Updated: Feb 1
Striking a pose on Apgujeong Rodeo Street
Where do I begin?
Well, to start off... Shout out to my friend Tom for bringing me with him on a First Class trip thanks to some traveling perks from the airline he worked for! :)
Upon arrival to the wonderful city of Seoul, everything seemed so entertaining with bright lights, crazy cool architecture, and big crowds of people everywhere, sorry agoraphobes, but this place isn't for you!
I found a good Airbnb condo that we stayed at in the Mapo-Gu District. It was pretty small but that's no surprise in Asia. It didn't really bother us because all we wanted was for a place to sleep since 90% of our days were spent outdoors exploring. We had nearby restaurants and coffee shops, and the good old 7Elevens to grab some breakfast on the go.
One thing you should all know is that Koreans don't speak much English. So it's best to read up on some common phrases to use when in need.
The subway system is so large that if you don't pay attention, you can easily get lost. There's 291 stations...crazy! The way their ticketing works is by purchasing a rechargeable card and the price depends on the location you go to. If it's close by, you'll only be paying the base fare of around 1050 krw (~1,25$ cad.) And if it's far, it can go up to 2000 krw. Keep in mind you always have to tap the card when you get in and when you get out. If you forget to tap it on the way out, next time you use it, you'll notice you'd get charged more for a ride than usually. It happened to me twice and I just couldn't understand how my friend's card had more money than mine, especially since we wen't everywhere together lol.
Food is a popular culture in Asia, you know that right? The first dish that I ever had was called eomuguk, which is a Korean fish cake soup. Noodles are definitely a must, and if you're not a crazy seafood person, don't you worry there's other options you can have. Just take a look at this and tell me you're not salivating right now!
Just take a look at this and tell me you're not salivating right about now...
From mung bean pancakes to deep dish pizzas to Korean bbq to bingsu dessert. This place has it all and there's such a huge abundance in everything that it's impossible to be left hungry. You can find everything and anything, even Greek food haha!
With lots of exploring, comes lots of temple hunting. This one was by far the greatest looking palace I've seen in Seoul. You need a good 2 hours minimum to explore the grounds of this old dynasty. There's lots of architecture to be seen as well as ponds and the beautiful nature that surrounds some parts. Something cool to see here is every couple of hours there's a parade type of show with traditional costumes being warn and cool drums and flags showcasing ceremonial traditions in the Korean culture.
Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP)
This building is one of many really cool things to look at. It's made to look like something ultra futuristic, like a UFO. Downtown Seoul is obviously where all the action happens. Home to literally the biggest skyscrapers and malls I have ever seen in my life. When they say Koreans love shopping, they're definitely beyond your wildest dreams NOT kidding haha! You will find absolutely anything you need, and before you're about to spend that money, I suggest you take a look around to find it elsewhere because many retailers sells very similar things and different price ranges, so spend wisely folks!
You can definitely find stores that sell clothes at very low prices. These places are mostly in the hipster areas where you'll find many students and younger people shop.
This village has everything infused. One part of it is old and historical from back in the days and the other side is kind of a hipster's paradise. Beautiful things to look at, cool funky food stands, furniture and gadget shops. And obviously, people everywhere you go.
Don't be surprised if you get stared at a lot. Koreans are friendly and don't mean harm. They just admire white people who are way taller than them and have facial hair that they probably want to secretly touch!
Bukhansan National Park
This beautiful mountain is definitely one of the highlights of my trip. The highest point is 836m tall. My friend and I took a harder trail to the top which took us around 4-5 hours. We we're gassing out towards the end but knew we had to push ourselves harder because we didn't climb all that for nothing. Let me tell you this, we both had heavy equipment to carry, food, and water, because there is no 7Eleven up there to save our lives of course. We had hats on, running shoes and a little trail map. All there is to it is uphill.
If you're not into photography as much or just had a big meal and don't want to carry anything food with you, do so anyway! You will want to take beautiful pictures of this place because it's surreal, you will want a snack to gain some fuel and you definitely will need a giant bottle of water. That was the coolest yet hardest thing I've ever done. Located in Seoul, so once you're high enough you see the city and the beautiful nature all around. And since we made it, I told my friend, "Ok, we did this, we can definitely go on The Amazing Race!" If any employee from that TV show is reading this, please hook me up, I'm so down! :P
Gangchon Rail Bike
The other great highlight that I experienced at the end of my trip was this popular tourist attraction in which people can pedal along the tracks next to the beautiful Bukhangang River. It was such a peaceful way to end my experience in Korea. You have to take a train which takes you about 2 hours outside of Seoul if you want to experience this. I highly suggest it because you also go inside a tunnel where they have crazy lights and fire and music going on as part of the experience!
Even though I only stayed in Seoul for 1 week, I got to experience the coolest technology, funkiest food, beautiful nature and entertainment everywhere I'd go. If I were to describe it, I'd say it's a hipster hi-tec asian version of New York City!
Forever grateful for this experience, I love you Seoul!