Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Adventures in Seoul, Korea: Day 1

We started off the trip by arriving at the airport around 2PM from Hong Kong and meeting with a representative of the residential home that we would be staying out. He helped us get our "egg" (aka wifi hotspot) from the airport and drove us to the residential home where we were pleasantly surprised with. The website for the residential home we stayed at is: and you guys should all go check it out if you're looking for a pretty cheap but nice place to stay at in Seoul (though the entire website is in Chinese so if you don't know how to read Chinese.. well there's always Google translate!). The owners of the residential home spoke Cantonese, some English, and Korean and were super kind and helpful. Our "home" was located in Mapo and was literally right next to the Mapo subway station which was super convenient!  Plus, everyday someone would come in and tidy up the house a bit which kept it nice and clean for the 7 days that we stayed in Seoul. I'm glad we chose to stay at a residential home rather than a hotel because it was about the same price, if not cheaper, as all the hotels we were looking at, but it included a stove (with all utensils, dishware, pots&pans, etc included!), washing&drying machine in one (never seen before so I thought it was super cool!), free wifi, TV, and many other amenities that most hotels don't have! Okay enough of my gushing of our living area - no I'm not being paid to say all these good things about them, I really just enjoyed it and felt quite nice at home! The website has so many pictures of the room (I forgot to take actual pictures) but it really does look like the pictures! Honestly the pictures don't even show how amazing the place is.

After we had gotten settled into our room, it was about 4:00 PM so we decided to go out and eat a late lunch/early dinner. There were a lot of restaurants - almost all were Korean BBQ shops - near our apartment/home so we didn't have to walk far before we found a place we wanted to eat at. I must say I think all the restaurants were a tad bit expensive and even the place we chose, it cost 35,000 won for a plate of beef!! That's basically $35 US dollars which is crazy expensive and there wasn't even that much meat! That was the second most expensive meal we ate in Korea - coming after our meal at the seafood market where we totally got ripped off. However, the meal was still good (though the taste did not quite match the price).

After we left, we stopped by a GS-25 which is basically like our American 7-11 store and filled up our T-cards (if you live in Hong Kong or have ever visited Hong Kong and know what an "Octopus card" is, then the T-card is Korea's version of an Octopus card). For those of you who don't know what a T-card or an Octopus card is, they are both cards that can be filled with money to be used to pay for the subway, buses, and even some shops or stores will accept them. T-cards are a must-have if you will be traveling in Seoul and using the subway because then you will not have to purchase a subway ticket each time you go into the station and you can very conveniently "beep" your T-card which will cover the subway fee. For our entire 7 day trip which was packed with subway rides from touristy place to place, we used a little bit more than 20,000 won which wasn't too bad - the subway is actually quite cheap, much cheaper to take than a taxi and less confusing than a bus since there is enough English for most people to get by on. As a warning though, the subway stations in Korea are HUGE (waaay bigger than the ones in Hong Kong). You usually have to walk a good amount if you're trying to transfer to another line and it's not hard to get lost or go the wrong way when you're looking for you subway train. ALSO, for all my fellow Hong Kongers, the subway trains are not as frequent as the ones in Hong Kong (which come like every less than 5 minutes), so you'll often see people running through the subway stations in Korea trying to catch the subway train because they don't want to wait for the next one.
Subway art <3
After filling up our T-cards, we went back to our hotel to go chill until around 7:00 when we headed down to the subway station and headed off to the Namsung bridge (also known as the Banpo Bridge) to see the rainbow waterfall show which started at 8pm. The bridge isn't very close to the nearest subway exit, and we had to walk about 10 minutes, following some instructions my sister had found online and while we were a little bit sketched out when we had to go underground, we made it safely to the bridge! ;D I'll admit we got lost quite a few times the entire trip, but it's kind of inevitable with all the super not clear walking directions blogs give (some of them weren't even accurate..) and Google maps failed us and could never come up with walking instructions even though it knew our location and the location of our destination. -__-' Anyways we were also going to go visit the Floating Island which is right next to the bridge but to our utter disappointment, apparently on rainy or cloudy days, the Floating Island isn't lit up/doesn't have the nice show display that it usually has. It was a bummer since that day was pretty cloudy and so when we arrived to see a boring little island with no pretty lights and waterfalls, we were definitely disappointed. We were also worried that the Namsung bridge show might alsoo be cancelled at about 8:10PM the rainbow waterfalls started! I took a TON of pictures and the show was definitely worth the wait! The show lasted about 20 minutes and had super cute accompanying music (kudos to whoever chose to play Jason Mraz ^__^).
Photo of the Namsung bridge before the show

Photo of the Namsung bridge during the show. Ooooh pretty colors~! ^__^
 Once the show was over, we walked back to the station to head back to our home in Mapo but somehow we found the Gangnam Underground Shopping Center (the entrance looks like a subway entrance) and so we decided to stop by and take a "quick" look - that quick look turned out to be more than an hour. We didn't even finish looking at all the shops because many started to close down since it was quite late but also, the underground shopping area is HUGE. There were many jewelry, accessory, and clothing shops down the halls and they were all pretty decently priced. Some places you can haggle in Seoul, but this shopping mall is not one of them. You don't really need to haggle here though because there are so many sales on clothes for 5000 or 10,000 won!  It's also connected to the subway though so we were able to find the subway entrance there and take our way back to Mapo.

A photo of the Gangnam Underground Shopping Center - as you can see..there is no end! Endless shopping~!
This was one of the jewelry shops we looked at and the guy apparently wanted me to take a picture of him (or well he said "Kimchi!!" and pointed at my camera so yea.. LOL. He was okay with it though and actually asked to see the picture haha. (For those of you who don't know, while in the US we say "Cheeseee" when taking a picture, Koreans say "Kimchi!")

There is a supermarket in the Mapo station that closes around 10PM so we stopped by it to grab some food for the next morning such as eggs, milk, bread, and ramen. Also, as a heads up, FRUIT in Seoul is crazy expensive. 4 small baby bananas that weren't even that nice looking cost about 9000 won (!!) and all other fruits are so expensive. We were super exhausted after our first day and crashed almost the moment we got back. Overall, our first day (which wasn't even a full day) was super fun and I was so ready for the rest of our trip to get started~!

I hope this extremely long and overly detailed post will help any of you who will be visiting Seoul soon and look for my next day posts! ^__^

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