When it comes to sharing my experinces in South Korea with you, I am kind of a loss for where to begin. For me, South Korea was a whirlwind, spending only 4 days in Seoul and 1 night down south, in Busan. And, I really had NO expectations, for it was my job to do our research for China, and Anastaisa and our other friend Lauren’s job to scope out what to do in South Korea and where to adventure to. In my mind, after the month of making plans and booking stuff in China, now was my time to coast, to ride on the wave of their decisions. I really looked forward to it.
We left Hong Kong on March 13, and arrived mid-afternoon in Seoul. Lauren was flying in from the US and she wouldn’t be in until somewhere around 1am. So Anastasia and I dropped our bags in our hostel and headed out into the city to walk around and grab some food- figuring filling our bellies, a nap, and a night out would be the best way to wait for Lauren to arrive.
This bit was our first small glimpse at Korean culture.
The streets of the Hong Dae district were lined with clothes, fashion accessories and every store was jamming Korean rap- or I think the term is K-pop! Hot items seemed to be socks, cell phone cases, sunglasses and head bands. I seriously couldn’t get over the trends, and how every girl seemed to have straight hair with bangs, be wearing baggy-ish clothes, maybe a mid-drift line around the waist and the guys all in skinny jeans and flat bill hats. It made me think of how interesting human nature is. Seriously, the habitual, grouping, fitting in thing we humans do is so weird. And every country around the world does it in a way, but in Korea, I don’t know, it seemed more apparent.
By night fall, we made our way to a spot for dinner, choosing it by the crowds and the loud noise of happy people coming from inside. As we walked in, I put up two fingers and a waiter showed us to our table. Sitting down on the bar stools, we looked around seeing what everyone was eating and drinking. Basically, it was time to crack into the Korean cuisine of Soju and Noodles. Ha!
We weren’t really sure how to order anything, so we pointed to what other people had on their table and said please. I think eventually an English menu was brought over, but I can’t remember. The soju had probably already hit me. I mean, by itself, it is strong, but Koreans drop it in beer like a sake bomb. Taking notes from our neighbors, we did the same. Yes, it made the beer taste better, and while that is good, a hangover was being brewed.
The night ended at a 100% Korean establishment. We were the only foreigners there. We made friends with some girls, one of which was really fond of saying..”sojuuuuuuu, soooo good.” I’ll never forget that. Also because the next day I had my only full hangover of our trip. That’s where being a yogi comes in- balance. One is not so bad I told myself.
By close to 12am, we were back in the hostel, feeling light and spinning, waiting for Lauren to arrive. She got there safe and sound, and after excited hellos, we all went to bed.
The next days, we explored temples, night food markets and a 7 story spa. Highlight was by far the spa or jjimjilbang. Literally 7 stories of health, from jade, charcoal and mugwort baths, to jade, red clay, and oxygen saunas. There are sleep rooms for snorers and for those who don’t, a food floor and so much more. It was such a relaxing and wonderful experience, a highlight and a must do while visiting South Korea. And to add, it only costs 12 dollars to enter, literally allowing you access to the entire bathhouse for a period of 12 hours, with an option to extend available. Crazy great.
As far as Busan, it seemed to be a city worth a day or two of exploration. I only had about 5 hours there to see the city on the night we arrived, before I left for Bali the next day. If I have any advice for a Busan, it would be to stay at Wendy’s Guest House if you are looking for a great hostel.
As I said, South Korea was quick for me. I have left out a good bit of our Korean adventure in this post, as I don’t think butterfly detail here would be that exciting for you.
But I do have a few take-aways to share:
1. Jjimjilbangs, a must do.
2. Buy Korean skin care products
3. Seoul needs more trees
4. The subway system in SK is more confusing than China
5. The history of Korea is so complex and interesting
6. You can rent traditional Korean attire and wear it around town. FACT: tons of both Korean and Chinese tourists partake in this on their visit to Seoul.