Travelled in December 2019
Going from tropical weather of 30 degrees in Da Nang (Vietnam), to minus 3 in Seoul (Korea), is nothing short but a recipe for a cold.
This was also the coldest my parents have ever experienced. They were not prepared for it and needless to say, they quickly utilised my spare coats which I packed from my earlier stops in Europe.
For those who have never been to the largest city in South Korea, Seoul is HUGE. I can’t even try and explain the density and vastness that expands across the city. We were in a taxis from the airport to our hotel (in the CBD) and it took us an hour – on the motorway with no traffic! It felt like the city never reached an end. Once you get closer to the CBD there are multiple bridges that you can cross to get to the main island where the heart of the city was located. If I could compare it, it would be like three times the size of Manhattan. Including three times the culture shock, culinary experience and subway stops.
Luckily for us, right next to our hotel was a well known restaurant serving only 4 different dishes, one being the best dumplings I’ve ever had! And of course, free refill of kimchi. You can’t get more authentic Korean than kimchi and eating with metal chopsticks.
While in Korea, you would not be able to use Google maps. Korea has ruled out any intelligence data collection from Google, the best map/app to use is called Naver. And is free to download.
We spent the first day of our quick trip exploring the main strip of Myeong-dong, in Jung-gu. Of course, the first thing I did was look for a grocery store to check out all things Korean, such as their popular Korean milk!
While walking down the main shopping strip, your senses will immediately be inundated with the bright lights, delicious smells, and the sounds of people chatting and laughing. All while they stand around socialising in the cold. I often like to observe and reflect these moments of human gatherings, fascinating that it always tends to evolve around food and what people are willing to put up with when it comes to food, e.g. wait time, or being in a crowded place or waiting in the cold/heat.
The next day we did our more touristy experience to get them ticked off our list. First stop was visiting the Seoul Tower to see the vastness of the city. Because I was travelling with my family of 4, it ended up being cheaper for us to take a taxis than public transport. To take public transport, you will need to get a Metro card called TMoney to load it up with funds and tap on and off, on trains and buses.
After seeing the cityscape from above, we then made a stop at the old town of Seoul, Bukchon Hanok Village. Here you will find more traditional houses in alley ways, which you can explore for free, but you will have to be quiet as they are still people’s homes. You can also rent out the traditional Korean outfits, Hanok, to walk around and take photos for the day.
We left Seoul for a short day trip outside of the city, you can find many bus tours taking you to the countryside of Korea, which I can only assume looks even more beautiful in Spring and Summer.
We did a day trip to Nami Island and then a tour of the Garden of Morning Calm at night. A bit touristy, but my parents were there for it. We booked it via Viator (which I tend to do all my day trip bookings through as it’s global).
I can only describe Nami Island as a resort type to entertain people on vacation, you can stay on the island, there is even a flying fox you can swing across to the island, but we opted to take a 5 min boat ride to get to the island. There was also a man made snow machine to help set the scene of a winter wonderland.
The next part of the tour was a stop at The Garden of Morning Calm. Which I can only describe as the closest thing to experiencing a trip on acid, without actually taking it. Thousands of fairy lights filled the garden for you to escape into your fantasy.
Definitely an Instagram background paradise.
After a long day of being out in the cold, we got back to Seoul for more traditional Korea cuisine. I really can live on Korea food, it’s so vegetarian friendly and full of flavours.
We spent the last day of our trip shopping and venturing out to Gangnam. It surprised me that Korean fashion is indeed quite expensive yet they dress so well!
I know I shouldn’t have, but I couldn’t resisted, I went to a dog cafe where you can have a coffee and have some cuddles with these furry faces. They were clean, well behaved and treated fairly. Also worth noting that in high density cities like Seoul, mental health is a big issue and sometimes, animal interactions help reduce stress and anxiety.
Til next time Korea! I’m tempted going back just to eat!