Published: October 22nd 2011October 13th 2010
Janet and I arrived at Incheon International Airport at around 09:00 in the evening and after going through the usual immigration process, we were on our way to Seoul. We took the subway and went through the Gimpo Airport route which led us to Jongno-gu where our hostel was located. It was around midnight when we finally arrived at Jongno district, and after getting lost for a bit, we finally found Sunshine Guesthouse
. We immediately saw Martin puffing on a cigarette, already hungry having waited for us; he and Dell have arrived a day earlier. We were in dire need for food at this point so we headed to our room to dump our backpacks and went out to hunt for restaurants. Before the restaurant search, Janet and I got introduced to Sophia, a Korean girl based in France whom Dell has met earlier. Sophia looked 16, and when she told us that she was 32 and that she already has two kids, we totally felt miserable; how can nature be so unfair!
Sophia was nice enough to show us around for a little neighbourhood strolling before finally finding a barbecue restaurant for a very late dinner/very early breakfast. She
also did all the food ordering since the restaurant staff didn’t speak much English. It was already past midnight by the time we had our first Korean meal and so we also celebrated Janet’s birthday with the help of Sujo and the very delectable Korean barbecue. Sophia was quite surprised when Janet paid for the meal – it just so happens that in the Philippines the birthday celebrant is usually the one who treats people out and not the one who gets treated. Nice culture eh?! We also got free sodas from the restaurant owner since we were ‘foreigners’. The barbecue meal was really good; we couldn’t stop commending it for days! And Janet is yet on another grand birthday travel.
After the birthday meal, it was more Sujo for Sophia and the boys (I could only manage one shot) so off we went to a convenient store for cheaper booze then went back to the guesthouse for the second part of the Sujo session. Back at the guesthouse, we met Taco, a Japanese guy who couldn’t speak a single English word. How we got his name? Sophia knew a little Japanese and we also tried using Google Translate
and lots of hand gestures before Sophia finally found out that he could speak very good Korean which he learned all by himself for two years. But Sophia was too reluctant to translate, Taco would give the confused stare whenever we try to talk to him in English, and we would all burst into laughter whenever we attempt to read Japanese out of Google translate. It was a fun start of the trip.
It was walking galore on our second day. First stop was the 02:00PM English tour around Jongmyo Shrine before continuing on a walking tour on our own around the Changdeok Palace for some Korean Culture education. After getting lunch, we continued walking around and found our way to the Hanok Village where our eyed feasted on rows and rows of traditional Korean Houses. We were back at the hostel by night, grabbed dinner and got ready yet again for another tour around the city, this time to Namsan Tower (N. Seoul Tower). We go to see the light show but aside from that, we didn’t get to do anything else, though we had a very good view of the city of Seoul and its evening lights
from up the mountain – loved it. From up the mountain, we opted to take the long stairs down, which we thought wouldn’t be much...or so we thought. It was already pretty late by the time we reached the bottom of the stairs that led to the Namsan Public Library. We also had a little panic that there might be no more bus to take us back but *phew, we were still lucky. Back at Jongno-gu we still managed to grab some street food - very tender, tasty, juicy chicken barbecue from an old man with such a warm, friendly smile and whose English was just as bad as our Korean. The food has been great! So far there’s not a food that I didn’t like – today we also had this Korean street food Hoddeok, my latest favourite snack.
The original plan for the next day was for the four of us to go to Nami Island before Janet and I head to the Soreoksan National Park while the boys stay in the city, but we changed our minds (girls, you know). We were actually after the autumn colours but since the trees were still mostly green, we
Martin and Sophia
decided to just stay in the city; our next problem was where we’ll be staying. The boys still had a room in Sunshine Guesthouse
but Janet and I were scheduled to move out, had a hostel booked up the mountain and could no longer extend our stay in Sunshine because they were already fully booked for the next days. We loved Sunshine Guesthouse
, it was pretty nice, quiet, clean, and was near restaurants with really good, inexpensive food. We tried querying at Motels/Hostels nearby but they were actually more expensive so we contacted our next hostel, HEY backpackers if they still had available rooms for the night which they fortunately (?) still had. After confirming our reservations, we headed to Yeouido Park for strolling and ice creams. We also rented bicycles; it has been a looong while since I was on a bike, it was such a fun time riding and chasing each other ‘round the park like kids. Then Myeongdong and Namdaemun Market came next for some souvenir shopping. We have been walking so much since yesterday, my feet are so sore – I think my toenails are gonna die.
After an enjoyable shopping trip and biking, me
Martin, Me, Sophia, Taco, Dell
and Janet collected our things from Sunshine Guesthouse
and went to Hongdae Area where our next hostel HEY backpackers was located, just to be disappointed. Aside from our immediate reservation for tonight, we had a room reserved for the four of us for the next night but we found out that the owner had given the two other beds in the room to other people and insisted that our two other friends sleep in the bunk beds by the living room when they arrive the next day, saying that it would be cheaper anyway....to our great dismay. Janet and I tried our best to explain and remind him that he had given us the confirmation for the room, but with very limited English that he spoke and perhaps he either couldn’t understand us very well or was simply refusing to understand, we eventually gave up and said okay. We were quite disappointed – the place even looked unkept – no towels too, and the owner was specially wasn’t very nice. The hostel was near bars/clubs, it was noisy – we could hear the people and the music outside and to top them all, the owner’s girlfriend or wife was cackling
the whole night. I was totally tired but was barely able to sleep, and to further add the misery, one of our roommates even came in the middle of the night with a companion and disturbed everyone with their supposed private moment, for God’s sake! The only good thing about spending the time there was meeting Johannes and Emil, two young Swedes who were so easy to hang out with.
Without much sleep anyway, we were up early the next day since we had to catch the 09:30AM bus to Nami Island. We haven’t had breakfast because the hostel didn’t offer any; there wasn’t even water in the water dispenser. I was sore all over and it was so hard to get up – it felt like I didn’t had sleep at all. Off we went with empty stomach and sleepy eyes.
The Nami Island bus was in Ensadong. We had a hard time buying the tickets because the bus driver who was selling the tickets didn’t speak English. I first went to stand in the line and when it was my turn to buy, he dismissed me using hand gestures and pointed me somewhere else; confused, I
went away from the line and tried asking people around but I just got “No, No” with a crossed x hand gesture. No one could tell us from whom we were supposed to buy the tickets from. We made Martin stand in the line again, and the driver tried to dismiss him again; we were assuming that he thought we cut in the line. Martin explained that he waited in the line like everyone else and we were finally sold the tickets! Yay!
The bus arrived at the jetty terminal one and a half hours after and the ferry ride to Nami Island was about 30 minutes. It was crowded in the Island, perhaps because it was a weekend – we were able to catch the Indonesian Cultural Week show, strolled around the island, took photos, and enjoyed the trees. We were on our way back to Seoul by 4PM.
Fourth day, we were able to survive and still manage to have a great time without much English, good thing they have a very friendly metro system and helpful maps at tourist kiosks, we didn’t have to ask around for directions too much. And of course the great
food experience makes everything a lot better.
... Part II : Korean Adventure
Guide to Seoul : Trip Itineraries
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