Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Interlude: Finding a Little Seoul

For the first time since Liv and I have started traveling together, we chose to set the itinerary aside and just make most of our decisions on the spot. We got lost. A lot. We lost our way around subway stations, around underground markets, even in the streets just behind our cheap hotel. Downtown. In the suburbs. But then again, we didn't mind getting lost. We laughed and smiled when we walked around in circles or got off at the wrong stop or lost count of the bridges during our nighttime stroll along Cheonggyecheon Stream.

It always pays to smile.
At The Stories of King Sejong and Admiral Yi
At the Changdeokgung Palace grounds
A mecca for lovers of K-drama
The view from the N Seoul Tower
At Insadong's colorful Ssamziegil

And when we remembered, we'd find a quiet place for coffee or tea. We'd alternately save and splurge, the same way we'd alternately rest our tired feet and keep on walking with drinks in hand. We'd talk about the lives from which we've taken respite, hug our coats and drinks a little closer, and make sure we'd always have a reason to smile.

This moment was one of mine.


Tin said...

I get frazzled and cranky whenever we get lost on our trips. :) My sisters will be in Korea tomorrow (without me, sob).Is it freezing there? My sisters are terribly afraid of the cold. One of them bought some thermal wear but all her jeans are skinny so she couldn't squeeze herself in them anymore. Haha! I'll take down the places you mentioned here. Perhaps they'll have the chance to visit them as well. :P

dementedchris said...

My friend and I have been lost in Vietnam and in Taiwan before so we've learned to welcome it when it happened -- often! -- in Korea. Yup, it's chilly this time of the year. Days are fine but there were times I wish I had gloves with me. I'm really not that used to the cold. But I often wore a lot of layers (e.g. long-sleeved top, suede vest, jacket) to keep me warm haha.

Tell them to check out Gwanghwamun Square; near Admiral Yi's monument is a tour bus that goes through all the major tourist spots in Seoul; they can just hop on and hop off. The ticket costs 10,000 won and you pay the tour guide. The Hanok Village in Namsan and the museums didn't charge for entrance, though the Seoul Tower and the palaces do. Also, the City Tour bus gives you a ticket with discount stubs to different places so they can knock a few won off their expenses if they have the stubs.

If they like shopping, here are some of the major shopping places:

Insadong - a street filled with shops selling traditional crafts and souvenirs; prices are pretty reasonable for pasalubong compared elsewhere. There are also a lot of galleries here.

Myeongdong - a combination of Mongkok in HK and Ximending in Taipei; great place to go at night because it has a lot of shops (like H&M, Forever 21, Zara), restos, and stalls (for anik-anik like socks and leggings and K-drama stash). NOTE: There are so many branches of shops like Etude House, Tony Moly, The Face Shop, and Skin Food around Myeongdong that it might not be a good idea to use them as landmarks.

Itaewon - has a tiangge-like shopping complex that reminds me of a smaller 168 but the streets behind it house ateliers, galleries, and coffee shops.

Sinsadong Garusa-gil - a stretch of cafes, restos, and stores

Namdaemun Market - another tiangge area selling a lot of clothes but the crowd feels much older than the one in Myeongdong.

COEX - one of the larger malls. Get off at Samseong Station, green line.

Times Square - another large mall and the area feels suburb-y if they're coming from downtown, but my friend and I didn't buy anything much here. The underground shopping complex had some cheaper finds compared to downtown)

Whew! Hope that helps!

Chachic said...

I love the photos that you posted! Looks like you had an amazing time. When you go to an unfamiliar place, sometimes you just have to accept the fact that you will get lost. It's part of the experience, I guess? I've learned to accept that too.

Tin said...

Oh wow! These are great! I'll pass it on to my sisters. I think they'll like what's in Insadong and Myeondong. I bet you'll make an awesome tour guide! Sans the getting lost part. :P Any interesting restos that come to mind?

dementedchris said...

Yeah, that's my philosophy, too! I don't get stressed out when I get lost in a different country. I always think it can't be as bad as getting lost in Manila haha.

They can try Myeongdong-Gyoja/Myeongdong-Kyoja (in Myeongdong, of course) which has just four items on their menu but which we really enjoyed a lot. There was another resto I really liked in Insadong but I didn't know what it was called because the name was in Hangul.

Tin said...

Hi Chris! Okay, got it. Thanks for all the tips! :)

Monique said...

Korea looks like fun.

I miss traveling. *sigh*

dementedchris said...

It was! Maybe you can start traveling with your family soon. :D