It’s been a while since I updated you on my recent trip to Korea. Life has kept me busy but now I’m ready to share the fifth and final chapter – just in time for my next adventure. On Monday I’m flying to Canada to attend a friend’s wedding but more on that later.
My last week in Seoul was a busy one. I had lots of people to meet and many errands to run. It has never been a secret that I’m a big fan of Korean skincare and makeup and several trips to Olive Young were definitely necessary before I could leave the country.
Thursday July 21 was less hot than the other days and I took advantage of the agreeable weather and headed to Seochon – a neighborhood in central Seoul with lots of old houses and a very authentic atmosphere. I had lived in Korea for quite a while before first discovering Seochon but after I did it quickly became one of my favorite parts of Seoul. It’s way less touristy than for example Bukchon or Insadong and I love strolling down the many narrow alleyways.
After spending some time exploring Seochon I headed back toward Gwanghwamun and on to Bukchon. I had started to become hungry and wanted to find a specific restaurant I had visited several years ago. It took some time but I found it in the narrowest alley I have ever seen. I ordered their signature bibimbap and was immediately transported to food heaven.
It was so delicious and just like I remembered. It was right after 1pm, so all the office workers had left and I had the restaurant all to myself. After finishing this gorgeous meal I chatted a bit with the owner. I told him that I used to come pretty often but had been away for three years and he was so happy to hear that I had come back after all these years. I promised to visit again sometime in the future.
Full after the bibimbap I spontaneously decided to check out Changdeokgung palace. While I’ve been to Gyeongbokgung many many times, I only ever went to Changdeokgung once before. It was a weekday and there were still not that many tourists in Seoul so it was so peaceful to just walk around the palace grounds by myself.
Then I headed to Jongno and took a bus back to my hotel to relax a bit before my dinner plans with Sooyeon. Sooyeon is one of Geonha’s friends and I got to know her after he passed away. They met after high school when they were both studying to retake the suneung (the Korean college entrance exam) and there they became part of the same friend group.
Sooyeon got married last year, so obviously, we had a lot of catching up to do. She works in an office near Gwanghwamun and therefore had suggested that we meet at a restaurant behind the Kyobo tower. There we had a delicious dinner with butter-roasted scallops and creamy pasta with marinated shrimp. While we were eating we talked a lot about what we had both been up to since we last met and obviously talked a lot about her wedding. At one point she asked me how I had been maintaining my Korean skills during the pandemic, and I told her about how I make a point of reading and listening to Korean every day and have biweekly sessions with my awesome Italki tutor. She then told me that she had asked because she felt my Korean was way more natural now than the last time we met. This indirect compliment made me very happy and it just goes to show that you can truly become fluent (and stay fluent) without having to live in a country where that language is spoken.
Friday was a day with many errands to run. I started my day by walking from Gongdeok to Hapjeong – it was hot but I so enjoy walking around Seoul. There I bought a few things for myself and my friends back home and then headed to Hongdae where I met a Danish friend for lunch. Once again Plant was the restaurant of choice and this time I ordered their veggie burger. Yum!
It was a really hot day, so after having walked home from Hongdae, I took the bus to Yeouido for some much needed air conditioning at the IFC mall.
The next day was Saturday and this was the day I had made plans to meet Geonha’s mother for dinner in Ilsan. His brother had texted me earlier to let me know that he would join as well. Since I was going to Ilsan I decided to first go to Paju to see Geonha’s resting place once more before going back to Denmark. So early in the afternoon I got on the Gyeonggui Jungang train to Geumchon and from there took a taxi to Seohyun memorial park. This cab driver was very talkative and I welcomed the speaking practice since I would have to speak Korean all evening. He was sad to hear why I was going to Seohyun, but so is everyone whenever I tell them.
When I got out of the cab it was raining cats and dogs while still being extremely hot. I repeated my ritual of first buying a small flower and then attaching it with a note to Geonha’s place. I felt thankful for being able to see him twice after not having been able to go for two and a half years.
It took longer to get a cab back than I had thought, so I realized I had to go straight to Ilsan not to be late for dinner with his family. They picked me up from the subway station at Jeongbalsan and then we went to a traditional Korean restaurant where they insisted on treating me to a lavish dinner. I’m not usually big on eating meat but if I’m willing to make an exception for anyone, it’s for Geonha’s family. And the food was very delicious.
While we waited at the restaurant we exchanged gifts. I had brought a traditional Danish necklace with a cross for his mother – knowing that she finds lots of comfort in her Catholic faith. In turn, she gave me a lovely pair of handmade wooden Korean utensils, chopsticks and spoon. A very thoughtful gift and also not one that would take up too much room in my suitcase.
We talked a lot over dinner and then decided to go to a nearby cafe for coffee before venturing out to Ilsan lake park in the rain. I didn’t mind the rain though. It reminded me of the last time I went there with Geonha – also on a rainy day.
At the end of a lovely evening, they drove me to Baengma station so I wouldn’t have to transfer on my way back to Gongdeok. I promised them both that I would text them as soon as I was safely in my room and I did. I miss Geonha tremendously but at the same time, I’m so thankful that I have his family and a couple of his friends in my life.
Sunday was my last day in Seoul before going back on Monday and I wanted to make the most of it. I toured large parts of the city and will let the pictures speak for themselves.
This concludes my final update on my trip to Seoul. Hopefully, it won’t be this long before I can go there again. Tomorrow I’m heading to Canada, so make sure to check for updates when I’m back. Thank you for reading and have a lovely week everyone!