“Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.”
I made it to the motherland! Woot woot!
To be completely honest, I agreed to add South Korea as part of the trip partly out of obligation to my family that live in Seoul, the nation’s capital. I think growing up as a Korean-American in the U.S., I didn’t appreciate my culture and instead pushed so much of it away. There are many factors that contributed to this mindset, but all of that changed once I experienced what South Korea had to offer.
I contacted my older cousin, Soobin, over Facebook only a couple weeks before I left for our first destination, Japan. She would soon become the best tour guide for our entire trip!
My younger aunt, Jisook, picked us up at the Incheon International Airport and treated us out to Korean BBQ for our first meal. We had pork neck, which is in my opinion the better alternative to pork belly, and so-mek (“so” is short for soju (Korean rice wine); “mek” is short for mekchu (beer)).
We stayed at Hao Guesthouse, which is located in Hongdae. Hongdae is the arts district of Seoul, or what I observed as the “hipster” part of South Korea. Many art students, musicians, and young people hang out in Hongdae- especially at night! My aunt told me that Korea as a nation is “very good at playing and having a good time” and that “people in Korea don’t come out until it’s dark outside. Businesses open later in the day and stay open into the early morning or else they won’t make any money.” She also added, “If you haven’t hopped to at least three different places while drinking, it’s not considered a night out!” I guess that’s where the phrase “party-guang” (Korean slang for party animal) comes from!
The next day, we had lunch with my aunt Jisook, Soobin, grandmother. It was a little bit of an emotional reunion because I haven’t been back to Korea in over ten years.
For lunch, we had an incredible spread of traditional Korean food. I stopped counting after the fifth course because I was just overwhelmed…and full! We had so many different types of banchan (Korean side dishes), soup, porridge, meat, and fish.
After lunch, my cousin took us to the Seoul Tower. You have the option to hike to the top of the mountain, which takes about four hours. If you’re not up for hiking, you can pay 4,000 won ($4 USD) to ride up the cable car to the very top. The view is incredible, but a little scary for me since I’m slightly afraid of heights.
Once you get off the cable car, you’ll immediately notice the hundreds of locks that couples and friends have left as a symbol of their relationship. My boyfriend and my third anniversary was two days away, so I left a lock with the date of our anniversary. It felt a little cheesy but I thought it was cute!
I found honeydew melon milk, which is one of the newer flavors of flavored milk in South Korea. It’s a popular drink, mostly for younger children but everyone enjoys it. It was so sweet and surprisingly tasted like actual honeydew!
We stopped by the top of the hill to take a couple photos. Here’s a picture of me and Soobin. Do we look related?! In Asia, lighter skin is preferred because it’s seen as pure and untouched. You could totally tell I am a foreigner compared to her because of my tanned skin. #SoCalprobs
Aren't my friends and family the cutest?! For more cameos of them, click here!
After the Seoul Tower, we went shopping at Myeongdong, a cosmetic lover’s dream. Brands like Etude House, Holika Holika, SK-II, and more are everywhere. You can find face masks (I bought plenty), makeup, skincare, and other beauty products here. I highly recommend making a visit because Korean skincare is one of the best in the entire world!
For dinner, my cousin recommended Gamsung Taco in Hongdae. Who knew there would be a decent taco place in South Korea?! I certainly was not expecting it. We ordered the fajita platter, which came with piping hot pork belly, steak, shredded chicken, and shrimp. We also ordered the shrimp and guacamole quesadilla. With each order, you’re given a variety of sauces and condiments so you can customize each taco. Both were so amazing!
That concludes the end of my first day in Seoul, South Korea. It was tiring, humid, but full of amazing food and reconnections.
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Until next time,
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