Oct 13

Seoul Searching in the Korean Republic





Soooo …. Korea. Never thought I would be visiting this country, not in a million years because it was never high on my list of places to visit. I mean, it was ON THE LIST but never really stood out as a priority before. Isn’t that awful?
Since moving to Eurpoe 10 yrs ago I have made it my life’s mission to focus on travels around this region and America. The thought process went a bit like this: ”Well you have had so many years growing up in Asia (voice of ignorance here) why not focus on some place new and foreign?”.

Foreign as in places that are the total opposite to Asian culture. I made that sweeping statement a decade ago when my travel experience was pretty minuscule. I dreamed of going to western countries with chic villages and sophisticated cuisine. To see large historic buildings that housed ornate furniture and priceless antique decorations. Even back in high school I was more into western history ~ King Henry VIII, Napoleon, the Great Wars … etc compared to our own local heroes.

So this trip all came about because a certain Korean K-pop boy band has suddenly caught my eye. You must know I am talking about global superstars BTS – a 7 member south Korean all singing all dancing Kpop group that’s been taking over the music world since their debut in 2013. How did I get here? I have no idea. I knew of them about a year back when they were making waves on the international music scene. Up until then I never paid any attention to anything K-pop related because I don’t fancy that style of music. I ignored any mention of BTS and did not bother to find out more.

About 4 months ago BTS started popping up in my Youtube feeds like a virus. Every clip or video advert that popped up was them singing their latest hit ‘Boy with Luv’ and it really annoyed me. I was like WHO ARE YOU PEOPLE AND WHY ARE YOU INVADING MY YOUTUBE SPACE?!?!  After about fifty ads like that I finally looked them up to see what all the fuss was about. And the rest is history. I suppose you can safely say that bombarding people with adverts really does work because I have now spent hundreds of euros on BTS merch and albums. Heck, I am going to Korea for goodness sake ~ that’s an 18 hr flight from where we live right now!! I spent 16 hrs a few weeks ago trying to procure a ticket to their final Love Yourself concert in Seoul and I didn’t get any … but we are still going. On the day of official ticket sales many fans were simply greeted with a notice up on the website notifying us that the site was not coping with the high surge of traffic. This continued for two whole days until there were no more tickets left to buy.





So here is the plan – we are spending 10 days in the city (God bless my manager who granted me leave!). A colleague of mine will be in Seoul roughly around the same time coz she is a die hard BTS fan in a similar position as I am … have flight tickets but no concert tickets. We will possibly meet up there in between our sightseeing schedules for meals and things.

We fly out on the Monday, 21st Oct and head on over to the UAE where we will kill about 4 hrs in Dubai. Never been to Dubai before so this trip is awarding us a lot of firsts. Unfortunately, we will arrive in the dead of night so there will be no exploring the Arab nation except to appreciate the inside of its terminal. I have heard many good things about Dubai’s terminal so maybe it will still be an adventure of sorts.

At 04:00 hrs the next morning we get to board our connecting flight towards South Korea on Emirates Airbus A380. Oh my goodness, I have never been on one of these planes before, am truly excited. Didn’t even realize I was going to be on an Airbus A380 until last night when I looked at the booking schedule.



About 5pm local KST we will land in Incheon International Airport, pick up our pre-booked travel cards and pocket Wi-fi and chug along towards Seoul city centre on the AREX train. Impressed that the cost of travel in Korea is so affordable. The AREX train only cost me EUR 5 each way. We will be staying for the first 5 nights directly in Myeongdong where pretty much all the tourists stay. I chose to stay there because it is a good place to get ones bearings of the city. Also, many helpful tourist info centres are concentrated in this area, not to mention the street vendors as well. Since it is our first time in Seoul I just wanted to the in the thick of things and feel the vibe all day, everyday.

For 10-days we are going to be doing A LOT of eating. I have been watching a good few Mukbang channels on Youtube for the better part of a year now (Stephanie Soo, I am looking at you!) and these channels have really opened up my eyes (and my stomach) to the wonderful world of Korean food. If you would like to know more about the Korean mukbang channels I watch, I will leave a list down at the very end.
I am mainly interested in the street food coz let’s face it … deep fried food is always the best. Rest assured that I will be travelling with a long food list on this trip, and I will photograph everything. I have also made a Google MyMaps plan of where to eat, what to see and what to do … but I can tell you now that the map is dominated by places to eat. Food prices seem very reasonable and for that I feel blessed.





A huge shout out to the guys behind 영국남자 Korean Englishman  (3.46M subscribers) because they really do help spread Korean culture to the wider audience. It is because of them that I know what I want to try when I get to Seoul. Initially I was going to only spend a few days in Seoul and then travel out to the other regions for a different scenery/ experience … but after watching these guys I think Seoul is going to fill up my entire 10 days. Without this Youtube channel I would not have known that VR arcades are a thing. Now we are booking ourselves into a session because gamers need to game even while on holiday, and where better to do it than in the gaming capital of Asia!!


Nami Island is on the list of places to see, along with the Garden of Morning Calm and the Gangchon Rail Park. Will do all that in a single day trip and we have already booked our bus tickets.
If you have ever watched Winter Sonata you will understand the appeal of visiting the island especially in autumn. Currently I am rewatching all episodes in preparation for my visit.

Other than that we are planning on going to the De-militarized Zone (DMZ) where the borders of the two Koreas meet. There is a lookout tower there where you can see across into North Korea and possibly see the bridge that connects the two nations. Tickets for a half-day tour are roughly EUR 30 – 40 per person. Not bad.

That’s pretty much as far as the ”outside of the city” adventures we are going to have. There is still so many things to see and do while we enjoy the city scape.
I am sooooo looking forward to visiting one of Seoul’s many convenience stores because convenience stores are a thing … it’s like a destination in itself. Think of all the cool ramen flavours I get to indulge in. Funny thing, coz I recently started on KETO diet. Now that’s going to be thrown out the window for the time I will be in Korea. No way am I going to miss glass noodles, ramen, tteokbokki and kimchi fried rice. I shall do my best to avoid sugars in the form of desserts and sweet drinks … but I will be eating carbs when they present themselves.


In terms of appreciating nature, if we have the time and stamina, we are considering the hike across Bukhansan National Park. I think it is a 2-3 hr hike up steep rocks but people have said that the view from the top is spectacular. I am not entirely sold but I will keep an open mind. Some of the royal palaces have pleasure gardens that are reputed to be gorgeous this time of year; I only hope they aren’t overly crowded. I have been to some pleasure gardens in Shanghai and it really was a place of calm and tranquility. Kinda makes me want to live in a place like than … so zen.


BTS are performing on the 26th, 27th and 29th of October at the Jamsil Olympic Stadium. Breaks my heart to think I will be so close yet so far. Maybe I should hang out outside the stadium and just listen to the music … and weep. I am told that many fans will be there who are all in a similar situation, a band of rejects who can’t get in to the stadium to see their idols. Sad but true. Will probably land myself in a pub instead and drown my sorrows with a massive plate of jokbal, jeon and soju. Food cures all.


Food I will be looking out for:

  • Jokbal + Makguksu (pig trotters with cold noodles)
  • Makgeolli (fermented rice wine)
  • Pajeon (savoury pancakes)
  • Kalguksu (hand-cut wheat noodle soup) 
  • Japchae (glass noodle salad)
  • Naengmyeon (cold noodles) 
  • Bibimbap (mixed rice bowl)
  • Jjajangmyeon (fermented black bean sauce noodles) 
  • Galbi-tang (short rib soup)
  • Kimchi (fermented and preserved spicy cabbage)
  • Samgyeopsal  (BBQ pork belly)
  • Bulgogi  (thinly sliced beef on rice)
  • Sundubu Jjigae  (soft tofu stew)
  • Seolleongtang  (beef bone soup)
  • Mandu  (various kinds of dumplings, steamed or fried)
  • Kimchi Bokkeumbap  (kimchi fried rice)
  • Sundae  (Korean blood sausage)
  • Hotteok  (deep fried pancake filled with honey and nuts)
  • Twigim  (anything dipped in batter and fried)
  • Tteokbokki  (sticky rice cakes in spicy sauce) 
  • Chimaek (Korean crispy fried chicken + beer)
  • Buddae jjigae (Korean spicy stew with spam) 
  • Chilli Saewoo  (chilli prawns, Chinese style)
  • Tangsuyuk with sticky rice
  • Kkannpunggi Saewoo (sweet and chilli shrimp) 
  •  Bossam (steamed pork wrapped in leaves)
  • Cheese dakgalbi  (spicy stir-fried chicken  and cheese)
  • Odeng/ Eomuk  (fishcakes in broth) 
  • MiyeokGuk (seaweed soup
  • Bingsu (shaved ice dessert)
  • Bubble waffle with ice cream 
  • Various instant ramen from a convenience store. 
  • Various random snacks from a convenience store.




Youtubers I follow for all things Korean:


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