South Korea, we had heard so much negativity about this place, the people are introverts, they don’t like outsiders, they won’t treat you well in restaurants and so on and so forth. Well let me set the record straight, this was easily the most bright and kind place we had visited in the past 9 months. From the moment we landed to the moment we left, we were greeted with warm smiles, kind remarks and well wishes everywhere we went. There wasn’t a single second during that whole week where Rach and I even felt slightly uncomfortable.
We exited the airport around 10pm and took an hour taxi ride to our hostel, we knew they locked their doors at 11 and were nervous it would be a repeat of what happened in Shanghai (make link to Shanghai blog). We arrived just after 11, the door was open and we walked up the stairs to find a man sitting at the desk, he looked up knowingly and smiled at our arrival. We checked in and asked about a pocket wifi, they rent them from the hotel at a rate of 20$ for a week with unlimited data which was fantastic. We expressed our gratitude to him for waiting for us as he helped us take our bags upstairs, he smiled as though it would be inconceivable to have not waited.
The next morning we made our way upstairs to the common area for breakfast and basked in the warm morning light. As we set out for the day, the woman that runs the place saw us looking at the maps on the wall and chimed in to help us find our way. She even went as far as to take us outside and walk a couple blocks with us while chatting with Rach and I about our travels. We walked along a pedestrian street that was split by a river, people sat on either side with their feet in the water watching the fish swim up and down the stream.
We got lost in the massive piles of fabrics and designs as we walked through the textile area of the market, people were standing around with magazine clippings trying to match what they had seen while others were calling out to us as we walked by offering to custom make a suit or dress.
We were starting to get hungry as we came upon the food section of the market, the smells, sights and laughter filled area brought a smile to our faces as we tried in vain to choose where to sit.
After a few minutes of walking up and down, one woman smiled and pointed to a couple recently vacated stools in front of her table, we smiled back and sat down ready to try whatever she had to offer.
As it would happen, she served up some spring rolls that Rach had been telling me about.
The smell of the market was more than enough to leave us wanting more, so we continued to wander until yet another smiling face ushered us over to her table and served us some delicious dumpling soup. We chatted with her and traded WeChat info before taking some pictures together and of course enjoying enjoying her delicious meal. We finished off our food market experience for the day by having some fresh watermelon juice, walking around outside the market and heading towards youth street.
By the time we got there, lights were beginning fill the the streets with their neon glow and music could be heard as doors to bars were swung open and closed again. The streets gradually became crowded with all the people who had finished work, school or were just getting ready to start their night of debauchery. All manner of people could be found in this area and we loved bearing witness to the life that nighttime brought with it. We spent that night getting lost in the crowds and the many brightly lit alleyways and some darker ones too.
The next day we were off to another pedestrian street to bear witness to the myriad of people, stores, cafes, arcades and street performers. We spent the day walking up and down the streets, enjoying the different coffee shops and arcades, taking pictures in the photo booths and just enjoying the culture.
We ate dinner that night at a fantastic BBQ spot that served us a whole pork leg with fresh kimchi and an array of other side dishes.
One of the highlights of our trip was meeting up with a couple and their 3 year old son that we had befriended on the plane from Beijing. We spent the day taking the subway to Gyeongbokgung to see the royal palace, get dressed up in traditional fashion and watch the changing of the guard ceremony. We walked around together that night in a pedestrian street near our hostel and had delicious Bibimbap for dinner before saying our goodbyes. We went home and began getting ready for our journey to Japan.