Sunday, 10 May 2015

Heart and Seoul

Golden Week is a special time in Japan when we get 5 national holidays within the span of 7 days. It is a dream come true for a young travellor. Last year I stayed in Japan and visited Hiroshima, but this year I headed for Seoul, South Korea. Seoul is only an hour flight away from my area of Japan so it was an easy choice to get the maximum time for money.
I have been wanting to go to Seoul for a long time, and my interest was piqued last year when my students took a trip there and seemed to really love it. So I hopped on a plane and met D in Seoul! We stayed in a little hostel near Hongdik University. A nice, quiet area, and the cost was really affordable. We had a private room for only around 90$ each, total.
Seoul took my breathe away. It was fantastically diverse and not once did I feel like the odd one out. I was just a tourist enjoying the sights. The Korean folk were in bright colours and fashions, and with little to no bowing there was a general sense of chill. I really love how kind and polite Japanese can be, but being in Seoul reminded me a lot of how my heart is in diverse places.
We had three full days to explore together and we got to see all the major sights and stuff ourselves with Korean BBQ.
 We started our first day at Coffee Bee, a cute coffee house. After our lattes and a decision about itinerary we headed for the National Museum of Korea.
It was so beautiful there, and free to enter!! The architecture and nature surrounding the actual Museum was incredible. I personally loved learning more about Hangul, the Korean orthography.  It is definitely worth a stop on any Seoul trip.
For lunch we just ate sandwiches at a cafe and shopped a little bit. Seoul is famous for cheap shopping and bartering. I bought a beautiful pink bag for only 15$, cheap price, cheaply made, but I am happy!! This was also the place where the employee at a shoe store felt my foot, told me about his foot fetish and asked to kiss my feet. It was so random and weird and I am forever scared of shoe store employees and their personal motives!! Afterwards we went up from underground and checked out Gangham (YES that Gangham!! PSY is Korean!) and drank bubble tea!! D got salted cheese flavour, no for real. I played it safe with chocolate cookie!!

Following bubble tea we headed back to our hostel and changed for a date night D planned. We started off with a delicious all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ. You get a time limit of 90 minutes and then you go to town, filling up plates with meat and vegetables, dumplings, etc. It was a cheaper place so the meat was ま‐ま、but the dumplings were amazing and we had a fun time! The people next to us were grilling up all sorts of creepy octopus and tentacly fish, which was both gross and interesting!!

 Following dinner we decided to walk it off around the Hongdik University area which at night transforms into a crazy night market, with thousands of young people performing, lining up for clubs and weaving in and out among the hundreds of food and shopping stalls. D and I stopped for a pina colada at a drink truck!! It was so fun :) We finished our night at a coffee shop sharing some cake, and we ran into a friend from my apartment building here in Japan, which was a cool treat!                                       
The second day we started our morning off with coffee again, at the coolest bookstore/coffeeshop heaven. The prices were expensive but my latte was randomly half price, so all in all a great choice to start our day of Korean adventure.
Following coffee we headed off for Gyeonbokgung, the national palace in Seoul. We saw the changing of the guard, explored the grounds and had fun seeing a beautiful palace.  
 After the palace we went exploring the local area, and stumbled upon some great street food for D, and some beautiful hanging lanterns. Then we found exactly what I was looking for, shaved ice!! Shaved ice is a huge dessert across Asia, but much less so in Japan. Anyways in Korea it is everywhere and we couldn't resist so we got the chocolate flavour. Oh, my, goodness. For real it was the most chocolately thing to enter my life in the longest time and it was so bloody good.

 After all the food (yes, we eat a lot!! #noregrets) we headed for the river and went for a lovely walk together. So wonderful!!
D eating one of many street food treats! 

Chocolate dreams!
Along the river, nature amid bustle 
Before the show!!
That evening we headed out to watch a Korean non verbal performance. Nanta is world famous, with similar productions in London and New York. It is a group of performance artists who perform a comedy, dance and martial art show using little language, except that which is needed to get the story line across. It was hilarious and really entertaining, and we got 50% of tickets because of our hostel discount!! Woot :) After the show we went out for Korean food again, this time trying a Korean spicy hot pot. So good! Of course we had cake after, who do you think we are?!

Enjoying the walk 
We had one last day in Seoul and it was another fantastic one. First we headed for Namsam, a mountain that is in the middle of the city, where you can hike up and catch a breathtaking view of the city below, plus take a look at the North Seoul Tower. We headed up and the best part was at the top sharing a beer, overlooking the city. It was so relaxing and fun!
View from the top!
Celebratory Beer! カンパイ
Cute guy, eh?
As this was our last day we spent the rest of the day just hanging out, getting our fill of weird and wonderful Seoul food, and talking. At night we ran all over the Hongdae area spending the last of our Korean won, eating tons of desserts and drinking lots of coffees and beers, oh and a little Taco Bell too!!

Weird pink tube filled with softcream, ya we bought it!!
Seoul was an amazing trip. I would go again anytime, and I would recommend it to anyone. It is a diverse and exciting city, and totally affordable!!
Thanks for everything Korea!! 

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