The month began with our much-awaited trip to the land of kimchi and kpop, Seoul. I almost thought this would not push through because I was still worrying about my expenses and the approval of my visa, especially the bank certificate thing. Also, another friend backed out at the last minute so we had to revise our hostel reservations as well as our calculations for food and other stuff that would have been equally split with four people. When our visa was approved on the last week of August, the feeling of excitement took over my anxiousness. Hahaha! Thank God for working wonders!
I arrived late Friday night but was still greeted by train passengers rushing to go to their respective destinations. I remembered we’re just in time for Chuseok, the country’s Mid-Autumn Festival— their own version of Thanksgiving Day— so people are frantic to catch the trains that will take them to their provinces. By 11PM, the city traffic was slowing until the shadows of the high-rise buildings and late-night drinkers remained in the streets. The nearby restaurants at Insadong and Anguk closed early so we settled with the 24-hour Burger King in front of our hostel. My friend is blushing when she saw the cashier guy at BK. Apparently, they ate here the night before and they have a crush on oppa. Sensing that this would the last time we’re eating at BK, my friend summoned all the courage she has to ask oppa for a picture with him. After a lengthy introduction spoken in English, a few Korean translations from another friend, and a Tagalog row between my two companions on the less shameful approach of getting a picture, the photo session did not push through. No one talked about it again that night. The next day, it was a laughing stock. Hahaha!
Saturday was spent touring the city. Actually, walking the whole day. Sunday was at Everland. Monday, shopping. And Tuesday, shopping again and running to and fro the huge Incheon Airport. Hahaha. Here are the top five things I enjoyed from my Korean trip:
- Hanging out at the manmade stream in the middle of the metro. Yep, this one’s too good to be true in Manila considering how we defiled Pasig River and all the other tributaries connected to it. Seoul, however, has one clean spring where people can hang out, rest and even sleep. After walking the whole day under the scorching heat of the sun, it’s refreshing to dip our tired feet in the cool waters of the stream. We whiled away our time taking selfies.
- KPop concert hologram at Everland. We failed to stalk kpop artists at Gangnam but we’re so happy when we watched Bigbang live. Or sort of live— they’re in hologram. Hahaha! I’m not much of a fan but I enjoyed listening to their songs; I just found myself clapping with the audience and nodding to their beat. My other friend who’s a true blue kpop fan (i.e. Shinee, Bigbang and 2PM) was teary-eyed while singing along to their old songs. HAHAHA! My picture was almost chosen to participate in the interactive thingy, the other girl was chosen which was both ok and not so ok. Hahaha. I could have had a free hologram photo with Bigbang especially Taeyang. Hahaha!
- Artsy fartsy at Insadong and Hongdae. Insadong-gil near Jonggak and Anguk is a haven for people interested in arts and crafts. They street’s lined up with stores selling traditional Korean stuff— from fans to hanboks— and galleries for artists exhibiting their works. There are also stores selling hundreds of brushes and different types of paint. I loved the store with a winding ramp as staircase— street artists are drawing people using pens and paper, stores are also selling handcrafted stuff and rare-find items you can take home as souvenirs. Hongdae is near Honggik University so the streets are filled with stores that have student-friendly prices.There are hole-in-the-wall restaurants and coffee shops plus retail stores that sell cheap but trendy clothes and shoes. The best thing I found there— ARTBOX! I went gaga seeing those cute notebooks and drawing pads and pens with tons of color. Hahaha! For an added hip vibe, street musicians perform at night. With the recent developments done, I think Escolta and Intramuros in Manila are gearing towards that feel. Can’t wait. Hahaha
- Shopping galore. There’s Insadong and Hongdae for cheap finds, Namdaemun and Dongdaemun too. Myeongdong for the cosmetic savvy and Gangnam for those who really want high Korean fashion. Of course, Lotte Department Store at Seoul Station is also a must-shop area. The only thing you need? Strength to walk and a decent amount of won to spend. Hahaha! My friends asked me to buy cosmetics for them and I was so surprised to learn that a BB cream with an air cushion, which is really a pad used to spread the cream on your face, costs 40,000 won. That’s around 1,500 pesos. Well, who am I to judge. I don’t use make-up. Hahaha! Anyway, it’s something new I’ve learned. Hahaha! Plus, shopping teaches you to instantly convert dollar to won to peso and of course, budget the remaining foreign currency you have. Hahaha!
- Exploring Seoul’s mind-boggling subways. There are about ten or more subway lines that connect Seoul and nearby provinces. It’s mind-boggling and too taxing for my wobbly legs. Hahaha! But it’s much better than hailing cabs or squeezing your way in cramped up jeepneys or buses that ply Manila. I have always dreamed of an efficient transport system here in Manila, LRT Purple Line seems to be a good start. MRT has to really change or civil war due to transportation might ensue, a sociologist friend once quipped. We can also eat while riding their train. Hahaha! Plus points.
One more thing! I loved the dak galbi we ate at Gapyeong. Huhu I had to line up at Yoogane to get one here in Manila.
More about my Korea trip on the next posts. Also photos of Seoul pedestrians coming up soon. :)
Labels: 2014, art, artwork, asia, blessings, bucket list, korean food, seoul, summer, weekends