It’s the first time and also the last time I had a recess week getaway. I’m graduating, yes. Yet things are there for us to change. As professor Philip Chan said when I told him my last exam would be on 28 April, “Are you sure?”. So, with a very optimistic smile, I’ve lined up a couple of trips for my very own self, starting with the Land of Morning Calm.
First impression: Wow, they are fashionable! I feel like I’m in Paris!
South Korea is a kind of one country-one city and that’s why it does take time to explore the heart of Korea. We luckily booked a hostel in the neighborhood of Hongik University (Hongdae), which is the biggest art school in Seoul and it amazed us with its young and vibrant lifestyle. Next-door are Inchon and Ewha Women College, the city’s young fashion spot. All that made our trip somehow fulfilled without going any further. Let’s take a walk around the hilly windy road where you can see hundreds of street vendors selling food, clothes, dog clothes, accessories, toys, etc. You’ll never get hungry in Korea ‘cause every 5 steps you walk, you definitely find some snack that you feel the need to try. Hongdae is famous for its joyful artistic life with many street performances going on and on regardless of day and time. The area has on its heart arrays of shops the decoration of which oozes the cuteness and creativity. Cafes, hairdressers’, beauty boutiques, cosmetic shops, and of course restaurants are just there for people to explore. Ewha area is such a paradise for fashion shoppers. Secondhand or top-branded clothes, trendy or vintage, up-in-the-air and bargain price, you’ll find it all there. Things to do around the area can be summed up in 3 words: Buy, See and Cut. Buy new clothes. See new people. Cut your grandma hair into a trendy new do.
Another spot in Seoul that may take you a long day to see is Insadong. I spent two short afternoons and one whole morning there just for impulse foodie and tea walk. I haven’t made my way to Ssamzie mall but to be sure, it’s a wonder with spiral walkway to the Mecca of accessories.
If you’re more of a tourist, do Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung with its World heritage Biwon (Secret Garden), take a long long walk to Namsan Tower and remember not to do it after Myeongdong as you may just faint on the way up coz of tiredness and heavy shopping bags.
If you love the Buddhist serenity, there are a lot of choices for you. Bongeun-sa in Seoul and Beomeosa in Busan, possibly the oldest temple in Korea are both great choices.
If you love the beach, go Busan and breath the air over there. And remember to do the Korean drama shot at Haeundae beach J
And if you love the smell and the hassle of the countryside, I would say Kwang Jang Market in Jongno-gu, Seoul or Jagalchi Fish Market in Busan are the best.
Koreans do go down a lot, by which I mean they have a massive metro system. In Seoul, there are 9 main lines, 1 airport line and 4 other regional lines. A small coastal city like Busan still have 5 lines. Even Daejeon, a university town has its own metro lines. It’s so convenient as everywhere you can see touch-screen digital map and guide. They do label which stations have the fastest transfer to the train in opposite direction or other lines, which stations you have to walk through staircase to get to other lines, which stations are equipped with facilities for disabled people, etc. Oh and many many funny ads.
And KTX, one of the fastest trains, is now in service. I did it twice, the second time by accident. Why? I bought the commute train ticket to Seoul *the cheapest and slowest* about 10 minutes before the boarding time, coach 1, seat number 51. Then I saw the one and only thing I needed to know on the notice board “To Seoul, track 4”. I ran there and boarded the train. The door closed and it started running. There was only 20 seats in coach 1 and until then, I knew that I had boarded the wrong train, the KTX, 1st class coach. People ask me why I love traveling. Simply I love the feeling of being a tourist. This time, with the train operator’s smile and consensus, I was sitting right in 1st class coach, sipping Korean green tea and dreaming about a whole afternoon with Seoul wind and sun.