Seoul, South Korea (Part I)

Monday, December 24, 2018


Self-indulgent overseas trips have been a running theme throughout the entirety of my exchange abroad, so here's a note to myself right from the onset of this post that I don't quite enjoy them all that much. Please, girl, spend your money more wisely in future on experiences you will actually appreciate more. Destination wishlist for anyone out there who'd like to scoot me off (heh heh): India, Vietnam, or Bhutan! I suppose it is clear that the type of trips I find myself to enjoy more are not the ones I have been going to this half of the year.  

That being said, I am enormously thankful that I get to live these moments and it's still always exciting travelling to a new country. I've never been to Korea so this marks a first for me. And I shall take comfort in the fact that flight tickets from Hong Kong to Korea and Japan are cheaper than if I were to fly from Singapore. 

As it was study week in Hong Kong from 3-7 December, which equates to an extra week of holidays for exchange students, my roomie Vanessa and I decided to fly to Korea for a getaway - mainly to finally get a taste of spicy food that we've been sorely missing during our time here in Hong Kong. Who even knew that the people of Hong Kong rarely take chili? Eating McDonald's fries without garlic chili should be illegal, but that was the sad fate we had to resign ourselves to for the past few months. 

We landed on the afternoon of 3 December, which gave us time to check into our really insanely affordable Airbnb (it worked out to about S$10 per night per person) and take a leisurely stroll around the Hongik University area - also known as the Hongdae Street. To anyone who is intending to head to Korea on a budget, feel free to reach out for my Airbnb listing recommendation. It has an amazing location (Hongik University is where everyone will recommend you to stay if you're a tourist in Seoul), personable hosts, and a very cozy living environment. 

That night, we didn't get to do much other than get dinner. Under the recommendation of Ladyironchef's Instagram Stories, we headed to Shimsontang for Budae Jjigae (army stew) and pan fried spicy pork with mozzarella cheese. 

So very satisfying. 

The next day, we headed to a nearby convenience store, CU, for breakfast. I had a prepacked Gimbap and the much-raved-about banana milk (the iconic one produced by Binggrae). It looks slightly different here but this one's the limited edition festive edition with a lil' red Rudolph nose. 


Tummies filled, we took the subway to a hot tourist spot, the Ewha's Womans University. Funny how I'd always subconsciously judge the various tour groups that would stop by my own home university and here I am in a foreign country doing just that. But this one's pretty special, being a university that empowers women (not exclusively though, I learnt that they do have male students) and it also ranks as one of Korea's most prestigious colleges. And of course, one thing that draws people there is the sheer beauty of the campus - the autumn season definitely helped. I shall let the pictures speak for themselves. 


Hi, Van.




Fashion faux-pas but proud of it. My outfit assembles for the entire trip were completely thwarted by the insane Korea weather - it got way too cold to dress in a certain way, thus explaining my weird tights here.  

Hello there.

After touring the university, both of us were famished and decided to randomly enter an eatery called Kimbob along the fashion street. We ordered some Kimchi ramen for lunch which was pretty mediocre but good enough to satisfy our hunger. 


Lunch wasn't enough for us though. Quite soon after our meal, we found ourselves sitting in an Isaac Toast cafe devouring some sandwiches. 

I believe I got the Bacon Best and Van had the Bulgalbi one. While many people warn about the sandwiches' over-hyped reputation, I personally thought that they were great. Made on the spot with fresh ingredients, bursting with flavour, and reasonably priced, they are a win for me although I'm not sure how often I'd actually purchase these in Singapore. 


By this point, we were really full - the perfect time to head up to the Namsan Tower (Seoul Tower), and we did that by public bus. 


The bird's eye view of the city made it so clear that Korea is crazy huge, especially when compared to what we'd usually see at the peak of a Hong Kong hike, or of course that of Singapore too. 


Overwhelming promises and declarations of love. 

Yes, that's my second banana milk of the day - I was hooked! My digestive system definitely benefited for the sudden influx of lactose too. 


Even more breathtaking at night. 

Due to its high altitude, the both of us were practically freezing when exploring the Seoul Tower although some locals didn't seem very affected by the cold. When night fell, we took the bus down to Myeongdong Street to look for a potential dinner spot. 


Crowds upon crowds upon crowds.

We found ourselves at BHC Chicken, one of the more popular outlets of Korean Fried Chicken along the fried chicken street at Myeongdong. Although they offered us a table outdoors, we chose to wait to get a seat indoors because neither of us could deal with the chilly weather. The 45-minute wait spent waiting was so worth it though, and we got to enjoy our chicken feeling all warm and toasty. 


We ordered an entire Sprinkle Chicken, a side of fries and Van had a mug of beer to down it all (I'm not that huge a fan of beer). The dusting of cheese, onion and garlic powder on the crispy piping hot fried chicken makes all the difference! There was also an accompanying sauce that tasted exactly like honey butter chips. It was so fricking delicious sigh I can never ever call myself an animal lover if I continue to devour chicken this way. 


A frozen smore dessert that was torched on the spot. I'm pretty sure I got ripped off by this, and halfway through I decided I was way too cold to be eating chocolate ice cream and completely regretted my purchase. Oh well.

It was a pretty eventful and extremely tourist-y day (actually every day of this Korea trip was mainstream, but it allowed us to cover most of what Seoul has to offer, I suppose) and we went to bed so fatigued but just as satisfied. 

In the morning, we headed once again to our trusty CU convenience store for breakfast. This time, I tried an onigiri and had a matcha latte to go with it. I absolutely love convenience store food in Japan and Korea - I'd happily survive on them alone.


Our day's itinerary consisted of just one location - Lotte World! It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of theme parks but this one was quite a letdown. The element of imagineering (which Disney and Universal are experts at) was sorely lacking. I was unable to relate to their raccoon mascots and I suppose the language barrier played a part too. 

That's fine, but if a theme park doesn't have that, it should make up with out-of-this-world exciting rides which I personally feel that Ocean Park (Hong Kong) and Leofoo Village Theme Park (Taiwan) delivers. I think that's also the kind of concept that the Six Flags chain of amusement parks in the United States go for as well. However, the Lotte World rides were really disappointing with not much of a thrill factor. A lot of them seemed to cater to children. I guess I shouldn't have expected much from a company which has multiple and insanely diverse lines of businesses. 


Food was Lotte's saving grace though - everything was reasonably priced and of pretty good quality. This bowl of warm curry udon with fried chicken made my tummy quite happy. 

Ocean Park does this ride better. 


This ride looks pretty fun, but it was limited to those with a special VIP pass - I found that quite ridiculous because our normal ticket wasn't cheap and it doesn't make sense to completely limit the entire ride, as opposed to having a separate express queue. There were quite a few rides like that. 

Me being me, I bought a cotton candy made to the likeness of a bunny, more specifically Cony from LINE friends. 


Van's corn dog. 

A dose of nostalgia in the form of Mini Melts - I used to eat these dippin dots-like ice cream when there was an outlet in Heartland Mall back home. I was so happy to find it at Lotte World, and braved the cold to eat this cup. 

Oreo churros. 

All in all, I would not recommend Lotte World to anyone my age, unless you are going to Korea with a toddler in tow. We observed that most of the people there were locals and I personally don't think there's any ride there that would appeal to tourists (i.e. it's not a world-class amusement park). To illustrate how bad the attractions were, we queued around 40 minutes for a 12-minute 3D movie that was shot from the perspective of a cat entering a haunted house. We sat on hard wooden benches and put on flimsy 3D glasses to watch a poorly-made animation that did not have any storyline whatsoever. 

In fact, out of everything we were probably most impressed with a little room with cute photo backdrops. Yes, the theme park is actually that underwhelming. Thankfully, our next two days in Korea were a lot more eventful than this one, and I will be writing about them in the next post, hopefully soon. To end this one off, here's a picture of me in the said photo backdrop room.


 Merry Christmas to anyone reading this! Have a very blessed time with family, while I video-call mine from almost 3000km away. 

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