Two weeks ago I spent a wonderful spring vacation in Seoul. I was too early for the cherry blossoms but there was no way I could go at any other time. Geonha’s hyung was getting married, and I would not miss being there for the celebration!

I arrived in Seoul after what felt like the world’s longest flight on March 9. I went straight to the same hotel I always stay at to unpack before I started exploring. I always feel that powering through the first day and going to sleep early is the best way to beat the jetlag.

Friday I headed straight to Paju as soon as I woke up. Placing a flower and a small note at Geonha’s resting place is always the first thing I do whenever I arrive in Seoul. For so long I couldn’t go because of covid so now I’m just thankful that I can go there whenever I’m in Seoul.

Friday evening I had dinner with my Norwegian friend at Plant in Hongdae. There is also a Plant vegan restaurant in Itaewon but I prefer the Hongdae branch. The girl taking our orders was Swedish, so that was a true Scandinavian gathering in Seoul.

Saturday was Hyung’s wedding day. Usually, Korean weddings are held in wedding halls that are placed near subway stations – making attending the wedding a breeze in terms of transportation. This wedding was in Yeongdeungpo – a neighborhood I know well as I used to live there for a brief stint in 2019. I had arranged with my friend Sooyeon who was also attending the wedding that we would meet at the subway station and then go to the wedding together.

Inside the wedding hall, lots of weddings were already in progress. There was at least one wedding hall per floor in the 10-floor building and with 100-200 guests per wedding we were hardly the only ones making our way to the entrance. When we reached our floor, we were greeted by the parents – my Korean eomonim & abeonim. Eomonim looked so lovely in her pastel colored hanbok and abeonim was handsome in his suit. I was so happy to be able to share a day of joy with them after all we have been through.

The ceremony was short but beautiful. After the ceremony, all the guests went downstairs to the buffet, where the newlyweds went around greeting everyone and thanking them for coming. It’s customary in Korea for the bride and groom to change into more relaxed but still elegant outfits after the ceremony.

Since the wedding lasted just over two hours, I went out for coffee with two friends after. But first I managed to take a picture together with my Korean parents 🙂

Sunday was a rainy day and the temperature had dropped from a balmy 22 C to 8! I had made plans to meet my Korean friend Sang-hyeon (a badass lawyer and feminist) for lunch and she had chosen a lovely place near Gongdeok that specializes in all things tofu. Obviously, we had to go for coffee and cakes after! A nearby patisserie served delicious carrot cake and matcha cream cake. No complaints here.

No time for sightseeing – all my pics are of people and food! Haha. Well almost. Sunday evening I had dinner with some Danish girls currently studying at the Sogang Korean Language Program but Monday I had some time off and headed downtown for a quick look around.

Gwanghwamun plaza had been completely remodeled and looked great under the clear skies. I really like this open space in the middle of the city. It’s also close to Jongno, so I headed to Jongno Tower and the bookstore in the basement (I also went to Kyobo books, of course) and sat for a while in Jogyesa temple. These are all places I used to go with Geonha, and I always make a point of coming back here whenever I’m back in Seoul. I was pleased to see that the tourists seemed to have returned to Insadong. This area still felt a bit quiet when I went last July.

Monday evening I had dinner with my American friend Jeff, which turned out to be very lucky because he has since learned that he has gotten a job in the US and will be going home for good later this year. Perfect timing! We sadly forgot to take any pics, but Jeff took me to a lovely restaurant in Hapjeong where we had the best kimchi jjigae I have ever had. I made a mental note of the place and will make sure to go back next time I’m in Seoul.

Tuesday was my second trip out of Seoul. I headed to Songdo to hang out with my friend JB (you may know him as the award-winning literary translator Anton Hur). Getting there was a bit more complicated than I had anticipated but having lived in Korea for almost three years I’m quite familiar with the notion that plans are made to be changed. I ended up having to take four different subway lines (mostly my fault – three would have been enough) and only arrived an hour late. Sorry, JB!

When I finally got there we did a quick tour of Central Park before enjoying some delicious Chinese food. I looove Korean Chinese food. If you don’t understand why, just look at these pics! Mapo tofu, tangsuyuk, and fried noodles. Yummy!

Feeling full from all the delicious food we went to a nearby cafe/bookshop in a building named IBS building, haha 😂 Here we spent a few hours talking about books, life, books, and life (and more books) before I had to meet my Norwegian friend Ida, who studies at Yonsei Uni’s Songdo campus. She kindly offered to book me a seat on the campus shuttle bus back to Seoul – I just had to pretend to be a student. It worked and I got home for free, and – more importantly – in less than an hour! Yay!

This concludes the first half of my Seoul Spring 2023 chronicles. Stay tuned for the second half. Spoiler warning: More cute pics of my Korean family to come 🥰

1 Comment »

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s