Squeezing in Seoul!

About three weeks into our trip to Hong Kong, we made a trip to Korea!

seoul

I’ve never been to Korea, and sadly, my K-pop fan girl phase ended about 6 years ago, but nonetheless, I’m super excited! I’ll be jotting down a few lines while I’m here and compile it into this post.

Day 1

We left Hong Kong at noon, and arrived 3 hours later. There’s a one hour time difference between us, so by the time we got to Korea it was about 4:30PM, Korean time. Our destination was Seoul!

A limousine bus took us to our hotel, and it was free of charge. These busses are quite luxurious in terms of seat space, and I took a quick nap during the hour long bus ride from Incheon Airport to our hotel: T-Mark.

We were all pretty hungry by the time we got to T-Mark, so we dropped off our stuff and went down for dinner. Just across the street from us was a Korean BBQ place! It felt authentic and was really affordable. In total, the 8 of us ate about $80CAD worth of food and were pretty stuffed.

Look at all that food! This was just half the table

The owner of the place was this jolly Korean man, and the aunties that worked there were really full service. Whenever they saw that our grill was empty, they’d help us throw on a few more slabs of meat. If the meat was cooked, they’d come over and cut it for us. Talk about service!

We wanted to go explore the city so we walked out in the rain after dinner. I didn’t have an umbrella, so I borrowed one from the hotel. We found this quaint bingsu place. I had really wanted to try authentic Korean bingsu and it didn’t disappoint. It was the finest powdered cream! Delicious even just as is, but I ordered a strawberry one. We also ordered a variety of other desserts. I was so full I wanted to pass out.

I love Korea’s climate. I’m told that it has a very average temperature year round for the most part, but I’ll need to confirm this. The not-humid and cool temperature here is a welcomed break from Hong Kong’s gross summer climate!

Will be back tomorrow with Day 2 🙂

Day 2

Alright, so I’m writing this back in Hong Kong, since I was dead tired every night. Our group made sure to schedule events from 9AM-11PM every day, so by the time we’d get back to our hotel, all I wanted to do was shower and sink myself into the carefully made beds at T-mark.

Day two found us going to the Alive Museum. This museum featured lots of photo opportunities where if you stood at just the right angle, it would give an optical illusion. It was loads of fun and we spent a little less than 2 hours here. It took some time for our group of 8 to finish taking photos at each display!

We grabbed lunch at a noodle place nearby. We had ordered 6 bowls of noodles (that came with dumplings) between the 8 of us, plus a Korean pancake, but we couldn’t finish it all. I have no idea how tiny Korean girls were eating entire bowls by themselves.

Down the street from the noodle place, we had jotted down a Hanbok Cafe we had wanted to visit. It’s only a cafe in name. In reality, it’s a small photo studio where you’d choose a traditional Korean hanbok, and take souvenir photos. It wasn’t the cheapest thing, costing about $20-$30USD per photo, but we manage to strike a deal with the girls running the studio and got all the soft copies of our pictures saved onto my camera’s SD card. The whole thing was hilarious, and we had a lot of fun dressing up and really just making huge fools of ourselves. I’d definitely recommend doing this!

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After hanbok shenanigans, it was time for a real cafe. We went to Bonita Di Cafe, which was a racoon cafe. You know how there’s cat cafes in Japan? Well we found out there was a racoon cafe in Korea! Of course, we had to give it a visit. The whole thing was scarring, because there were also 3 dogs running around the cafe. They weren’t very well behaved dogs and it was a little scary seeing them bite at each other’s necks, as well as harassing the racoons. The racoons were cute, and there was an albino one, as well as regular grey ones, and they behaved relatively well. Seeing the one barista handle all the customers and the 10 or so animals was amazing.

Of course, no trip to Seoul is complete without a visit to Lotte Mart. We took a one-hour shopping break there before we crossed the street to a sauna. It was about 9PM when we headed there. Siloam Sauna was the top rated sauna in Korea (and trust me. They have so many sauna places. You can see the sauna logos quite frequently as you walked Korea’s streets), and it was huge. The whole thing was about 6 floors, if not more. Each floor had different amenities, such as massage rooms, oxygen rooms, and even open lounges where people lounged on the floor to watch Korean dramas together. One rule though is that you had to be quite throughout the whole sauna in respect to everyone else trying to relax.

We ate our dinner there (there’s a whole cafeteria inside the sauna), and then went to sweat out some toxins. I thought the 55 degrees rooms were about as hot as I liked my body. I went inside the 86 degrees room for about 1 second before I declared “I don’t need this”. I was instantly hit with a wall of heat and I really didn’t want to subject myself to being trapped in there. A room I did enjoy was the ice room, which was -15 degrees. It was a great place to cool down after being in the hotter rooms.

Each room had different properties, and also different rocks that you buried yourself in. There was a salt room, at about 60 degrees, and the salt hurt so much when I laid down due to the heat. But then I went to the jade room, where there were loose jade pebbles for you to sit on, and I realized the salt room was easy. Again, my favourite room was the 55 degrees room with little round pebbles that were quite comfortable to lie on. The oxygen room was also quite nice!

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We rounded off the night with chicken and beer near our hotel. I don’t know how we still managed to all go downstairs and get food, but it was a rewarding day. It felt like we had spent several days in Korea, when we had actually fit all these activities into one. I’m proud of us!


Day 3 

Do you like Disneyland? If you do, you’ll probably enjoy Everland. Everland seems to be a knockoff of Disneyland, but to be honest, it didn’t open that much later after Disneyland. It just so happens that while we were there, Everland was celebrating its 40th anniversary. In California, Disneyland is celebrating its 60th this year.

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Everland has several themed areas, and also has a large zoo and animals area called Zootopia. A one day visit is not enough to properly experience the amusement park, but we did what we could. There was this one cool ride that was a rotating room, and although you’re not actually going 360 degrees, the walls around you moved making you feel like you were. It really freaked me out, and I was not prepared for it to feel so real— but then again, I was never one for roller coasters either, so it probably wasn’t actually that shocking on normal people’s standards. :’D

One thing I do have to say about Everland is that the food is surprisingly affordable. I’m not saying their food was dirt cheap, but I was used to the overpriced stuff that Disneyland pushes to its visitors. In Hong Kong Disneyland, a sausage on a stick costs about $6CAD. In Everland, it was about $3CAD. Not bad!

After spending most of our day at Everland, we went to Myeongdong to eat. We went to a random Korean BBQ joint where they used live coals to barbecue our meats. One thing about KBBQ in Korea is that someone does all your grilling for you, and they cut up the meat when it’s ready. It was like a repeat of day 1, and now I understand that this is something every restaurant does, but I do sometimes wish we could eat and grill at our own pace.

My aunt’s intentions were to let us go to Myeongdong a day earlier (it had been scheduled for the last day) so we could get a head start on shopping. She was so smart. When I got to the shopping district, I was overwhelmed at how many stores there were.

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Each makeup brand had about 5 retail stores there in the 5-6 block radius. It was crazy walking about 50 steps and seeing the same retail brand again, yet each store was equally packed. Most of the stores at Myeongdong were makeup ones, but Korean makeup is all the rage around the world. If you’re not one for makeup, the streets are also lined with snack stalls, selling anything from flame grilled scallops to strawberry daifukus!

I barely made a dent in visiting the stores as well as my purchases before we had to leave, so I’m glad we’d revisit the following day!

I think we were even more tired after Day 3, since Everland was quite hot and there was a lot of walking without breaks. I didn’t even think that would be possible given the amount of activity we had squeezed into Day 2!

 

Day 4

Early in the morning, we went to Namdaemun Market. This market is a lot more traditional and sold clothing and wares that slightly older people would enjoy. For me, I bought some souvenirs here such as bookmarks and keychains, but the fashion wasn’t quite my age, nor was I interested in buying fancy Korean porcelain bowls.

After about an hour or two of shopping, we went to Frank’s Cafe. I personally didn’t know that this cafe was so popular, but apparently everyone I spoke to in Hong Kong knew about it. This place was famous for its rainbow cakes as well as its recreation of the Mendl’s Courtesan au Chocolat from Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel. We bought both desserts, and enjoyed some cool drinks on this hot day.

Of course, our group can never sit still for long. We followed our break by taxi-ing to Dongdaemun. If you wanted (relatively) cheap asian clothes, this was the place to go. We hit up a mall called “Good Morning City” and it was floors upon floors of asian styled clothes. Many of them were too “cute” to wear back in Vancouver, but they were very pretty to look at. My boyfriend ended up buying quite a haul of clothes, and I only got a light jacket and dress, but it was fun haggling with the vendors. It’s quite surprising how much lower they’ll go if you’re insistent.

After a good three hours of clothes shopping, we headed off to Myeongdong again. We met up with a cousin and her husband (who were also visiting Korea) for dinner, and we ate these huge platters of noodles with assorted toppings. It was delicious, and you could order it spicy, which everyone in our group enjoyed. We then grabbed dessert at a nearby cafe and the rest of the night was more shopping along the bright streets of Myeongdong. Again, the amount of people in each of these repeated stores were amazing.

 

For Day 5, most of our day was spent getting ready to go to the airport. Our flight was at 1PM, but it meant that we’d have to be there several hours earlier. We ate our lunch at the airport, and then waved goodbye to Seoul. I really hope I’ll visit again soon! I was surprised because I didn’t have huge expectations for Korea. I loved how affordable things were there, and it had the efficiency and attention to detail as Japan, except more space so your hotel rooms and such weren’t tiny. I’m surprised to say I enjoyed it more than Japan! Hopefully Korea is a destination I’ll be going to again in the not so distant future!

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