Last week, my long-time best friend from Denmark finally came to visit me in here in Seoul. From the moment I picked her up at Incheon until we said goodbye a week later, we got busy exploring all that Seoul has to offer. Since she probably doesn’t remember the names of all the places we went, this post should come in handy for her as well 🙂
On Monday, we went from Incheon to my friend’s Airbnb place in Hongdae, so she could get unpacked and rest for a few hours while I went to put in some face time at work. Then we met up in Sinchon in the late afternoon, and I showed her all the vibrant streets of the area. We dined in one of my favorite small restaurant, where I introduced her to bibimbap, which proved to be one of her favorite Korean dishes. Not too tired for a chocolate waffle, we headed to the area around Ehwa for dessert before we called it a night.
On Tuesday, I had to give my students their midterm exam, so my friend met me in my office so she could put in a few productive hours while I was at work. After lunch we then headed to Gwanghwamun and went book shopping in Kyobo bookstore. The weather was hot, so we stopped by a convenience store and bought a couple of beers and kimbaps and found a place to enjoy the view. For dinner we went to my ultimate favorite restaurant, where the hostess always lights up in a smile when I enter. She pointed out that my friend must be a very close friend since she flew halfway around the world to visit me. We enjoyed a lovely meal of bulgogi and soju and beer, and shared a lot of laughs. As soon as my friend went to the restroom the three Korean guys sitting next to us started asking me about where she was from and what language she was speaking. Seems her long blond hair and country Danish accent was very fascinating to them. After dinner I convinced my friend that instead of going to bed, we should go to a noraebang (Korean karaoke place). She (and the soju) agreed, so we headed out to find one. Which wasn’t difficult. At the noraebang we aced all of our attempts and got 100 points on more than one occasion. What can I say, some can sing, some can dance, and d… we could sing! Haha. After a final beer in Insadong, we headed home after a long day.
On Wednesday we spent the morning working in my office. My friend had a few business meetings in Seoul, one of them in Yeouido. We therefore agreed that I would meet her for a small picnic in the Han River park in the afternoon. Even though it was late October we had around 25 degrees. Perfect for a beer in the grass by the river bank. After it began to cool down, I showed my friend the IFC mall in Yeouido, where we also had dinner. We then took the subway back to Gwanghwamun where we walked around Deoksugung palace. It looked absolutely stunning at night. At 9 we had a meeting with a German contact of my friend, so once again it was time for a beer.
On Thursday, my friend had another business meeting, so we met at Hongdae station in the afternoon and then went to the southern part of Seoul. We got off the subway in Jamsil, where I showed my friend the now completed 123 stories tall Lotte World Tower. And of course the adjoining mall. We then headed to Gangnam where we enjoyed a coffee break and finally joined my husband for dinner at my favorite bulgogi barbecue place in Apgujeong.
On Friday, we set out early to hike Mt. Namsan. The weather was lovely, and we enjoyed the long and quite strenuous walk to the summit where we were greeted by Seoul tower. Shortly after we reached the top of the mountain, two middle school girls in uniform came and asked me if they could take a picture with me, because they thought I looked cute. This is the first time that had ever happened to me (ironically, it wouldn’t be the last time that day but more on that later). I agreed and chatted briefly with both of them in Korean. On our way down from the mountain we wanted to go to Namsangol Hanok Village, and a kind elderly gentleman showed us the way. Having finally found the village (an open air musem with traditional Korean houses) we wanted to have some lunch before we continued exploring. I wanted to introduce my friend to the Korean noodle soup kalguksu, so I searched for places on Naver, and we were led to the most awesome little restaurant, where the owner smilingly waved us in, even though there was not one empty seat. No problem, the sweet older lady running the restaurant just went to two highschool boys who seemed about to finish their meals, and told them to hurry up and get out. I gestured that we could wait but she was adamant that the boys make way for us. I thought it so funny that she would toss out paying customers, but in the end it’s all about turnover. I apologized to the boys in Korean, but they didn’t seem to mind. After a lovely meal of kalguksu we decided to rent hanboks, traditional Korean costumes before entering the Hanok village. A bunch of schoolgirls were hanging out at the place where we got dressed and they were all “ooh and ah” when they saw two foreigners in traditional clothing. This should have warned us about the reaction we would receive, but we still headed toward the entrance of the village. As soon as we walked in, we could both feel everybody staring at us. Granted, not many were wearing Hanboks, and we were definitly the only ones with blond hair, but still. So many people came and asked us where we were from, and if they could take a picture of us, or even a selfie with them and us. They were so sweet, and even a bunch of middle school boys shouted “Hello, you’re beautiful” to us in English. I laughingly told my friend that we indeed seemed to have quite a noona-impact in Korea. After an hour feeling like celebrities, we agreed that it was time to get changed and go back to anonymity. After a quick stop for coffee in Myeongdong we went home to relax and agreed to meet in Hongdae for dinner and then drinks at the Playground cafe. For dinner we had a lovely round of samgyeopsal, Korean fried pork. We then spent a couple of fun hours at Playground chatting with Koreans and other internationals. When we became too tired to talk to more strangers we went to my friend’s rooftop for a late night snack of cup noodles and beer.
On Saturday, we had lunch at Burger street in Sinchon, which is THE best burger joint in Seoul if you ask me. We could both feel the effect of the long hike and the beers from the day before, so a meal of burgers and fries seemed like the obvious choice. We then went to the Samseong area where we checked out SM town, a museum for K-pop (we were by far the oldest there!) and then the beautiful Bongeunsa Buddhist temple. Since we were so close to the Coex mall, my friend also managed to do some more shopping. For dinner we went back to Sinchon were we had jjajangmyeon, Korean black noodles. We ended that night early, since we had to get up at 6 am on Sunday.
On Sunday we had booked a tour to the DMZ – the border between north and south Korea. We were picked up by an overly crowded bus and began our brief journey toward the border. The weather had suddenly turned cold and rainy, which may have ruined part of the experience, but we all agreed that it was a disappointing trip. We did get to stare into North Korea, and see a lot of Korean soldiers, and a couple of museums, and a tunnel. The whole area was just so crowded with tourists that the experience did not feel very real. Back in Seoul we had a very late lunch before going home to rest a bit. Then my friend and I met up at Dongdaemun for dinner and a bit of soju.
Monday was my friend’s last day in Seoul, so after having worked in my office for a few hours we headed to Insadong for some final souvenir shopping, followed by a stop in Myeongdong for street food – mandu, tteokbokki and a chocolate waffle – yum! We then made a quick stop at Namdaemun market and Seoul station before going back to Sinchon. There we met my husband for dinner at a Japanese restaurant before walking my friend to the subway.
It was an absolutely amazing week, and I was so happy to have the chance to show her MY Seoul. She loved every moment of it and she has promised to come back soon. I’ll make sure she keeps that promise 🙂