Seoul: Wandering Around the City
Seoul is not a small city but through riding subways, wandering around the city becomes more convenient. They say that train is your best friend when you get in Seoul and it was undeniably true. There are several train lines and channels that journeys around the metropolis and nearby cities that seeing the train map at first feels overwhelming but when you study it systematically, you’ll find it easy in the end. Just decide where to stay and which landmarks to visit; then riding and transferring through the subway lines will be easy eventually. Purchase a T-Money Card in any convenience store, load it up then you’re equipped to go and explore the city.
Another good way to travel around the city without spending too much is by walking. I enjoy walking! Through this mode, I can see things and discover places that can’t be read in any travel guides. Walking is fun and for me it’s the best way to see one’s place.
It was on my first and last day in Seoul that I didn’t join any group tour and explored the city on my own. With a piece of paper noting my itinerary and an accommodation nearby the train station, I find it easy to see Seoul.
Summer in Seoul
Summer has already begun when I visited South Korea. Among all the seasons in the country, why is it I had traveled during summer. Isn’t it a normal season already back in my home country? It must have been amusing if I visit Seoul during fall, autumn or winter but since I already have travel plans in the next months, summer is the only season that I can visit Seoul.
The weather was fine during the day but when the evening arrives, it was breezy and cold. It was summer but I had underestimated the weather. I should have bought jackets and hoodies online and brought it with me. I’ve thought of buying one in one of the night markets I’ve visited during the tour in the city but I hadn’t found one that fits me. Well, layering some cool tees that I had saved me from the breezy nights.
EWHA Womans University
It was already late afternoon when my first day of sightseeing the city had started. I hadn’t really plan to see much on my first day because I know from the start that I’m going to be tired from my flight; hence the only thing that I’d like to do is sleep. Well it happened. It was 5:00 PM in my clock when I woke up. I glanced through my window. I saw that there’s still daylight. I’ve thought it was still appropriate to visit one tourist spot and take some good pictures; so I promptly fixed myself then went out of my guesthouse to visit EWHA Womans University.
Mangwon is the nearest train station from the guesthouse that I stayed in Seoul. Using Jihachul mobile application, I had able to locate easily which train channel to use in reaching my destinations. Similar to the name of the campus that I had visited that day, EWHA Womans University is the name of the station to get to the campus.
EWHA Womans University was the country’s first educational institute for women, which was founded in 1886 by Mary F. Scranton, an American missionary of the Methodist Episcopal Church. It was said to be the world’s second largest female educational institute and is one of the prestigious universities in South Korea.
Just a quick fact about the name of the university, the use of “Womans”carries special meaning. It was said that the early founders of the college thought that every woman in this community is worth being appreciated; to encourage this idea, they selected the word “woman” to avoid lumping students together under the word “women”.
More than its history and alike, what really interested me to visit the campus was its remarkable campus valley. Seeing the iconic landmark was truly notable and impressive.
Outside the campus is where several cafes, restaurants and stores are located. I went through the alleys and looked for items that I can buy as souvenirs; but due to vast choices of stuff, I ended up buying nothing. I then spent my remaining time in the area having dinner in one of the fast foods.
The Hongdae Area is a region in Seoul that is located near the Hongik University. The area is known for its urban arts and indie music culture, clubs and entertainments.
After spending the entire day sightseeing the city, I regularly go to Hongdae walking from the guesthouse and witness the happenings during the night. I had most of my dinners in Hongdae. Here, you’ll see restaurants, bars and stores line up. The crowd is clustered with students and yuppies, foreign tourists and expats as well.
If you fond shopping then Myeong-dong is for you. Myeong-dong is one of the busiest places in the city of Seoul. It is said to be among Korea’s primary shopping destinations.
Myeong-dong is located in the heart of Seoul. The area is a stunning shopping district with countless shops and restaurants. An array of cosmetic products can also be found in the market.
The City Hall is also nearby the market district.
Bukchon Hanok Village
It was my last full day in Seoul and I still had a lot of places in my mind that I would like to visit but visiting all of them in a day is impossible so I trimmed down my list and I came up with three places to visit. Part of it was the Bukchon Hanok Village.
Aside from the palaces, another important landmark in South Korea that has to visit is the traditional Korean village. In these villages, you’ll appreciate the customary living and culture. Hanok means a traditional Korean house. Its architecture and interior are fascinating that at least visiting one of the villages in South Korea to see them is a pleasant experience.
Bukchon Hanok Village sits between the two palaces of the Joseon Dynasty, Gyeongbokgungand Changdeokgun. It is a perfect place inside the city to experience or see traditional Korean living. The village is composed of lots of alleys, which is home to hundreds of traditional houses. It is preserved to show a 600-year-oldurban environment. Because the village is a residential area, it was not meant to be a tourist attraction. However today, many of these hanoks operate as cultural centers, guesthouses, restaurants and teahouses, providing an opportunity to experience, learn and immerse in Korean traditional culture.
Anguk Station is the nearest station to get to Bukchon Hanok Village. From there, sign can be seen directing to the traditional village. You may go to the tourist information center to get a map that shows a route how to go to the different alleys and important spots of the village.
There are also shops, stores and restaurants surrounding the village. I had my lunch in one of the Korean restaurants before I had started navigating through the alleys. I had my first taste of Bibimbap in Bukchon.
N Seoul Tower
It was already 3:00 PM when I finished exploring the traditional village. After sipping some cold Frappuccino in one the coffee shops in the area, I walked to the nearest train station and went to my next destination.
After 15 minutes train ride, I alighted at Chuungmuro Station, the nearest train station to get to N Seoul Tower.
The N Seoul Tower, also known as the Namsan Tower or Seoul Tower, is a communication and observation tower located on Namsan Mountain. The tower marks the highest point in the city.
A walk of about half an hour from the nearest station is where the entry point towards the tower is. The tower sits on the Namsan Mountain, which is 797 feet. Visitors may opt to ride the Namsan cable car going to Namsan Mountain to reach tower. The round trip cable car ride costs KRW 8,500. But if you are on a budget like me and didn’t want to spend, yet still wanted to get to the tower, you have to hike up to reach the summit, which what I did. Getting to the tower is free, but if you wish to get inside of it and its own observatory deck, an admission fee of KRW 9,000 has to be paid.
I was so tired when I reached the iconic landmark. To tell you the truth, when I went out of the train station and started to walk to get to the starting point of the hike, I was hesitant to continue my plan of visiting the tower. But then again, I’ve thought that I’m already there so I have to see it.
It took me an hour to reach the top; it was exhausting; nevertheless it was all worth it. There’s a rewarding view of the city that can be seen from the top.
Aside from the tower, the reason why tourists visit the place is for the “Locks of Love” that can be found at the Roof Terrace. Thousands of lovelocks can be found dangling around the terrace with new locks appearing each day as evidences to couples’ lasting love.
After taking some pictures of the surrounding, I left the area and went back to the ground. The descent was easier. I think it took me less an hour to get down and reach the main road.
Chocolate Shopping at Lotte Mart
Lotte is a multinational food and shopping corporation. Its subsidiary Lotte Confectionery is a favourite brand in South Korea with Peppero as their most popular chocolate product.
Before I went back to the guesthouse, I dropped by the Lotte Mart and bought some chocolates and other food products to take home. Lotte Mart is located near the Seoul train station. Looking through the city map, it was nearby the jump off point to N Seoul Tower so I walked from there to get to the chocolate store. Navigating the road was easy as the street signs were clear, though it took me more or less half an hour to reach my destination.
One unique thing that I had experienced shopping at Lotte Mart was shoppers have to pack their own grocery items using the recycled boxes available after passing through the cashier. It was hassle at first since finding a box that fits all my items was uneasy, and I had to go elbow-to-elbow with other shoppers in using the masking tapes and cutters. Nevertheless, it was a cool one – or maybe just for the first timer like me.
Wandering around the city of Seoul on my own reminded me how solo travelling should be. It was tiring but it was so fulfilling. It was my first time traveling alone in a foreign country and I was so glad that I was able to do it. Besides, it feels great that even though I didn’t have a concrete plan or ‘how to go?’ notes in my itinerary I was able to get to the places I want to see without too much trouble – not bad for a first time solo travel abroad.
Well, commuting or traveling by foot, that’s how a destination should be explored.