This past weekend I took up to Seoul for the Lotus Lantern Festival. There were a number of people going, but I'm never one to rely on or wait for a group so I booked accommodation and said I'd meet them there. Once in Seoul, I ran into Beth and Katie only to find out they were staying at the same hostel as me. I then found Stephen at the subway station and we made our way to the hostel, dumped our bags and proceeded into the nightlife of Hongdae. This was my second weekend spent on the streets of Hongdae and I can say I've not been disappointed. There's a university nearby so there is plenty of bars, clubs, restaurants and street food. It was one of Stephen's friends birthdays so we started by getting burgers, beer and some unnecessary shots at one o the restaurants. After that, we made our way to a few different bars before calling it a night somewhere around 3am.
The next day Stephen was a little worse for the wears so I decided to spend the day sightseeing with the girls. We started by making our way to Bongeunsa temple which is on the SE side of Seoul - close to the COEX which is a HUGE department store/shopping mall. The temple was decorated with TONS of lanterns which would be used later that night in the parade. My favorite part of the temple was the enormous Buddha statue which we didn't see till the end of our visit. The Buddha is 23 meters tall and is supposed to depict Maitreya coming down to earth to save the suffering.
After the temple we met up with Mark and made our way to the Cheonggyecheon stream, a man-made river walk created in 2005 after a 2 year renovation project. The river starts at the Cheonggye Plaza and stretches 5 miles to the east. We entered somewhere in the middle and made our way to the beginning, at which point we realized we'd have to turn around and make our way back to Dongdaemun. We had plenty of time before the festival was to start and it was a beautiful day so this was no problem (for me at least).
At this point we had to meet up with Sara (who was at a wedding all day), Darren (who was protesting at some teachers rally - drunk agreement) and Simon (whom I had not yet met). Thanks to our smart phones and subway maps we were able to pic a meeting point, grab some dinner, drinks and then find some spots for the parade. We found a nice little street corner to sit on, cracked some tall boys and waited. The parade started right at 7 o'clock (on time!) and was scheduled to last until 9, although we left around 8 - you can only see so many people and lanterns before they all look the same.
Being cold, tired and ready for some drinks we made our way back to Hongdae to change and head out to the bars. The majority of the group seemed to have We also met up with our friend Daniel - one of the teachers from our orientation, which was awesome, so glad he made the trip to see us! We hopped around to a few different bars and ended the night at "Vibe" (?) I think that's what it was called. We lost most of the group by this point, I guess they were looking for the clubs, but Sara, Daniel and I were enjoying our time to catch up. There were also some crazy Belgium and Spanish guys at the bar who were trying to complete the bar challenge - 10 shots in 50 seconds and they're free! So needless to say we were provided with some good entertainment.
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.