Going to Seoul, South Korea was kind of a big turning point in my life. I started saving for this trip when I was 17 years old, a month away from turning 18. The decision to go was one of those things that you say, and you don’t really mean it, but then all of a sudden, it’s a reality.
In September, one of my close friends Bobby said that he wanted to travel to Seoul after his college graduation. Bobby and I are known k-pop fans, and we had fantasized about going to Seoul many, many times. So when he said that he was actually considering going to Seoul, I half didn’t believe him, but I insisted that he take me with him.
About 9 months later, we were boarding the plane together, ready to go.
It took 9 months of saving up money to pay for the apartment, the tickets, and ensuring that we had enough money for food and souvenirs. I had to pay for the whole trip myself, because my family is broke and couldn’t help out (not that they would if they had the money, because they didn’t want me to go). It kind of sucked, because everyone else’s parents helped them pay for the trip somehow, and I was the youngest and I had no help. But, I felt really proud when I was walking through the streets of Seoul, shopping bags full of face masks, heading back to the apartment on the bus, knowing that I payed for it all myself.
Once I got back, I basically realized that the adult-ness that I experienced from the trip was far from over, and I’m still rolling with the punches.
So in this blog, I want to share with you some of the places that we went, some of the things that we did, and some of the food that we ate! I hope that you enjoy my travel blog! (I’ve never written anything like this so bare with me.)
So, we arrived in Seoul on March 31st, after a grueling 14 hours in Shanghai. Shanghai was… quite an experience.
Let’s just say that we were so happy to finally land at the Incheon airport. The airport itself was beautiful. It had beautiful fountains, all kinds of beauty stores and convenience stores, and of course, the beloved Starbucks and Krispy Kreme.
You best believe that we took this as a chance to get our hands on some South Korea exclusive food and drinks. We actually had to wait a few hours for the rest of our group to make it (there was 5 of us in total) because they were flying in from California. So while we waited, we tried some Starbucks drinks.
Starbucks in Korea is like, next level. They have fizzy drinks, they have yogurt drinks, they have super creamy drinks with real fruit purée in them. They are amazing. However, word of warning: the fizzy drinks taste like they have alcohol in them, even though they don’t. If you’re all for that, then that is awesome. If not, try a frap instead. They are amazing.
We also got some tea flavored doughnuts while we were there. They were earl grey, sakura, and green tea flavored, and they were as delicious as they were aesthetically pleasing.
While we were there, there were a lot of middle/high school kids running around asking foreigners questions for school projects, and to our surprise, they all seemed to speak fluent English. There was one group of girls who came up to us and asked if they could ask us a few questions about k-pop, and of course we were fully prepared.
We didn’t actually get to the apartment until late, but the rest of the vacation was amazing!
Day 1: War Memorial
This would become the first in many “we got lost” stories.
So, luckily, our apartment in Yongsan was actually pretty close to the National Museum of Korea, and we were also down the street from Yongsan Station, so we decided to walk our way down to the station to try and get to the National Museum of Korea.
And once we got there, we learned that we had gone the wrong way.
But, we made lemons out of lemonade, and we decided to head over to the War Memorial instead! So we got to use the subway trains for the first time, and we made our way to the War Memorial. It was a bit of walk from the station (which we also got lost on), but when we got there, we were taken aback.
The memorial is focused on the Korean War, but it also a museum that teaches about Korea’s history with war and battles in general, and let me tell you, that is a long history.
To me, what was sort of surreal, was seeing these tablets filled with names of people who passed away during the Korean War.
That’s just one tablet filled with hundreds of names. But this wasn’t the only one.
All in all, there were two huge hallways like this, and two smaller ones, all filled with tablets filled with names.
In case you don’t see where I’m going with this: that’s a lot of dead bodies.
We wondered around there for a little bit, until we decided that we were starving enough to go get some good food, and we found some awesome pasta. We noticed it as we were walking to the War Memorial. There was a big pink building, and the top level said “Mama’s Pasta Bar”. I wasn’t sure what a pasta bar was, but it sounded good.
And it was.
Luckily, it was a restaurant that spoke English and had English menus, so we had no problems ordering. For some reason, my pasta was a tad bit on the spicy side, but it was amazing none the less. We all fully enjoyed our wonderful meals here.
Day 2: Hongdae
We started our day off at a Starbucks that wasn’t too far from our apartment, and I got this amazing yogurt drink that was basically like a yogurt-based frappucino with real fruit purée and it was pure heaven.
Of course, there was nothing special about going to Starbucks, since we just sat around and drank our drinks, but I just really wanted to share this drink because I really miss Korea Starbucks.
I really do.
We were all really looking forward to our Hongdae night. Hongdae is known as the university area, because there are three big universities in the area. So obviously, this is the place to go if you’re looking for the nightlife. We had an amazing night!
A few points of interest:
This place is adorable!
The food isn’t very good to be honest with you. The mousse cake isn’t very good and the drinks are okay.
But it’s adorable! A very photogenic area, and the stairs leading up to it are so cute!
Right after we went here, we then went to a meerkat cafe that was just up a block. And yes, you read that correctly: a meerkat cafe. But don’t let the name full you. There were also foxes, wallabies, and cats.
I would describe this place as more of a petting zoo-esque set up. They didn’t actually make their own drinks, they just sold water, juice, and other bottled drinks. And the drinks were crazy expensive, but then you realize that the drinks as basically a entrance fee. You are not allowed into the cafe without buying a drink, and the money goes towards taking care of the animals. But it’s very worth it! Very, very fun!
Another thing you should know about Korea: they have some ~amazing~ street food. I got this corndog-type thingy (I forget what it was actually called) and it doesn’t sound or look that groundbreaking, but it was amaaaazing. I had to stop and get some photo while we were walking.
We got there a little bit late and we didn’t really have much of a plan other than going to the cafes, so after this, we decided to go home and we started planning what we would do our next night in Hongdae. More on that later.
Also, a side note: there was a lot of street performances in the middle of the town near a park. There was even a rap battle.
Yep. A rap battle.
Would you expect anything less in Seoul?
Day 3: Lazy Day
We had a couple of “lazy days” in the apartment where we either stayed there or we didn’t venture out very far. While two of us went out to the National Museum, the rest of us decided to stay back and watch some TV, catch up on our e-mails, play games, blah blah blah. Then we decided to deliver short rib pizza and O.M.G.
It was literally the best pizza ever.
Better than any BBQ pizza you have ever had. I bet you.
It was from a place called Pizza School, and we delivered from the Shuttle App which, by the way, if you want to travel to Seoul, you NEED the Shuttle App! It works in English or Korean, and lets you order food from all around the city. It was a must have for us! The delivery fee’s are high, but when you don’t speak the language and don’t feel like going out, you need this app! Especially if you don’t have a Korean phone number, because even if you can figure out how to order food online in Korea, they usually require a Korean phone number.
Day 4: Gyeongbokgung Palace
I have a friend who lives in Seoul, and she told me that if I only did one thing in Seoul, that I had to check out the palace’s. And she was not wrong.
This place was gorgeous. Luckily, they have free tours in English, Korean, Japanese, and Chinese, so you don’t need to worry about not understanding the history! The Gyeongbokgung Palace is the largest one in the country, and was the center of a lot of Korean hub bub back in the day. It was unfortunately mostly torn down when Japan invaded them, but they were able to rebuild it in the 1800’s. Our English tour guide spoke semi-fluent English, and she was very nice and funny. (She even made BigBang jokes, and if you can talk about GD, I consider you an ally.)
We learned a lot about what it was like to live in these palace’s as a king or queen, and this was our favorite tidbit of information:
Just as you’d expect, the king had a harem with many concubines. The queen had her own little house in the palace separate from the king. The queen’s main job was to produce many children, and of course, an heir to the throne. The concubines were simply their for pleasure, and the queen was basically, like, their pimp. She was like “head of the concubines”, and they to report to her about everything. And, if a queen wasn’t able to produce a son (which was technically the kings fault, but they didn’t know that back then…), she could adopt a son of one of the concubines, and he would become the next king. However, that meant he was no longer allowed to see his mother.
After that, we decided to go to a ramen place, and it’s basically a little whole-in-the-wall place where they jazz up instant ramen, and it’s a great place to go if you’re in a rush, but we took our time since we were in no hurry.
Now, I can’t handle spice, so I knew that eating in Korea would be a struggle. I wasn’t wrong. I asked for cheese noodles which say, on the menu, clear as day, “non-spicy”.
Well, it wasn’t that bad.
But it was still a lie.
But it was still good and cheap, so… I can’t really complain!
Day 5: Itaewon
Itaewon is known as the international district. It is near the American military base, so we saw a lot of American (and Korean) soldier walking the streets. There were all kinds of different restaurants. Indian, Thai, Middle Eastern, even Canadian. I had never seen a Canadian restaurant until we went to Itaewon.
We went in the morning to get breakfast at a place called the Original Pancake House. If you’re American, and this sounds familiar, that’s because it’s actually an American chain. They only have international locations in Korea and Japan! And everything, from their crepes to their omelets, were huge.
This place was really expensive, but given how extra all their food is, it kind of makes sense.
After that we went walking the streets because there were so many great things! Our favorite part was the Line Store. Line is a popular messaging app in Korea (apparently in Korea they like to use messaging apps and not actually text each other…?). They also own Line Webtoons, which is really popular in Korea. Webtoons are basically online comics. They are awesome. (Seriously, you need to go on to Webtoons.com and read Lookism RIGHT NOW.)
So going to the Line Store was a treat! I even bought some stationary for the next school year, and I bought a notebook that would later become my bullet journal!
We also got some beautiful and delicious macaroons, but our fat asses straight up ate half of them before we could take any pictures.
Anyways, on a completely different note, I wanted to share these photos. As the sun was setting, I couldn’t help to stop and open up the windows and look out at the city. It was only our 5th day in a 15 day trip, but I already had this overwhelming feeling of dread because I knew that we would have to go back home, and it was at this moment that I decided that I would make sure to come back.
I know it sounds cheesy and dramatic, but I got teary eyed. I had worked so hard and saved up for so long to get there, and I was not ready to even think about going back home.
So since I’m still getting the hang of this whole blog thing, I think that for now, I’m going to leave it at that. I would love to write more about our trip and some of the cool stuff that we did while we were there, so let me know what you guys think! Also, have any of you ever traveled to Korea? What did you think about it? What about other parts of the world? Let’s talk in the comments!