I planned the trip many many months in advance, when I had some slow days at work. I found out that I’m a pretty detailed trip planner; In general, I like to have most of each day planned (80%?) and have addresses, directions, etc. detailed out before even getting on the plane. I don’t know if this is normal or not. But it’s definitely in line with my detail-oriented like-to-be-in-control personality. You can see our itinerary here.
We were able to follow the planned schedule pretty well, with only a few issues. On 12/24, we rushed through Gyeongbokgung palace to make sure we could get lunch at Ssalgage, which only serves 100 meals a day. The rush was unnecessary though, since we arrived right at 11am and were the first 4 people served. On 12/27, we ended up going to Insadong for fried chicken dinner at Han Chu. And then late 12/28 Stanley got food poisoning, so I swapped and simplified the plans for 12/29 and 12/30. On the 29th, Koh brought the 3 of us (Stan stayed in bed all day) to Hongdae for lunch (gamjatang), a bike tour, and delicious pastries. We ended the day early again around 3pm because of lingering stomach discomfort for Steph and myself. On 12/30 we went to Suwon around 11am and only stayed a few hours. We skipped dinner on both days because of fragile stomachs. On the 31st, our last day, we just stayed in Itaewon and got bbq at a local place (after finding out Orum was closed for lunch), which was pretty delicious and a nice way to finish the trip.
I’m glad I had planned the trip to the details I did, since we ended up not having portable wifi. Most places around the city (and even the city itself) had free wifi available, but it wasn’t guaranteed. The subway system was amazing – super convenient, cheap, and easy to get around. We took the bus a few times but they’re much less suited for foreigners, as the announcements for each stop are unclear and really quick. I was so thankful that I knew how to read Korean (it’s phonetic and super easy, I picked it up in middle/high school) because it helped a lot to be able to read street signs, restaurant signs, and in general prevented us from getting lost.
But overall, my impression of the city was nothing special. I was disappointed to find that typical South Korean citizens have the same priorities and similar moral character to us typical Americans – we’re all heavily influenced by the media, social media is big, consumerism is part of life at every age. It was a fun trip, and I’m glad we went… but food costs were about the same, even food tastes were on par with Korean restaurants in California. Korea checked off my list. What’s next?