Traveling to South Korea was never anything that I'd had in mind, neither was South Korea a country that I felt particularly interested in visiting. The reason to why I ended up here was a coincidence, but now I'm genuinely happy that I’ve been getting the chance to experience this very special country. I had been living in Bangkok for 2 years and it was time for me to return to Europe. The cheapest flight option was through South Korea, which is why we ended up having an (extended) layover there of 6 days. We spent the 3 first days in Seoul.
Here I will write about my stay in Seoul, but for more details about my trip in South Korea feel free to continue reading here.
My first impression of Seoul, the capital of South Korea, was the atmosphere and the vibe; it was nothing like anything else I'd experienced before. It was a bit like Bangkok but more organized, modern and wealthy. The city was a mix of huge skyscrapers, small green parks, cozy old streets and colorful stone houses.
After checking into our hotel (our room was more like a tiny wardrobe than a room - but cheap), we walked around the city the whole day (with regular coffee breaks to keep going). I quickly realized that this is the country for meat lovers, and started preparing myself to leave my vegetarian diet behind for a while. The next morning I desperately wanted "real" breakfast and not a soup with meat, which was the regular thing you could find for breakfast. We ended up having the worst cheese bagels I ever had in a cafe. Lesson learnt: don't try to eat western food when you're in South Korea. Just adapt.
The next day we went out to a suburb to explore an old abandoned amusement park. It turned out not to be very abandoned, and we had to pay an entrance of 10,000 won (around 8€) to be able to enter. It was cool to see anyways, and since it was rainy we were the only ones there at the time so it still felt a bit scary to walk around all the abandoned roller-coasters and carousels. We traveled South Korea during low season (European summer) which meant a lot of rain, hot weather but low prices and easy to get a hotel room.
In the evening we went to the "hipster" area of Seoul to have dinner. After seeing the meat markets earlier during the day and how they handled the meat, I really didn't feel like eating any meat for dinner. Nevertheless, that's what we ended up having. Finding something vegetarian seemed to be impossible. At a bar we met two Cambodian men who invited us to drink soju (the traditional Korean strong liqure that everyone drinks). Local Koreans drink soju like it would be water, but for me just one bottle of soju was enough to get me drunk for the rest of the evening. Tipsy we went home to our hotel to wake up early the next day and continue our trip to Sokcho in the East of South Korea.
After two days in Seoul we continued to a small beach town on the East coast of South Korea called Sokcho. We took a bus there that was surprisingly modern and luxury - the seats were like armchairs and the AC was making the ride very pleasant (despite my mild hangover from a bit too much soju the night before).
To summarize my time in South Korea; it was a mix of everything, slightly overwhelming and very intense. There were so many impressions all the time, so much new to see and the culture was interesting. So was the cuisine, although I have to say it wasn't my favorite (beware vegans if you are planning a trip to Korea). South Korea was simply not like anything I'd ever experienced before, it was so different. And that's why I'm very grateful that I got the chance to visit.
Continue reading about the rest of my trip in South Korea here.
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