If I could be any city in the world, I would probably choose Seoul. It took a mere 4 days for me to fall head-over-heels; every sight, sound, and smell left me enamored. Longer than a week, and I never would have left the city. From Hongik to Dongdaemun, every second was an adventure.
Day 1: Nothing beats Korean Airlines. The sweet air hostesses provided drink and other refreshments every 10 min, offering every beverage imaginable (including a beautiful red wine). I had OJ, pineapple juice, Jeju Island water, green tea, and coffee on the way there. For a late lunch, unexpectedly authentic bibimbap (Korean mixed rice) was served. For dessert? Drumroll please…Haagen Dazs vanilla ice cream!
So freakin’ impressed. After our 3 1/2 hour flight accompanied by 2 new movies (My Weekend with Marilyn and the first part of the Korean thriller Special Investigation Unit ), we landed in the new Incheon Airport. First stop: the global ATM for some cash money, baby. We witdrew around 200,000 Won or 200 USD. The thing about Korea is that everyone is so kind. On the bus, we got a bit confused as to which stop to get off at, but the driver and a friendly passenger got us off at the right stop (with a bit of help from his google translate app). With that, we bought our very first purchases – Air Limo Bus tickets to Jung-no 5 (o-ga) to our hostel – Hong Guesthouse!
Not too hard to find – down the street, cross at the large pharmacy sign, then a left into the first alley. Easy-peasy. Thought the place was super sketch at first, but the manager Sean was super friendly. After processing our room (which resembles a small dorm with a private bathroom), he invited us out to Hongik University for a night of clubbing. Korean nightclubs are quite underground and filled with students ready to dance stress away. Of course, we said yes.
Hungry as we were, we decided to grab a bite of street food at the Gwangjang market down the street. S and I, with the aid of some coarse pointing, ate quite well; dukboki, kimchi mandoo, kibimbap, and chicken/seaweed soup. It was all delicious…and cheap. Spicy, hot, served quickly at the stall while seated on aluminum wrapped benches.
Clubbing in Korea was quite the experience. We first went into Zen, a small bar in Hongik. No locals were really dancing, so we started the night off. Before we knew it, there was a whole floor of people dancing…awesome. The people who came with us were impressed by my dancing skills…funny, right? I will say, I did break out some salsa. We also hit up 2/3 Gorilla Clubs – Papa and BeBe. For all 3, girls only pay 5,000 Won cover. I’d say Koreans know how to party. Bartenders danced, blew whistles, and were altogether hilarious. The platform in the clubs were fixed with blue LED lights. Korean guys were a bit aggressive, but the lovely security guards were always offering to take care of me. What a night!
*Credits to S for the above photo.
Day 2: Traditional Korean breakfast. Apparently a hangover cure. Believe it was beef bone soup? Yum, lots of kimcheeeee~
Back in the hostel, got S after a nap and went to Hongdae/Hongik together. Was going to meet up with YY and SY at the station, but due to some miscommunication, we caught some lunch first. Because it was actually SNOWING, we wanted something hot. Ended up at Yoogane. Galbi, anyone? Sexy food photo time:
When we saw SY and YY outside the station later, we headed off to the Hello Kitty Cafe. So much cuteness, as if Hello Kitty barfed in there. Enough said, here is the mentioned cuteness overload:
Delicious green tea latte.
After our afternoon tea in Hello Kitty craziness, we went to the Trick Eye Museum. Let me tell you, this is a tourist mecca. Photo op available at every corner. Here are some excellent examples.
We went to Insadong next, the traditional cultural streets of Korea. We watched several hilarious guys make traditional pulled honey candy with an incredibly hilarious English jingle. It included several outbursts of “ohmahgah” and “OMG!” Great guys. YY inspired us all to get Neopolitan Turkish ice cream from some rather prankster Turkish guys. We saw a singer anda guitarist who, at one point, sang, “Why isn’t anyone listening? I’m so sad.” Terrible.
We stopped by Sinpo Woorie Mandoo for dinner. Shining Inheritance (for all you Kdrama geeks) was shot there! We sat at the exact same table they did…so awesome. I had Korean Kimchi Fried Rice. S had Bibimbap again. We shared some mandoo with YY and SY. Side dishes too, of course!
We ended the night with some quick shopping at Myung-Dong, the Korean equivalent of HK’s Mong Kok shopping district. Had hurricane fries, then headed back home by the 143 bus. After some light homework reading a a Bulgogi burger from MdDonald’s, I hit the bed for an early night at 12am.
Day 3: We ate some delicious Korean BBQ right next to our hostel. Pork belly with kimchi. Photos speak for themselves.
The rest of the day was filled with touristy sightseeing, including a trip to Changdeokgun Palace, a walk down Cheonggyecheon Canal, and Namsam Tower.
Namsam was rather more of a couple-y site, but still enjoyable. Best view of the city yet. Ended the night with a movie in the hostel. ❤
Day 4: Checked out at 10am, then subway-ed our way to the airport. Kibimbap and strawberry milk at 7-11 for breakfast.
Korea – beauty beyond compare, city of kindness and wonder. Seoul has captured just that – a bit of soul.