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Where We Are: Seoul, South Korea

OMG SOUTH KOREA IS SO GREAT! After two trips to the US on either side of a quick jaunt through Europe, we were ready for some culture shock, and man did we get it in the best possible way.

We actually only decided to come to Seoul because we found a good deal on Korean Airlines from New York to Shanghai and could do the stopover in Seoul for no extra cost. It was absolutely the best decision we’ve made.

The Insadong neighborhood is the perfect place to shop up an appetite and eat some vegetarian Bibimbop!

I was fresh off being Maid of Honor at my friend’s wedding, so I didn’t even have time to plan Seoul, so I came into this city totally blind and didn’t know what to expect. It has blown my mind. It is New York level of big city and it’s always alive and loud and busy and beautiful.

Myeongdong swept me away! All kinds of shops fill the buildings with everything from tiny shops selling phone cases with adorable animals on them all the way up to Louis Vuitton, and street food vendors line the sidewalks. The lights and sounds and smells are not to be missed!

When we arrived, we got off the train to a pedestrian street packed with street vendors and restaurants. We immediately noticed that their dessert and coffee scene was off the charts. The streets were full of people looking fabulous in the most amazing sweater-skirt-tights outfits with fabulous shoes. I immediately fell in love.

We arrived at Hongik University Street, a vibrant college area filled to the brim with shops and restaurants stacked on top of restaurants!

We went to the Korean War Memorial, which was maybe the best museum I’ve ever been to. Asia has a wicked long history so it was really fascinating to learn more about Korea’s tumultuous past. We ate Korean food barefoot on the floor of a Buddhist restaurant and street foot in the heart of Myeongdong. We even accidentally want to a poo cafe! (It was raining! I just wanted to cozy up in a cafe and it was the only one that didn’t require me to go in the rain!)

That time I accidentally went to a poop themed cafe. Like what!? Only in Seoul.

Anyway – we’re just having the best time here! You should all go to Seoul!

Line Friends are like, a huge deal in Seoul! They’re sticker characters but have entire stores and cafes devoted to their cuteness!

Initial Reactions on Seoul

  1. It’s huge. I didn’t realize just how big Seoul was until we got here. The subway lines are this huge intertwining web that covers the whole city and even still, it takes about 40 minutes to get between locations. It’s definitely not a walkable city,  which makes it hard to see as many things in a day as we want to. That said, there are so many amazing places to go and see that the transit is absolutely worth it.
  2. Neighborhoods are true destinations. You don’t have to plan things to do in many cities before you realize the frustrations that come with recommendations of neighborhoods as a thing to do. Generally, neighborhoods appear on Trip Advisor or sample Itineraries with very little direction other than “explore X neighborhood, it’s a great place to eat and drink and shop”.  And they always sound tempting, but if you’re not there for a meal, it generally involves us walking through a neighborhood in about 15 minutes. That is not the case in Seoul! We spent hours weaving through the shopping and street food district of Myeongdong, which is like Times Square times 10! We spent an entire rainy afternoon in Insadong, where there a tons of craft shops and boutiques and vegetarian Korean food.
  3. Amazing street food with vegetarian options. We’ve had some street food while traveling, but we pretty rarely eat actual meals out of it because we’re usually limited to the side dish or dessert options. We found the street food in Korea to have quite a few amazing vegetarian options, like grilled cheese skewers, egg bread (my FAVE) and gyoza. If you do eat seafood though, you’d be really in for a treat. We saw everything from squid-filled pancakes to grilled cheese lobster to fish skewers.
  4. Emergency Preparedness. When I told people I was going to Korea, I got a lot of questions about safety. With the situation in North Korea looming, I understand it, and I too initially had a light cloud of concern. To me, that concern was immediately relieved when I arrived here, because this city is too great not to experience because of fear. Fear cannot control your life and I’m so thrilled to be here. But anyway. They are painfully aware of their proximity to North Korea and the risk that may come with that. When you walk into the train stations, you can’t miss the emergency supply stations. They’re glass-covered cases that contain things like gas masks and water. I pray no one in this city ever has to use them. It’s just kind of eery to see something like that and know it’s a risk your city has to face.

Just give me all the street food, thanks!

What you need to know:

  • Population: 9.8 million
  • Altitude: 38 meters
  • Exchange Rate: 1119.30 Korean Won to $1 USD
  • Primary Language: Korean and English
  • Walking Tour: None – it is WAY too big!
  • Time Zone: Korea Time, UTC +9 (15 hours ahead of US Central Time)
  • Taxi: Yes
  • Uber: Only Uber Black
  • Public Transit: Bus & Train – very extensive
  • Emergency Number: 1339 (special emergency line for foreigners in Seoul)
  • Running: We have not seen a SINGLE runner in Seoul! It’s crazy! We haven’t been great about running since the Budapest Marathon, and probably won’t run here either.
  • American Football: TBD. I will let you know on Sunday!
  • Starbucks: Yes, many.
  • Local Starbucks Specialty: Their local holiday drinks sounded new, but are actually just special names for US drinks (Berry Mocha, Toffee Crunch, Orange Blossom Latte). They did have yogurt Frappuccinos though!
  • McDonald’s Veggie Burger: Nope!
  • Coffee Price:  5,000 – 6,000 Won (~$4.50 – $5.25 USD) for a latte beverage
  • Beer Price: 7,000 – 10,000 Won (~$6.25 – $9 USD)