There’s definitely plenty to do in Seoul on weekends. Friday night we were already thinking of checking out the pedestrian area along Cheonggyecheon Stream, which runs for about 5.8 km through the middle of a major busy avenue, and then I read in the latest issue of 10 Magazine that the annual Seoul Lantern Festival was currently taking place. Perfect! (Note: 10 Magazine is really great, with info on upcoming events, nightlife, restaurants, arts, culture and entertainment.) It was pretty crowded, but still fun to see so many colorful lanterns lighting up the night. It went on for miles, so we didn’t walk the whole thing, but here’s a glimpse (sorry some of these are dark, it’s tricky getting an iPhone camera to adjust just right). Oh yes, and it was FREE:
I guess every day here is bound to be a day of firsts.
Yesterday I revisited Namdaemun Market, but this time for an in-depth look. Not necessarily to buy anything, just to see what they had. I walked around for a couple hours, feeling at times like I was going in circles — it’s like a maze in there! You can either explore the shopping stalls outside, or go inside and explore multiple levels of stalls, or go underground and get lost in several more levels of shopping. It feels like it goes on forever. Truly amazing! More than 10,000 shops, most items selling for really cheap. Some of what I saw: lots of clothes, including coats, PJs, military clothing, socks, ladies’ undies/bras, fashionable scarves; shoes galore; miscellaneous souvenir-type items; food; electronic accessories; luggage/purses/backpacks; jewelry and accessories.
Personally, I wouldn’t really spend too much of my money there. Yes, things are cheap, but that’s just it, they’re cheap. As in cheaply made. At least that’s my impression. Maybe not everything, but a lot of it. I’ve been on the hunt for a nice backpack, and upon close inspection of some of the backpacks there, I saw they had broken zippers.
They have a huge jewelry area (where workers were assembling jewelry — real? fake? who knows), a huge fashion accessories area, and a big section for children’s clothing (dubbed “mama children’s wear”), among others. I discovered the jewelry area while looking for a bathroom, actually. Saw a sign that said “toilet” and followed the arrows. Through the jewels and into a small, sketchy looking bathroom. I’d been told about these bathrooms — where you have to grab your tissue before going in and you have a choice of using a “foreigners” type toilet or the other kind (don’t ask, I didn’t open the stall doors to look!). Regardless. I grabbed my tissue, went in, and it was totally fine. Clean and not sketchy after all.
I’ve been doing so much walking the past few days, that I’m kicking back and relaxing today. Not that sightseeing is SO tedious, but, you know, hurts the feet.
On Tuesday I went to see Deoksugung Palace, located right across Seoul City Hall. I knew they do changing of the royal guard ceremony several times a day at the main gate, and luckily I arrived just in time:
I bought a “combination ticket,” basically a small booklet with admission tickets for four nearby palaces (Deoksugung, Gyeongbokgung, Changdeokgung, Changgyeonggung) and the Jongmyo Shrine. It cost 10,000 won, or about $9. Pretty good deal. They don’t show on the price board that they even sell this combination ticket, but I’d read about it online and just asked at the ticket window.
The fall foliage really made this place extra lovely. The palace was originally built in the 15th century as the home of a prince. There are signs throughout the grounds explaining its history, though most tourists didn’t bother to read them. From what I’ve seen so far, most of these palace structures are similar in design — vibrant colors, ornate thrones — and have multiple large “gates.” The only downside is the many tourists. But hey, I had my first encounter with an Asian lady wanting to take her photo with me here! Then later, another older Asian man started talking to me in English and offered to take my photo. It’s begun! Either way, it was nice to stroll through the palace grounds. There’s also a museum inside the palace, an annex of the National Museum of Contemporary Art, but I didn’t go in because you had to have a prior reservation.
I’d read online that many people like to go for walks along the outside of the palace wall, so I ventured that way. There were various local artisans set up along the wall, selling things like stylish, patterned face masks (the kind people wear to avoid getting/giving the flu). It was starting to get pretty chilly, so when I came up on the Seoul Museum of Art, I decided to go inside and warm up a bit. Continue reading History, Art & Books
Disclaimer: Not every post moving forward will be daily journal-type entries. I guess everything’s so new and fresh right now I’m just excited to share. Enjoy it while it lasts and while I have time for it. 😉
Day three: The food here in Seoul is delicious. That said, if we ate noodles, dumplings, pork cutlet and fried street-vendor food every day for months on end, we’d return to the states quite a bit heavier. So! While I plan to try as much of the local food as I can while we’re here, I’m hoping to be able to cook at home, too, and not go out to eat all the time.
My friend from the plane had mentioned that e-mart is a Walmart-like store found all over Seoul, with groceries and home goods at affordable prices, so I knew I wanted to check it out. I’d also read that Lotte Mart is a similar type of store, and we have one located close-by at Seoul Station. On my first day venturing out solo, I decided to drop by both stores and do some price comparisons.
Lotte Mart is enormous. Two stories of everything you could ever need. The second floor includes Lotte Hi-mart, their electronics and appliances section. I walked and walked and browsed, noticed they had what looked like a discounted section (think dollar-store kind of items), and concluded they have very reasonable prices overall, including for groceries. They also carry many common American brand-name products, albeit those are slightly pricier than back home.
It’s hard to believe we’ve been in Seoul four days already. Hard to believe we’re on the other side of the world, period. The flights were kind of brutal, I won’t lie. Especially the third flight which was almost 15 hours. But Koreans know the routine — many of them lay down across seats and slept much of the way. Perks include free movies and lots of free meals. I sat next to a lady currently stationed at Osan Air Base. There are several military bases around Seoul. She gave me some good tips about living here, which was nice.
We’ve spent the first few days getting to know our neighborhood, which is the central business district of Seoul. So many places to see and things to do within walking distance from our place.
Our first day, we ventured out to Seoul Station, the subway hub. Beautiful structure housing the Lotte Outlets (not so “discounted” prices…), Lotte Mart (more on this place later) a food court and many other shops and eateries (including several American chains).
First blog post, no pressure! Those of you who know us know that Will and I (Carla) love to do fun things and try new things and travel and explore. Over the past five years together, we’ve done things like snowboarded on Big Bear’s Snow Summit, zip lined on Catalina island, learned to ride motorcycles, raced Lamborghinis and Indy cars, gone scuba diving off the coast of Belize, kayaked at night to one of Puerto Rico’s bioluminescent bays, ridden a Harley from Los Angeles to the Grand Canyon, gotten muddy and bruised in the Spartan Race and Tough Mudder, run half marathons and marathons, and traveled to places like Hong Kong. And that doesn’t include Will’s work travels to Brazil, Norway, China, England, and other countries during that time.
We both agree that new adventures are better experienced with someone special by your side. We’ve been doing it as boyfriend and girlfriend for five years, and now we’re doing it as husband and wife. (Yay to finally getting married this year!)
Little did we know that just a few months into married life we’d be off on another adventure – packing up and moving to Seoul, South Korea, for six months. So I figured it’s about time we started a blog to share some of these special moments with family, friends, and any other curious cats. Hope you enjoy 🙂