if san francisco and paris had an asian love child

Her name would be Seoul. And I would love her as much as I love San Francisco and Paris.

I had such a wonderful experience in South Korea. Before I get into it, because this is going to be a serious undertaking and will require multiple posts, I need to share with you that I have never in my life had any desire to visit Korea. Ever. But then I moved to Japan and it’s just a two hour flight across the Sea of Japan (had no idea that’s what it was called until right now). And then a friend of mine from childhood moved their. And, I don’t know, it just seemed like a fun thing to do.

So I booked a plane ticket for my first long weekend. Then I rebooked it when I realized that I had to be there super early Saturday in order to take a tour of the DMZ. I was planning on arriving Saturday morning to save myself from spending money on one more night in a hotel…instead I ended up spending a small fortune changing my ticket. But there was no way I was going to visit Seoul and not go to the DMZ because I knew I was only going to go there once, so I needed to do it all!

How wrong I was. I will definitely be back.

Maybe it’s because the only other Asian country I’ve been to is Japan. Maybe it’s because I had really low expectations. Maybe it’s because I hadn’t really been out of Tokyo since I got here. Whatever it was, I fell in love with Seoul.

Here’s the thing about going to foreign countries by yourself for the first time, especially when you don’t speak the language. It’s scary. At least for me. I don’t ever want anyone reading this to think that I just do these things and it’s the easiest thing in the world. Up until I got on the plane…no, to the hotel in Seoul…I was wondering what on earth possessed me to fly, alone, to a country where I had never been and didn’t speak the language and wouldn’t have an iPhone (at least not with any service) to help me out. And no where does a 5’8″ blond haired, green eyed girl traveling alone feel more foreign than in Asia on a flight between two Asian countries.

In transit to my hotel on the Limousine Bus, I got really stressed. (I probably should have taken a taxi, but I’m equal parts crazy and stubborn and I am a firm believer in cheap transportation). The bus driver didn’t understand me. I showed him the address (in roman letters) and it was clear he only understood part of it. (No idea why I didn’t pull the map out at that point.) When I finally did pull it out was when he was instructing me that it was time for me to get off and my pride (it’s an issue) made me just hop off without asking or pointing to see if I was really in the right place.

As it turns out, I wasn’t. I wandered around for about 10 minutes before it was clear that where I was was nowhere on my printed out google map. And it was a Friday night in Gangnam (which is where I was…as I would find out later) and there wasn’t an empty taxi to be found. So, I did what anyone who’s lived in a big city would do (I think). I wandered down a big street until I found a subway station and figured out where I was and where I needed to go. Turns out I was just one stop from my hotel, so I hopped on the subway, figured out exactly which exit I needed and found my hotel. My very nice, very clean, very happy hotel.

Now that the stressful part was over, I was starting to really like this place. (Yes, a hotel will do that to me.) And then I got to my upgraded room on the top floor (20th) and looked out my window upon this incredible view. Like was becoming love. You can tell a lot from a skyline.

I fell into bed completely exhausted.

On Saturday, when I got back from the DMZ tour (a post of its own), I wandered around for a while, enjoying the city and having no real plan. I randomly saw this changing of the guard performance at one of the palaces.

Then I used my little iPhone app (iTour Seoul – I recommend it) to find a good place for lunch. Unfortunately the map in the app only works when you’re online, so there was a little more wandering involved since the directions are pretty basic, but it ended up being a great restaurant, so totally worth it!

Galbi, delicious Korean BBQ ribs, with kimchi and all the fixins. 

After lunch, I decided to head toward N. Seoul Tower, at the top of Namsam Park. I had had no intention of climbing up the mountain, but without a map (don’t ask…I have no idea what I was thinking) and no sense of where I was, the tower itself was my only real point of reference, so up the mountain I went. And I’m so glad I did. I wandered through this little folk village (tourist attraction) first and happened upon a Tae Kwon Do concert (did you know that they are called concerts?) which just made me smile. (It’s a little long…)

And now, an onslaught of photos. This was the path up the mountain and the view from the top. I think you’ll understand how I fell in love with this place. Enjoy the photos. More to come…

The view…already half way up to it.
A cool tunnel
Along the way

I couldn’t resist

Up, up, up…
And up some more..
Looking back down to see how far I’d come
A lookout point…half way there
So green
Almost there
A yuzu smoothie at the top
Locks of Love

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