Backpacking to Seoul, the City of Love

Seoul or what I say as the city of love is my second city that I visited while I reside in Korea. City of love is my methapor of my impression on the capital city of South Korea. Not only because Seoul was full of in love couple or there was numerous romantic spot there, but the atmosphere there was saying that. Places like Namsan tower, Insadong neighborhood, and Cheonggyeochon were perfect for dating or even sightseeing together. Namsan tower has remarkable place for “couple love padlock” where couples write their name on the padlock expecting their love will prolong forever.

Love lock of Namsan
Love lock of Namsan

I spent 3 days and 2 nights there. Because I was by myself back there, I chose backpacker inn for my staying place. Lots of help from my Korean friends to arrange the inn reservation and also itinerary about famous and must visit spot in Seoul. Thank you Kim Hak-Rae! I stayed in Yellowbrick backpacker inn located near Insa-dong area. And for transportation I used only bus and subway because they are far cheaper than taxi. Avoid taxi unless your wallet is thick. My suggestion when you first arrived at seoul is to buy a T-money card at nearby convenience store. This works as electronic money you can use almost everywhere from buying subway ticket until buy cigarettes at convenience store. For commuting activities, it is very practice for bus and subway. Actually you can buy ticket manually with paper money but that will bother you because as a backpacker you will travel by them a lot. Also you can get discounted price compared if you buy manual ticket. It is convenience and benefitting though. I met a friend from china whom had a T-money card he bought 5 years ago and it still worked. So make sure to buy one T-Money card because T-money also valid for supermarket and convenience store shopping. You can top up your balance at nearby convenience store like CU or cigarette store.

The Yellow Brick – Convenient place yet reasonable in price!

Price 4/5 – Affordable for backpacker traveler who seeks for sleeping place only.

Facilities 5/5 – Breakfast included (toast, milk, juices, coffee), laundry machine, internet and WiFi are working with fast connection, locker in each room for your belongings deposit.

Appereance 5/5 – Good interior design and really clean room.

Location 4/5 – Near to store, restaurant, and bar. But at late night nearby location very desolate! Located near Insadong neighbourhood and Cheonggyeochon. Takes 10 minutes on foot to reach closest subway.

FYI. TYB offers room type from dormitory mix until single room for woman. Of course the price depends on the number of people in the room. The more you get the cheaper it gets. I took the cheapest rate room which is the 8 people share room for male. Please consider if you cannot stand snoring sound because of 7 people there might be one person snore while they sleep. True story, happened to me. Statistically, one of 8 people snore while they sleep. It is okay if that one is you but if not, prepare for a hard time sleeping.

What to visit?

  1. Namdaemun + Namsan + N Tower

seoul night view Courtesy :http://seoulisforlover.blogspot.com

Namdaemun is a market selling everything. Unfortunately when I visit Namdaemun it was on Seolal day so literally everybody was celebrating with their family, all store were closed. To pay my dissapointment, I ate on the food stall (that fortunately still opened) along the Namdaemun alley. They sell various kind of Korean food snack like kimbab, tteokbokki, soju, twigim (fried), sundae, and many others. After eating, I asked to the ahjumma where is the nearest tourist place from Namdaemun. I did not expect to travel to other place than Namdaemun market that night because I think shopping there would take whole night. Ahjumma said to go go Namsan tower, not very far from here. Not very sure of her suggestion, I asked nearby police station and so they said so. “Just go up the hill” they said. I was kinda surprised that they had good english because most of people in Seoul avoiding me when I talk in English.

In the chilly night, I was walking by myself climbing the hill to Namsan tower. The sight of Namsan tower slightly getting bigger along the steepness of hill. The sight of couples walking hand in hand slowly getting massive. I was climbing the stairs to the top among tenth of couples varying of teenage couple to elder couple. At that time I started thinking maybe it is a bad choice to visit Namsan by myself. But show must goes on, finally I reached the top so I can clearly saw the tower. Drenched in sweat because I tried to save some thousand won not to take the gondola so I climbed until the top on foot. Nothing special about the tower actually but that was not what couples thinked. Suddenly I remembered what my Korean friend told me about Namsan, “do not go there because it is dating place for couple”. And yeaah, I finally regretted to go there. But it is such a waste to not going up to the top of the tower which requires several thousand won (it is VERY EXPENSIVE) and have to wait around 1 hour on the queque because LOTS of people want to go to the top. I was just curious and thinked that at least I can show off to my friend that I have ever been to top of Namsan tower. Waiting in loneliness among the crowd of people is sad, it is one of the worst feeling on earth I think. I sought for solo traveler like me whom I can make friend and chat with but there was not any. In the end I went to the top by myself and deeply regretted to go the top of the tower because again it was dating site for couple. Enjoying Seoul romantic night view while drinking coffee and eating cake could not be better unless you are by yourself. Nothing to do so I decided to go back.

Tips: Sorry for my informative personal story but I strongly recommend you only visit Namsan if you are with somebody to accompany you, best if you visit with your couple. The atmosphere is so good for dating. If you want to lock padlock of love there, do not forget to bring your padlock and the key. Do not take the gondola, along the stairs to Namsan tower you can enjoy Seoul’s beautiful night view.

  1. Myeongdong

Myeongdong was very crowded at that time, noted that I visit Seoul at Seollal (one of biggest national holiday). This complex is a shopping district with numerous of most prominent fashion brand outlet located here. Several names like uniqlo, forever21, nike, until cosmetics brands like faceshop and etude could be found there. Nothing really special there but the atmosphere there was very nice. Crowded yet lovely are best to describe myeongdong area. I visit myeongdong with my newly met acquaintance. He is a chinese who lived in the USA. He told me that the goods’ price in myeongdong did not any differ from USA goods, which is pricey. I agreed about that because the price was considerably high, compared to the approximate price in my home country, Indonesia. Food stalls alson pricey there, but in the alley we founded relatively cheap beef soup restaurant so we ate there.

  1. Insadong

I visited insadong on a rainy night when I craved for dinner. So I decided to walk along the insadong, try my luck if I can found any cheap souvenirs. Insadong differs from Namdaemun or Dongdaemun whereas they sell antiques and artworks which reasonably more expensive than ordinary souvenirs. Just walk around the street even you are not gonna buy any goods there. The atmosphere there is such a waste to miss.

  1. Chongyeochon

The river was built upon Lee Myeong-Bak president era. President Lee was so eager at that time to reconstruct the old and dirty river into beautiful one which can become Seoul’s landmark. Now Mr. Lee’s dream has came true since Chonggyeochon has became tourist’s favourite spot in Seoul. You can walk either side the river from the beginning to the end of river, there is no charge for entering this place because it is public place where everyone can enter. But there is time restriction at night, I forgot what time is the maximum visit time. First time I visited the river, it was after heavy rain weather and so the river is kind of overflow. For the sake of safety, people are not allowed to enter the sideway. But the day after, I entered the river from Dongdaemun area just to walk along the sideway. The immense light would be very beautiful at night and at noon and day time is also nice to walk around enjoying the breeze.

  1. Gyeongbukgung + Sejong centre

Gyeongbuk palace is one of compulsory place to visit in Seoul. IMO, there was no attractive things to see at the

King sejong
King sejong

palace. Just an ordinary Korean old time palace but tons of tourists always seen there. For first time visit, it is okay to roaming around the palace to get some photo of the scenery. Do not forget to take picture at the mandatory place which is the King Sejong and his admiral statue at the road in front of Gyeongbuk palace. I was more interested when visiting the Sejong centre where the display there tells the majesty of King Sejong. FYI King Sejong is the one who invented Hangul (Korean alphabet) and master in astronomy study back in his era. I took a free hangul writing session where I could write my name in Korean using brush and ink (traditional style) and bring it home as a souvenir.

Ice rink
Ice rink

 

The scenery at Gyeongbuk area is surrounded by mega and tall building of corporate and governmental company. It is a scenery in the middle of busy corporate activities! President Lee Myung Bak also had his work leftover at this area, which is the ice rink in the town hall.

 

What to eat and where?

Gwangjang Market for varied korean street food

Gwangjang market is traditional market selling korean all kind of street food. Name from mini kimbab, japchae, sundae, odeng, tteokbokki, twigim (fried), bibimbab, and many others are available here. I only tasted jeon (fried flour), kimbab, japchae, and twigim because that was my limit on digest food. My recommendation if you visit here is to try mini-kimbab, japchae, twigim, and hotteok. Kimbab made from rice rolled like sushi and wrapped by seaweed. Japchae is mixed fried vermicelli with seasoned vegetables. Twigim is fried food. Hotteok is sweet pancake. All of the foods stated above is considered halal. If you are curious about tteokbokki, try to search JAWS store. JAWS serves the most delicious tteokbokki among others, try to google JAWS location closest to your location! It is a kind of franchise chain store which serves korean snack food including the famous tteok.

For dinner, supper, or lunch you can eat anywhere because there is no difficulty to find restaurant in Seoul. I always go to humble looking restaurant for cheap price, considerable price to eat is around 5000 – 8000 won per portion.

Where to shop?

Fashion items: Dongdaemun shopping district (not recommended because of high price), Hongdae area (I have never been there but lots of people says they sell unique and cheap fashion items)

Cheap souvenirs: Namdaemun market for cheap and varied kind of items.

Well that is my summary of my time back there. There is still a lot of place in Seoul I’ve not visited yet, famous place like Gangnam, COEX Aquarium, Hongdae area, and 63 tower. My post is about places that recommended as cheap and nice place to visit because there is not much distance between each other. Transportation and roaming time can be saved so I could enjoy Seoul more. Enjoy Seoul!

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