The whole month was quite depressing. But the decision to make a trip to Korea changed everything. Korea was never really on my list of countries that I really want to visit. There are so many countries that I was more interested in. I would have never had the idea to visit Korea from Germany. But from Japan? It’s just 1 hour and 40 minutes flight from Osaka to Seoul. That’s nothing! I really wanted to take the chance to visit a place, that I would have never visited otherwise. And at the end I just realized that I wasn’t that interested in Korea, because I didn’t know much about the country. That’s different for Asians. Korea is such a big topic! If Korean food, skin care, trends or music. I feel like the popularity and influence of South Korea is rising enormously. And I have to admit, that I absolutely loved it!
I took the flight at the 28thof July after work. My friend Elle, who is doing an internship in Tokyo, was already in Seoul, because she had one day more off than me. Her hotel is less strict in these terms than mine. Nevertheless, I managed to get 4 days off in a row! We are only allowed to request 3 days off per month. I was smart enough to request the last 3 days of the month and the first day of the next month. Genius, right?!
It was such a coincidence that Amanda, a friend from work, went to the airport at the same time as me. She finished her internship already. Therefore, we took together a taxi to the bus stop at Kyoto station and from there the bus directly to Kansai Airport. She was pretty happy, that I was there to help her with her luggage. I already see myself struggling with all my suitcases and bags when going to the airport. That’s going to be tough.
With the bus it takes 1,5 hours to the airport. I was so tired, that I actually slept. Kansai airport is located directly on the sea, which is pretty cool. We arrived there super early, plus my flight was delayed. I said good-bye to Amanda and decided to eat Sushi for dinner. That was actually one of the only choices here. My flight took off after 9pm. Therefore, I arrived in Seoul super late. From the airport in Seoul I took a bus in the city and walked the rest to the hotel. I arrived there after midnight. Elle already slept. Because I didn’t want to wake her up, I went immediately to bed. You have no idea how happy I was that I was finally in Korea!
The next day I woke up pretty early, so I could take a shower, wash my hair and get ready. The weather forecast was not the best, but we were so lucky during the entire stay. Of course, I made a plan for our trip with all the sights I would like to see, food we should eat and shops we have to visit. I just have to organise things. Therefore, we made our way to Gyeongbokgung Palace. When we bought the Subway ticket we already fell in love with this super cute design. Before going to the Palace, we went to one those many Hanbok rental shops. Hanbok (Han=Korean; bok=dress) is the traditional Korean clothing. It’s the same thing as in Japan with the Kimono/ Yukata rental. The difference is just, that the Kimono is still worn nowadays by Geishas, Meikos and for special occasions. In Korea it is not part of the life anymore, to wear a Hanbok.
Because we are both so tall, we didn’t have as many pattern choices as the others. Nevertheless, it was just so cool to get to wear a Hanbok. After the ladies made our hair, we went outside to Gyeongbokgung Palace. We felt like Princesses. Because we looked so different, not only because of the dress, but especially because of our height and our typical “foreigner” look, we were the number one attraction. So many people asked us for a picture or just took some without even asking. It was adorable!
The palace itself was really cool. We came perfectly on time for the changing of the guardians. That was definitely our highlight! It was kind of scary to see these serious looking guardians, but definitely part of the experience. Because the line for the ticket to go inside the palace was huge, we decided not to go inside. Afterward we heard, that it is free for people wearing a Hanbok to visit the Palace. Such a shit!
From Gyeongbokgung Palace we walked to Samcheong-ro-gil street and finally to Bukchon Hanok Village. Bukchon Hanok Village is the historical quarter of Seoul. It was like being back in time, us, both wearing Hanbok and walking through the Bukchon Hanok Village. Insane! I really liked the look and the atmosphere of these little alleys and streets. We even got to try a famous Korean sweet made out of pumpkin flower. Super interesting! Afterwards we made our way back to the rental store to return the dresses. We rent the dress only for 2 hours, because we were meeting a friend of Elle for lunch. But these two hours were okay and enough to have the experience. Furthermore, it was so hot, that we were actually happy to take off those layers of clothes.
With the subway we made our way to Anguk. Elles friend from High school was born and lives in Seoul. She showed us some nice coffee places and the Insadong area. For lunch we decided to try traditional Korean monk cuisine. She didn’t know the restaurant before, but I heard good things about it. The atmosphere, the service, the presentations and just the whole experience was phenomenal. We got so many courses and different types of food, that we have never tried or even heard of. I just loved it to try all these little dishes. Especially the presentation amazed me. I love it, that you have so many different things to try and that you share everything. That’s in general the case in Asia! In Europe we all order our own dish and that’s it.
The food itself is not something I would like to eat every day. I didn’t like all of those things, but it was definitely traditionally and good prepared. The whole menu was vegetarian/vegan, because monks obviously don’t eat meat or fish.
After lunch we said good-bye to Elle’s Korean friend. We walked a little bit more through insadong, which is basically just a street with a lot of shops and restaurants, until we reached Jogyesa Temple. Jogyesa Temple was such a beautiful and colourful place. Many lanterns were hanging around and created a nice atmosphere. At the moment we went by, there was a big ceremony inside the temple. Monks were singing and many people around came to pray and sing with them. Even though I saw so many temples already, it is always interesting to see how different they are depending on the country.
Because Gwanghwamun Square was right on the way, we passed by to see the beautiful square with view to Gyeonbokgung Palace. I really enjoyed walking the big street along until reaching Cheonggyecheon Stream. The little river creates a little piece of nature in the middle of seoul. We walked along the stream and just sat down, relaxed and dipped our feet inside the water.
From there we decided to go all the way to Gangnam. Seoul is quite a big city with different areas. Our hotel was located in Myeongdong, popular for shopping and the night market. Gangnam shows in my opinion more the local life of Seoul, where else Hongdae is the hipster and young quarter of the city. To move from one area to another you have to have some time. It took us around 45 minutes to reach Gangnam. Straight after arriving, we saw the famous Gangnam style statue. I feel like that’s one thing about Korea, that even Europeans know about.
Next to the statue is a huge shopping centre. At the basement floor is a huge library that I really wanted to visit. Not because I love Korean books! I know, a library doesn’t sound that great, but it is much more than that. It looked just stunning and so unique. These huge shelfs full of books, symmetrically organised times four. The escalators are going right up along the shelfs and creates just a picture-perfect place. Really unique! When heading outside we passed by a Joe and the Juice where we both got a green Smoothie and a ginger shot. You have no idea how much I missed something like a green smoothie. That doesn’t really exist in Japan! Maybe because Japan is an island and Korea is part of the main land, it is in general much cheaper and diverse. They are having much more choices of food and shops.
Because Gangnam is a huge area where it is impossible to walk from A to B, we took a subway to the main shopping area. We went inside some fun shops and walked around the streets. It took us quite a while until we found a place to eat dinner. I didn’t search in advance which restaurant in Gangnam has good reviews, because I didn’t actually plan to come here for our first day. Furthermore, I didn’t have WIFI to search for a place. We walked a long time around until we finally found an okay looking restaurant.
It looked very local! But there were some locals inside, which always means that it can’t be that bad. At the end it was just a really good and authentic Korean meal, one of the best meals we had actually! The service didn’t speak English and we couldn’t read the menu. Therefore, we were so lucky that the table next to us spoke English and Korean. In general, are Korean people much much better in terms of speaking English than Japanese people. Much better! That the older generation doesn’t know how to speak English is understandable. That would be the same case in Germany. The couple next to us was so nice, explained us the food, recommended us their favourite dishes and made the order for us. It was just lovely and the food delicious! In Korea you always get some side dishes, like Kimchi, automatically to your dish. Therefore, we ordered 3 dishes and had at the end a full table of food. Amazing!
Afterwards we walked a while along the big river and just talked. It was such a nice day and I was so glad that we are so similar in terms of travelling, humour and so on. It couldn’t have been better. At night there is one bridge, which has a rainbow fountain show to certain times. We walked and saw it from far away, but when we arrived the show was already over. We thought there would be another show soon, but it turns out there wasn’t. It was still beautiful just to sit by the river, talk and chill. I really missed that!
It was already super late when we walked back. At the end we took a taxi going back to the hotel. By the way, Taxi drivers don’t speak English either and are to 80% blind. It was so difficult to explain him where we want to go. But at the end we made it to the right location. The day was so exciting and just amazing. I was already in love with Korea and was just looking forward to the next day!