SeoulOctober 11, 2019 in South Korea ⋅ ⛅ 22 °C
We arrived in Seoul after a long journey with Emirates via Dubai airport. After getting through passport control and customs, we headed to get the train into the city. I had read that the best way to get around is with a T money card which is like the Leap Card at home. Apparently it can even be used to pay for foods in convenience stores too. We had to buy the cards from a vending machine (W4,000/€3) first before topping it up at the ticket machine. This was the first of many vending machine experiences.
We got the AREX All-Stop Train into Seoul. Thankfully each stop was also announced in English, which was a relief as we hadn’t managed the language just yet! The main thing that struck me though, was that at every stop the announcement was preceded with a tune that sounded like it came from a cartoon. Much better than the mundane ‘ding dong’ that we have at home. Iarnrod Eireann could maybe learn something from this to make our journeys at little more exciting!
We arrived at our Airbnb apartment on the 31st floor above Mapo metro station, exhausted and ready for some rest before the next few days of exploring.
Next morning after breakfast, we headed to the Namsen mountain for views over looking Seoul. We got the cable car (W7,000/€5.30) to the top before going up the N Seoul Tower (W11,000/€8.30) for a panoramic view of the city. We rehydrated with a drink at the top before we decided to walk back down the mountain. First though was a pitstop to the bathroom...I walked into the cubicle and the outside wall was just full length clear glass window with view across the city. Felt a bit weird, hoping nobody had 20:20 vision from the bottom!
We walked down the mountain through the wooded area and when we reached the bottom, there was an exhibition of small garden displays. We then ventured to Namdaemun market, which is a large area of streets full of stalls and shops selling everything from clothes, accessories, shoes to carpets, electronics and food. It was all a little overwhelming, so when we had seen what wanted to see, we decided to walk the Seoullo 7017 walkway to get a break from the mayhem. It was similar to the Skyline Walkway in New York but on a smaller scale. It was built on an old motorway overpass which now has a kilometre length of gardens, terraces and exhibitions.
The final stop of the day was to Seoul Plaza where we went into the City Hall and Metropolitan Library. Two contrasting buildings situated beside each other.
The next day was a day for the main temples in Seoul. Firstly we went to the biggest of them all, Gyeongbokgung Palace (W3,000/€2.20), where we saw the changing of the guard just as we entered the palace. We then did the walking tour, where we learned it was built in 1395 but was destroyed in the 1590s when Korea was under Japanese rule. Remarkably the ruling king at the time of being built requested that everything was documented, so they have now been able to restore 95% of it to its original state. On our way to Changdeokgung Palace(W3,000/€2.20), we made our way through Bukchon Hanok Village, which is a traditional Korean village with lots of little alleys and traditional houses. We then visited the palace used as the royal family resistance. The third palace of the day, and probably my favourite, was Jogyesa temple, which is the head temple in Korean Buddhism. It holds three gold Buddha inside. When we got there, there was a chrysanthemum exhibition going on which made it even more beautiful.
After seeing enough temples to get us through the trip, we had a nice walk along Cheonggyecheon stream. The 11km long walk passes under 22 bridges and has various areas of stone and tiled displays. We ended our day at the Dongdaemun Design Plaza to see the lights along modern infrastructure.
For our last day in Seoul we decided to get out of the city and get in some nature at Bukhansan National Park. After an hour journey on the metro and bus, we arrived at the information center and grabbed ourselves a map. We decided to hike up to the top of Baegundae Peak (836m) through the Bukhansanseong trail. It was a difficult hike but when we got to the top, we realized we hadn’t reached the hardest part yet. The last 0.4km consisted of climbing up steep granite rock using ropes and ladders that had been installed. I’m not great with heights and at one point I didn’t think I’d make it to the top, but I hadn’t spent that last two and a half hours getting there not to make it. I’m so glad I pushed myself because the views at the top were incredible! Amazing views across the National Park, Seoul city and suburbs and the Han river. We sat and had some well deserved snacks, taking in the views, before we headed back down the mountain.
When we got back to the city that evening we finished our time in Seoul at a Korean BBQ called ‘No Pork, No Life’. We ordered pork neck and belly and Iberian pork which was cooked on a charcoal fire in the centre of the table. It was served with various small dishes of vegetables, rice and dips. It was delicious and ended a great time in Seoul.Read more