rinlin: (Love Her)
[personal profile] rinlin
I have time and lots to write about, so I'm making another update. Next up is my trip to Seoul with April! We were there from August 9th-12th.

April and I had an early flight out of Narita, so we opted to get a cheap hotel room near the airport the night before our flight. We ended up staying at a Toyoku Inn, and to our surprise the room was pretty big. It was quite nice, especially for the price.

On Friday, we got up bright and early to get to the airport on time. We weren't that far from the airport, but of course it took time to check in and go through security. The flight to Seoul was fine and seemed so short in comparison to all the other flying I'd been doing recently. We made it to Seoul without any problems. At the airport we were hungry, so we made a quick stop for some Korean Dunkin' Donuts before getting on the train to go to our hotel.

We stayed at the N Fourseasons Seoul (not the be confused with the Four Seasons). Our hotel room wasn't very large, but it was really nice and modern looking, with a nice big bed. After cooling down for a bit (because the weather in Seoul was super hot and muggy), we decided to head over to Namdaemun Market. It was fairly close to our hotel, so it wasn't hard to find.

It was a slightly weird feeling on the way over to the market, realizing both how similar and different South Korea is to Japan. Seoul has a fairly similar feeling to Tokyo, but is different at the same time. It's a little hard to explain. It was also interesting being there because it was my first time in a country were I couldn't at least somewhat speak the language. The dozen words of Korean that I know really weren't gonna get me that far in communicating (though I do know basic greetings and stuff). It was really a slightly unnerving feeling at first.

We made it to the market with no problems. Namdaemun Market is basically a large street market, filled with little shops and carts that take up several interconnected streets. They sell everything there from touristy souvenirs to clothing, make-up, and housewares. April and I ended up getting a bunch of nice and affordable make-up (since that's one of the things that Korea is known for). We also learned that Japanese will often get you much further than English in Korea. I guess it makes sense because of the fact that Japan used to occupy Korea and the large amount of Japanese tourists that still go there. It was funny because the shop keepers would try to speak with us in a little bit of English, but the second they found out we understood Japanese, they would chat up a storm with us.

Once it started to get later in the day, we went over to the N Seoul Tower. We took a cable car up to the tower. Before we actually went inside the tower, we stopped to see the love locks attached to the fence. Couples lock locks with their names written on them to the fence near the tower and throw away the key. If you lock your lock there, it's supposed to mean that your love will last forever. This was something that April and I had really wanted to do while we were planning our trip. April and I bought a purple lock (because it's both of our favorite colors) and wrote our names on it. Then we found the perfect spot and added it to the collection of locks on the fence. We wanted to take our picture with it. To our surprise, a Korean man saw what we were doing and offered to take our picture. Korea is generally pretty homophobic, so it was pretty surprising to both of us (then again, he might not've understood exactly what was going on ^_^;). Then, we threw away the key by putting it in the mailbox set up for that purpose. We were super happy as we headed up to the actual tower.

The tower itself was nice, but not quite as impressive as the Tokyo Tower. The view didn't have as many beautiful lights as Tokyo does. There was a wishing well inside though, were you could get a special coin to throw in and make a wish. We did that and then headed to get some dinner. I ended up getting cold noodle because it was so damn hot outside. The noodles were served so cold that there were chunks of ice in the broth. Noodles in Korea are also really really long, so they give you scissors to cut the noodles with as you eat them. It was a pretty amusing experience lol.

The next day we started by going to Gyeongbokgung, one of the palaces. It was cool to see how the architecture was both reminiscent of Japan and China. We also caught part of a traditional guard ceremony in front of the palace before going inside. We wandered for a bit once we got inside the gates. We would've explored more thoroughly if it hadn't started pouring rain though.

After a bit of time at the palace, we headed to Insadong. While we were there, we checked out some more shops, but our main purpose was to go to the Beautiful Tea Museum. While we were there, we had some of the most delicious tea I've ever had. April had cold apricot tea and I had warm jujube tea. My tea was amazing and tasted like fall. We also split a milk tea patbingsu with nuts, which was so freaking good.

Then, we went to meet up with April's grad school friend, Joel, for dinner. He took us to a super tasty Korean barbecue place, where we had lots of delicious meat and soju. Then he took us to Itaewon (the Roppongi of Korea) for dessert. April and I had more bingsu, but it wasn't quite as good as the stuff at the tea museum. April and I had briefly considered ending the evening by checking out a gay bar that Kaille had recommended to us, but we were just too tired from the heat and the long day.

Day 3 was our last real day in Seoul. We started off by going to Hongdae, which is kind of like the Harajuku of Seoul. We initially came out the wrong exit of the station, but after a bit of wandering around and a stop at a coffee shop to use their wifi, we were able to find the main shopping streets. It was vaguely reminiscent of Harajuku and was cool to explore. April and I found a small Korean purikura place, so we took some purikura. The machines were much more like the old style of purikura machines that used to be in Japan, more focused on being silly than fashionable. We also did a tiny bit of shopping and I bought a cream colored dress with black laces on the sides of the waist. It's quite cute!

After Hongdae, we decided to go over and check out the famous Gangnam. It was an interesting area to see and, according to April, slightly reminiscent of certain parts of New York. I don't think we made it to the really high class area of town though because we were too tired to do a ton of exploring.

Next, we headed over to check out the Cheonggyecheon, a cool river that runs through Seoul. On our way there, we stumbled upon Gwanghwamun Square, which was a neat area to explore, with some statues and small garden displays of Korea's national flower. We wanted to wait a little longer, until it got dark, to go to the river, so we went to get some dinner first. It took a while to search for what we wanted, but we finally came across a place that had a number of different types of chijimi. It was really yummy. We also tried makkoli and decided that we liked soju better. When we were done eating, we headed back to the Cheonggyecheon. There were lots of people there and the atmosphere was pretty fun. You had to walk down a set of stairs and then you could walk along the river, which is down below street level and runs it's way across Seoul. There were also good spots to sit and dip your feet in the water. It was so nice and would've been the perfect romantic spot if it had been slightly less crowded. It was a good way to end our trip.

On the fourth day, we unfortuantely didn't really have time to do much of anything because we needed to get to the airport on time. The flight back was fine and April and I grabbed food at the airport before heading back to our houses.

April and I both agreed that the trip was quite fun. We had a great time going together, on our first trip as a couple. If I get the chance, someday I think it'd be fun to go back and explore Seoul even further.
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