A Stroll in Seoul
5 mins read

A Stroll in Seoul

Having only been to Spain and Cyprus before meeting Hannah, South Korea marked my 41st country. I think it’s safe to say she’s rubbed off on me. I got a job a few years ago which affords me the privilege of lots of travel and it’s a job I never would have taken had she not previously encouraged me to push my comfort zone and try new things. My wife is a law unto herself, but she has a way of making you want to reflect, grow and learn… often as much about yourself as anything else.

I learnt on day 2 in South Korea that I don’t like being ill alone in a hotel room 9,000km away from home. As I lay there with food poisoning, vomiting and with the worst cramps I’ve ever experienced, I wished I’d never boarded the plane. But it was all up from there… so once I’d recovered it was time for a stroll.

I started at Gyeongbokgung Palace. It was built in 1395 and was the Royal Palace of the Joseon Dynasty, but destroyed by fire in the 1500s and then destroyed by Imperial Japan during the days of occupation. Since the 1960s, it’s been being slowly restored to its former glory… I took photos of all the boards so I didn’t forget.

The Palace

The Palace is in a park, so the next point on the stroll is Hyangwonjeong Pavilion. I really nailed the arty shots for Hannah here.

Also within the Palace grounds are a couple of museums, including the National Folk Museum which I had to pop in to. I loved the intricate traditional dresses which I learned are called Hanboks, and often signify the hopes and dreams of the wearers. Perhaps I should have brought one home for Hannah with every country in the world on it. That or sticky toffee puddings.

Traditional Korean dresses

After that, it was time for lunch. I decided to be brave and hit the famous street food markets of the city. I was worried about food poisoning part 2, but you only live once. I settled on Myeong-dong. I decided against insects and octopus as a first post food poisoning meal, and had some plain(ish) Korean stew.

On the way to Myeong-dong I had walked down to the Cheonggyecheon Stream and Insadong Street. I got very excited when I saw shops full of highlighters because Hannah loves her stationery so that was present number 1 of the trip (probably cheaper than a Hanbok as well).

Highlighters galore

I continued walking southwards in to Namsan Mountain Park. There was a big tower in it called the N Seoul Tower, but I didn’t go up as I don’t love heights. I even took a panoramic shot for Hannah which I think looked nice.

After hours of walking and it now nearing 5pm, I was tired, so decided to head for an ice-cream and drinks. By this point I was in Itaewon-dong so I bought some fun ice-cream from a street vendor (and a pair of socks for Hannah with a woman wearing a Hanbok on them as a compromise), and then headed up to the rooftop bar at the Grand Hyatt… I had a few drinks more than I’d planned and ended up watching the sunset.

By this point I was getting peckish but the hotel menu didn’t take me. I decided famous Korean BBQ was the way forward and it didn’t disappoint. My work colleagues came to join me and we shared BBQ beef and shrimp.

After dinner, we all crossed the river and went on an evening boat tour from the Banpo Bridge area which was all a bit exciting as the show was made entirely with drones.

After such a long day and covering over 20km by foot, I was completely exhausted. Thankfully neither my Korean Stew nor my Korean BBQ killed me… and I slept soundly ahead of work the next morning. I did have another adventure in South Korea, visiting the DMZ (area between North and South Korea), but that can wait for another day.

Overall I found Seoul to be very busy and full of people, but not half as humid as I’d expected. I didn’t find it as overwhelming as some cities (such as Tokyo), and locals were helpful even though few spoke English. Some areas were more westernised than others but it still felt authentic and unlike anywhere I’ve ever been before… On balance, I’d recommend it… Plus Hannah really liked her highlighters and socks.

Stay safe and happy travelling – MTH!

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