It was hard to say goodbye. But good things do come to an end. However, we still have a few hours before our flight which leaves at 21:20. So we checked out and without prior plan, we headed to Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP). This place is huge and it was very easy to get lost inside. It was really impressive.
Then we decided to go to Gwangjang Market to check out the stall featured on Netflix’ Street Food Asia. It was such an experience and the knife cut noodles was good and this market is really clean.
Some take aways from this holiday:
Good walking shoes are important. We were walking more than 10 kilometres each day.
TMoney is a must have when using public transport!
I didn’t use Naver Map, although, I have it on my phone. I guess I’m just too familiar with Google Map and it worked well.
I didn’t use the Kakao T app either, although, I also have it on my phone. We didn’t need to ride a taxi at all.
Having a Wifi router with us all the time was very good. I highly recommend it and we only paid 39 EUR for the entire 14 days.
Buy your flight tickets early as prices tend to spike up.
Book accommodation that has free cancellation because there might be changes along the way.
I love that I got to listen to music in South Korea that I’m familiar with. I love that South Korea has an efficient and affordable public transport. I especially love taking the bus as I enjoy looking out. I love that they have clean toilets everywhere. I love that South Korea is generally clean and that I don’t have to think twice whether I should eat street food or not. I love that restaurant meals include drinking water. I’m not a fan of buying bottled water. I love that there is no tipping as we are not use to that in Europe. I love the fun of navigating the language barrier and being able to use the very few Korean words that I know. I love that the people we’ve met were really kind and helpful. You get the sense that they do care. I felt safe in South Korea. There was no single moment when I felt that I was in a dangerous situation. (CCTVs are everywhere!)
I can truly say that it was an amazing holiday. I’m so glad that we did it at the right time when the Cherry Blossom was in full bloom. We also got to fly over the North Pole on our way back to Helsinki and we have Diplomas to prove it. 😀 Lastly, I’m happy that the 50th country I’ve visited is South Korea. Bye for now, Seoul. Until next time!
The rain continued the next day but that didn’t stop us from our plan of going to the N Seoul Tower for our last evening in Seoul. But before that, we visited the Seoul Museum of History and learned about how Seoul became how it is now. This city changed a lot and progressed rapidly in such a short span of time. I really love the model of the City of Seoul where we can see Seoul at a glance. It was fun to check out the places where we have been over the last days. The museum is free entrance and it was quite empty.
So now off to N Seoul Tower. The cable car is just a walking distance from our hotel and the rain stopped. The Daebak Company gave us free tickets to N Seoul Tower and two free drinks. Yes, it was not raining anymore but it was very foggy. The staff at the ticket counter told me that we can reuse the tickets within three months because it was a very foggy day. We went up anyway and enjoyed our drinks. I thought the fog was very pretty and showed me another side of Seoul.
This day was a rainy day and we went to see the Lotte World Tower. Although the main reason was to really see the Seokchon Lake surrounded by Cherry Blossom. It was really pretty. We were sat infront of the Lotte World Magic Island when the light rain started pouring. It was a good idea that when we were heading to Lotte World Mall, I decided to get us some umbrellas at the convenience store. I felt confident that way than all the time worrying if the rain comes.
When we went back to Myeongdong, the rain kept going and I can’t believe why some people still haven’t invested on an umbrella! 🙂 But we continued exploring the food street and enjoyed a bite of this and that. Street food in Myeongdong is a must!
This day was very special because were were visiting the Daebak Company in Hongdae. They were in the process of packing the Spring Boxes so the office has pretty Spring boxes in every corner. I really enjoyed seeing the process and all the hard work they put into it. I was also interviewed for their SNS and I really enjoyed talking about my Korean experience. It was also so lovely to meet new people and learn new things. They treated us to coffee and to a very fancy lunch at a traditional restaurant with our own private room, just like in K-Dramas when the conglomerates meet. 🙂 I really appreciate that they took time for us amidst their busy schedule. I love hearing their stories and getting to know them.
Then we walked around Hongdae but there were not lots to see during the daytime. So I hope to visit Hongdae again someday. But we went in for coffee at Koriko Cafe. So cute! I can’t resist buying some Studio Ghibli merch. We went back to the hotel so that we can take the tripod to prepare for the night shots of the bridges. I really wanted to see the Banpo Bridge though but we ended up by the Hanggang Bridge which was really pretty at night and we also walked over it. Well, maybe next time I’ll get to see the Banpo Bridge.
We took the KTX train back to Seoul and this time we stayed in Myeongdong. Our hotel was in middle of all the action. There were food carts everywhere. There were shops everywhere. The first thing we did after check-in was to have an evening walk along Cheonggyecheon all the way to Gwanghwamun Square. It was a Saturday and there were lots of people and yet Cheonggyecheon has a peaceful feel to it. We passed by a studio and there was a celebrity waving and greeting the people outside. I don’t know who he was.
The next day we took all the sun in while going along the K-Star Road just because I wanted to see the SHINee Gangnamdol. It was so hot! From there we took the bus to get to Seoul Forest. But before heading to Seoul Forest, I went to SM Entertainment just to see where many great K-Pop songs were produced. I also went to Kwangya Shop and enjoyed watching the MVs on the big screen. And what a moment when CHASE was played! Then we went to Seoul Forest. It was packed with people having picnic. It was warm, sunny and a Sunday so why not!
Then we did something that was not in the plan at all and that was going to COEX to see the Starfield Library. But we did some shopping there too and enjoyed a wonderful meal at an Italian restaurant. I also went to the Ktown4u to get Onew’s Circle SMini because it was not available anymore at the Kwangya shop. We also saw the Statue of Gangnam Style. 🙂 It was kind of a K-Pop day, to be honest!
The plan for this day was to visit the Bukchon Hanok Village. Our hotel in Insadong was a walking distance from it. So we headed fresh for the day and ready to explore Seoul. Sadly and with much regret, we had breakfast at Starbucks just because I really wanted to have my Starbuck’s name as per tradition. But in Seoul, they don’t allow disposable cups anymore which is great!
After breakfast, we walked to the Bukchon Hanok Village. It is a pretty place but it is important to remember that it is a residential area so people actually live there. It is very necessary to be respectful and as it says in many places, Please be quiet. We found some kind of a museum on a hill with tea on offer and a great spot to see the Seoul Skyline, although, it was not much of a view during the day. The place also has a traditional house which is fully decorated just like the ones in the historical K-Dramas.
Next stop was a Tea House called Cha Teul. We didn’t just happened on this place but I googled best tea houses in Seoul beforehand. Cha Teul made me so happy and it was not pricey at all. It was packed so we waited for a while to get a table but it was so worth it. I ordered a Quince Pear tea and it was perfect!
Then we walked to the Changgyeonggung Palace and the Secret Garden. The Cherry Blossom is already in full bloom so the palace ground was full of visitors. We didn’t find the Secret Garden anything special. Maybe during a different season, for example during summer or autumn, the garden would look beautiful. After the Secret Garden tour, we tried to visit the Changgyeonggung Palace. Unfortunately, we actually bought tickets to Chandeokgung Palace. In the end, we decided to call it a day visiting palaces so we didn’t get to use the tickets we bought.
So instead, we hopped on a bus to Myeongdong. But there was a rally. Up until now, we don’t know what was the protest all about (I can’t read Korean!) but there were lots of people and lots of police too. The bus got diverted so we took another bus and eventually walked some kilometres to Myeongdong. It was late and we were hungry. We happened on a restaurant that has a wall showing photos and autographs of famous people who ate there. The food was really good and the owner was really friendly. Also, notice the cute red apron I’m wearing. These aprons are readily available at restaurants to avoid food stains. How smart! We were also full and happy!
In the Summer of 2022, I was featured in the Daebak magazine, a Korean subscription box company. I talked about how I wish to visit South Korea in 2023 to eat authentic Korean food, to stay at a Hanok and to experience the Cherry Blossom. Fast forward in December that year, I bought tickets to Seoul and started planning the trip to South Korea with my husband. The plan was to experience the Cherry Blossom season. Although I know that it could be a hit or miss, I bought the tickets anyway and booked the accommodations. There were changes along the way as two weeks would not be enough to see it all. And although I really wanted to visit Jeonju, I didn’t like the idea of being sat on the bus for more than 4 hours from Gyeongju. That road trip will be going across the country after all! By the 20th of March, the mask mandate for public transport was lifted. Although I still carried with me a few masks just in case (from the Daebak box, of course!) we didn’t have to use them. Also, I didn’t see many people wearing masks anymore. To be honest, I don’t really like wearing masks and we haven’t been wearing masks in Helsinki since last year.
The flight from Helsinki took off at 17.55 on the 23rd of March and arrived the next day at midday in Incheon International airport. It took 11 hours and 45 minutes as the flight avoided the Ukraine and Russian airspace. But it didn’t really feel that long. I just knew that when we landed, my headphone was at 40% battery. I was listening to K-Pop all through the flight.
After the checking of the Q Code, immigration and baggage reclaim, we rented a Portable Wifi Router for our entire stay in South Korea from the SKT booth located at the arrival area. I also bought a TMoney card for my husband from the convenience store inside the airport (I already have one from the Daebak box with Jimin’s photo!) and have them refilled with money mainly for transportation. It was important to check what was the best way to travel to our accommodation. I have heard stories of people taking the subway and changing trains (dragging along heavy suitcases) when buses stop right infront of their hotels! So for us, the bus was the best option. It stopped very close to our hotel in Insadong.
We checked in and explored the Insadong area, most especially the Ikseongdong Hanok Village where we found lots of nice restaurants and cute cafes. At the Insadong Shopping Street, I also had a Dojang made, a traditional stamp with my name in Hangul. We did a quick stop at Ssamzigil Shopping Mall for some traditional snacks sold on the ground floor. They were good!
It was a long day and we headed to bed to get ready for the next day!