Seoul in South Korea was probably somewhere that neither of us would have expected to ever have a weekend in for a city break. For a start, it’s a long way for a weekend, and second, it literally just never crossed our mind. But, when the opportunity arose to break our flight from Fiji to Bangkok there, why not! With only three nights, arriving on an afternoon and leaving on a morning flight, it was going to be an exercise in packing in the activities!
It was an overwhelming arrival in the airport after the disorganised calm of Fiji, but we managed to navigate our way to our hostel, dump our stuff and venture out to find a Korean BBQ restaurant for dinner, from a menu and waitress with no English options! Before we knew it, there we were sat, with about ten different unknown dishes in front of us, a hot stove and a pile of raw meat. The stove and the meat was easy to work out, the rest less so! We tried to copy the Koreans around us and we enjoyed it at least! The majority was lovely, some was bizarre and some is still a mystery!
Our first full day of sightseeing saw us en route to Gyeungbokgeun Palace. We got distracted by a fascinating museum about King Sejong (Korea and the Joseon dynasty’s greatest King) and Admiral Yi Sunshin (Korea’s greatest soldier and widely thought to have been able to smash Lord Nelson in battle if time travel worked). He defeated 130 Japanese ships with 13 of his own and saved Korea, so they did love him a bit!
Gyeungbokgeun itself was a huge sprawling palace, full of beautiful architecture, lakes, and parkland. It even had its own royal Soy Sauce fermentation area! After spending a good two hours wandering the complex, our stomachs were rumbling. So, we headed to Insadong for some lunch. The traditional neighbourhood didn’t disappoint and we tucked into a fantastic meal, this time not having to cook ourselves! Some furthering strolling took in ancient belfries, pagodas and the quirky stream/art gallery running through town.
For our evening, as it was Saturday, a night out in Hongdae seemed a good plan. We started with some beers on the balcony, then another BBQ including some foolishly ordered spicy beef and pig skin. Oops!
Further escapades are best left to the imagination but definitely involved Tequila and rice wine, and resulted in feeling less than 100% in the morning.
Feeling delicate, we started the day with a coffee and breakfast in a cafe overlooking the remains of the party. Then, it seemed a good idea to have alesiurely day browsing market stalls and eating street food. Good shout! We also managed to visit the city wall, old gatehouse and get a guided tour of the UNESCO world heritage site at Jonggo Shrine, dedicated to all the great kings of Koreas’s spirits. A beautiful and haunting site in the centre of the city and feeling like a tranquil forest temple. As it was our final night, we had dinner in a beautiful restaurant in Insadong with some more great Korean food, and followed it up with a visit to the truly bizarre puppy cafe. Only in Asia! We sat, took off our shoes, drank iced tea and played with about thirteen dogs.
Seoul, it was unexpected but you have captured our imaginations. We’ll be back you quirky, trendy and whacky city! This list keeps growing!