Right, right, I tried so hard to incorporate Seoul to my blog title and failed miserably. But hey, that won’t stop me from sharing my thoughts and experiences from the trip.
Out of a whim, I asked my friends if they’d like to travel with me to Korea during my birthday week, and they were really supportive. I wasn’t thinking that they would actually come with me, and I wasn’t even sure that we would really travel to this country, but we did!
There’s countless of travel agencies here in Dubai offering packages and deals to other countries, unfortunately South Korea is not one of them. So we had to book everything on our own, but thank God it’s the year 2016 and that means online booking and Airbnb made our lives easier. It was great that the place we booked was just a few minutes walk from Seoul Station (directly linked to AREX – Airport Railroad Express Train), which meant that dragging our heavy luggage with us was not a burden. KTO (Korean Tourism Organization) has lots of suggested itineraries, and they even have directions with accurate details about the location of certain hotspots.
I learned how to read and write 한글 (Hangul) a few months before our trip. And I must say that it really was helpful, especially when we wanted to check if we were going to the right place. Communication was difficult with street vendors, but not so much with the shop keepers, since Seoul is a tourist hotspot some of them know the basics. It’s great if you know how to say phrases like 얼마예요? (eolma ye yo) “how much is this?” But it would be better if you know what their response was in Korean. We mostly used that phrase when buying food and souvenirs. We did try some street food – the 떡볶이 (Tteokbokki or spicy rice cake) soup was absolutely delicious. It was 튀김 (Twigim or the deep fried seafood or veggie) that I was looking forward to taste but the tteokbokki soup was an unexpected yet delicious surprise for me.
Hongdae and Myeongdong are awesome shopping streets, don’t be surprised if you see their clothes on bargain for 10,000 Won, it’s really a bargain and don’t judge the number of digits – that’s really cheap roughly around 9 USD. If you feel like you’d like to chill after walking around, Hongdae has several street performances to your liking from acoustic acts to hip hop dance to street magic – you name it.
Of course aside from shopping there’s other fun stuff that you can do, like watching a 사물놀이 (Samulnori) performance, which mainly includes traditional Korean percussion instruments. Lucky us, there was a free performance during our visit at Namsan Village.
What I love most about Korea is that they have lots of parks that’s accessible to everyone – free of charge. After living in the desert for so long, I felt like my eyes and soul were feasting at the sight of so much greens! (Word of caution for those who came from places without bees and mosquitoes like me: make sure to wear mosquito repellent and don’t wear perfume that has a floral scent)
Of course most people go to Korea to satisfy their lifelong dream of visiting drama locations. 남이섬 (Nami Island for Winter Sonata) is probably on top of the list and next most likely is 쁘띠프랑스 (Petite France for My Love From Another Star). KBS also offers visitors free access to their Exhibit at KBS ON where you might get the chance to see Song Joong Ki from 태양의 후예 (Descendants of the Sun).
It was great that we decided to go to Gapyeong on a really nice day, which meant that Railbiking won’t be scratched off our list.
Make sure that you visit at least one of their Royal Palaces. Gyeongbokgung Palace is still standing firm right smack at the heart of their city. Makes you stand in awe and wonder how they manage to maintain their history, despite the growth and development of their country.
Once your soles are all tired and weary for walking around Seoul, and you want to have yourself rejuvenated before returning to reality, visit one of their 찜질방 (Jjimjilbang), which is a large public bathhouse. Don’t worry because showers and hot tubs are separated by gender. They also have saunas, ice rooms, snack rooms, entertainment rooms, you name it! Just prepare yourself in case you see something shocking.
We met awesome people during our stay at Korea, and we were even unexpectedly blessed.
Korea is a shopper’s paradise, heaven for those addicted to their culture, and a great place for a week-long break. If you’ve always wanted to visit their country, start saving and plot your holiday. I didn’t really leave a part of my soul in Korea, but it was really hard to leave Seoul behind.
* If you’re planning to go on a trip to Korea and would like to know more about the listings of our Airbnb host click here.
*Some of the places we went to have direct links in this post or you can visit the official website of the Korean Tourism Organization if you need more details.