train ride to Seoul. One of my favorite things was how convenient and affordable the subway system is. It took a couple tries at first to get used to purchasing tickets and figuring out how to get to our destination, but we quickly became pros.
All settled in and rested up, we spent the first few days exploring the traditional temples, shrines and many shopping areas. For just 10,000 won (about less than $10) we bought a ticket booklet for Gyeongbokgung, Changdeokgung, Changyeonggung, and Deoksugung Palaces, and Jongmyo Shrine. The tickets are also valid a month after purchasing- great deal!
After visiting a couple of the palaces, we proceeded into some of the best places for shopping in Seoul- Namdaemun Market and Myeongdong! Lined with affordable clothing stores blasting Kpop, street food, countless coffee shops, beauty stores, and employees inviting shoppers into their stores (some of them yelling “Hi!” at us), we had ventured into a shopper’s dream.
A popular product Koreans love to indulge in is beauty products because skin care is an important daily regime. The Face Shop, Skin Food, Etude House, Nature Republic, & etc…these stores are almost as frequent as coffee shops! The best part is, the products are really affordable and if you do purchase something, (with the assistance from the very helpful employees), then you usually receive great samples with it.
Apart from spending much of my time shopping, I found myself at all corners of the city, mostly at the must-see areas for tourists. Within walking distance from Myeongdong is the famous Namsan Tower with a spectacular view at night. Although it became obvious this was a popular spot for couples, it was definitely a highlight. And believe or not, there was actually a “Nature Republic” beauty store at the top of the tower. Just in case you wanted to relax with a face mask up there.
One of my favorite areas which I had to revisit many times was Hongdae, the place to be if you’re a hip, young student who enjoys indie music or is looking for good nightlife. The atmosphere here especially on weekends is lively and free. You can find yourself at a crowded bar or club, or slip inside a café to watch live performances of upcoming indie bands. What Hongdae is most famous for are the many performers you can watch on the street, and it is also popular as a drama filming spot. In fact we even saw filming for a current drama called “Gold, Appear”!
As a vegetarian (I do eat fish), I actually didn’t find it too difficult finding food I can eat. And that was much to my pleasure as I got to eat a lot of delicious food. While some days I opted for a packet of Chapagetti, here’s some highlights of what I ate.
What I learned
As a foreigner I felt very welcomed by the people there and never felt too out of place, even if I physically stood out as a young, white female. Even though it is a different country, I didn’t find the culture difference too difficult to get used to, even though I have been exposed to Korean culture and customs before. It seems like Seoul is only recently becoming a more popular destination for travelers and students so I was surprised at how many people were able to speak English. People would even approach us and ask if we needed help! There were of course many differences I noticed but they were more amusing, and even convenient, than shocking.
-Coffee shops are literally everywhere. From chain cafes like Ediya Coffee and Paris Baguette, to small independent ones.
-Couples are also everywhere. The couple culture is huge there and you will often see them wearing matching shirts, charms and even shoes. There are also many bars and cafes I saw where you are seated into your own private room instead of an open one.
-No tipping! This one in particular I enjoyed. The tax is also already included in the price so you don’t have to do the math.
-There is a lack of trash cans. I’m not kidding! We would have to hold on to our accumulated trash for a while before finding an already overflowing trash.
-The drinking age is 20 and it is legal to drink in public.
-Subways are typically quiet and most people seem to be on their smartphones catching up on dramas or kakaotalking.
-Every kind of food you can think of can be delivered anywhere. At Banpo Park along the Han River, delivery motorcycles pass around menus and you can order pizza or chicken there.
Overall, this trip was absolutely amazing. I didn’t expect to love Seoul so much, but what I mostly enjoyed was being surrounded by a culture I’ve been interested in for years and meeting many great people everywhere I went. I would definitely recommend anyone to visit.