Last week I was lucky enough to have my first visitor in Korea. Despite never having been out of the country (road trips to Canada 30+ years ago don't count), I talked my dad into flying halfway around the world to an extremely foreign land. With the luck I have at my school I was able to leave early on Friday meaning I could meet him at the airport, a 3.5 hour bus ride from my home. It was long, but well worth it, I was all smiles once I finally met him in the arrivals hall. He had survived his 15 hour flight, but unfortunately the travel wasn't quite yet finished. We still had an hour subway ride into Seoul, and then a hunt for our hostel.
I decided to give my dad a taste of the budget travel lifestyle and booked us two beds at a hostel near Namsan tower. There are hundreds of hostels in Seoul, but a friend had recommended it and the central location was ideal for our itinerary. Unfortunately we had some trouble finding it, wandering up and down steep hilly streets, but were saved by a friendly Korea who offered to help us, despite barely being able to speak English. My dad was surprised at the effort the man put forth to help us, but I was pleased that he immediately got a taste of the Korean hospitality. Our first night was simple, a walk around Namdaemun market with a sampling of Korean street food, and while my dad may have struggled with the chopsticks he did enjoy his meal.
The next morning we were up early and made our way to the subway to start a day of exploring. Cliff, another guest at the hostel had similar plans to our, so we combined and set out for Gyeongbukgung Palace "Palace greatly blessed by heaven". One of the main tourist attractions in Seoul, and also a world cultural heritage. One of my favorite things about the palace is how it contrasts so much the the development of high rise, modern buildings surrounding it. There really isn't much else to say except that the pictures don't do justice for how massive, beautiful, ornate, and impressive this place was.
After walking the palace grounds my stomach was screaming, my only thoughts were on lunch, but I had no idea where we should go. Cliff suggested we head towards Insadong, another famous district in Seoul, as we weren't too far away so we decided once again to follow him. Along the way we walked down Gwanghwamun Square which is home to statues of King Sejong (inventor of hangul) and Admiral Yi Sun Shin (a famous naval commander). Once in Insadong we ate lunch and then walked the streets, but with none of us being big shoppers our attention didn't last long and we moved on towards the Cheonggyecheon stream.
I've walked along the Cheonggyecheon multiple times while in Seoul as it's one of my favorite places. What used to be a sad little stream was restored in 2005 and is now a beautiful place to escape the city, a 3km river walk in the heart of Seoul. One reason I loved having my dad visit is that I knew he would go anywhere and eat anything I told him to. He had no problem with walking over half the city, as long as I fed him well. It was at this point that we said farewell to Cliff and headed towards Jamsil stadium, we had a baseball game to see!
I knew my dad would probably get tired of touring historic and cultural places so I figured a baseball game was a perfect way to break up days. We were seated in the bleachers which was fine except that in Korea one ticket doesn't necessarily mean one seat. People were everywhere with blankets, backpacks and food marking their territory. Luckily we were early enough to find seats, but those that came later sat along the stairway or wherever they could find a spot to perch. The game was fun and my dad definitely enjoyed it, noting the fans were much more enthusiastic than in America, making the game that much more enjoyable.
We hadn't brought an entire dinner with us, like the rest of the fans, so once the game was over we were starving. Options nearby were limited and somehow we wound up at Burger King, one of my last choices, but my dad was content. Although it was only 8:30, by the end of the game we were both exhausted and ready to head back to the hostel for cold showers and some much needed rest. We still had one more day of exploring to do in Seoul before making it back to small town life in Buksam, although that promised it's own kind of fun.
Sunday morning we got another early start but this time decided to take advantage of the nearby sights. We made our way to Namsan tower - the large observatory tower of Seoul. Cliff said he had ran the road the night before without much difficulty, so we decided to talk it rather than pay for the cable car, and it helped that the path was basically in the backyard of our hostel. The walk up was basically just a never ending staircase but the views were beautiful. There isn't so much to do at the tower other than enjoy the view, although we did find some traditional Korean games to try our hand at.
After the tower it was time to go home - we had a 3 hour bus journey ahead of us and with so much touring and traveling (for Dad) we were ready to call it a weekend. We went back to the hostel, packed up our bags and made our way to the subway. After a jam packed, rush here/rush there weekend in Seoul my Dad was in for quite a change once we got to my little town of Buksam.
Where to start. After living in this country for three years I have memories, experiences and stories galore. I'll now always be a bit partial to the Land of the Morning Calm. Filled with delicious foods, beautiful nature and friendly people, I'm always happy to return.