Landing in Seoul in the pre-dawn hours of Saturday morning was a surreal feeling. Breathing in the crisp, cool air of this beautiful city, I tried my very best to savour every early moment of finally being able to visit South Korea for the first time, listening to the radio in the taxi, peering out at highway signs and glimmering light reflections on the Han River. Totally did that thing where I popped my headphones on, discreetly switched to the Cheese In The Trap OST and looked out of the window pretending to be Seol…
After a 4am tour of my surroundings by my oh so accommodating Airbnb host – I wholeheartedly recommend Vincent’s place – I called my best friend all the way over in England, checking in with him for a sleepy chat, had a mere 2-hour slumber, before setting off to explore.
Seoul in early February is in the depths of winter. Unlike my adopted home of Hong Kong which is relatively tropical, it’s dry and crisp and chill, so if you’re visiting at a similar time, remember your thermals! I picked up a long-sleeved top and camisole from Uniqlo which served me nicely. I’d also recommend a scarf and a pair of touchscreen gloves, especially as a tourist that’s likely to be out all day.
Beautiful blue skies and those infamous overhead wires seemingly plucked out of a drama.
I stayed in the Itaewon area, purely because it was most affordable as I travelled during Lunar New Year. My first choice would have been the Hongdae area, but I’d happily choose to stay in Itaewon next time! Itaewon is a popular district for expats so there are plenty of bars and Western restaurants around. I didn’t try any of these as I already had other eateries in mind.
What is it about new subway systems that make them so fascinating? Grew to love the heated seating and the super detailed announcements! Especially as someone that often has panic attacks on public transport, the announcements of which doors would open for an exit were on point.
To ease myself in to a Saturday, I headed to Myeong-dong, the infamous shopping district that I can only really liken to Carnaby Street on speed. Here you’ll find beauty brands galore, plenty of ‘high street’ fashion, the Lotte Plaza shopping centre and, of course, the LINE Friends flagship! If you’re a fellow K-beauty enthusiast, this is for sure your mecca.
Exploring Myeong-dong on my own with no adult supervision (heh), I ended up playing a shopping game with myself where I settled on doing 4 rounds of the area and picking 4 K-pop bands/idols (chose Big Bang, Apink, Zico and G.Friend). Each time I heard a song by one of the 4, I’d go in! #ShoppingWithMish
Afterwards I popped over to Gyeongbokgung Palace for a little meander.
I felt a little lost and at odds with being on holiday so a palace wander was a lovely way to distract from reality and immerse myself in grandeur and history. Gyeongbokgung Palace is the largest and most majestic of the five palaces that remain in Seoul so it was top of my list to visit!
To round off an idyllic first day, I made an escape to Cheongdam-gu, deciding to hit up one of my key ports of call before Lunar New Year rendered everywhere closed for a few days – the K-star Road, as it has now been dubbed.
Cheongdam-gu is undeniably beautiful. Chic and charming in a manner that felt almost borrowed from Paris, that iconic washed-out French grey settling upon everything, I instantly fell surrender to its Hallyu star-worthy credentials. I’ll share those photos in another post, as this one seems to be jam-packed already!