Arrived in Seoul last night after a flight that went better than expected, I was a bit surprised about the airport process (slightly long queues and not as organised as I thought, but things moved along quiet well). The weather was not as cold as I thought either, but the taxi drive was relatively more expensive than anticipated – in hindsight I got ripped off by well over 50% (according to travel reviews online) so about 500 AED instead of 350 AED, that’s a good 40 dollars more. Not the best start.
Swanky Seoul home
We had a great dinner at the hotel in a high-end restaurant which was unsurprisingly pricey at a good 750 AED but the wifey flexed her financial muscle and paid. Slept late, but ready to do some sightseeing and retail shopping; or switch it up because we’re feeling a bit tired today. We shall see. (Day 1, Lotte Hotel, 07:45a.m.).
A full-on day –walked to the Namdaemun shopping district where there were some nice mom and pop shops, ma lady got a good handful of Korean beauty products, which she had been craving ever since she found out we were heading to Seoul. We went on a detour and saw the south gate then headed up to the main palace of Gyeonbbkgung and what an impressive site to see. So large and open, and gave a real nice sense of Korea’s past. We had a nice tea break where I had a honey tea with orange and she had a green tea latte in a “French” bakery nearby. Then we headed to the Lotte department store and had some great Bibimbap at the food court (but it was a nice restaurant in the food court, which wasn’t the typical fast food type courts we’re used to. It was really cool in the morning but with the sun it made it nice and very pleasant. We also had some interesting medicinal tea before we headed to the shopping district, which warmed us up nicely before we headed out in the cool breezy weather outside.
Amazed by the modern, incredible!
We walked quite a bit and did a lot, but still managed to fit in a swim at the hotel pool, which was impressive. All around we did lots, saw lots and our bodies are a tad sore. We’ll see how it pans out tomorrow to go to Insadong , and a couple of other palaces. Might fit in Bukchon Hanok Village – I’ll try my best to. So far really impressed with how clean, developed, cosmopolitan and easy the city has been, and how warm and almost innocent the people are. When my wife wanted something not on the menu for lunch, despite the lack of communication in body language and mannerism the lady left us to go to a nearby restaurant to get us a Japanese menu! (Day 2, Lotte Hotel, 10:10p.m.)**
Today felt like an actual vacation day. After breakfast we headed to Insadong on the way to the two palaces near there (Changdeokgung and Changgyoenggung), I quickly found my Korean gifts in the form of very elegant bookmarks for colleagues and family for about 2 bucks each. On the way to the palace I realised that renting the Honbock (traditional dress) gets you in free, obviously it was pricier than the ticket but we wanted to do it anyway so might as well save on two tickets. It also explains why so many Koreans were wearing their traditional clothing, very nice to see. It actually ended up being the highlight of our trip, clothes were so colourful and comfortable it was a treat to walk around in them. Plus, with the palace as a background made for a lot of great pictures.
So immersed in the exotic history
Before that we passed by the wood “castle” called Unhyeongung (which isn’t really a castle but a large house). It was very zen and serene, I enjoyed it big time, and we saw the first glimpse of cherry blossoms in bloom. After all the palaces were visited we went to this Michelin Star Buddhist Temple Food Kitchen in Insadong which was AMAZING, vegetarian but AMAZING! So authentic and exotic all at once, despite a minor scare of the misses forgetting her phone at the costume store (which the restaurant hostess nicely called for us to confirm it was there). The restaurant was an incredible experience, and very filling.
Seoul is “gastro-paradise”
We then headed up to Buckchon Hanok Village which was worth a visit because of the little alleys and houses (some of them obviously replicas but gave the sense of what it was like before). We ended our outing with (well I did) a Purple Sweet Potato Latte, Green Tea Croissant and Black bread with custard pastry, so interesting.
The not so usual exotic coffee snack
On our way back we passed Insadong again for a thorough look and the wifey got some more beauty products before we headed back to the hotel. Ending our final day with a quick trip to the Lotte Department Store and had a quick bite at a junky fried chicken place, wasn’t very impressed. Tomorrow we’ll head off to Japan – FINALLY – and we shall see how it’ll be, although unlike Seoul our expectations are quiet high. I only hope the train transfers and travel will not be as complicated as I am assuming it would be. For now, really impressed with Seoul and the Korean culture and there was certainly lots to see, thoroughly enjoyed it and happy we made the stop here for sure. Wishing I make it back here again soon to see more, much more. (Day 3, Lotte Hotel, 9:57p.m.)***
Other than Seoul and Busan, what other places in South Korea worth seeing?