It was just a month ago when I decided to go on a trip to Seoul. I can’t speak Korean at all, but I wanted to try traveling alone in that country. I didn’t feel real to this plan until the departure, and I finally felt that I would go there just getting a boarding ticket at the check-in counter.
Although Hiroshima where I live has an airport from which man can directly fly to Seoul, there was no seat available when I searched for a flight. And hence I went via Fukuoka. It took long but fun to take a highway bus. In departing from the airport, the weather wasn’t good and the plane went through the turbulence. We experienced „free-fall“ once but I could arrive at Inchon International Airport in one piece. Yes, otherwise I am not blogging now…
Even after arriving in Seoul, still it was a adventure for me because it was my first visit and I didn’t check the way at all. Anyhow, I got a transportation card at the convenience store, inquired for a route to the city center at Tourist Information and headed to Seoul station. It went all well.
Recently the media broadcast so many negative behaviors from the government of Korea toward Japan, but it was mere a world of the governments. Neither at the stores nor restaurants did I feel unpleasant reactions from local people. There were rather very nice and friendly. As I was just tired due to the long way to Seoul, I had a dinner nearby Seoul station and took a rest for tomorrow.
Seoul was cloudy this day. It rained sometimes, and it turned to sunny sometimes. However, I would say that it was mild and comfortable. Under this weather my second day in Seoul started with Italian breakfast – panini. Eating the sandwich, I checked the location of several sightseeing spots, and then headed to Insa-dong. They are famous for souvenirs but I went there to visit „Unhyeongung“, a palace where the father of Emperor Gojong used to live. They exhibited many traditional scroll and reproduced the observances that imperial families had had.
After that, I went to „Changdeokgung“, the secondary palace of Gyeongbokgung. When I entered the place and saw their architectures, I was so impressed of its beautiful patterns designed over the framed timbers.
„Changdeokgung“ has the secret garden as large as the front area but I didn’t enter there thinking that I wouldn’t have time enough to visit other places afterwards. Getting out of the „Changdeokgung“, I realized that time got good for lunch. I thought of having a Korean lunch at first but I just found a small pretty cafeteria next to the palace and decided to have lunch there. There were only a baby and her mother as customers there when I just entered but the cafeteria got many visits from nearby companies soon. I understood that they came to enjoy cozy gathering with rich refreshments. How delicious the cafe latte and sandwich were!
Then I went through Samcheong-dong-Bukchon area, which is famous for traditional houses and nice cafeterias. One Korean guy spoke to me on the way and kindly told me where I could find very traditional houses of Korea in this area and took me there. It was also one of the very good experiences I had during the trip.
My wandering still went on to the National Folk Museum of Korea and Gyeongbokgung. I didn’t expect that hard to walk all over on foot without using the subway, but I could complete these areas only by walking. It was interesting to see the pods that Koreans used to pickled Kimchi in the past. I imagined that the palace should have a large number of the pods to provide it with no shortage and that they enjoyed the variations. Hmm, yummy!
I felt little tired after walking so long, and took a rest near Cheonggyecheon River. At that time, I spoke to a Turkish guy as he was searching for something on the map. He traveled also alone in Asia for his long vacation, and was going to Japan after Korea. We shared several information on good places to visits and delicious dishes, then separated. It is also a great part of traveling.
Later in the evening, I had a promise to meet Japanese friend who lived in Seoul. We went to the same high school but interestingly became friend after graduation. We met in Shinchon where she lived and had chicken dish with her friend at her recommended restaurant. Yes, it was so delicious! After dinner we went to Hangang river to see the night view, and then to Itaewon to enjoy a glass of beer. This was the great closing of the day 2.
My friends often say that I call rains. This is just a matter of probability but still it gets rainy when I do something special, like traveling. It rained heavily a day before and would keep raining this day according to the weather report. This wasn’t the reason but I started my day little late. I got up around 10 o’clock, had a brunch at Seoul Station, and headed to another sightseeing spot, Deoksugung Palace.
After entering the Deoksugung, I proceeded very slowly hiding myself from rains sometimes. Luckily, however, rains just stopped when I approached to one of the architectures close to the entrance. I looked over the building and again was mesmerized by the design pattern. Then, I heard somebody say, „let’s ask someone to take a shot of us.“ I looked straight and found two girls taking a photo each other. Soon I noticed that they wanted their two-shot picture. With no hesitation I just spoke to them and told that I could photograph them. Both of them spoke English so that we chatted little at site, and eventually took a photo together. They invited me to a dinner in that evening but unfortunately I already had a previous engagement with my friend, so we just shared Facebook contacts and separated.
Thereafter I went to a southern part of Seoul to see Samseong and Olympic Park. They had many unique architectures and objects. None of them were traditional Korean designs but rather modern. I was also lucky to see rainbows behind a symbolic architecture of Olympic Park. Then, I felt that I completed most of major sites in Seoul within 2 days except for shopping streets.
In the evening on that day, I had a promise to meet my friend again for dinner with her friends. Therefore I went back to her town after the Olympic Park. When I arrived at the meeting place, it was already dusk, but colourful lights on buildings along the streets didn’t make me feel sad to wait.
She has lived in Seoul more than 1 year, so it is not strange that she has many friends. However, I didn’t expect to have so large number of her friends to have dinner together and therefore I was little surprised that I eventually had a drinking party with 10 people. Everybody was so friendly and I had a lot of fun. Of course, the dishes were also great.
This morning one of the students who took part in the exchange program at HUE contacted to me and told that he was in Seoul. Therefore, we met in Seoul for the first time in 6 months after the program.
At his suggestion we went to Jongmyo – Royal Shrine of Korea. The shrine is a Confucian shrine and where memorial tablets for kings and queens of the Joseon Dynasty are kept. This shrine was little unique concerning the entry. They open to visitors during specific time frames with guide on weekdays and open to anybody only on Saturday. Koreans are not allowed to enter on weekdays unless otherwise s/he brings foreign visitor(s). He kindly checked the schedule and thus both of us could enter the place on time.
After the Jongmyo, we stopped by Insa-dong before going back to the Seoul Station.
Although I planned to visit only Seoul at first, I decided to go to Daegu to see the Korean students, who come to HUE in a month, just when I left Hiroshima. So after having lunch with him, I went to Daegu by KTX – Korean bullet train.
I was wondering if I could find the students easily, but we just found ourselves when I came to the meeting place. Moving to the city center, we had coffee and chatted for a while at a very popular cafeteria. It was a very good opportunity to see them before they really come in Hiroshima. Now we know each other so I won’t miss them when picking up at their arrival to the station.
Later, other Korean students, who just finished the same exchange program and came back to Daegu, joined us and went to dinner together. Daegu is very famous for delicious yakiniku – makjjang, and one of them suggested to go to eat that. The Japanese friend whom I met a day before also told me of this, and now I understand how delicious the makjjang yakiniku was. They also shared useful information while enjoying the dinner, so it was a right arrangement 🙂
On the following day, I still stayed in Daegu until the afternoon, because I could meet another friend who had studied at HUE. We talked a lot and shared what we were doing by enjoying lunch together. Although it has been just 6 months since he left but I found him very different from the time in Hiroshima. Now he’s very mature and soon gets promoted to a manager. Good for you, Jaewon-kun.
Afterwards, I went back to Seoul and continued my trip there. Since this was supposed to be the last day in Seoul, I bought lots of souvenir. Well, I knew that I would have to extend the stay due to the typhoon later though.
my backpack got full of souvenir inside.
I also enjoyed the night views in Seoul.
However, I didn’t have time to go to Namsan Tower…
Day 6 & 7
I was supposed to go back to Japan on 28th, but I couldn’t go home since the typhoon was approaching to Korea and hence my return flight was canceled. Therefore, I decided to enjoy lots of Korean food for the rest of time here, as I wasn’t able to go out for sightseeing either due to the weather.
Although I accidentally had to extend my stay in Seoul due to the typhoon, I could finally go back to Japan.
It was a nice experience to travel alone in Korea. Many free time, many nice people and lots of kindness from people here. At a small shop, I said the dishes were very tasty, the owner responded „thank you“ in Japanese. At a convenience store, I asked staff where the portable battery was in Korean but she didn’t understand my words. I finally showed a sample and she got it. She even explained how I could ask well in Korean. On the street in Samcheong-dong, I was wandering with my heavy backpack. One guy, who saw me, asked where I was from. I answered, „Japan.“ Then he kindly ushered to very nice traditional houses.
Now media broadcast only negative behaviors between Korea and Japan but I found it just a world of the governments or a world of millionth. According to my friend who works at a travel agency, many Japanese cancel their trip to Korea. One of my friends tells me that a Korean town in Tokyo has lost many customers recently. However, it is really a shame that people has lost their sense of composure just being under the influence of media information. It is eventually even better for us to interact with local people now and see the positive fact that our media doesn’t broadcast.