To read the first part of my weekend in Seoul go here.
Sunday morning Nicole and I woke up and got a quick bite to eat at the coffee shop across from our Hostel. There are tons of coffee shops in Korea, definitely more than in my hometown. Every few blocks, if not every block there’s a coffee shop. They all sell Americanos, lattes, and usually a ton of frozen drinks that may or may not have any coffee in them.
Korean Friends from Europe
I’d made plans to meet my two Korean friends, Eom and Jeong, that day. I’d met them in Europe while backpacking. They were both engineers at Hyundai working in the Czech Republic at the time, although Jeong had recently left. A few months before I moved to Korea we made plans to meet up and all hangout. Since Nicole and I were going to be in Seoul this weekend, we planned to meet up at the coffee shop by our hostel and travel around for the day.
Jeong had never visited Seoul before so he was as much a tourist as Nicole and I were. Nicole and I told him about our night and he asked to see Itaewon so we walked up the little street by our hostel looking at the brunch shops, bars, and restaurants. Itaewon is a nice little neighborhood. Its very international and a welcome sight for foreign eyes. I’ve had a blast in Korea so far, but every now and again its nice to have a little slice of Western culture.
After our Itaewon walkabout, Eom took us on a tour of Seoul by car. It was really helpful to have a friend with a car, especially since it had started to rain. After a month of walking and cabs, I had forgotten about how nice driving was. We didn’t have to worry about paying a fare at the end or having a specific destination in mind. Eom showed us different neighborhoods around Seoul and took us to a nice little Korean restaurant in a very quaint neighborhood. With the little residential buildings so close together and the rain, I felt for a minute like we were in England.
The restaurant was my first Korean sit down on the floor restaurant. Most of the places I’d been to up til then were western style table and chair establishments or I’d gotten food to-go. The restaurant was 4 stories and each floor had a little shelf to take your shoes off at before you sat down. Our table was on the top floor and had a great little view of the neighborhood. We took our shoes off at the shelf and sat cross-legged at our table. Eom and Jeong ordered for the table. We had Kimchi, fried rice, several soups, and a spiced meat dish.
Afterwards, we continued our tour of Seoul, traveling next to a mountaintop with a great view looking out over Seoul. On the way up we passed numerous bicyclists and hikers making their way to the top. At the summit was a coffee shop, restaurant, and pagoda area to relax. We took photos and Eom told us about the different neighborhoods. The neighborhood we were looking down at was old money. Many of the people that lived there were in government or had family money. Areas like Gangnam are considered new money, or recently wealthy people. The view, despite being really foggy, was still quite impressive. I imagine on a clear non-rainy day you could see for miles.
The Blue House
On the way back down the mountain, we passed the Blue House, where the President of South Korea lives, and many other government buildings. Like most countries capitals, most of the government buildings were clustered together in one area. Every block or so there was a guard post and armed guards on top of buildings. The area was as secure as it was beautiful. There were well-manicured lawns and beautiful trees along the roadside.
After driving through the government center, we stopped for gas briefly before Eom and Jeon dropped Nicole and me off at the bus stop. In Korea, there have both self-service gas stations and stations where people pump gas for you. You just pull up and someone comes out and fills the car for you. It was way faster than in the states. The tank was full in a matter of minutes. I don’t know if we have restrictions on how fast gas stations can pump gas through the lines, but pumping gas is significantly faster in Korea. I also learned that they don’t have different grades of gas in Korea, just unleaded and diesel. After the attendant pumped the gas, he gave Eom a travel size box of napkins and some sort of Windex wipes. Apparently getting napkins or wipes like that is pretty common after you buy gas.
Back on the Bus
At the bus terminal, Eom and Jeong said goodbye to Nicole and I and we made plans to hang out again soon. Nicole and I will be back in Seoul in two weekends for the Color Me Rad color run so we made tentative plans to see Eom then. Jeong lives not too far from Busan, a city Nicole and I really want to visit, so we also made plans to meet up in September when Jeong returns from his business trip.
After saying goodbye, Nicole and I bought our bus ticket and headed back to Gwangju. Overall it was a great weekend. I got to see some of Seoul’s most famous sights like the palace, Insadong, and Itaewon. I also got to spend time with good friends like Ryan, Eom, and Jeong. Having had a great weekend trip like this, I felt even more comfortable living in Korea knowing that I have a great network of people that I can rely on.