Nate and I arrived in Seoul the Saturday after Thanksgiving weekend 2016. Seoul, South Korea's capital, is Asia's 4th richest city. It is a bustling metropolis, filled with both skyscrapers, modern subways, old Buddhist temples and palaces, street markets filled with delicious, unique Korean food dishes, and cheap souvenirs, all with a dash of k-pop culture. Nate and I were excited to explore this beautiful city.
We got spoiled this weekend since Nate was able to use his Hilton points for our vacation :) #nicehotels Unfortunately, Nate and I both were coming down with a cold. Our bodies may have been in a bit of shock from the cold weather compared to our island Okinawa weather. So since we got in late Saturday night, we decided to stay in and relax our first night and enjoy the lovely view from our corner hotel room.
The next day, Nate still wasn't feeling well but I felt a little better and was able to meet up with some old college friends from Cal #gobears - Tom and Sandra. These two both live in Seoul and Sandra speaks pretty damn good Korean, so essentially I got to hang out with some 'locals'. We started out our afternoon at Gwangjang Market, a market near Jongno 5 ga subway stop. Here we got to see all types of different local foods, smells of kimchi and fish filling our nostrils. We decided to have one of the local dishes - Beef tartare bibimbap with a side of soup. We also enjoyed some yummy raw egg on beef tartare as well. #nomnom
After the market, we walked along Cheong-gye-cheon, an urban stream about 15 ft below street level that runs for 5.8 km (3.6 miles) in the middle of the city. The stream is beautifully landscaped and has footbridges, waterfalls, and art along the falls - a little oasis in the middle of this bustling city.
We walked back up to street level up to Gwanghwamun Square. When we first walked up, we saw a statue of Admiral Yi Sun-sin (1545-1598) - he designed geobukseon (turtle boats) - a new type of metal-clad warships that the Koreans used to win a series of battles vs. the larger Japanese navy at the end of the 16th century. As we walked through the square, there was a series of protests going on against the current South Korean President Park Geun-hye (note: not long after this she was impeached (Dec 9, 2017)) and a memorial for the Sewol ferry incident of April 2014 (also one of the many issues the South Koreans had with President Park Guen-hye and how she handled it). It was interesting witnessing the protests all over the city against the President and then seeing the news only a few weeks later that the people had spoken - and she was no longer in office.
After the square, we walked the streets of Seoul (enjoying some soju and sprite :) ), taking in the temples, buildings, and markets. They took me to Namdaemun Market to enjoy one of Sandra's favorite street foods, a hotteok - a Chinese pancake filled with sweet fillings like cinnamon, green tea, or peanuts. We tried one with cinnamon which was quite tasty.
Next we went over the Myeongdong area, where Nate was meeting us for dinner since he was feeling better. Here we got to see the wide variety of Korean street foods like fried cheese and rice cakes, potato tornados, broiled lobster tails, seafood, french fry corn dogs, etc. Once we met up with Nate, we found a little restaurant where we enjoyed a Korean dish with veggies, spicy rice cakes, meat, and cheese - yum!
After we said goodbye to Tom and Sandra, Nate and I headed over to the Myeong-dong Theater for Seoul's famous Nanta show. This has been running for 15 years now and was a mix of magic tricks, folk music, drumming with kitchen utensils, comedy, chopping, martial arts, etc. Very entertaining for people of all languages and fun to watch. We weren't allowed to take photos or videos during the show but I found a good highlight reel on youtube (video below).
Fun fact: The day before, Nate had some extra time while he was relaxing at the hotel and felt the urge to go play some slots (for those that know us, this happens every now and then and usually works out in his favor - countless times winning $140 - $200 on penny slots around the bases). Nate headed down to the casino at the lobby of our hotel to go test out his urge. $20 later - he won $225 - #sweet! Nate being the sweet husband that he is, he purchased an in-room massage for me. The hotel we were staying at employed blind masseuses. So that morning, I got to enjoy an hour massage in our room from an older blind masseuse. It was a really cool experience and very relaxing :) Great way to start the day. #thanksbabe
That afternoon, Nate and I enjoyed the beautiful sunny day in Seoul by heading up the Namsan hill near our hotel to check out the N Seoul Tower. (N stands for new, Namsan, and nature) One of Seoul's famous landmarks was also their first radio tower built in 1969. At 243 meters high - it marks the highest point in Seoul. It's an easy walk up the hill but since we were both trying to get over our coughs/colds, we opted for the cable car up to the top.
Near the N Seoul tower, Seoul has it's own version of locks of love like the Pont Neuf bridge in Paris. Here couples get to lock their "padlock of love" onto the railing and to dream that their love will last forever. Unlike some of the other love lock places around the world, here they encourage you to attach your locks all around the area including the railings, metal trees, metal hearts and so on. The locks ranged from color to different sizes to messages in different languages. It was a stunning sight to see, so naturally Nate and I had to add a lock of our own. #bondsforever
That night, since I still wasn't feeling well, Tom and Sandra took us out for some Samgyetang, Ginseng Chicken Soup, which they say Koreans eat when they're sick. A small chicken is stuffed with rice, ginseng, garlic, and jujube We also had a ginseng shot #killthatsickness It was delicious and totally hit the spot. Sandra also helped by taking me to a local drug store and getting me some pills to help me feel better - her Korean came in handy! I was given a pill for each symptom I had which is not what I'm used to - so three different pills later - Nate and I were finally headed back to our hotel.
Thanks Tom and Sandra for showing us all around Seoul :) Love getting to visit fellow Berkeley Bears all around this dazzling world of ours! #UCBerkeley #bearsabroad
Tune in next time for the second half our Seoul trip where we visit the JSA/DMZ, one of the palaces/temples, and a raccoon cafe!
Follow in our Footsteps:
Millennium Hilton Seoul (Great hotel but a little pricey - if you're able to afford definitely stay here! #hiltonpoints)
50, Sowol-ro, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea
88 Changgyeonggung-ro, Jongno 1(il).2(i).3(sam).4(sa),
Jongno-gu, 서울특별시 South Korea
Hours: 9am - 11pm
Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea
1-68 Sejongno, Jongno-gu, 서울특별시 South Korea
21 Namdaemunsijang 4-gil, Namchang-dong,
Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Myeongdong NANTA Theater
26 Myeongdong-gil, Myeongdong 2(i)-ga,
Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea
We bought tickets here (range from $26-$55)
2 shows Sunday-Friday 5pm and 8pm, 3 shows Saturday - 2pm, 5pm, 8pm
N Seoul Tower
105 Namsangongwon-gil, Yongsan 2(i)ga-dong,
Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Hours: 10am - 11pm
Observatory: adults ₩10,000 ($8.75), children ₩8,000
Cable car: adults ₩6,000 one way, ₩8,000 roundtrip (children ₩3,500 one way, ₩5,000 roundtrip)
You can purchase locks at the top and use their pen to write on them for ₩10,000 ($8.75)
Megan Bond - AUTHOR
Just a girl raised in California and loved exploring Southeast Asia with my husband! We're back in the States but still exploring the world as much as we can!