One of the more interesting caveats of my employment arrangement is that I must leave China every 60 days. This is due to the fact that the only visa I can acquire at the moment due to my lack of experience is one that allows multiple entries, but for only 60 days at a time. My colleagues were able to get the better visa because of their extra teaching experience. The requisite for that is 2-years. I only had one, so I must wait until next year to get the upgraded one. However, this turned out to be somewhat of an inconvenient blessing. Despite leaving me completely exhausted and underprepared for the following teaching week, the visa problem granted me a “free” round-trip plane ticket to Seoul for a weekend of exploring.
In a previous post I wrote about the first time traveling to Seoul, which was a true whirlwind adventure! I had no idea what I was doing! For example, last time I didn’t even know that the airport I flew into (Incheon) was a completely different airport than the one I had thought I was flying into (Seoul), which led to me taking a ridiculously long and expensive taxi ride to my hotel, which was close to the other airport. In the end, I didn’t mind all that much. It was a really nice taxi, and a very pleasant ride. But what I couldn’t get over was the fact that I had chosen that hotel because of its proximity to the airport; the WRONG AIRPORT! and it wasn’t even close to downtown! Then, only being in Seoul for two nights with a hotel so far removed from the action, I only really had one long and exhausting day to truly explore the city.
The second time turned out MUCH better! I took the lessons I had learned from my previous experience, and put them to good use. I booked a hotel right in the middle of the action, in Myeongdong, the largest shopping district in Seoul, took a train there from the airport, rented wifi for my trip, and stayed for 3 nights this time.
I arrived a bit late in the evening on Thursday having lost an hour, so I settled for some dinner and a good night’s rest. The next morning I got up bright and early, had some breakfast, and departed for my first day of sightseeing.
Stop One: Dongdaemun History & Culture Museum
I didn’t go into any museums here. I simply went for the architecture, which did not leave me wanting…
Stop Two: Cheonggyecheon Stream
After eating, I walked onwards and ran into what looked like a promising path to walk down. As it happened, it also led in the direction of my next destination…
Supposedly this pathway is much more lively during the warmer seasons.
Stop Three: Gwangjang Market
This place was particularly cool simply because of the extreme concentration of awesome food, crafts, and people!
Stop Four: Insadong
Insadong is a neighbourhood famous for its cultural significance. Basically, it’s the place you go to if you want to buy souvenirs. But there was one particular coffee shop that I had read about that I was looking for there. When I found it, I got myself an exotic beverage, something sweet, and sat down with a good book for a while to rest myself and enjoy the pleasant atmosphere from a fantastic people-watching vantage point.
Stop Five: Myeongdong (my hotel)
After it had gotten dark, I left to return to my hotel to regroup for the night outing. After a brief nap, I left to head for the party capital of Seoul. This picture was taken just outside of my hotel while I was on my way to the subway station.
Stop Six: Gangnam District
The neighbourhood that the famous song Gangnam Style is named after, the Gangnam District, is home to the supposedly best club in all of Seoul, Club Mass. Naturally, that’s where I ended up. But not before sitting down to enjoy a hookah and a few Guinness mind you.
The club lived up to its reputation. I enjoyed myself despite being solo. The DJ was impressive, playing a nice diverse set of tunes.
Having spent most of the previous day covering long distances and seeing many different places, I decided that this day was going to be spent in a more reserved fashion. In accordance with Trip Advisor’s highest rated attraction in Seoul, I decided to visit The War Memorial of Korea.
The War Memorial of Korea
Even though museums are not my favorite thing to do while traveling, I do very much enjoy learning about history; so in this case I was quite satisfied. Despite what you may be thinking, the memorial was not solely related to the Korean War, but to all conflicts in Korea’s history, including not just the Korean War, but the Japanese occupation of the Korean peninsula leading up to World War II. All in all, it was a fantastic experience that left me feeling pretty raw afterward.
After spending a good few hours there, I went to the nearby neighborhood of Insadong; a place I had explored during my first trip to Seoul. If you’re looking for good Korean cuisine, Insadong is the absolute wrong place to go. It is the hub for international cuisine in Seoul. While wandering the large walking street there, I located an old favorite of mine, a Mexican restaurant with a full line of craft beers on tap; complete with two IPA’s! Having eaten there last time though, I didn’t want to have the same thing twice, so I settled for just the beer, and moved on in search of a new place. After close to a solid frustrating hour of searching in vain for a place that piqued my interest (and appetite), I finally found a place with the proper level of service, atmosphere, food, and drink to lure me to a seat.
After enjoying my first (and an amazing one at that) reuben sandwich since Pittsburgh, I found myself a swanky lounge/bar/club to chill for a little while before returning home, and enjoyed a couple nice margaritas!
The next day, I returned to Dalian, getting my passport re-stamped in the process – which of course was my singular purpose for going to Korea… (wink wink) 😉