5 Days in Seoul, South Korea: Eating, Walking, and Chilling
“People are going to school. People are going to work. We’re going to eat.” – Lucy
In Seoul, a typical day for us was waking up at 9 AM, chilling for a bit, getting dressed and putting some makeup on—c’mon, you can’t walk around with no makeup in Korea, the land of cosmetics—and walking three minutes to the closest Isaac toast stand for a brunch sandwich at around 11:30 AM. On the first day in Seoul, we were a little ambitious and woke up early at 8 AM and left for the Gwangjang market at 9:30 AM. We soon realized that Seoul is slow in the mornings, and busy at night; from then on, we planned to stay out later and wake up later. Our time in Seoul was quite different from our time in Japan. In Japan, we were staying with my friend Kyoka’s family; they helped us with general trip planning, transportation, and gave us advice on the best attractions. We didn’t have to do much work in Japan, but that totally changed in Korea. We were on our own; we had to figure out transportation, where to go, and what to do.
“According to me…” – Lucy when looking at our map and trying to figure out how to go somewhere
We actually had a pretty good system going on. Lucy took care of figuring out transportation, logistics for going places, and accounting for our shared expenses. I took care of taking photos. (Hey, I also booked our flights and figured out accommodation before the trip so don’t you think I didn’t do anything!) We stayed in a little guesthouse close to Jongro 3-ga station, right in the middle of metropolitan Seoul. It’s a 10 minute walk to the Gwangjang market and the Myeongdong shopping area, and a 20 minute walk to Gyeongbokgung Palace.
If you ever go to Seoul, message me privately about which guesthouse we stayed in. It was great value for a good price, and I would highly recommend it. Because our guesthouse was at the heart of Seoul, we got around very easily. We only spent around $15 CAN each for transportation for the five days we were there! Something that surprised me about Korea was how incredibly big the cosmetics industry is! In Vancouver, we have Starbucks and coffee shops all over the place; in Korea, there are at least a couple Korean cosmetic shops on each street, like Etude House, The Face Shop, Missha, and Olive Young. Before the trip, I hadn’t really thought about what I wanted to buy in Korea, but I ended up buying a ton of cosmetics: eye cream, eyebrow stuff, blushes, lipsticks, eyeliners, hand creams, BB cream, face wash, makeup remover, and a really cool gold eye shadow pen. I think I went a little crazy over there.
Lucy: “Let’s have a chill day today.” Me: “Yeah okay, literally.”
That was a part of the conversation we had one morning, and it also sums up two very important highlights of our Korea trip. First, it was freezing cold the whole time that we were in Seoul and remember, we were walking all over the place—we literally had to chill outside. The coldest it got during the day was -10 degrees. Second, we were able to figuratively chill in Seoul. Whenever we went to a touristy area, we saw people from tour groups looking bored at some attractions, and frantically trying to buy stuff at other ones. Lucy and I both agreed that traveling on our own schedule was a hundred times better than travelling with a tour group. Although you don’t get as much historical briefing at Gyeongbokgung Palace nor do you constantly have to squint at a map, traveling on our own schedule allowed us to do the things we wanted to do, at our own pace. We never had to rush shopping or stay long at a dull attraction. We chilled and got busy the way that made the most sense to us, or the way that the weather best permitted (it snowed really heavy one afternoon and we just decided to take the afternoon and evening off to recharge). The best part of travelling alone is that you have no idea what’s going to happen, and it’s fun to figure things out on your own. The night we arrived in Seoul, two funny ajusshis (uncles) spotted us—two girls with three big suitcases and three smaller bags—and genuinely offered us help. They didn’t speak English so we spent most of the time trying to understand each other. The whole conversation was friendly and eventually they pointed us in the right direction. A really funny, what-the-heck-is-happening but memorable experience.