South Korea: Spicy Seoul

I’m enjoying today sitting on a rooftop patio in Cat Ba (Ha Long Bay, Vietnam) with no tours or sights to see so I figured it should be time to get caught up on my blog. The first stop after my extended stay in Japan was South Korea for the first couple of weeks of autumn. Turns out that a couple of days after I got into Seoul, Choseuk was taking place. Choseuk is the equivalent of Thanksgiving and is a 3 day holiday across the nation. It actually worked out well for myself as pretty much all the castles were free entry during the holiday period but that also then invited large crowds of domestic as well as international sightseers.

My itinerary was pretty much a full two weeks and included:

  • September 21st: Arrived in Seoul and checked into the hostel (Kimchee Guesthouse Sinchon). Headed out for the evening to check out Dongdaemun on a Friday night which included some street food adventures.
  • September 22nd: Visited the Seoul Museum of History. Hung out in the Gungnam district.
  • September 23rd: Checked out the National Museum of Korea.¬†Went to Banpo Bridge to watch the rainbow fountain show.
  • September 24th: Managed to explore three castles including Changyeonggung, Changdeokgung, and Gyeongbokgung.
  • September 25th: Took a day long trip to the DMZ and explored the 3rd infiltration tunnel amongst other exhibits.
  • September 26th: Had the “Secret Garden Tour” at Changdeokgung before checking out Gwangjang market.
  • September 27th: Availed myself of the free Presidential Palace grounds tour where they give visitors a free gift (got a mug). Explored Lotte World Mall before ascending Lotte World Tower to watch the sun set over Seoul.
  • September 28th: Took the train to Busan!¬† Checked into the hostel (Kimchee Guesthouse Busan). Managed to hike it down to Jagalchi Market where dinner of fresh fish was had.
  • September 29th: Rainy day which was perfect for a visit to the Busan Museum.
  • September 30th: With the rain ended, took the opportunity to visit Gamcheon Cultural Village before hitting the 168 Stairs to watch the sun set over Busan.
  • October 1st: A gorgeous day to explore the beautiful ocean cliffside Haedong Yonggung Temple. Hunger then took me to find lunch on Seomyeon Food Street.
  • October 2nd: Got to Daegu before noon and checked in (Go Hostel). Had plenty of time to head out to the Modern Art Museum and then to the Arc before hitting up the Seomun Night Market for some delicious street food.
  • Octorber 3rd: Spent the day climbing Apsan (over 650m).
  • October 4th: Headed back on the Seoul train and the checked into the same hostel as before.
  • October 5th: Lazy day preparing for future travels plus it was rainy.
  • October 6th: Headed out from Seoul and on to Shanghai!

The first (and last) hostel I stayed at was the Kimchee Guesthouse Sinchon which is located near a metro station as well as within walking distance of the bustling Hongdae district. The bed was adequate and a single room for $25/night was perfect. There were two showers: one separate and one as part of the bathroom. I used the separate one as it had a distinct change area which was good to keep things dry. The common room was fun to hang out in and chat with folks from around the world while drinking soju.

In Busan, I stayed in the sister hostel – Kimchee Guesthouse Busan. I forgot to take photos but I ended up in a mixed dorm with ensuite bathroom. It was a much newer place and only a couple blocks from the main train station. I did luck out in that 3 out of the 4 nights I was there I didn’t have any room companions. However, the common room was good to hang out in as people were friendly and liked to interact with each other.

The third place I stayed in was in Daegu and was called Go Hostel. For two nights it was barely adequate, but I would recommend somewhere with better bathroom/shower facilities. The toilet rooms had no sinks for washing hands. I did find a sink – right under a shower in another room which had four shower heads and a makeshift partitioning with old shower curtains. And this was in a boiler room. Whoever designed the place looked to maximize bed space it seems. The beds were adequate and decent enough but the atmosphere was dead. Also, I skipped the free breakfast. They did provide eggs for you to cook as well as bread and smattering of spreads, but for only $3, I found a much more appetizing solution.

Overall, I would rate the Busan Hostel as the most comfortable and nicest to stay in but the Seoul Hostel had the best atmosphere and I met many great folks there.

In terms of accessibility and timeliness, South Korea public transit seems to be good although many non-hotel places only have stairs (ie every place I stayed in).

Tips include:

  • Get a Tmoney card which is good for most convenience stores, many vending machines, and for public transit.
  • Download the KakaoMap app as Google Maps is notoriously inaccurate for walking directions and details (South Korean security laws). I could still use Google Maps for trains and buses, but the walking portions were a wash.
  • Download the MangoPlate app to look for eating options.
  • Many places cater more towards couples than for solo travelers, especially dinner restaurants (which often require two orders for service).

In the end I can see myself coming back to the country to check out some more things or if I had someone to go along with for foodventures (as long as they could do spicy!) If nothing else, I really liked the night scene around Hongdae and watching the street level performances of potential up and coming acts.

And now, that time once again, random pics!

Categories: Travel

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