Hey Seoul Sister

While it has never really been at the top of my list of places to visit, I’ve always just assumed I will like Seoul, so when I suddenly had to fly to Korea for a business trip it was an easy decision to extend for a couple of days so I could explore the city a bit.

Not the smartest idea, as it turns out. There are a lot of contributing factors, but the end result was me camping out in Incheon airport a good six hours (!!!) before my flight. I was just not in the mood for Seoul.

My favorite place in Korea: the hotel bathroom. I had the loveliest baths <3

So how do you visit a city for the first time and not enjoy it?
Glad you asked.

Come unprepared.

This being a hastily scheduled business trip, all of the planning effort went into the work side of things (as it should). I booked my hotel very late, had no idea where to go, did not know how to say “thank you” in the local language (something I always make a point to learn when visiting a foreign country - it works wonders). And Seoul, as it turns out, is not a city where one can just wing it. Especially one who does not watch K-drama or listen to K-pop or use Korean beauty products - I simply have no context. For anything.

Acquire a massive amount of sleep debt.

So during the business part of this trip I averaged about four hours of sleep a night. Now in my 20’s this wouldn’t have been a big deal - there was this one instance when after a 12-hour workday I stayed up all night drinking, had breakfast at McDonald’s, and took my promotion exams right after (and *ahem* passed) - but these days anything less than six hours of snooze turns me into Grumpy McGrumpFace (read: can not, will not function).

Have unreasonable expectations.

I don’t know where I got the idea that Seoul is somehow going to be like Tokyo, but making that assumption ruined the entire trip for me (and apparently I’m not alone in this). The train system is not as efficient, the city is not as clean, the customer service is not as awesome, and there is no store equivalent to Loft (I just really miss Loft *sniff*). That doesn’t make Seoul a horrible city, it just makes Seoul not… Tokyo, and if I had that drilled into my head from the very beginning I would probably have been less disappointed and more appreciative.

Seoul Station reminds me of European train stations, though

Despite the tourist-ing failure, though, I was able to focus my energies on the one activity I do best - stuffing my face eating!

From the food stalls right outside the subway station to the food carts that suddenly popped up in the middle of Myeongdong shopping street as I was about to leave, everything that caught my eye promptly made its way into my (very happy) tummy. Seriously, I blew all my money on food. No regrets.

Grilled Lobster: Decidedly not Korean but who cares, really

More Myeongdong food cart goodness

Pork intestines and Korean blood sausage (with rice!)

Really awesome sausages from the nicest kuya vendor just outside the train station

So yeah, this trip wasn't exactly the best. But you know what, I did come across what is probably the most awesome shirt ever (next to the Nirvana shirt with a picture of the Hanson brothers), and it kinda makes up for everything.

I will be back, Seoul, and in a better headspace this time, and then we'll be friends.

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