Wandering around streets in Seoul never feels so pleasant and better. The fresh Spring breeze blew to welcome me and my “koreaboos”, 16 Degrees breeze is something we never experience on a daily basis in Bangkok.
Our first activity started off with Myeongdong Kyoja (명동교자). Our Korean friend Minwoo (who had been waiting for us to arrive for three hours) took us to a popular restaurant in small and busy streets of Myeongdong. The dish was simple but tasted sooo heavenly, Minwoo ordered three Kalguksu ‘chopped noodle’ soup and Mandu dumpling for us. This local meal fulfilled us completely!
Afterwards, Minwoo brought us to a famous tea cafe known as “Osulloc (오설록) Tea House” in Myeongdong. We tried their soft green tea cake, milk green tea smoothie, tea from Jeju island and its tempting milk spread with crackers. That afternoon was all about food.
Being fatigued from the last uncomfortable flight, we only walked around a bit in Myeongdong and decided to go back to our hotel “Chungmuro Residence & Hotel” in order to ‘officially’ check in and for a powerful nap. Since we would meet my Korean friend “Jiin” tonight. I have been friends with her for 6 years and I was very excited to introduce Jiin to my two Ploys.
We met with Jiin at the underground bar called “Tipsy Rabbits” in the middle of Hongdae. This bar is not one of those overcrowded bars, it rather offered a cool and friendly vibe. We had cocktails and the girls had some tequila shots (’cause why not?!?). Apart from catching up, we made friends with Jiin’s friends as well, it was hands-down a cozy atmosphere. Moreover, we chatted a little with the owner since he speaks good English so we got to introduce ourselves to each other. That night was the first fun & enjoyable night with my good old & new friends in Seoul.
To tell you the truth, we had not planned anything for Seoul as we were quite chill and easy-going, so we just went with the flow. The next morning, we randomly singled out blue outfits and wore it together for a change. The weather was lovely out with its fresh spring breeze. We stopped by to have noodles in a restaurant next to our hotel and later took the metro to Gyeongbokgung Palace (경복궁) to wander around their famous landmark. We were here once in 2016 for a university trip, but still we wanted to feel the touristy vibe again.
A bit further from the palace we continued to Bukchon Hanok Village (북촌한옥마을) to see a well-known Korean traditional village. Just right at the entry of Samcheong-dong, we spotted a quiant garden café called “Jinsun Book Café (진선북카페)” so we decided to have some coffee under the sun as well.
Bukchon Hanok Village consists of hundreds of old styled houses, it was like we went back in time during the Joseon Dynasty. Some houses are transformed to cultural centers, cafés, tea houses. However, it is still the residential area, tourists who visiting the area have to respect the area and its people. We shall not disturb them by talking loudly or whatsoever. For the village itself, I would say it is a nice old area overlooking the city and being surrounded by mountains since this place is up on the hill but it is not a must-see in my opinion.
Some modeling in Seoul…
In the afternoon, we met another friend of Big Ploy. His name is Tomi and he is a freelance model living in Seoul. He took us to Gwangjang Market. We were very excited to try the local food and because we like to stroll around in all kinds of markets. This one is full of interesting-looking traditional Korean food. We sat at a restaurant and tried bindaetteok (빈대떡 – crispy deep-fried mung bean pancakes) served with a vinegary dipping sauce. It was very tasty but also very oily so we ordered rice wine to help enjoy this dish more. The market itself is lively, there is a lot of local people enjoying their food and shopping spree. Markets are always one the best places to see the real lifestyle and to get closer to the country. It’s always been a pleasure to immerse myself in the real culture.
After strolling in the market, Tomi took us to Dongdaemun Design Plaza (동대문디자인플라자 (DDP)). The place is outstanding for its interesting exterior. We did not to see what is inside but it seems this place holds a big number of exhibitions, conferences, or important events. We stopped for a coffee and later on parted ways since we were seeing Jiin for Korean barbecue! Woohoo!
There we were again in Hongdae. The weather cooled down, we were so freezing but the Korean barbecue helped immensely. Jiin made us try So-mac (soju + beer), their traditional drink I guess. Soju consists of about 17 – 53 percent alcohol (by volume) and even though it was sweet, I did not want to drink a lot and get trapped. However, Big Ploy and Jiin made sure to compensate what small ploy and I did not drink. Haha The atmosphere of the restaurant was very friendly and casual. Jiin went there all the time and we got a free steamed egg as well. We were enjoying our food and talks, how I have missed Jiin so much during the past two years. More importantly, I was glad Jiin got along well with my friends which made the dinner more enjoyable.
Like yesterday, today’s plan was decided the second we woke up. And our wish to enjoy Seoul nature came true. We took Seoul metro Line 4 to Hyehwa Station (혜화역). We read in a guidebook that the area is for photography and relaxation which still displays creativity and youthful energy so it was perfect for a relaxing day. Today we met JJ, a friend of Big ploy and together we visited Ihwa Mural Village (이화 벽화마을) and Naksan Park (낙산공원).
Hyehwa neighborhood is off the radar to most tourists and even overlooked by locals, yet this area comprises about 80 independent theaters showing performances on a daily basis, affordable restaurants & cafés. To discover a city or a country, we have to do a bit of digging to see what it truly is. The so-called Hyehwa area throughout Ihwa Mural Village is the gateway to hike up to the Naksan park. Paintings on walls and staircases are signs of creativity, we walked through the lovely (normally – but at that moment not so much due to the construction) village and up the hills to see magnificent view of the entire Seoul. Along the way, we chatted and stopped by to exercise with local workout equipment established within the park. This place is full of locals yet lacks sight of tourists. Naksan Park gets its name from its camel-hump like appearance. The mountain is a natural granite bedrock. In the past, the Joseon royal family would enjoy coming to this park, but during the Japanese colonial period, new urban planning almost entirely demolished the mountain. (thanks to http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/) Nevertheless, this park was designated as a park since 2002 allowing its visitors to enjoy the old fortress wall, the collection of sculptures and history. We were very much enjoying the time on the mountain through our talks & laughs. We spotted many couples on their romantic dates, people walking their dogs, parents coming with the kids, adult caretakers bringing their patients in wheelchairs, company outing and so forth.
We felt a little sad that we had to come down. Still, the area downhill never stopped to surprise us with their street styled shops with inexpensive goods. Two ploys bought cute bracelets and ice cream. The weather cooled down with the evening breeze, then JJ brought us to this yummy-looking crispy Korean chicken restaurant. All of us enjoyed it too much with its local beer – it was called a perfection.
We slept in, therefore, we started the day later. Today we went to Hong Dae to do some shopping and just to stroll around. Hong Dae is the area full of youngsters and of course you can see some Korean youngsters’ fashion. We were enjoying the area and its lively ambience. We got Korean make-up for our family and friends. I got a few pieces of clothes because of the girl at the shop. Clothes at her shop were very cute and stylish but first I was not certain to buy because it was quite pricey, then she literally hugged my arm and said “please, unni!”. That moment I lost it, I could not resist her cuteness. So I bought them. Haha In the late afternoon, it was raining a bit so we decided to stop for some coffee. We talked about all stuff; about how we find Korea so intriguing and that we possibly would make Korea our annual trip. 🙂 We obviously do have a thing for Korea.
Before the last evening was devoted to Korean BBQ once again, our most favorite of all in Korean cuisine. It was very funny how we communicated with middle-aged ladies there to order what we wanted as the other side do not speak English. With Big ploy’s formidable knowledge of Chinese language, she managed to convey what we needed to the lady who also knows a bit of Chinese.
Full tummy from our last barbecue evening then followed by a big party with all the friends in Korea was beyond awesome! We met up at the heart of Itaewon. Our forever-best Korean friend, Minwoo, brought us to a nice cocktail place where we met up with a few friends of his. It was a catch-up night full of funny stories and laughters.
Later on, we decided to go to a night club called “B One Lounge Club” It was okay with cool music and all but it was too crammed that we were circled in a group of Korean guys and that we had to leave. It was a weird experience and would not want to try it again.
As we wanted to go to different nightclubs afterwards, we parted ways and kissed goodbyes with Minwoo and his friends. It was yet the last chance to see him. Two ploys and I went straight to our favorite spot “The Fountain“. Our good old spot with big area to dance and play some childhood games. We fought our ways to the counter bar to order some drinks. We chatted with a few people and later that night made friends with two young Korean girls. They were really cute and friendly and they were almost sticking to us all night. We danced together and shared a lot of funny moments and stayed together until 6 am in the morning. Haha
Actually Big ploy told us “let’s go home at 1 am ’cause we have a flight tomorrow”. Here is how it turned out. We said goodbyes to the girls and invited them to Thailand when they have a school break. Then we took a taxi drunk, we were quite talkative with the driver which made him laugh all the way. Got to the hotel safe and sound, we closed the curtains and went to bed FINALLY at 7 am!
We started our last day at around 1 pm or so and went to Myeongdong and Lotte Mall to do some last-minute shopping for 1-2 hours. Then we rushed back to the hotel re-pack our luggages, then dragged the luggages to the bus station. We only waited 15 – 20 minutes until the next bus arrived. The bus was quite luxurious and offered the comfortable seats with spacious leg room. It took us about 1 hour to get to the airport, which we considered quite convenient. Comparing to the train from the airport on our first day, I recommend airport bus even if it’s a little more expensive but that comes with more comfort and convenience.
We checked in at the airline counter and after a while Minwoo came to see us off, it was great to see him again before flying back. We did not have a lot of time to linger so we quickly kissed goodbyes and passed through the security & passport controls. We quickly had dinner – the last kimchi stew in Korea – and literally ran to the gate… and it was the time to say good bye to our beloved country!
Just to give you an honest background…back in the past I did not have any interest to Korea, not being crazy about their food, culture, people, or the country in general. But after 2016, we went on a university trip for academic purposes to Korea. It was truly a rare opportunity per se to be able to visit the Seoul City Hall and discussed with the officials or to visit the Royal Thai Embassy in Seoul and were warmly welcomed by the Ambassador and other Thai diplomats. We also had an opportunity to visit the Office of the Defence and Army Attaché and to meet with a professor and students at Korea University at the Faculty of Political Science. In addition, we visited the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) (which was established by the provisions of the Korean Armistice Agreement to serve as a buffer zone between North Korea and South Korea) and Songdo International Business District or a new smart city, which is the part of Incheon Free Economic Zone and was then being developed to be the hubs for international business, logistics, tourism, and leisure for the Northeast Asian Region. During our free time, we would be discovering this new country through trying their cuisine, cafés hopping, and going out to clubs to meet new people or even make new friends.
It is sooooo true when hearing the statement “Do not judge a book by its cover”. Things that we thought we knew about a country or anything in life…could not be always accurate if we have never really experienced it ourselves. Before, I would be thinking…Korea is a country with these fancy k-pop singers, k-series, make-up industry, surgery, and Korean handsome-looking oppas whom Thai teenagers would be crazy about. Korea somehow represents and definitely has all those things, nevertheless, the country enlightened me more… to see how they developed their country this far with their soft diplomacy and became powerful in the region in away, it was a very smart way…and for the better. I read a lot more about the Korean history and their Korean series somehow give good storylines and food for thoughts and most of the time reflects their society. For becoming more open and accepted of new countries, cultures, and ways of life, I could not thank enough to my travels and to the desire inside me that always wants to learn more about anything. Cheers to that!
And South Korea, thanks to you with all my hearts for taking me on a fun ride from the traditional palaces & villages down to your cool & chic streets and unforgettable nightlife! Promise we will go back and make memories!
With lots of love (for oppas ♡)