I’ve never been the type to read ”personal” blogs. You know, blogs that are simply about a person and their everyday life. I’ve never seen the point. I feel like this would only be interesting if it was some big celebrity whom you’re a huge fan of (and even then I’m doubtful, and they usually never run these kinds of blogs) or someone you know in real life who ran it, in which case you can just talk to them and find out these kind of things that way instead. So when I started this blog I never ever intended for it to be a personal blog. Yes, if you read everything I’ve written on here you can probably get a pretty good idea of who I am. My personality comes through quite clearly, I’ve mentioned certain friends and my boyfriend a number of times and I even featured my family on here. But I have never been what this blog is about. I’ve never even showed my face on here. But that is all about to change. From June 7th to June 29th I went on a trip I’ve been dreaming about for years: I went to Korea, with my boyfriend. And for these next few posts, as I chronicle this trip, this blog will transform from the fairly anonymous place that it has been to something very personal. But this is temporary, so if you absolutely hate the thought of this, don’t worry. It will all go away. Also, I will talk about what I/we did each day in quite a bit of detail, almost like a diary (and include pictures), but the final travel tale that I will write will be kind of a tl;dr, or a review of the trip in its entirety, so if you want a more concentrated view of the trip I took, you can just wait until that is posted and just read that.
We arrived at the airport in Copenhagen in the morning and went to check in our luggage and were then told that the flight we were supposed to take had been overbooked and that we might not make it on it. The person who told us this was very kind and explained what we should do if that happened, and how it would all be fine, but I was still a bit freaked out (which I hid expertly from my boyfriend, by the way). The trip had just started and I wasn’t ready for it to get screwed up already. Thankfully we did get on the flight though, and at 9:55AM our flight left for Amsterdam. Plane food is usually really gross, and I usually barely eat at all on planes, but the cake we got on this flight… If I remember this correctly it wasn’t just good for an airplane cake, it was actually good.
We arrived in Amsterdam at 11:15AM local time, and since we had a few hours to spare we went to McDonald’s (which I basically never do unless I’m traveling) and then to an airport store to buy absurd amounts of gummy bears to sustain us for the next flight.
At 2:50PM our next flight left and we got to enjoy the amazing wonders of airplane food once more. Seriously guys, I do not understand why it has to be so bad, but it is. On this flight we did have individual tv screens though, which lead to a struggle between wanting to watch ALL THE MOVIES and knowing that you have to sleep on this flight if you want to avoid being absurdly jet-lagged. It’s really hard for me to sleep on planes usually, but thankfully there was an empty seat on the other side of my boyfriend, which meant we could kind of awkwardly lie down on top of each other to try and get at least a little bit of shut-eye. Not super comfortable, but still weirdly cozy.
We arrived in Beijing at 6:15AM local time, and I was feeling pretty damn awake, strange since I had for sure not slept enough, and that usually leaves me a very grumpy goose.
Our final flight for Seoul left at 8:10AM, and for some reason that plane was just super duper cramped. Not great, but it wasn’t a very long flight and I was way too excited about being so close to Korea that I really didn’t care.
We arrived at Gimpo Airport at 11:30AM local time and after having picked up our luggage, figured out how to withdraw money and gotten T-Money cards to use on the subway we jumped on the Airport Railroad to get to the apartment. Our apartment was very close to Exit 1 of the Mapo-gu Office subway station, in case you know Seoul and want to know where we were at. It’s fairly close to Hongdae, but not quite in that area. Our host actually met us at the subway exit and took us to the apartment, which was super sweet of her. The apartment was so small, but really adorable.
After we had settled down for a few minutes we were pretty starving so we headed off to sort-of-Hongdae (I’m not entirely sure where we were, to be honest. But it was in that general direction.) to find some food. This was my first opportunity to put my Korean skills to the test, and I won’t lie, I was pretty scared. It’s been years since I was first teaching myself the Korean alphabet, but I had basically never ever actually talked to a Korean person, in Korean. What if my pronunciation was horrible and they couldn’t understand me? What if everything I had taught myself sitting alone with my computer was all wrong?
It wasn’t. I managed to properly order Korean food, vegetarian food at that, in Korean with no hiccups whatsoever. I was so proud of myself.
The first food I managed to order in Korea.
After that we made our way to actual-Hongdae and strolled around there in the general bustle of people, being a cute couple among the huge masses of cute Korean couples (honestly, I kind of felt like Korea’s entire population was made out of cute couples sometimes). We were pretty tired though, after having traveled for so so long, so we made our way home, stopping on the way to get some banana milk and other essential things at a convenience store.
First time I ever show myself on this blog and this is what I look like. Well it is an important picture, okay?
These were just the cutest, always sitting in Hongdae, enjoying their little date.
This is a pretty famous location in Hongdae. Maybe you’ve seen it somewhere?
We came out of the cute little streets of Hongdae and boom! The modern world attacked.
We were really tired so we slept in for quite some time (This would later become a pattern.) and after we’d gotten up and had breakfast we took the subway to Gwanghwamun square. Honestly, walking out of the subway and seeing the statue of King Sejong the Great in the distance, with a big mountain behind him was pretty damn powerful. Gwanghwamun square is huge and both the statue of King Sejong and the one of Yi Sun Sin are huge and very impressive.
There he is, in the distance. The greatest king Korea has ever had.
And here he is a bit closer.
Yi Sun Sin will always be here to watch over Chinese tourists taking selfies.
But we weren’t actually there to check out the square, so after having admired the giant statues we headed off towards the Cheonggyecheon. It’s honestly such a beautiful place, and sitting by it and walking along it might actually be my favorite memories from the entire trip, no matter how simple it may seem compared to some of the other things we did.
This is the giant unicorn horn that marks the start of the Cheonggyecheon.
Sitting by the Cheonggyecheon and cooling yourself off by putting your feet in that surprisingly clean water is just amazing.
This man-made waterfall marks the start of the Cheonggyecheon stream.
Part of the way the stream really looks like a proper river, out in nature. So lovely.
I’m so fond of this picture. This is an old map of Seoul that they’ve blown up and put on the wall along the riverbank.
After having walked along it for quite a while we were quite hungry, so we climbed out of it and went to find some food. If you go to the right places food can be so cheap in Korea, and this was definitely a day when we hit the jackpot. Our lunch of three rolls of kimbap (so for two people) cost us 6000 won, which is about 4,65 euros or 5,18 dollars. And it was so good. I tried to make kimbap at home once, before I had ever tasted it properly, and it was nothing like what this tiny, cheap, kind of grimy place had to offer. We did have to poke out the ham and crab from our kimbap though, but it was no real trouble.
After our (very late) lunch we realized we were very close to Gwangjang market, so we headed there. It’s a huge place, and there is something about it that feels so authentic. It’s not necessarily for tourists, and pretty much everyone there were (at least when we arrived) middle-aged and older Korean people. We strolled around there for a while, enjoying the view of the giant tubs of kimchi and the tied-up little fish you could buy. We also found ourself in the market’s special hanbok department, which made me all kinds of excited.
Bustling area in the middle of the market, where older Koreans go to chat loudly and get a good weekday buzz going.
I wanted one so bad, but I realized that I would never use it…
This is how kimchi should be bought.
Tiny little fish tied up with string.
We were intrigued by a certain section of the market, where almost identical-looking middle-aged Korean women were selling these thick pancakes from identical-looking tiny stalls, so we stopped there and ordered some bindaetteok, aka mung bean pancakes, with a bottle of makgeolli. This was my first time ever trying makgeolli, which is something I had actually been quite excited about, and despite how distressed I was that it wasn’t served in brass bowls like I’d learned that it usually is, it’s probably still one of my favorite kinds of alcohol out of the ones that I’ve so far tasted in my short life.
Quick and delicious bindaetteok and a bottle of makgeolli.
While we were sitting there eating a young Korean couple sat down next to us and ordered some tteokbokki, which the guy then, in minimal English, offered us a taste of. It was such a small gesture, but it warmed my heart immensely. This is a country that I in no way belong in, and that’s obvious when looking at me, but little gestures like that made me feel like this country that I’d dreamed about going to for years, really wanted me there. Silly, I know, but that’s how I felt.
After that we headed back home, picking up a couple of bottles of soju and a whole bunch of ramyun (which we were at that point having for breakfast) on the way. After having relaxed for a little while at home we then got dolled up, and headed off to Hongdae to party like the Koreans do! On a Thursday, but oh well. Fittingly enough we ended up at a bar in Hongdae called Thursday Party, where we then stood enjoying (much cheaper than in Sweden) drinks and trying to think of a way to bond with someone there. It felt weird to party just the two of us, but how do you bond with strangers in a bar? Beats me, but thankfully my better half is way better equipped socially, so he invited a couple of girls who’d been hanging out near us to play beer pong with us, which this bar had all set up and ready. They ended up being super nice and almost equally as bad at beer pong as us, so after they’d beaten us we decided to keep the party going and headed off to noraebang (karaoke) with one of them (the other had to go home, since she apparently had work in the morning. very silly). At this point I was definitely drunk, which meant that karaoke was unbelievably fun, of course. We played for maybe an hour and a half, giving the people on the street a nice dance show through the big windows as we did so.
Of course we sang Korean songs all night long! …of course…
Me and the two girls from the bar.
After our karaoke time was up the girl we had gone with (her name was Hwisoo, which is what I will call her from now on) said that after going to a bar and singing karaoke, the Korean thing to do would be to go get some food so we headed to a restaurant (it didn’t really feel restaurant-y because you were locked into a tiny booth, but I’m not sure what else to call it) and got some soup/stew. She ordered so I’m not entirely sure what it was, sorry about that. There was meat in it, but we expertly avoided that and it was pretty delicious.
Boyfriend and Hwisoo at the restaurant.
After that we weren’t drunk anymore, which meant we were instead pretty sleepy, and since the subway was once again available to us (it was like 5:20AM) we decided to head home. It was a totally awesome night, and how lucky were we that basically the first people we talked to were super nice? Very lucky.
Tune back soon for more!