Spending nearly half of our time cooped at home because it was too cold to go out. Never again in winter.
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Day 1: Jongno-gu
Our first day into Seoul was pretty interesting. After disembarking our aircraft, we took turns heading to the toilet (for nature’s call hah!) so someone could watch our carry-on bags. When we reached the luggage pick-up area, there weren’t any bags on the conveyor belt so we waited, thinking our luggage hadn’t come out yet. We completely forgot that we were the late ones until a staff approached us, asking if we were on the flight from Osaka. Apparently we took too long and our luggages had been dropped off at the lost and found counter haha.
We caught the train to Jongno-gu but upon arrival, got completely lost trying to find our apartment. We stood on the curbside, trying to access the free wi-fi from the train station but to no luck. Until a ghetto old man walked up to us. We couldn’t understand a word he said, nor he us, but thankfully i had the address of our Airbnb apartment written in Hangul. He tried explaining to us and upon fail, personally led us all the way there!
When we got outside our unit, the code to unlock the door wasn’t working, and i couldn’t contact our host either. I was beginning to feel helpless and after what seemed like forever, we managed to access the wi-fi located inside the apartment and contacted our host. He gave us a few codes to try and we managed to access it after a while, only to find someone else’s things strewn all over the place. We quickly got out and messaged our host again. It seems we were given the wrong unit number – the unit we accessed was his instead!
Our unit was still in the same building and by the time we got settled in, it was close to 6pm and too late/tired to go explore anywhere. So we waited a bit until it was dinner time and went to the Gwangjang Market. I found out about this market by watching Running Man, funny enough. Though i have to admit that i was pretty disappointed by the food.
Open 7 days; 8.30am-11pm
We were pretty taken aback by the Korean culture on our walk there – people were spitting on sidewalks, there were cigarette buds and rubbish everywhere, and the rude old ladies. Maybe it was because we just came from Japan, where the streets and even the alleyways are literally spotless, and the level of hospitality that the Japanese people have is definitely hard to beat. Don’t get me wrong, the younger/educated ones are more polite and helpful. We were told that the older generation acts that way because they prefer not to associate with people who don’t speak their language/are from another country.
Day 2: Jung-gu & Myeong-dong
We arrived the Deoksugung Palace an hour behind opening time, and were welcomed by a tinge of haze in the air. It felt rather frustrating when shooting but after going through the shots and editing, the haze actually created such a magical light. Most likely my favourite series from Seoul.
Unlike Japan, our host didn’t provide us with a pocket wi-fi so we were internet-blind throughout the trip. From the Deoksugung Palace, we followed street signs and eventually made our way to the Namdaemun Gate. This structure stands on an island among major roads, and was destroyed by arson in 2008 but has since been reconstructed.
29 Namdaemunno 4-ga,
Jung-gu, Seoul 100-094
Open 7 days; 24hours
From there, we walked towards Namsan and the N Seoul Tower. It was cold and hazy so after a couple shots, we took shelter in a cafe and ordered hot drinks consecutively because we were mainly there to leech off their free wi-fi (shameless, i know). We didn’t bother heading up the observatory as the haze was blocking out the view of the city so we had our love-lock moment before spending the rest of the day walking around Myeongdong.
Day 3: The Demilitarised Zone & Jongno-gu
We woke up bright and early (and saw fresh snowfall!) for our DMZ tour which took about half a day. The bus made a stop at Hongdae on the way back and some people got off, but we wanted to head back and rest before coming back out for the New Year countdown. Which didn’t work out either as it was freezing cold so we went back home and fell asleep throughout the entire thing haha.
Day 4: Gwanghwamun & Jongno-gu
We checked out of our Airbnb apartment and into our hotel (we stayed at Hotel Rian in Insadong) and i’m still in awe that we managed to maneuver through back alleys and streets without a GPS or map to find our hotel. After dropping our bags, we visited the Changdeokgung Palace until my toes were frozen frigid. We didn’t think the rest of the palaces were worth visiting so we went back to the hotel to just chill and relax in the warmth of our room. I mean, the floors were heated okay. Why would you wanna freeze yourself outside in a -10 temperature?
We were thinking what to have for dinner and then out of the blue, we decided to visit Gary and Haha’s restaurant in Gangnam. Being Running Man fans, we were pretty excited but when we got there, it was under renovation! We were pretty bummed so we just walked around a bit, had fried chicken at this sports bar near our hotel, before heading back to pack for our flight out the next day.
I am not a cold person. Which is rather ironic because Scandinavia is on top of my list and (if all goes to plan) i intend to stay there for at least a month just taking pictures of the aurora. We didn’t explore much of Seoul, mainly because it was too cold to be out and our itinerary wasn’t built around shopping. Seoul is definitely a good city to shop, what with majority of their malls being open at odd hours (i’m talking 3am) and even 24hours! You can find reasonably priced clothing at markets like Namdaemun and Dongdaemun, but departmental stores can get pretty pricey (i fell in love with their coats but my bank account said no).
Our Korea trip might not have been the best experience but i do wanna go back and let that city change my mind.
But definitely not in winter.
Photographer – B and myself.