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Published: February 22nd 2018
We first set foot in South Korea at 10am, after a night flight - and 22 hours without sleep. It took us a few hours to leave the airport and get to our accommodation. We struggled to stay awake in the subway. Walking in the streets of Seoul was surreal: there was no one in sight, it was a ghost town! Check-in in our guesthouse was from 3pm but we had hoped to at least leave our bags there - there was no one in the guesthouse and it was 1pm. We shared an expensive coffee in a very cute coffee place and then went for lunch in the only cheap-ish open restaurant we could find... Which was a Vietnamese restaurant!
At 3pm, after 27 hours with no sleep, we went to our guesthouse. The host, a Chilean lady (we will learn that much later) wasn't the friendliest person and the atmosphere wasn't really good. Shaun wanted to leave and find somewhere else but I knew we were too tired. We went straight to bed. When I woke up at 6pm, Shaun wasn't in his bed. I got up and looked around the house for him but couldn't find
him. His shoes and coat were still in the house so he couldn't me outside but he was nowhere to be found in the house! I started panicking but there was nothing I could do... After an hour, an alarm went off on his tablet in the bed below me so I got up to turn it off. When I turned around, I saw that, on the bed next to Shaun's, the duvet wasn't covering the person's head anymore... And to my surprise, I saw Shaun's head instead of the lady's the bed belonged to!! I woke him up quickly, asking him what he was doing in someone else's bed. He didn't know. Apparently, he had woken up to go to the bathroom and, very tired, went back to what he thought was his bed, wondering why he had let some of his clothes (which were female clothes) on his bed...
Once Shaun came back to his senses, we went out to try and find something to eat. It was new year's night and nothing was happening. There were not even fireworks and all the restaurants were closed. It was 8pm and all we wanted was to eat and go
back to bed, we were so disappointed. We had read online that Seoul was a great place to spend New Year but everyone was out of the city. We were hungry so we tried to order online but once we had chosen our food and were ready to pay, we were asked for a Korean phone number... Which we obviously didn't have.
The Chilean lady working at the guesthouse was very kind and ordered McDonald's for us. So we had burgers for our second dinner in Korea!
We didn't do much. We walked around, had food and watched the olympics on TV in the sitting room. It was New Year's Day so most places were closed and there wasn't much to do.
On the 17th, I had planned a cultural day: we went to Namsan Hanok village to see traditional Hanok houses, see a short New Year performance and eat some Korean food. We walked around Namsan Park and saw the Time Capsule, a capsule with different objects of the modern Korean society buried at the occasion of the 600th anniversary of Seoul as the capital. The capsule is to be opened in (now less than)
400 years, for the 1000th anniversary... Not sure that, if humanity still exists in 400 years, anyone would be interested in an old violin and a pair of trainers.
After, we went to the National Gugak Center to see a special New Year show, performed only twice on New Year. Shaun paid a tenth of the normal price as he was born on the Year of the dog! It was a nice cultural show. In the evening, we walked around in Itaewon and Hongdae, two districts of Seoul.
We had planned to wake up earlier to climb Bukhasan, a mountain near Seoul. Unfortunately, I had hurt my knee and we were far too tired for a long hike anyway. Instead, we walked around in Seoul, in Gangnam (yes, yes, like the song!). We tried to find a chicken and beer place (a Korean specialty, believe it or not!) but a lot of places were still closed. In the evening, we had dinner with Chi Min, a Korean guy who stays in our dormitory. He took us to a Korean barbecue place where we had lots of barbecued pork and then we went to a chicken and beer
place - we came back home after two dinners!
We woke up at 4.30am to go to Gangneug, near PyeongChang, to watch the Olympics! We saw the ice dancing (figure skating, couples). It was a very nice experience although four hours was a bit long! We came back to Seoul at 6pm. Our friend, Chi Min, had arranged for me to get a haircut so I went to the hairdresser with him while Shaun watched the olympics on TV in our guesthouse. The hair salon wasn't actually opened on that day, Chi Min's friend opened it for me. Having two Korean men discussing my hair (in Korean) in an empty salon is definitely an experience! Chi Min helped to translate as the hairdresser didn't speak much english. It was the most expensive haircut I had in my life but it was a very interesting experience and I love my new hair! (Girly paragraph over).
After the hairdresser, we met with Shaun and the three of us went for dinner. When we came back to the guesthouse, I went to bed while Chi Min and Shaun ordered chicken and beer!
- On the next day, we were flying to Osaka, Japan.
Seoul is a very modern city, although it wasn't as modern as I thought it would be. People there were relatively friendly and we had great (and cheap) food. The streets weren't as clean as I thought they would be - I found them as dirty as the 'bad' streets in Paris, dirtier than London's streets but the subway was very clean and the transportation system in general seems very efficient. All of the subway lines were automatic and there were screens in every coach displaying various information such as the subway etiquette, emergency information or even news! The little music indicating that a train was approaching was very cute!
Overall, I was quite disappointed with Seoul, partly because there was no New Year's celebration but also because I didn't think the city had a lot of character. Shaun still liked it and he particularly loved the food!
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