The article first appeared in ITSPAUSLIFE, written by Pauline Mae De Leon.
I know what you’re thinking… one day isn’t enough! But hey, I took what I could get with my mom’s three-day flight pattern.
In terms of planning the trip, I didn’t do any planning this time because an uncle of mine resides in Seoul! So he had our back on touring us around the city during our short stay.
Unfortunately, he was only available at night due to his work schedule and instead booked us a day tour. I’ll be frank; I have nothing against those who prefer tours when they travel, but I’d rather do my own research on how to get around and independently experience the culture. With group tours, you’d have to accommodate to everyone and follow the tour guide’s schedule, which makes you rush and not really enjoy your time there. Although, in our case a tour was pretty sensible since we literally only had one day and my mom and I would’ve been too tired to find our way around the city by ourselves.
We were exhausted as our flight arrived Monday night. So once we arrived at our hotel, getting ready for bed was the first thing on our minds. We had to get up at 6am the next morning to meet our assigned driver at Seoul station who was going to bring us to our tour guide at Jogyesa Temple by 9am. Our hotel was at the airport, so we took the train to Busan… haha kidding (to Seoul station of course).
It was around a 40 to 45 minute ride on the express train to Seoul station from the airport…
The weather was good to us that day. With just 15 to 20 degrees to bear with, the sun was shining and the breeze was just about right. We met our driver at the station who drove us safely to the Buddhist temple.
Upon arrival we were greeted by our tour guide, Henny. The first thing we noticed as we entered the temple were two huge dragons facing each other right in the centre of the entrance.
I barely make my way around Hong Kong searching for Buddhist temples, but this one was the most colorful one i’ve ever witnessed. The locals were doing their daily prayers while tourists (a.k.a me) took their pictures.
After a quick tour around the area, next on our schedule was the changing of guards ceremony at the Deoksugung Palace. The ceremony was not only popular amongst the tourists, but also the locals. Students were all lined up around the entrance waiting for the ceremony to start. It was quite the entertainment in comparison to the changing of guards in London (haha). If you haven’t seen my vlog yet, do check it out.
Insa-dong was next on our list, a neighbourhood of the Jongno-gu district connected to a multitude of alleys that lead deeper into the district, with modern galleries and tea shops! By 12pm we were all starving, so what’s a full Seoul experience without a little bit of kimchi… Kimchi fried rice that is! The restaurant we went to was through an alley submerged into a wall. It had a woody interior to it and it was quite spacious.
I’m not fan of spicy food, but if you are, the fried rice will be an excellent choice for you if ever you stumble upon it on the menu.
After our meal, we had about an hour to walk around the neighbourhood.
The whole street was your typical tourist spot: coffee shops, retail stores, and street food.
My mom and I were more into the sightseeing, less shopping, so we sat at a local coffee shop to kill time.
Next on our agenda was the Changdeokgung Palace, one of the “Five Grand Palaces” built by the kings of the Joseon Dynasty.
My first impression of the palace: spacious. The grounds were wide and parts of the palace were evenly spread out. It didn’t seem too crowded when we were there because of the amount of free space every one had.
What I loved was that local couples or groups of friends were strolling around in their traditional beautiful rental Hanboks around the palace taking photos and selfies with each other! It was so casual for them.
Unfortunately the palace’s secret garden was not part of the tour due to the package deal… But who said this was my last time in Seoul?
After the palace tour, our final destination was Namdaemun Market. To be honest, it was just a wider low-rise version of Hong Kong’s Mong Kok Ladies Market. So, it was really nothing new to us (except that they of course had out door korean BBQ stalls #starving).
P.S. The tour also included a museum tour and a ginseng centre tour, but I didn’t document anything from those parts.
The tour guide was lovely enough to drop us all off at our desired locations, Seoul Station for us! We met my uncle and two of his friends at the station where we were going to make our way to Dongdaemun! My uncle wanted to sort of surprise us with a new attraction within the city, but little did he know it came to Hong Kong first just last February (haha, sorry Uncle Francis!)
Our wake up call time the next morning was around 6am (5am HK time omg), so my mom and I couldn’t stay out too late. Although, we had a bit of energy left for dinner. And what’s a trip to Seoul without Korean BBQ?!
Sure, they have that here in Hong Kong too, but we needed the authentic version. We certainly did not leave with disappointed stomachs.
So yes, one day is not enough to explore a city like Seoul. I have yet to discover so much more! This is definitely not my last trip here.
Special thanks to Uncle Francis for the tour and taking us around Seoul, and of course to my mom!
Until the next adventure 🙂