We landed at 5am Korean time, which was 3am Vietnam time (where we flew from). I didn’t sleep well on the flight due to a nasty travel bug we’d picked up a few days earlier (more in that in a later blog post). I was tired and disorientated, but we made it through immigration, got our bags, and headed on the bus towards our guesthouse.
We arrived, slept for 4 hours, and then caught up with some work. By the time the evening came, we were so tired and had no bearings in this massive city. We hopped on the metro, got off at a random stop, where most places were closed — we then figured out that it was the mid-autumn festival, so places would be closed for a few days.
After wandering aimlessly for a while, we found a restaurant where they spoke no English, but we ended up with a delicious cheap BBQ. Feeling better after eating, we headed back for a long night sleep at our guesthouse.
We woke up the next day feeling refreshed. After doing some work in the morning, we headed out to explore the city. I’d forgotten how much I LOVE exploring a new place, and this is a whole new country. Wooo! There were some things which I quickly started to enjoy about the city.
1. Seoul is Clean
The neighbourhood we’re staying in is very chilled. You walk around the streets and can’t help but notice how clean they are as well. Not just where we’re staying, but, everywhere. The metro is spotless, and a few nights ago we headed to Hondae, the popular student part of town. It has such a different vibe to any place Mitch and I could think of in the UK. When we were trying to figure out why, one of the reasons was the general cleanliness of the area. Living in China, the hygiene standards weren’t always that high (I’ve not seen anybody spitting on the streets here). Coming to South Korea, you can notice the difference.
2. The Food is Delicious
The food we’ve had so far has been great. Any small inclination that Mitch and I have had in the past six months to become vegetarians totally goes out the window when you get the wafting smell of Korean BBQ. A big heated wok/pan in the middle of the table allows you to cook it yourself or, if you’re in a fancier place, you can let the staff do it. Meat with some vegetables and then some added extras make it wonderful for sharing and filling your belly.
Another delightful local food we stumbled across was noodles with, what I can only describe as, onion gravy. I’m sure some savvy Seoul foodie will tell me what it actually is, but that’s the best way I can possibly explain it. We ordered it to share with some sweet and sour pork. Delicious. Mitch was happy …as you can see.
Another surprisingly popular dining experience is “Beer and Chicken” which is literally what restaurants will advertise outside. It’s a very simple concept of ordering a beer and then ordering a platter of chicken. We had some last night and it was great. Again, our recent desire to become vegetarians has been lost in Seoul.
3. Natural Landspace and Modern Architecture
We’ve only been in the city so far but there are a lot of rural and hiking areas not too far out, which we’ll aim to explore one day while we’re here. I’m looking forward to getting out of the city and to explore the area some more. However, I’m also enjoying looking at the massive sky-scraping buildings and modern architecture of the city. The Dongdaemun design plaza was the most Instagrammed tagged location in Korea in 2015. The building really is a marvel to see.
4. Lots of Shopping (which isn’t usually something I appreciate much)
I’m not really big into shopping, or buying new things for myself. I’m at the point now where I tend to save my money for trips and experiences. However, the multitude of shopping outlets and markets in this city make me so happy because, for a while now, I’ve intended to do some shopping. South East Asia took it’s toll on a lot of my clothes — my clothes have been streaked with sun cream marks, stretched out from multiple washing, stuffed in my backpack over and over. Some clothes need to be gotten rid of.
Also, after the delightful Seoul temperature of 26 degrees, our next stop is Vancouver, which means we’ll take a good 10-degree plunge. Those denim shorts and vest tops I wore in Vietnam and Laos won’t be so useful. I’m greeting the Seoul shops with great delight to revamp my backpacking wardrobe.
5. Not as Expensive As I Thought
Long gone are our days in Vietnam and Laos of rooms between £3-£6 a night each. When booking accommodation in Seoul, dorm rooms vary between £9-£16. We knew the price difference would feel like a big jump from Vietnam, but it actually hasn’t been as bad as I thought it would be. We managed to get a twin room with breakfast for £14 each in a lovely, well-located guesthouse. Food prices vary, depending what and where you eat, but generally meals can be between £2 and £7 each. While this doesn’t include drinks, a bottle of the local spirit (soju) is under £3. We’ve also had some bargain beer for £2 or even less.
It’s safe to say that we’re really enjoying our time here so far. With only three more full days left though, it doesn’t seem like we have enough time to see everything this city has to offer, and I would love to explore more of the country. For now, I’m appreciating being here and looking forward to exploring some more of what the city has to offer.