Saturday, June 1, 2013

Hi Seoul: It Was Like Coming Back To A Place I've Always Known

I'm in South Korea! This it It!

I uttered these words to myself as I got out of the exit door of the arrival hall of Incheon International Airport.  The sting of cool air into my skin woke me up that I was indeed breathing Winter, the season that I chose to chase this time after I barely chased Spring three years ago. 

I looked for the bus ticket booth for the Airport Bus to my hostel  in Seoul - the very first thing that I cannot remember doing when I was here with some friends in Year 2010.  We were issued tickets upon boarding the bus.  On my way to Seoul, I hardly kept my eyes open as I was swayed from the tiredness of getting my reports done and directly heading to the airport without any sleep and even bath from all day's work.  It was a bit uncomfortable not being able to freshen up and there I was traveling in this cold country on my own.

Ticket Booth outside Arrival Hall 12
 But then, as the bus getting nearer Seoul, I saw some familiar streets and signs (either from my vacation in South Korea three years back or from my meticulous research).  I felt like I'm coming back to a place seemed familiar to me - the transportation, the street signs, the establishments. The familiarity may either came from the Korean dramas that I love to watch or again, from my meticulous research.  I missed my bus stop at Hapjeong but it was a great miss! I was obliged to take a cab and had my first conversation with a Korean.

After I finally found my way to Four Seasons House, the warmest  hostel I've experienced for my first three days in Seoul, I got back my confidence in going around Seoul once more, this time on my own.  I dropped my bags in the reception area (with check-in time at 2PM) and with a bit of excitement, I looked  forward to this different experience, wanting to get off things from my bucketlist.  I braced  myself to kick-off my solitary travel.

KBS Station Main Road
I spent my first morning in Seoul just idly sipping my hot chocolate and ham and sausage turn-over from Paris de Baguette near Hapjeong Station while having fun watching people passing by.  It was eight in the morning, the rush hour in one of the ordinary Thursdays in Seoul, and, I found it fascinating just watching people walking fast on their stilettos, boots and rubber, walking shoes, wearing in different styles and colors of bubble jackets, stylish trenchcoats and winter jackets and presence of BB creams.  They were heading towards Hapjeong and Hongdae - either those were professionals or students.  At most, I can distinguish who are working in posh offices - through their stylish bags, trenchcoats and stilettos. Students have backpacks at their back that I found it too trendy that I bought one for myself. (Which I haven't found the same style here in the Philippines, yet)

Paris de Baguette

The sun was up but the temperature of 1C made me hesitant to join the bandwagon of Koreans and expats on their way to work, school or anywhere.  
As I ate slowly just killing some time before the clock hits nine, I browsed my self-made travel guide to my first destination in the list - KBS Exhibition Hall .  Having worked in a broadcasting company, I was curious how KBS conduct their studio tours. From my research, the hall opens at 9:30AM.  However, with stamina getting down from the lack of sleep and having difficulty embracing the sudden change of weather (from Summer in the Philippines to late Winter in Seoul), I decided to change my plans and went a bit slower - meaning not to go around but rather stay in one place until 1PM.

My Day 1 Planned Itinerary (and it was changed, of course!)

 I just realized now that I should have stayed in  Jjimjilbang (찜질방) and have taken a nap and moreso, a bath! I could have been re-charged and gotten off that one in my bucket list.

But my first day was like getting a feel of the South Korea again.  Amidst the difficulty coping up with weather and sleepiness, things started getting familiar.

The Subway - Reading the Map and Knowing the Exits and the Transfers

Seoul Subway and the key cities Incheon and Busan have the most sophisticated yet tourist-friendly subways - it's easy to transfer from one place to another but transfers can be tiring sometimes.  It's like walking through streets and intersections underway.

The Traditional Houses and the Familiar ClayPots

Korean architecture always fascinates me - from those stylish wall-in cabinets to wooden chairs, from the dressers to the charming decorations in any part of the house, and even the half-rounded bed that I saw from the Korean series, "He's Beautiful".  The unique features of Hanok are always charming for me.  It was always one of the most memorable memories in Korea - my Hanok stay.   I even thought of having it as an inspiration for one of the themed rooms in my bed and breakfast hostel years from now.

.. and more of these that I finally said, "Annyeong Korea! It felt great to be back!"

The Korean StreetFood

in one of the streets in Hongdae Area

The Cute and Cheesy Pairs of Socks

I regret much that I haven't got one pair for myself.

K-Pop Idols and Drama Actors/Actresses Souvenirs EVERYWHERE!

Can you guess who they are?

The Electronic Door Access
I happened to scramble the number combination on my 2nd night and I thought I'd be waiting outside for somebody to come. :-(
The Artsy, Homey, Comfy, CoffeeShop

So after I checked-in and had my quick nap, I took my most yearning bath and found my steps along the road in Hongdae and had my late afternoon snacks at the coffeeshop of the famous feline in the planet earth, Hello Kitty.

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