Asia

Day 1/5: A Taste of Seoul

— 24 Apr 2013 —

After a few days in HK, I took the red-eye (it was a good idea at the time. In hindsight, not so much) straight for Seoul. I landed at an ungodly hour, blurry eyed and fucking freezing. I thought it was meant to be Spring in the Northern Hemisphere?! Darn you climate change!

Armed with my friend’s instructions, I bought a bus ticket looking for their place only to be stranded outside because *P’s phone was not working. Darn you Vodafone! No matter, that’s when you need a trusty boyfriend (*P’s, not mine) who came and rescued me from the cold. The upside?  Watching the sun rise over the vast plains of Seoul (looked a bit like a nuclear waste ground though).

I washed all my weariness away and made it down the road for a quick Parisian breakfast because the others had already made plans for me which was great because I was ready to kick-start my Seoul experience.

First I needed to check-in and dump my suitcase. And man, was that a bitch of an experience. When one says their place has 24hr reception, I expect them to actually have a 24hr reception. I expect them to have a doorbell that would alert the 24hr reception that someone was stranded outside with their suitcase. But no, not this place with its so-called 24hrs reception. I wasted an hour banging on the door, clambering over gates, defending myself against the Dulux dog, you know all that stuff one does to get the attention of the owner. With more banging on the door, a grumpy and dishevelled Korean lady finally answered the door and made me feel guilty for disturbing her sleep. WTF. Seoul 1. Me 0.

I rushed to meet the others at the Gwanghwamun departure point but missed them by 20 mins so I did my own exploring around the Namdaemun Market before meeting them at the one of the restaurants there. It was as I expected. Lots of small delicious plates and a mild spicy tofu stew, all at a low price of 5,000 won (AUD$5). Yum AND a bargain. I’m loving Seoul already.

We all set off together to the National Museum of Korea. As I step off the bus, I thought I was just getting dropped off ont he side of the road. This is because the museum itself is at the back of the grounds which has a grand entrance, a stone garden and a lake. You know, as you do. Once you’re tired, you know you’ve reached the entrance of the museum. Yes, that’s how far back the museum is.

There are 3 floors in the museum and to be quite honest, the exhibits were all pretty boring for me. Other than the Calligraphy and Painting Gallery, I was taken aback by the architecture of all things.

And since I was still jet lagged, I was allowed to feel this way and I’m sticking to the story. Or I think I was bored because there were SOO many kids around. (Just so you know, there is the Ancient History gallery, Sculpture and Crafts Gallery, Asian Arts Gallery and the Donation Gallery).

So I bailed after dragging my feet for an hour. By this time, I was really really tired and I had to make it back to check into the hostel. I made it back just in time to get an hour of shut-eye before I met my roomie and ran out to meet my Goodwill guide.

I set up a meeting with a Goodwill guide because I really didn’t know what to expect from South Korea, except for sundubu jjigae. Goodwill guides are volunteer guides registered with the Korea Tourism Organization who help visitors get more from their visit to South Korea. My guide was called Sunny and he was as cheerful as his name.

We were to meet at Exit 1 of Seoul Station but at the time, it was under maintenance. So I went to the 2 cloeset exits to see whether he was there. No, he wasn’t. So I ran aboveground of the 3 exits and couldn’t find him there either. I was thinking, this was a great idea (NOT!!). So I did something I hadn’t done since primary school. I used a payphone. Seoul 2. Me 0.

Eventually we found each other and we got down to business. Sunny was extremely friendly and gave me a rough itinerary for my 4 days in town. He showed me the night lights of  NS Seoul, we walked around Myeong-dong, we talked about his Goodwill experiences and my first impression of Seoul. It was a great experience and great way to end my first night in Seoul.

Thanks Sunny!!

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