Seoul, South Korea

Welcome back! :)

Now, I am going to go onto my third South Korea post, which continues from my second Busan post, here! For those who are coming in brand new, I was visiting South Korea with my friend Justin to visit my college friend Dawn (who is currently doing a Fulbright in South Korea, and who was also being visited by her childhood friend Grace)! Phew!

 We all arrived in Seoul at night on January 1st, and didn’t really have time for much, other than fried chicken and sleep!
Right outside the main train station.
Friends and a real Korean fried chicken dinner!! :)

The next day, we woke up early to head to the the War Memorial of Korea, which was built in memory of the Korean War.  Now, I don’t know much about the Korean War, and one of the exhibit rooms was closed, but it was a very interesting day nevertheless. I learned that some people don’t consider the Korean War over, just that there is a pause in the fighting, which I found chilling while walking around the exhibit halls.

At the museum, we met up with my college friend Eunji! I met Eunji in college, and hadn’t seen her for at least two years! She now lives in Korea again and is working there with a real job at a media/broadcasting company. She welcomed us with kindness and hospitality even after not having talked to her for so long, and was kind enough to walk us around different parts of Seoul and take us to restaurants we would have been too intimidated to enter ourselves! Insadong.
There was some kind of celebration happening, and this man was throwing small bits of something to people, I believe! You can watch the video below.

One of our stops was a really cute tea house, where we had some very interesting tea!! I forgot the name of the kind of tea I bought, but it had a very unique taste… I liked it! :) If I remember, it had a strong, herbal taste and maybe a bit of dates inside.

Justin, me, and Eunji! :)
My tea is the one on the bottom left.

After that, we wandered around and Eunji took us to this awesome building where the levels wrap around so you never have to go up any stairs. It’s just a gentle, barely noticeable slope the entire time.  There are a ton of really cute shops along it, and I bought a nice world map that I can keep track of my travels with!

As we were walking around the area, we found all these little nooks!
Starbucks written in Hangul!! :o
This was no longer Insadong, but a different neighborhood, I believe!

Next, Eunji was kind enough to take us to have Korean barbecue, which was a DELICIOUS meal! She even did the honors of cutting the meat! <3

After spending a wonderful day with Eunji we went to sleep on happy and full stomachs. The next morning we met up with Eunji again, who had cleared her calendar for us. :’)  The rest of the day, I will share in snapshots since it seems I didn’t use my camera that much!!

View from Dawn’s apartment in the morning. She is pretty high up! You can kind of see the sun in the distance…
We met up for kimbap for lunch, a Korean dish that is similar to sushi. You can see it on our places! They had different filling options, like tuna, beef, etc.
Then, we walked around the area and found some pretty beautiful and cool street art!
We even ran into No-Face!! He was walking around with a selfie stick… It was kind of funny. :)
Walking along!
We stopped to rest and had some mango, coconut, almond shaved ice… :’)
And then, we found a sheep cafe!!
Justin was kind of freaked out to be so close to the sheep hahaha.

Later in the evening, we ran into a piano that was placed on the street for the public to play. We watched two really talented guys play, and then our very own Justin played a bit! :D

Justin playing the piano! :)
Pizza dinner and cellphone break!

And that was it for that day! It was really nice to spend so much time with Eunji and to have Dawn join us for dinner! :D The next day, Justin and I headed out to see Gyeongbokgung Palace, one two large palaces in Seoul. It was built in the 14th century and a lot of fun to explore!

Me in front of one of the gates!
I thought this view was very interesting! The downtown high-rise area is pretty close to the area with the palace, and if you looked towards the buildings, you would see this strange juxtaposition of the old, traditional buildings against the new glass skyscrapers.
Inside one of the palace buildings! The colors that were used were really beautiful!
The ceilings were ESPECIALLY beautiful!
All of the ceilings were a big different!
I like this shot because of the simplicity! I could imagine somebody sitting there and reading from the text!
Young women dressed up in traditional Korean clothing, taking photo shoots of each other! :)
We found this beautiful building surrounded by water late in the day, just as the palace was beginning to close.
At some point, we realized we hadn’t eaten lunch, and by 4 o’clock we were starving! So we stopped by a gift shop on the palace grounds and bought souvenir cookies to eat… These were really good! They are fried, I believe!
These treats were much lighter than the first ones, and kind of melted in your mouth. They had a very light and distinct taste.
After the palace, we decide to take a walk towards the downtown area, and we ran into this statue! I am afraid I am writing this too late to remember who this was of. :(
The writing on the side of the base was beautiful! Maybe the origins of Hangul?
Me with the statue!
We passed this canal called Cheonggyecheon that was a nice place to walk, but we were too hungry to stop for long!
FOOD! Finally! Justin, really happy to have McDonald’s in Korea.
McDonald’s menu in Korea!
Awesome steps in the subway that light up and played music when you stepped on them!! We danced on them a little before moving on.
This picture is SUPER blurry but Ashley actually had a layover in Seoul for her trip to the Philippines!!

The next day, we also kind of just wandered around! It was our last day in Seoul and we didn’t have concrete plans, but we wanted to check out the shopping areas.

We wandered around the Dongdaemon area and looked at shop after shop of shoes. :o

We were hungry, so we looked up the best places to eat in the area online, and found this restaurant that looked like a good idea! When we went inside, w realized they didn’t speak English! The lady came over with an entire chicken, cut it up, and put it into the bowl of water, which she then put on the gas to boil… It was like, Korean chicken soup, I guess!! Very surprising but a fun experience! :) There were these two men that were sitting next to use started to talk to us in broken English, and were very sweet in explaining what to do when! :) So nice!

Justin making faces but enjoying his food!

Later that day, we went to a board game cafe! It was my first time going to a board game cafe, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Basically, we came inside, and they gave us the pricing for one hour, which would stat when we picked a game. When we chose a game, we also chose our snacks and beverages, and they brought them out to us. Justin taught me a new game, but had to use his cellphone to translate the rules because the game was in Korean!! D: But it was a lot of fun! I might be interested in more board game cafes after this experience! :)

We even got a yummi kiwi juice (which was amazing and fresh) and some mediocre shaved ice.
Some stair art on our way through the subways.

That evening was the last time I would be eating with Eunji and Dawn. :'( I had to say goodbye to Eunji, which was difficult, and I found myself tearing up a bit because I hate saying goodbyes to people without knowing when I will see them next… But on a happier note, we went to a restaurant for some more traditional Korean food! I had soup with dumplings!! :) It was delicious and warm, especially since it was very cold outside.

Later the next night, we found POLISH JUICE! AHHHHH!! I bought two, and I WISH I BOUGHT MORE! Tymbark is a popular brand in Poland!!

Had to say goodbye to Dawn, which was very difficult as well! :'( I was so lucky to be visiting a friend, and honestly, that is what this trip was about. I like to jam pack my schedule when I am travelling to get the most out of a place, but this time around, it was really nice to just chill, and be with somebody you know. I may have mentioned this earlier, but Dawn made the transition to Japan so much easier. She had been out here for a year already when I came, and she was so helpful when it came to working through feelings of panic, regret, homesickness, guilt, loneliness, jealousy, you name it! The past few months were a roller coaster and Dawn was amazing in helping me get through them. She was also such an amazing host, and along with Eunji, they made me and Justin feel so welcome in Korea!!

Dawn and Eunji, I miss you both and have missed you since I said bye earlier this year!! Thank you for making our trip so nice!

To everybody else, if you know anybody living in a foreign country, it is really a tremendous opportunity to visit them.  They often know the ins and outs of places that you would not be able to see, and although they are usually not quite like a local, they can offer you the best of both worlds. <3

A

<3333
PS: Incheon Airport in Seoul has an ICE SKATING RINK inside…!!!
Ok, maybe not ice skating… Maybe rollerblading that looks like ice skating. :P
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