Korea on my mind

On our RTW trip last winter, we had a quick stop-over in Seoul, South Korea. When booking our flights from Singapore to Honolulu, our travel agent mentioned that while there was a 8-hour lay-over in Seoul anyway, we could also extend our stay in the city if we wanted to. Thinking “why not?” and agreeing to his suggestion turned out to be one the best decisions we did in planning our trip.

We fell in love with Korea within that two days. When extending our stay, we decided on two days since Seoul was not originally on our itinerary and since we realized that it was going to be freezing and middle of the winter there in February. Despite freezing our asses off during our stay, we would have loved to stay longer.

I had read good things about Korea on blogs and travel sites. I have a friend and former college who absolutely adores the culture and the country. Even so I was not prepared to feel that way about it myself.

Our adventure in Seoul started with a bus ride to the city. There are literally dozens of bus lines that you can take straight from the airport Incheon. Fortunately we had instructions from a friend we were staying with in Seoul, so we managed to find the correct one. Once we got settled in my friend took us out to dinner with a couple of his friends. What a gastronomic overload – we had no idea what we were eating but it was so good. So good. We ate and ate and ate. We had lively conversation with our small dinner party and learned a lot about Korean culture and customs. I just loved it how all the drinks were shared – there was a communal order of beer and soju (Korean spirit) and everyone’s classes were filled from the same bottles. And more ordered once the bottles were empty. We were also explained a little about how in Korea you never pour a drink for yourself and how you’re supposed to act if an older person pours you a drink or if a younger one does. All very interesting and so different from our individual-focused culture (Finns never share a bottle, c’mon, get your own!). We actually even enjoyed soju a lot since drinking it felt like part of the meal, part of the culture. I can’t really say that the spirit itself was very good, but you know, it kind of fit in with the cold weather and snow. Well, we come from the land of vodka and are neighbors with the even bigger land of vodka, so you know, we get it.

Korean food

Our first dinner in Korea. Yummy.

Oh, and talking about the weather… After spending almost 3 months in South East Asia, it was C O L D in Seoul. Compared to the winter in Finland it was not so bad, but we were not coming from Finland, we were coming from Singapore. We had literally on almost every part of clothing we owned. I really felt like a michelin man trying to walk dressed like that. But it was necessary since the temperature dropped as low as -10 degrees celsius. But we had some fun with it as well, jumping up and down from time to time to keep warm, stopping for tea every now and then and thankfully we had very good shoes so our feet were never cold.


Seoul, South Korea

It was bloody freezing! But beautiful.

Scooter in Korea

It is never too cold for riding a scooter when you have these special hand warmers attached 🙂

On our only full day in Seoul we took the subway (very efficient and after the initial shock, also easy to navigate) to the city center for some exploring. Since we had such a limited time, we decided to take the Seoul City Tour to get an overview of the city. It was a perfect choice since we got to just sit inside of a warm bus, listen to an English speaking commentary and see all the sights. It was a bit shame that we had no time to stop on different interesting parts of the city but at least now we know where we want to go back. If I remember correctly the bus ticket was valid for the whole day and it was quite cheap as well (at least if you compare it to most sightseeing bus tours in big cities).

Seoul City Tour

Seoul City Tour bus.

After the long day of sightseeing, we took the train back to our friend’s place and decided to have dinner just downstairs of his place in a restaurant he had recommended. We had absolutely no common language with the restaurant workers and there was no English words anywhere on the menu, but with sign language and with a word “kimchi” we managed to order something to eat. And what we got was amazingly good. There we sat on the floor, eating and watching Korean Soap Opera from the telly. I think the whole meal cost us something like 6 euros. After dinner we stopped by to buy some breakfast in a 24 hour store situated right in the building we stayed and went to sleep totally overwhelmed of our bizarre but perfect day in Seoul.

More Korean food.

This is what we got by pointing at other tables and saying “kimchi”.

Unfortunately that day almost concluded our stay in Seoul. The next morning we did not have enough time to travel all the way to the city center so instead we just chilled and headed back to the airport in a leisurely fashion. At the airport we had more chance to indulge and ordered bibimbap (which is still the only Korean food name I remember) with some soju of course. I think that flight from Seoul to Honolulu was one the best ones I’ve had, I even slept a couple of hours and I never sleep on planes! Thank you’s go to that bottle of soju just before take-off.

Korean food, bibimbap.

Bibimbap on the airport. With a bottle of soju of course.

Inspiration to this post came from JourneyIn’ Man, I loved his post “My Top 3 Favorite Things About Living in Korea”. Enjoy it Matt, I’m just a bit jealous 🙂

by Mari in Destinations

2 Responses to / Vastaukset Korea on my mind

  1. Matt

    Hi Mari! Thanks for the shoutout!

    I was definitely just like you when I first got here. I had no idea what I was eating but it was all so good! And having communal food and beer/soju bottles is another thing I’m a big fan of. Why not share?

    Unlike you, I have not yet experienced the South Korea winter. It’s slowly but surely creepin’ up on us now. Everyone keeps warning me about it so I’m slightly dreading it.

    I guess you’ll just have to make a longer trip back on over here in the future 🙂

    • Mari

      You’re welcome, Matt.
      And remember: there is no bad weather, if you’re dressed properly. (It’s a Finnish saying, doesn’t really translate but what it means is that just buy that expensive down jacket, you won’t regret it 😉 )

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