The Bus Ride
Last weekend, Nicole and I went to Seoul with some friends. Kayla, Nicole, and I took a cab to the Gwangju bus terminal downtown around 7 am and caught the 7:20 am bus to Seoul but not before stopping at Dunkin Donuts for munchkins. In Korea you pick out what you want with a pair of tongs and then place them on a tray, then the cashier picks them up off the tray and puts them in a bag for you. Not the most efficient process, but the munchkins were great.
The ride took about 3.5 hours and dropped us off at the Central Seoul bus terminal in Gangnam (yes, the same one as that Psy song). At the bus terminal, I got a feel for how international Seoul was. There were shops and fast food places from all over the world. Nicole got her potato fix at Irish Potato and we added yet another meal of Western food to our day.
The Seoul bus terminal is connected to the subway station. The subway in Seoul will take you pretty much anywhere and its one of the cleaner subways I’ve been on. The individual subway cars are very clean, well air-conditioned, and they have really wide aisles. We traveled on the weekend so they weren’t too packed, but I hear on weekdays they get pretty slammed.
Nicole and I were staying in Itaewon, the foreigner neighborhood in Seoul. The neighborhood has a lot of American fast food places, custom suit shops, and various clothing stores. I noticed the people in Seoul, at least in Itaewon, are very very well dressed and seem much more fashion conscious than the people in Gwangju.
After Nicole and I put out stuff down, we wandered around the antique market near our hostel and I got a few neat photos out of the experience. If I had room to bring them back or enough money to afford them, I might have bought something.
Since Nicole and I have been in Korea neither one of us has had a craft beer, so we decided to get yet another Western meal and enjoy a good beer at a nearby restaurant called Craftworks. If you’re noticing a pattern here with all this Western food, Nicole and I made it nearly a month before missing Western food and spending a day eating loads of it as well as staying in the foreign section of town.
After lunch, Nicole and I took the subway over to Insadong to check out its famous market and try to do something Korean in Korea for a change. Insadong was really cool. There were little shops selling antiques, street vendors selling socks that looked like animals, and all manner of various street food.
Not too far from Insadong is the Gyeongbokgung palace. This is palace is the largest of the 5 Grand Palaces built by the Joseon dynasty. The palace was built in 1395, burned down, abandoned, rebuilt, destroyed by Japan, and finally rebuilt, well about half of it at this point. Nicole and I spend the afternoon wandering around the beautiful palatial grounds. We saw the library, the pavilion on the water, the throne hall, banquet hall, a storage building for various fermented pastes. Most of the signs were nonexistent, or in Korean so I had to look a bunch of this information up afterward. In the moment, I just observed how beautiful everything was and made a note to figure out what I was looking at later.
After the palace, we took the subway back to the hostel for a quick nap before dinner. To complete our all western food day, Nicole and I had delicious Italian pizza with basil and mozzarella and no corn. That night, Nicole and I met up with my friend Ryan from high school and we went to Hongdae, a university neighborhood about 15 minutes by cab. In a random little park, there was a sort of outdoor rave set up complete with strobing hula hoops, a DJ, and various neon lights.
Ryan and his co-teachers made their way into the middle of the crowd to dance. It was pretty fantastic. Within minutes there was a group of cheering Koreans surrounding the western dancers as they tore it up.
Following the impromptu dance party, Ryan took us on a Hongdae pub crawl where we had Korean beer, bag drinks (think alcoholic Capri Sun), and soju. Overall, it was an awesome night.