South Korea. Well, actually just Seoul. An 11-hour, direct flight, from SFO to Incheon Airport. There was a time when anything past 5 hours on a plane was too long. These days 8-10 hours seems to be the norm. Thankfully, I slept for most of the journey across the Pacific.
Before any trip, I usually spend time researching three things: 1) not-to-miss restaurants 2) best place to watch the sunset 3) local culture and history. It was a hectic summer. Weddings, being outdoors, holiday trips, and escaping SF for Napa and Sonoma County to be at the pool. That was my summer sixteen. I avoided my laptop as much as possible and didn't have the extra time to read travel blogs. Couple that with the fact that I started Game of Thrones (from season 1, episode 1) and finished all six seasons in four weeks! Yes, 60 episodes in 28 days. There's just something I really enjoy about binge watching. I really wasn't prepared this time around. Although, I did know that I'd be eating Korean BBQ everyday, lots of bibimbap, listening to k-pop and buying skin care products. I mean, that's Korea in a nutshell, right? Within a day of being in Seoul I quickly pointed out the similarities to Tokyo. Both huge metropolitan cities where modern skyscrapers, high-tech subways and pop culture meet temples, palaces and street markets. And they both have their respective versions of a bath house. A very bare bone experience if I do say so myself. Ha.
One big ass city comprised of ten large neighborhoods with smaller micro-neighborhoods that offer something different to locals and tourists alike. We hit up Myeongdong for shopping, specifically beauty products such as face masks. Cheongdam for boutique shops like Boon the Shop, Beaker and MSK. Itaewon for nightlife/bars/lounges. And Hongdea for the younger crowd and clubs. Our Airbnb was in Gangnam. Gangnam as in the song, "Gangnam style" by K-pop star Psy. Haha.
In the Northern part of town (King in the North!) sits the Buckchon Hanok Village. A village which is home to hundreds of traditional houses that date back to the early 1400's. Locals still occupy these homes. Some hanoks operate as cultural centers, guesthouses, restaurants and tea houses, providing visitors with an opportunity to experience, learn and immerse in Korean traditional culture.
Common Ground. One of my favorite outposts in Seoul. This "shopping mall" is located in the southeastern part of the city and is made up of bright blue shipping containers. You can't miss it as it's a block away from the Konkuk University train station. On the first and second floors, you'll find fashion wears from local designers, lifestyle goods and accessories and experimental concepts. On the third roof terrance, restaurants and cafes overlook the large container bins. Between the buildings are food trucks with a Korean twist. And visitors lineup and pose in front of the shipping containers for the perfect photo op.
I love sports. And I love me some baseball. So of course, we checked out a game. But it wasn't the game that caught my attention- the crowd hit the home run. They were on their feet for most of the game and they were cheering the entire time. Check out the video below.
I can't wait for a return trip to South Korea. There's so much more to experience. From the JSA to Busan to Jeju Island. The amazing BBQ and street food. And maybe next time I'll even try the live octopus (actually, probably not). Thank you Teddy, Collette and Chris for making the trip happen!
...and some extra shots: