|the modern mega city of Seoul|
I told my friends about it one time that we were having dinner and then one friend said he wants to go too. He booked his tickets right then and there, then the next thing I knew we were off to Seoul!
We arrived on a cold spring noon. We were a little surprised by the temperature to be honest. Coming from a hot summer in Manila, we were not prepared. We were wearing our usual Manila clothes haha. It was a first time for the three of us to experience spring!
|the adventure begins|
We opted to rent an apartment thru Airbnb. In an expensive city like Seoul, it is more practical than staying in a hostel for the same price. But the thing with Airbnb is, you are renting a real home. Meaning, it is located in a residential area and finding it for the first time can be challenging. Our host told us the best way to get to their home from the airport is by bus.
Everything was going smoothly, from purchasing our bus ticket to finding the right bus that will transport us to the city. Yes, there is a Bus Stop# on the ticket but we didn't have an idea on where it is or what it looks like because it is our first time in Korea. We were also distracted because of course when it's your first time in one place, you keep looking around and enjoy what you're seeing.
|our bus ticket from the airport|
Later on we realized that we didn't know how to disembark. We initially thought it would be similar here, where driver stops in every bus stop and will tell you what stop it is or you can just simply tell them when you want to alight. As we go farther we observed that they are not doing that and locals don't say a thing when they're about to get off. Gosh, it is so not South East Asia. We're in so much trouble haha.
I was looking out the window and thought I've seen the gas station landmark given by our host but since we didn't know what to do, we missed our stop! We finally figured that there's a button on the side that your should press if you want the driver to halt on the next bus stop. Geez! We reached Ewha University (2 or 3 stops away from our original stop) because of this booboo and just took a taxi from there to our apartment.
Mapo-gu: Our Home Base in Seoul
We finally reached Mr. Hong's place. It is located in Mapo-gu. It is in a somewhat uphill (like in Koreanovelas), very quiet neighborhood and just a few minutes walk to the bus stop/highway. There is also a convenience store near the bus stop where we buy snacks and top up our T-Money.
|yay! I have my own room!|
The bed is very comfortable and it has heater! It was really hard to get up in the cold morning that I never want to leave hehe.
Transportation and Seoul CityPass Plus (T-money)
Our host was very kind to accompany us to GS25 (Convenience Store) to purchase our T Money card and get us acquainted on how to use the city bus. For foreign tourists like us, it is best to get the Seoul CityPass Plus. This is pretty much similar to Hong Kong's Octopus card. You can use it in subways, buses, convenience stores and a lot of other stores as long as they have the T-money logo. It also comes with discount coupons for tourist attractions, restaurants and other shops. Super cool!
From our host's place we have to take a bus to Hongdae/Hongik University and from there we can go to just anywhere in the city either by bus or subway using our CityPass+.
|you can purchase CityPass+ for KRW 3000|
Luckily, Gwangjang is just one subway ride from Hongdae. We arrived there at around 2:30 PM and the place is bustling with people wanting to eat. It is a foodie paradise!
|i love this place!|
I strongly believe that one way of getting to know a country's culture is by trying out their local food. If there is one place in Seoul or in South Korea that I'll recommend for sampling reasonable authentic Korean food, it is definitely Gwangjang!
|most of them looks spicy!|
We strolled around the market before deciding what to eat. Anyway the place was full that it was hard to find empty seats for us. We also got excited seeing all those foods that we saw in Korean dramas haha. Since we haven't eaten anything yet, we felt that we need to eat rice so - Bibimbap it is!
|ahjumma preparing our bibimbap|
|with friendly Koreans @ Gwangjang Market|
They were also the ones who initiated taking photos with us. They asked ahjumma (polite Korean term for marriage-aged woman) to take photos using their phones so I went with the flow and also asked to have a photo taken from my phone hehe. It was actually crazy that they were even asking for our Kakao Talk contact info which I don't have by the way. They were probably amused with foreigners like us going to a very local place to eat.
Dongdaemun Market Area
Based on the map, Gwangjang seems just close to Dongdaemun so we just opted to walk. It's just one subway station away so it couldn't be that far. We also liked walking in Seoul because it will make you see a lot of things and discover more about the city.
I was really happy to see flowers blooming just about everywhere. And they're just not regular flowers but beautiful and colorful flowers!
|Oh Spring! :)|
|in front of Doota Fashion Mall in Dongdaemun|
We were intimidated and thought that things might be expensive in there so we did not enter to any of them. We just looked around and did not attempt to shop. It's not a good thing to shop on your first day, is it?
Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP)
On the other side of the road, we noticed this huge futuristic looking silver structure. Dongdaemun Design Plaza is among the largest buildings in Seoul and a showcase for Korean and international design. This is designed by the late Zaha Hadid, a world renowned architect.
|it looks like something from another planet :)|
|locals also enjoy hanging out here|
DDP is also connected to the Dongdaemun History & Culture Park Station.
Cheonggyecheon (Cheonggye Stream)
An 8.4 kilometer long stream running through downtown Seoul, transformed into a public recreation space. That was a long one right? And at first sight, it was quite weird that it is in the middle of a highway.
|Cheonggye Stream in the Dongdaemun area|
Here's some background story for you. This was built as a drainage system during the Joseon era and it served that purpose for hundreds of years. But after the Korean War in the early '50s, a lot of people have flocked to the city and started settling along the stream which caused too much pollution in the area that the government decided to just cover it with concrete. During the industrialization period sometime in the 70's, they built an elevated highway on top of it.
After learning about its history, I don't find it odd anymore. :)
|locals walking along the stream|
Removing the elevated highway to restore the stream was a huge undertaking (not to mention expensive). This was a project of the former Seoul Mayor Lee Myung-bak. I found his urban redevelopment vision brilliant. The vehicles entering the city has decreased and people began using the subway and buses more frequently. Temperature has also cooled down in the surrounding areas of the stream. Most importantly, animals like birds and fishes have found their way back to the city. No wonder he became South Korea's 10th President a year after his term as the city mayor has ended.
|crossing the stream with my chingu :)|
Dining in Hongdae
We started our first day a bit late so we didn't see that much of the city. We were still in that acclimatizing mode. We were lucky to be staying near Hongdae - a good place to hang out in at night. This neighborhood is near Hongik U so the ambience is very fun and youthful. There are also a lot of nice restaurants and cafes around.
|getting ready to grill|
Part of the traveling adventure is not knowing anything about a place and just randomly choosing where to eat haha! There are a lot of them in the area but being first timers, we settled with the one which seems to be a bit crowded (could mean it is good) and seeing the shiny silvery smoke vents means Bulgogi!
|Bulgogi x Soju = Perfect Night|
This was our first Korean proper meal since we landed. The hot soup, the side dishes - kimchi and pickled radish and of course, the meat oh Lord the meat was yummy! And since spring nights are cold, a bottle of soju is great with a meal.
|so who's the tipsiest? haha!|
We totally enjoyed our first dinner in Seoul. Food prices in this place are not expensive too. Aside from the yummy food, marami ring yummy boylet sa paligid. I'm not kidding, so many cute Korean guys here kaya nasusunog yung mga iniihaw namin hahaha! We obviously had so much fun.
So that was our first day in Korea. Stay tuned for Day 2. That one was more eventful since we already have a full day to explore the city.
This is Part 1 of my Seoul travel series.