south korea

Goodbye Seoul!

Although we were stunned by the cold and had planned way too many activities, more than we could accomplish, we tried to make the most of our vacation!

Throughout our stay we used Seoul’s subway system. Prior to our trip we mapped out the places we wanted to go and which lines we needed to take. I was still a little nervous about using the ticketing machines, but when we arrived I realized that all of the machines had an English option. Unlike our Japan trip, Korea’s subway system was so much easier and a pleasant experience.

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On our last day, we decided we needed to cut some of our plans and just do what we could. We woke up late, grabbed some breakfast at Joy Café in Sinchon, and hopped on the train to Gyeongbokgung Palace. We arrived just in time for the English tour to start. This palace was incredible, even more than Deoksugung. Despite being in the middle of winter, the beauty of the palace grounds remained. We walked with the tour group to the King’s quarters, to his Queen’s room, to the pavilion, concubine quarters, and tons of other small buildings. I love the architecture, trees, and pond. We learned about the meaning of the dragon to Koreans and the importance of the Yin and Yang.

From here we walked to the neighborhood of Insadong. We heard that we could pick up souvenirs, but we ended up also getting tons of snacks for ourselves! We tried the street food, soju, and walked around aimlessly. There are tons of art galleries here, too! Korean street food is a must! Peter and I shared a long, spiraled fried potato stick. Peter tried the corn dog with french fries fried into the corn bread. It was all delicious and an experience not to miss. I wish we had more time to explore all the little side streets. It’s a lot calmer and aimed more towards tourists than Hongdae.

Speaking of Hongdae, we headed back there for our last night in Seoul. One of my favorite things about Seoul are the coffee shops. There are many regular coffee shops, but my favorites were the themed cafés like the Hello Kitty Café, the Cat Café, and Mustoy Café. We spent the evening at Mustoy Café painting figurines, listening to calm music, and drinking orange juice. It was the perfect way to end our busy but wonderful trip to Seoul, South Korea ❤

 

Part Four: Birthday in Seoul!

If ever you feel sad about aging, just plan a really cool trip that will make you forget all about it! I turned the big 3-0 in Seoul this year and, up until my trip, I was a little sad. I was feeling very nostalgic and at a loss. Now that my birthday in Korea has come and gone I feel very happy and have nothing but good memories. What a great way to start a new decade!

On my birthday I decided that I wanted to catch the Seoul City Bus tour since we had been walking a lot. For about 24,000 won, which is around $20, Peter and I hopped on the bus tour. It was nice to be out of the cold for a little while.

First stop:

Deoksugung Palace

In the middle of the city lies Deoksugung Palace. We made it just in time to watch the changing of the guards.  As we entered the park, Peter spotted the gift shop where we rested and had some hot cocoa before exploring all the different buildings.

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We walked around the palace looking at all the beauty. We passed a gorgeous pond and fountain, though both were frozen, they were still pretty.

Yongsan – I Park Mall

We stopped at the I Park mall to grab a snack and buy some more winter clothes at UniQlo then caught the next bus.

Namsangol Hanok Village

By the time we arrived at this traditional Korean village, I was so sick from the bus ride. Driving in Korea is an experience all on its own. The blast of cold air was welcomed and made me feel a lot better.

We walked up a narrow street to the entrance of this village where we saw the restored homes.

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This photo shows traditional shoes warn by Koreans. There is usually someone making these shoes but I think we had arrived too late and missed the show.

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What I found most interesting were the fireplaces underneath the rooms. They were used to heat the floors and warm the room. Our hostel had heated floors; although, they weren’t heated by a fireplace.

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The village and frozen pond were lovely!

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From here we could see the N Seoul Tower, our next stop.

N Seoul Tower

The last stop on the bus tour for us was the N Seoul Tower. We made it just in time for sunset and a view of the whole city. It was amazing!

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We had a short hike from where the bus dropped us off and then a quick elevator ride up to the observation deck.

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There were TONS of people here. It was nice to see the city lights and read how far and in what direction different countries, cities, and continents are from the tower. We spent a couple of hours here and then back down to leave our lock of love on the Christmas tree.

Hongdae

Again, we ended another night in Hongdae. We found this cat café near Etude House. I was SO excited! This was on my list of things I MUST do while in Seoul.

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We took our shoes off, ordered a drink, and read the kitty rules!DSCN8017

I haven’t pet a cat in awhile and was so happy to finally get the chance. There were so many cute cats I didn’t know where to begin. I sat down on the ground and watched as the cats went about their business, which consisted of sleeping near the heater. Peter started to pet a cat when it attacked him! It was so funny and sort of sad. I guess if I were a cat in a room full of cats and people, I’d be grumpy too. I got attacked by another cat who was trying to get away from this kid who kept poking him. So I decided to just watch them and that was good enough for me!

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Next up: Goodbye Seoul!

Part Three: Hongdae

I think Peter and I had the most fun in Hongdae. We spent every evening here! When we got off the subway and walked up the steps to the street I was like, “WOW!” So many lights, people, music playing; it was awesome! There were tons of street vendors selling cute socks and winter gear. Immediately I spotted an Etude House and had to go in (went there three times total!). Korea is known for their skincare. I think it’s interesting that in Asia they consider really white skin to be beautiful and sell whitening skin products; whereas in the West, people will do anything for a nice, golden tan.

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I passed on the whitening products but picked up loads of face masks! Thanks Peter for standing their while I took my time looking through all the beauty products!

Hongdae is the place where all the college people go to have fun. We found a few really unique bars like the Carole King Jazz Bar that was down a narrow stairway in the basement of a building. We had drinks while listening to the owner’s collection of jazz music. Hongdae seemed like the place where you could make your dreams in business come true. Anything that you might have an interest in, could be found here. We had the best fried chicken I’ve ever had in my whole life at a restaurant called Big Hit Chicken. One whole wall was dedicated to alcohol beverages from all over the world. The cool thing was that it was self-serve. So you get a basket and help yourself to the drinks, put your empty bottles in the basket, and then when you’re done take your basket to the cashier and pay.

We also found this other bar called the Chez Robert Artist’s bar on the 3rd floor of another building. It could only fit about 10 people but the vibe, music, and decor was cool. The best thing was that the owner had a cute little black and white kitten that was so much fun!

Also, in both bars I ended up with something called a “Midori SHOWER” which was pretty much a Midori sour but I think something got lost in translation.

Another great thing about Seoul are all the good street food carts. These things are so popular and very worth a try. There are a lot of different types of food, we tried the waffle stuffed with sugar. It was too good.

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Hongdae is full of shopping, as is most of Seoul, but here you can find Korean brands with items made in Korea. We went into Art Box and bought some heat packs and looked around a bit. I could have spent my whole life savings in that store. So many cute things!

I love places where there is art in everything. From the moment I stepped off of the subway exit there were people singing on the sidewalks, a group of kids performing a KPop dance routine, and tons of artwork and beautiful graffiti throughout the parks and streets of Hongdae.

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Next: How I celebrated my birthday!

 

Part Two: Gangnam Style!

During our last trip to Boracay, PI locals would say to Peter, “Ahh Gangnam style!” We were so confused about what they meant. We found out that Gangnam is the fancy part of the city. There is a fashion district, something similar to Rodeo Drive, and tons of expensive cars. So it was a compliment, ha!

My whole Korean trip now seems to be like a dream, we did so much walking and sightseeing all while being cold. I’m pretty sure there were moments when I was near hypothermia.

The first day we had only been able to find cafés that served pastries, I wanted something a little more filling to get me through the day, so Peter found an American style diner called Travel Maker. We ate breakfast like true Americans. It was delicious!!!

I think this day was even colder than the previous. As we started walking, my sock fell off into my boot and then my boots started to go bad. In just the one day, I had walked the heels off my boots! They were now cutting into my feet and causing lots of pain. We went back to central Seoul in search of shoes at the Lotte Department store, found some, and went on about our day.

We headed to the Gangnam Tourist Center where we had just missed the tour bus. So instead we warmed up and explored the neighborhood. First stop (after tea) was Dosan Park. I can imagine during the springtime that this park is probably really beautiful, because even in the winter it was lovely.

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There were many people walking around for exercise AND there was this really cool area with gym equipment where people were working out. So, of course I had to give it a try. I wish all parks had these perks!

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I spotted a super chunky cat.

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Continued walking around the monument.

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And headed on to the next thing…

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Which was the Horim Museum.

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We walked to the Samsung building, admiring the amazing architecture along the way.

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And finally down the Rodeo Drive of Gangnam. Apparently this is where Korean movie stars come to shop; although, we didn’t see any (not that we would have recognized them) shopping in the cold!

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We stopped at a small stationary store and picked up a few Korean Christmas cards. We also went to a café called Jacob’s Ladder, which had a Christian themed menu. At the end of our Gangnam exploration, we were exhausted. We headed back to the hostel for rest.

Next Stop: Hongdae!

Part One: It’s Seoul Cold!!!

We’ve made it home safely from my birthday trip to South Korea. Nothing could have prepared us for the cold we felt the moment we stepped outside. It has been three years since I’ve lived in the States and four since I’ve lived somewhere that gets super cold weather like Seoul. We’d bought jackets and sweaters before we left, but that still wasn’t enough. The first day of our trip was spent looking for gloves, scarves, hats, long johns and stopping for hot tea at cafés. I was stunned by the cold and the first night I was miserable. I was thinking, “Why didn’t I think of a warmer place to go for my birthday!!”

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Sinchon:

I’ve been wanting to stay at a hostel for awhile now and I’d heard that Korean hostels were sometimes as good as hotel rooms. So after some research, we decided to stay at Chocolate Tree in Sinchon. The room was spacious and the staff were very helpful, BUT the bed was terribly uncomfortable! After the first night, I got used to the springs from the mattress pushing into my ribs.

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In the evening we walked around the neighborhood and wandered into random grocery stores. Korea has GREAT snacks!! We bought tons of little treats that turned out to be delicious.

 

Next up…Gangnam!

 

 

We’re Going to Seoul!

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I’d never given much thought to traveling to this side of the world prior to my move to Guam. When I was younger, I’d always been more interested in traveling to Europe to see family. I never would have thought that moving to Guam would mean I would get to explore Asia and the Pacific Islands. It first started with our trip to Philippines then to Japan (which has been one of the best trips of my life!) and soon Seoul, South Korea!

We crunched the numbers, found good deals on flights and places to stay, and decided to just do it. Although most things in Guam are pricey, flying to Asia has been way more affordable and obtainable in Guam than if we were back in Oregon. We have tried to take advantage of that opportunity. So what better way to celebrate my 30th birthday (O.M.G. I can’t believe it) than with a trip to somewhere neither of us have been, South Korea! It’s been more than a year since we’ve been off island so we are really looking forward to this trip! Very excited to add another country to the list 🙂

If you’d like to suggest anything I should do/places to eat while there, please feel free to leave a comment thanks!