Let’s go back to Seoul!

Annyeong and welcome back, friends! Have you booked your tickets to Korea? Of course you have. You just don’t know it yet. Let’s continue our Seoul adventure and hope that this time, no one gets lost or left behind. Aja!

The rain came pouring down on our fourth day, so we decided to go somewhere indoors; we ended up at the National Museum of Korea. It was an impressive building on the inside because it was so bright. But apart from that, the museum houses the usual fare of artifacts enclosed in glass cases. The food at the food court was good though, and a lot of cute souvenirs could be found in the gift shop.

Speaking of cute, we headed to Insadong after our pseudo-cultural excursion. Now this place is “Cute Central.” Most of the trinkets being sold in shops lining the stretch of Insadong’s main road and its arteries were unique and handmade– things you won’t find anywhere else. And so the prices were understandably a bit steep. I went crazy over these handmade metal earrings because no two designs were the same. The earrings didn’t even have matching pairs, which was super cool. It wasn’t shopping day yet so I just feasted my eyes on them.

Umm…speaking of cute…

Hesed said he was tired and would rather go back to the hotel. And he did, of course. The rest of us decided to walk from Insadong to Namdaemun Night Market. It was the best worst decision we made during our trip. From Insadong we walked about half the length of Cheonggyecheon, where we spotted couples warming each other by using their bodies in the cold night, beside the cold stream. By the time we reached the east end of the stream, my bladder was already sending me “I need to pee” signals.

More canoodling couples along the Cheonggyecheon stream.

We weren’t sure where to go after Cheonggyecheon. We crossed over the road immediately before us, saw a police station, and asked for directions. It was of little help though since we couldn’t understand each other. The officers just kept pointing to the right. We followed their direction. We passed by Seoul City Hall and Daehanmun, the main entrance of Deoksugung Palace.

After a couple of minutes, we found ourselves in a hilly part of the city, all the while looking for a public restroom because my bladder was about to burst any minute. It was torture because I was thirsty from all the walking, and I wanted to drink water. But that would make the situation worse. It was almost midnight, so the air was colder than what we had been used to up until that point. Also, I was wearing a skirt so if the wind blew, the cold air would reach my nether regions. I remember screaming, “I need to pee so bad!” every so often. Miraculously, we eventually reached Namdaemun. However, all the stores were already closed.

Namdaemun is a little dingy. It has the vibe of Binondo, but much cleaner. And you don’t fear about getting stabbed or killed any minute. But for some reason, all of us enjoyed that failed excursion.

This lovely ahjumma found us–probably pitied us–and told us that there was no night market. She then clung to my arms, and dragged me to her food stall. We had dumplings, kimbap and eomuk guk again. We found a restroom at a closed gas station at the end of the road. I was so afraid that it would be locked. Luckily it wasn’t, and so I proceeded to have one of the best pees I’ve probably ever had.

The next day, Hesed still wasn’t feeling up to touring, and decided to stay in the hotel and eat his fried chickens. We just told him to meet us in Insadong at 7 p.m. for dinner. We didn’t have reliable means of communication, so that’s how we met up. We’d agree on a time and place, and if you weren’t there, we’d leave. We were basically Neanderthals.

The following day, we went to Namsangol Hanok Village which is a traditional Korean village. Again, we didn’t go for guided tours and just looked around. There were games, dancing and other traditional activities you can participate in. Our main goal at Namsangol was to wear a hanbok. We had a blast pretending to be kisaengs (it’s like the Korean version of a geisha), kings, princesses, emperors, slaves, peasants or scholars. We were also lucky enough to watch a traditional Korean wedding. If I’m not mistaken, they hold weddings during the weekends at around noon. We walked further uphill and found this grey circular stone that had congratulatory messages carved on it. The huge rock was a gift from different cities around the world to Seoul for its sixth centennial anniversary. For some reason we felt so comfortable there, and kept saying that that stone attracted positive energy. So we stayed there for a while, laughed and talked about how our trip was going so far. We went our separate ways after: I went with Matt to Dongdaemun and enjoyed a potato corn dog; the rest to Yongsan to buy gadgets.

Matt eating a potato corn dog at Dongdaemun.

The last day is always shopping day. We had different plans so we set off in pairs. I returned to Insadong, and then went to Dongdaemun with Matt. The guys went to Daehangno, Itaewon and Myeongdong. We didn’t plan on it, but we bumped into each other at Doota Mall in Dongdaemun. We checked each others’ shopping hauls and talked about how our day went.

We had our last meal in Korea at a Caffe Bene branch right across our hotel, and reflected on our trip. We had an informal discussion, where we aired our grievances to each other–what dramas and bloopers we won’t tolerate next time, and what attitudes that needed to be changed. Some of us (a.k.a. Matt) got annoyed at the weirdest things, like believing that uttering a specific word will cause bad luck. I for one knew that I need to stop losing my shit whenever I get tired and/or hungry.

We had fond memories of Korea, and we talk about it constantly. I’m definitely going back because I did miss out a lot. I want to go to Hongdae, Itaewon and Myeongdong, too. I want to push the DMZ tour. I want hole-in-the-wall experiences. I miss the weather. I want to shop just for myself this time. And if our original plan for next year doesn’t push through, I’m definitely going to Korea as Plan B.

Read the first part of our Seoul trip.

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