It's been 8 years since last time I visited Seoul. It has changed into a mega city and I fell in love with it again. It's becoming a hub for tech and Kpop and it's very entertaining. Old and new co-exists. It was also great to meet with some friends of mine from NYC days, and of course, meeting new friends in the meantime.
** A little different than my previous post, the one will not only describe my encounter with people I met, but also how I feel about the place during my travels.
February 1-10, 2018
I landed on the brand new Incheon T2 around midnight and had to wait for another for my night bus to get to the city center. I had roughly going around the arrival hall and it looked like they brought in a lot of international food chain here (SHAKE SHACK is here,) but too bad almost all of them were closed at that time. The opening of T2 just in time to catch Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, and it is SPACIOUS and high tech! Totally digging it!
Anyway, my first impression of Seoul was the moment when my night bus stoped at the Seoul Station (cover photo) and I saw the old station and new co-existed harmoniously. This was how I feel about Seoul, a city blends its past and future so perfectly and so alive!
Travelers from Time Travelers Party Hostel
I am starting to feel old staying in a hostel.😂 It was a great way to meet new people but it started to wary me out. My first night here, partied like a college student and stayed up late until 4:30 am. Was nice having chicken BBQ (辣炒春雞 新村) with Alie (Canada), Matt (US), Jack (US), A-lin (Melbourne) and later on party joined by Josh (Germany), Tim (London), Kush (Toronto) and Casey (Aus)....Had some epic moment including getting to a dance club randomly invited by the host with no cover and free tequila shots and drinks. Played 2 on 2 beer pong after everyone left...Yep definitely feel like a college student again.
Another info, Time Travelers Party is located in Hongdae area. Well, a good place to party during weekends and people never sleep at night lol
Wow, can't believe it's been 6 years since we last saw each other. That was in NYC when we were still in design school. So happy to see Eunjoo again and listened to her stories in Seoul. I realized one thing after my two year traveling. It's always on me to open to people, not the other way around. So I didn't hesitate to contact Eunjoo when I first plan my visit. When we chatted, it felt like living NYC was just like yesterday. Thanks so much for showing me around and your hospitality.
So we met in Gangnam area, more specifically between Apgujeong and Sinsadong (well, that's my pick and nope, it's not because of oppa gangnam style. lol) Heard there are some unique indi brands and cute stores. Luckily we found some. This area is more high-end, so more luxury brands are located here. I will always remember Eunjoo mentioned the Ad in the subway here is all about plastic surgery while others have cosmetics.😉 I also really like some brands have art installation or concept display along with products. So far, Gentle Monster won the first place from me!
Needless to say, Seoul is one of the places you have to do the shopping. Cosmetics and fashion is cheap here with good quality. I went to Myeongdong, Hondae, and Gangnam express bus terminal to do my shopping and here is my thoughts about where to buy what and how to do it.
大家最關心的購物哪裡去xd，簡單來說，買化妝品直接去明洞，買衣服襪子去高速巴士站，買二手或是美式休閒風的去弘大。化妝品比較起來還是明洞比較便宜，買多折扣較多。高速巴士站的衣服真的有比較便宜，大約都是10000韓元左右，折合台幣約300，很好買!!! 我這次沒去東大門，但我發現同一件衣服在弘大比起來真的賣比較貴。弘大小巷子裡比較好逛，有很多個性品牌我很喜歡，還發現一家專賣飾品的 I AM JOY，ㄧ整個大愛💜
First thing first, make a list of what you wanna buy or you'll get lost on the streets. 😅 (cuz there's endless products here to lure you lol)
- From my experience, if you wanna buy cosmetics, go to Myeongdong. It's very touristy I know, but they usually have the best bargain for tourists.
- If you wanna do some cheap clothes shopping, my new destination is Gangnam express bus terminal underground mall instead of Dongdaemon. The price is really great and mainly locals visit there. So don't worry about the tourist trap.
- Hongdae is another story, it has everything there, but I think if you are interested in vintage stores or American street style fashion, it's the place to go.
Seoul City Walking Tour with local guides (Free)
I found this free walking tour through visit Seoul website, they have more than 10 routes for you to choose. I booked two this time, one is Gyeongbokgung and the other is Buchon Hanok Village. It is guided by the local guide with English, Japanese or Chinese. There are only 2 people in my Gyeongbokgung tour and I was the only one in Buchon Hanok Villag tour. I heard in winter, which is now, it's not so busy but Spring and Fall will be packed. So book ahead.
I've also learned this from one of my guides. The program is especially aim for foreigners to learn more about Seoul (Koreans cannot join the tour!), and all guides are local seniors who retired from work. I think this is a brilliant idea. Not only we can benefit from the free resource, they also provided another activity/habit for elders.
Been here twice and both of them were in winter lol. Thanks to my guide, she explained very well of Koreans love for harmony and nature being displayed in the palace. My first impression of the palace comes from Korean drama, especially the sun/moon/5 mountains painting representing the king. Compared to Chinese's forbidden city, it's the middle size and beautiful in its own way, I really like the decoration on red brick in Queen's palace.
By the way, you can rent traditional Korean Hanbok nearby. Saw a lot of people doing the photoshoot as well. But it's been too cold to wear that lol
Oak Valley Snowboarding Tour
I booked this day trip through kkday, and it's a great way to travel if you don't have transportation. It's only 1 hour and a half away and the slope is pretty great. The tour is run by Korean agency and they provided all the equipments. I also met with a group of Taiwanese family here, 再次感受到台灣人的人情味：）There are two teenagers in the family and quickly became good friends with me.
It's been SIX years since we last saw each other and we couldn't believe it how fast time has passed. WOW!!!! It felt like yesterday we were still waiting for the subway after late night party in New York, right? And we forgot to take pictures together....😅 Anyway, it's so nice to catch up with you and knowing you've been doing good in Seoul 😍 And we all know we are getting old when the k-pop star era I know is Big Bang, Suju, and 2 pm lol......(okay I know BTS right now since they are everywhere!)
Things I've learned in Seoul
- It's not cheap as you thought, especially coffee ($5-6 USD) and dessert.
- You can speak English and most people understand. 👍
- Friday is the night for party.
- Young people are actually interested in Taiwanese pop culture and like Taiwan a lot.