Another alumni of my high school has been living in Seoul for two years. It’s unusual for anyone from my tiny hometown to end up in Asia, let alone TWO of us, so Klinton was more than willing to show me around. Day 1
He was on a mission to show me as much of the town as he could. Day 1 I landed at Incheon International Airport at about 1:30, and after dropping off my bags (including a massively overweight suitcase) we STILL fit all of this in.
Gyeongbokgung Palace-The main and largest palace built by the Joseon Dynasty, it at one time was comparable to the Forbidden City in Beijing. In the early 20th century much of the palace was destroyed, but what remains is being restored and is still impressive. The Blue House, where the current president resides, is behind the palace. Klinton had taken the tour enough times that he could be my own personal guide!
Samcheongdong and Bukchon Hanok-Samcheondong is an area near the palace with lots of shops and boutique-y things. This was on our way to Bukchon Hanok, which is a residential area where people live in preserved traditional Korean houses (hanoks).
Hongdae-This is an area near the Hongik University, so it’s got a younger vibe. We ate a pork stew that I loved, visited the Hello Kitty Café (apparently very popular in Japan), and saw some urban murals that were pretty cool. I really liked the atmosphere here.
Changdeokgung Palace, Secret Garden tour-Once you’ve seen one palace, you’ve seen them all. However, this one has a 78-acre ‘natural’ garden at the back that Klinton had booked a tour for. It was pretty. I have never seen so many pavilions in one place in my life. Apparently they were all different…(?)
Cheonggyecheon-This is a creek that runs through the middle of downtown. There’s a tiny bit of original water flowing through, but mostly this was a giant urban renewal project. It’s pretty surreal, watching people dip their feet in this happy little stream with skyscrapers all around.
Insadong-This area had a lot more souvenir shops for this little tourist to peruse. I bought a wooden mask to go with one I had bought in Ivory Coast last summer. We also stopped here for some dumplings that were super tasty.
Statue of Sejong the Great-This massive tribute to the man credited with creating the current Korean script (Hangul) is in front of the Gyeongbokgung Palace entrance and near the American embassy.
Klinton had to work, so today I was on my own. However, he still helped me plan the entire day and showed me how to get from A to B. So thankful.
Bongeunsa Temple-This is a Buddhist temple smack in the middle of urban Seoul. It’s open to tourists and offers a temple stay program. I really enjoyed visiting this temple, because although it is open to visitors there were still many people participating in worship while I was there.
Namsangol Hanok Village-Several traditional houses have been relocated from all over Seoul to this village. There was also a time capsule that had been buried in1994 at the 600th anniversary of Seoul’s being named the capitol. It will be opened at the 1000th anniversary in 2394.
Namsan Tower-I got to meet up with another friend who had been teaching in Korea for a year who just happened to be in Seoul this afternoon. SO lucky! We went to this tower with spectacular views of Seoul. Visibility wasn’t perfect, but it was still better than previous days. I’ll take what I can get!
Myeongdong-After the tower we went to this shopping street. It was definitely a bustling place, and I liked the atmosphere. I can imagine how fun it would be at night! My friend bought me a lemon drink from a street vendor that was tart but tasty.
I enjoyed every minute of my time in Seoul, and cannot say thank you enough in any language to Klinton for giving me his time. I hope I can do the same for him someday!
After a VERY early morning, bus ride to Incheon, flight to Japan, 11 hour flight to Dallas, 4 hour layover, 1.5 hour flight to St. Louis, and a 3 hour drive to mid-MO I am HOME.
It’s an interesting thing, coming home after such a long and foreign venture. It will always be there, and is always the same. It feels like I never left. This is comforting in its constancy, but also unsettling because I myself am never the same. I DID leave, and have had so many experiences that –while they are always interested to hear about--many people simply cannot relate to. But if that is the cost of travel, I will gladly work through an unsettling transitional period.
Thank you to anyone who followed and/or supported me in my study abroad journey. I hope I will have another excursion to write about in the relatively near future!
Until next time.