S.Korea 2015 – Day 0+1 – Arrival, N Seoul Tower and Myeongdong

Day 0 –

Didn’t do a whole lot on the final day of our stay in Hong Kong, we would end up going to a really bad local ‘cafe’ and ended up eating some pretty plain rice vermicelli noodles with a pork cutlet, it was cheap as fuck and clearly aimed at locals, but sadly not very tasty.
Left for the airport pretty promptly after, and you know how the rest of it goes… bus ride, check in, gate 71, beef curry and rice on the plane, touchdown, immigration, etc etc.

By the time we arrived it was around 8pm, we walked through the giant (and surprisingly empty) airport train station and got on the AREX (express train to Seoul). Our Airbnb host Brody graciously came to meet us at the station and walked us back to the flat we would be staying. The flat was was a fair walk from the station, situated on the 7th floor, and featuring a doorpad code rather than a key. After talking us through the flat’s features – and explaining that most restaurants close at 10pm, he helped us order some of Korea’s famous fried chicken, which was of course delivered straight to us (I actually hear you can get it delivered to a street corner, park, or wherever else).
it was absolutely amazing, maybe we were just hungry but oh my god it the skin was fried to a crispy finish unlike any fried chicken i’ve had in the UK – and accompanied with a mustard, and a spicy sauce.

Yes i took a picture of the fried chicken. Fight me.
Yes i took a picture of the fried chicken. Fight me.

After, we headed out for a little walk in the local area, and did a quick grocery shop / poke around the nearby lottemart – nothing too insanely different, though a special mention for the entire aisle of ssamjang sauces, and huge fresh kimchi island.

Day 1 –

Mediocre start after having a bit of a crappy night, a combination of cheap bedding, no aircon in the second bedroom, and timezone change. We’d spend the majority of our day today around Myeongdong, but to get there we’d need to first work out the metro system.

Over back at the train station we arrived at yesterday night, we figured we’d have brunch first before heading out – a ‘traditional korean restaurant’ in the train station seemed like a logical, and relatively safe choice. A beef tartare hot stone bibimbap was my choice, pretty tasty as bibimbap goes, though hopefully better meals will come.

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We’d spend around 5-10 minutes trying to work out how to buy and top up a transit card, the automated machine only had sparse english at best, and each screen would flash some form of warning message before continuing.. Got there in the end though, and we were on our way to Myeongdong, 2 stops along. The original plan here was to catch some form of shuttle bus up to the N tower cable car, but we were unable to find it so we ended up hailing a taxi instead – turns out the cable car was maybe 3-5 minutes walk from where we were, but actually pretty far by car as there is no direct road there.

The cable car reception was oddly empty, only a small handful of people waiting to ride. Apparently on tripadvisor, some people have stated they had to wait around an hour just to ride the cable car to the second area, but evidently the recent MERS scare has driven away all the tourists.

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/// Oh yeah, for those who aren’t in the know, theres apparently an uncurable disease going around Saudi Arabia and S.Korea atm known as ‘Middle eastern respiratory syndrome’ (MERS), many asian countries including Hong Kong have put up the red flag for SK, basically stating non essential travel should be avoided. You can read more here if you fancy – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Middle_East_respiratory_syndrome ///

So yeah, anyway, we ride this cable car (with our masks on because I guess getting an uncurable deadly disease would kind of suck) and arrive at the top to be greeted by a huge staircase leading up to some flatter areas. The first main area we reach up there is filled with fenced railings almost completely engulfed in love padlocks, like… fucking everywhere holy shit. At this point new couples aren’t even attaching locks to the fence anymore, but daisy chaining them off other padlocks.

Mum wanted to get in on the love-lock action, so we she grabbed one from a nearby salesman near the fence and we set to work to find a sweet space to put it, it’s at this point we started to realise that we were far from the only people to try thinking outside the box, nothing was sacred, and closer inspection would make us realise that love locks had been attached to everything from nearby light poles, to tree branches and everything inbetween. We did our best and attached ours to a small cluster hanging from a security camera pole. Check the picture of a tree to see some of the more ridiculous ones we saw though, god knows how they managed to get them there.

Further up we’d see the N Seoul Tower (aka Namsan Tower) a little closer, along with a big empty plaza which I can only assume is busier normally, there were even more love locks up here, with full tree structures of them as well as plenty of full fences. We grabbed tickets to go up the observatory, which practically came with free popcorn and drinks, which was nice. The elevator going up the tower was accompanied by a hilarious and ridiculous video playing on a TV screen on the ceiling as you ascend – basically suggesting you are ascending into space, and accompanied by heavy EDM/DnB.

Top of the tower was super empty, with only a handful of tourists walking about, it was actually fantastic for us, we could even sit down on one of the raised sections to eat our popcorn and the staff didn’t give a shit. The views were great too of course, though visibility could have been better, I feel however that Seoul doesn’t have as many recognizable buildings as some other countries, or maybe I just don’t know them yet. Lower floors of the tower were filled with yet more tributes to couples – a wishing well, tiles they could draw on and attach pictures of themselves to, and even more fucking love padlocks attached to the outside of some windows.

After descending back to the city via cable car, we’d shuffle across the road to Myeongdong, a grid like pedestrian city stretching maybe 4×4 blocks and filled with shops and restaurants. Shops were often quad stacked or more, with the space between 1F and sky littered with signage for businesses on upper levels of buildings. Business was fierce on the ground as well, with the many cosmetic shops battling for customers by sending staff out onto the street to harass, give out flyers and in one case literally pull you into the store (mum is too easy of a target)

We’d spend pretty much the rest of the day just shopping around and flitting between roads and shops, stopping for toilets, desserts and eventually dinner at a some sort of open wok restaurant – you call for a dish to share and they cook it at your table, we ordered a mixed seafood and chicken one and it was fantastic, and not as spicy as it looked thankfully.

By the time we had finished dinner, night had come and the streets had transformed once more, with hawkers and market stalls setting up along the road and featuring a selection of korea’s street foods. We’d wander the streets a little longer, just checking out some of the hawker stands and their wares.
We ended up trying:
– a weird egg-bread-cake thing (sweet bread, with salty egg baked onto the top)
– Chicken / Tteokbokki sweet and sour skewer
– Strawberry mochi
– ‘Water droplet pudding’, which was an odd watery jelly topped with syrups and nut powder. Very strange, but great photo material.

After eating everything we could stomach, it was off back to home, to which we would obviously lose our way and end up taking ages to get back.

Oh yeah, and due to last night’s sleeping issues, the lounge is now my sleeping space, we’re going to try and use some futons because at least the lounge has air-con…we’ll see how that goes.