I think it was a mix of nostalgia, surprise and unexpected pleasantness. Seoul is clean, people are friendly, the subway is navigatable (similar to New York but not crappy) and super clean. The food is amazing aand open late. The conversion rate is not too shabby either. I think the rush of nostalgia kpop of my 2002s (when I was 12) came when I was at a accessories store and a familar tune was playing. I knew the feel of the song, I heard it before when I was 12. I had to use Soundhound, it was SES - Oh My Love (included in the soundtrack). After that, it all came rushing back to me why Kpop was so damn good. I included some more recent modern Korean songs too! I think theres a great combination of singing voice, powerful lyrics and beats. There’s a lot of fans that will translate the songs to english and upload it on Youtube. Personally, I think the Korean language is the most acoustically pleasing language, especially for singing.
2000s Nostalgia Kpop
Just 7 kpop songs that I can remember, I was a huge fam of BoA Kwon; mainly cause I had the hots for her but I can't really remember the other songs. I'm pretty blown away that she still "makes" music, there was a music video from 2018..I later learned Turbo (pronounced "Tuebo") is still active too.
First night, arrive from Gimpo airport around 10pm, been on the planes for about 12hrs+ from Miami to New York to Tokyo to Seoul (Gimpo intl). Was a pleasant flight, courtesy of Japan Airlines (amazing airlines). Took the subway about 3 stops from Gimpo to Hongik University and started to hunt down my Airbnb. I didn't realize how tired I was despite sleeping most of the way through. Google maps didn't help me too much but luckily I was able to figure it out with some friendly help :)
After getting situated, went straight for some food. What drew me to this place was the Korean craft beer.
Met the owner of this establishment, his name was Han and he lived in New Orleans. Pretty cool guy. He told me to come back and he would remember me
Next morning went out to explore. My first thought was the metro was pretty daunting and I need to remember how to find my airbnb again. Both of those tasks were daunting at first but backtracking during the day was easy. The subway was very very easy to use, like I said before, it is just as complicated as the NYC metro map. Protip: buy a farecard for 3000won and load it with 10000won. I went through a whole day adventuring and still didn't use all the amount on the card. Each use of the subway was only about ~1200won.
Iced Coffee made it better too, this was a very nearby Japanese resturaunt. Seoul actually has a ton of Vietnamese (pho) and Japanese food. I saw some Indian food too. I even overheard some Vietnamese when venturing around the subway and at Hongdae province, there are a ton of tourist and visitors.
I really didn't have any plans and wanted to blindly explore. I jumped on the Green 2 line which had the stops I actually did want to go to: Gangnam. Along the way I stopped by Dongdaemun. It was Saturday and they consider it a "holiday" here in Korea. There was a huge Farmers festival next to the design and art mueseums
Stopped by for some light lunch, I just had some kimchi tofu soup. I noticed that they have these retracting drainers for the korean bbq. Amazing, so your clothes don't smell like delicious marinated meat afterwards. The overhead drain fans don't work so well in the US, these were a clever engineering workaround. I saw more and more of these during my venture.
There weren't that many multi-national chains, the most popular one being Subway and Starbucks. Most of the stores I saw were original; which adds a whole mystical feeling that this country was a world of it's own. Good thing I don't get culture shock anymore!
It wasn't so bad, as the subway was super clean and people minded their own business and were genuinely polite. It reminded me of the trains in Japan but MUCH easier to navigate
I went to Samseong station to get a glimpse of the Global Starcraft League (GSL). Starcraft is taken VERY seriously in Korea where teens train for hour and hours non-stop in teamhouses to be the top professional gamer. I think it's the most demandin game out there that can blur the line between esports and actual sports. The GSL is specifically for Starcraft II while the Korean Star League is for Starcraft:Brood War (the first one). The difference of the two is automatic vs manual respectively. I might be able to make it to the KSL match on Friday.
For anyone interested, the GSL is at the FreecUP Studio at 626 Teheran-ro, Daechi 2(i)-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul. Closest subway stop is Samseong station and 3 blocks walk.
Stumbled upon the VR station, right off of Gangnam station. The rates they had were 2hrs for 35,000won (this was the best deal as single and 2x rides were kinda expensive per ride). I missed out on this in Japan so I figured I would make it up here. All these rides are powered by the HTC Vive (unsure if it was 2 or 1)
This ride was cool, it simulated being in the Entry Plug, getting battle prepped by Misato and co. You see the LCL fill up, the optics come alive inside the entry plug. You can look to the right and the left and see your Eva. As you are being prepped for launch, you can look up and see the shaft panels open up right before it shoots you up to Tokyo-3. The VR mission compromised of taking down Zeruel, eliminating it's AT-field with weapons that you need to pick up from NERV supplyscrapers (double rail guns, gatling gun, n2 mine) and ends with a spectacular melee finish with tearing its AT field and ripping its core apart. Awesome for any fan. Each machine has its own Eva; I piloted Unit 01 and Unit 02 the second time
This was pretty neat, you have 4 players race and you grab items (hanging from the ballloons). They consisted of a Hammer, Green shell and A deadly banana. I was Yoshi and the other 2 players were these 2 girls that were probably not older than 8. Needless to say I exhibited no mercy as I held on to the Hammer and smacked anyone that got past me. It was a single course that ranged from Piranha plant obstacles to Peaches Palace to Bowser's Castle. The "cart" had feedback and rocked certain ways. It was super fun
Visited a PC cafe that put everything else I had seen to shame. This seemed to be sponsored by ASUS and all the machines were beautiful. I estimate there were at least 50+ computers here. People played League of Legends, Overwatch, some bomberman 2d game, Black Desert Online.
Visited the Gundam Base Seoul, its a lot smaller than the one in Tokyo but it still had some exclusive kits and some winners on display in all its glory.
Went back to Hongdae to start the night of festivities. Half of me wanted to go to Gangnam but I definitely needed to shower and change, I will do Gangnam nightlife on another night ;). I went to this well acoustically tuned basement called Livehouse where they just played 90s rock. I met a film editor/director that's working on the upcoming action movie "Gang". Joe was Korean but from the UK with his girlfriend. We talked about our favorite Taratinos, implication and irony of the thesis of Evangelion and waifus, John Wick 3, Cobra Kai and Oldboy and of course mentioning the disapointing failure of an slapped together ending of Game of Thrones; which is still the biggest disapointment of media of this decade. Cool guy. I later requested Foreigner - Head Games and the owner of the bar, Kim, shows me these..
Later felt a little hungry since I didnt eat anything since the lunch, I stumbled on this cute little Izakaya
I really like how in Seoul, every shop and resturaunt has their distinct original design. Every place of business is a living and breathing identity
There were about 4 chef/staffs. They were eating and super friendly, even gave me some of their food to try some Korean food.
Left the spot only to be tempted by my nose for more meat. I was not only led on by my nose but by my eyes, this place was projecting Tom and Jerry on their tile wall. Definitely had to try it out
This was going on when I left to call it a night, this was right across from my Airbnb and the crowd was wild for some high moments until 5am. Futball is to be taken seriouly. Great end for day 2 and now on to focus on some work for a few (nights) days. May be able to sneak in more Gundam Base tomorrow morning
After working all night, it was time to finally eat some good food. I got to venture onto Hongdae, which was a very hip hop, streetwear fashion province with street art. I will go back later at night, supposedly its packed to the brim!
It was about 8am so most shops were closed and the streets were empty. I figured I would take pictures now of the environment in a calm state before I go back out tonight to see it come alive
Lady looked like I was crazy when I ordered 3 dishes, these total costed 20,000 won which is less than $20
I also learned that in Korean age, you are 2 years older because they count the years when you have a tail
Pretty huge jug of rice wine "Live Makgeolli". This dude was hustling but in a good way. He gave me a sample and it was pretty darn good (and cold). I asked how much and it was 5000won. The dude gabe me another bottle because I was American and hugged me. 2 huge bottles for 5000won, less than $5
Next day did a few work things and our client took us out to a pretty famous local lunch spot closeby in Mangwon
We were also really close to the famous Mangwon Market so we decided to check it out.
Later went back home and changed, got ready for evening festivities to celebrate work victories. While heading to the Ryse hotel bar, got sidetracked by a neat sneaker store. They had some "rare" sneakers still available such as Triple Blacks and some of the GoT ultraboosts.
We strolled by Hongdae to watch street performers. Tons of people with dreams and instagram hashtags were performing. Music was kinda clashing together but this was such a popular spot where dancers/performers/singers/musicians would have a stage every 10ft. Heres a nice Video
Next went to recharge with some coffee at Thanks Nature Cafe.
This was a cafe that was underneath a Greek yogurt chipotle style spot. An older gentlemen owned the place that not only made incredible coffee but also owned and raised 2 adorable fluffy sheeps.
These guys were extremely fluffy, never felt a sheep before (at least that I can remember). I tried to bust out some Catan jokes but no one got it
Next up we went to go eat at this really old school traditional korean place. You only have 3 choices of the menu to choose from and need a minimum of 2 people. They make you take off your shoes and sit on the floor here
This was a great dish, barely finished it with 2 people. The beef just slides off the bone, accompanied by Rice cakes, vegetables and buckweat noodles.
Headed back outside to walk it off but got sidetracked by some Churros
These were made to be more mobile and compact to drink your cocktails. It's also totally OK to walk around with a beer in your hand here.
Next night, went back to Gangnam to watch the GSL
They give you a listening device (hold your ID) that you can plug in headphones and hear the English showcasters: Tasteless and Artosis. They have been casting GSL for more than 10 years and are just very entertaining and hilarious. I get there about 15min early and get front row seats.
As the games start, I get a quick refresh course on the current meta (I haven't been in SC2 for a long long time. Protoss is favored, immortals are all the rage and the pick up range from Warp Prism got extended to further allow shuttling of Archons and Immortals. As a Protoss player, this was pretty cool. I went in to see one of the best games because it had all the races (Protss, Terran, Zerg).
I do like the theatric presentation better, they will have model shots of the players and before their match, they will have these hilarious interviews where the player will draw/sketch on a piece of paper how they feel about the other player. These guys are pretty darn creative and hilarious.
It was pretty amazing and they are very nice guys; After the matches end, they always come out from the changing room asking fans if they want pictures and signatures. They signed my photobook and made me very very happy.
Here's the recorded set of the night
Later went to a Chicken and Beer spot. This is pretty much where they originated the idea for BonChon chicken. The chicken is fried once and then fried again upon order. Various frying batters and flavors. I opted for spicy; passed on the beer
Strolled around Hongdae, it was PACKED on a Wednesday night.
Next day, just strolled around but it was forecasted to rain so I didn't make it too far on my plans. With some work things and finding an ATM to get more won for the subway fares I ended up just checking out Hongdae again (tons of unexplored alleys). Stopped by for some Korean bbq though
With one day left, I met up with a redditor and his wife, they were visiting Asia for about 3 months before he was going to start law school. Cool guy, good company, traveling is always more fun with people
Gyeonbokgung Palace was amazing. It was rainy in the morning but that did not stop us. Getting to the Palace, I found the easiest way was to take the 2 Green Line and get off at City Hall and then you can walk to the palace. We both met at the post office beforehand and then we were off. Entrance tickets were only 3000won. The Gyeonbokgung palace is nicely tucked on the outskirt of the city but not too far from modern civilization. Upon arriving it was announced the guard changing ceremoney would not occur due to the rain. Now this means this is the best time to assault the castle as it remains guardless!
This site is a pretty neat Engineering feat, they had furnaces and to heat the floors. They had chimneys but they were inside along the walls and placed subtetly
Later the guards came back out as the rain was subsiding
Now we make our way to the Gwangjang street market
Here is a decent recipe I found
Fish sticks, paint it with sauce and then you have your broth dipping sauce
We did find some live octopus, I was on the fence about eating one and it was almost destiny since it was the Baldur's Gate III reveal on the same day but as it moved around and squirmed when the lady picked it up from the tank, I could not face the eldritch horror and pussied out
Next we head on our way to Lotte World Tower’s Seoul Sky - Great cityscape view of Seoul, interactive, media art to tell about the story of Seoul and culture. Insane view at the highest observatory tower in Seoul.
On the map, this destination was insane. This was further away from Gangnam but there were 4 huge distinct Lotte buildings and a theme park.
We get on the elevator and it goes to around 180 floors in 1 min. The elevators in here broke a world record for travel speed/time for their specific distance. When we got to the top, I was in awe. Seoul is massive with skyscrapers and complexes that stretch to the horizon all accompanying the river and valleys.
We spent about one hour on this floor alone and were amazed that there were even more floors for observing, even a skydeck!
Some mandatory selfies and pics
Afterwards went to Hongdae area (they haven't seen it) for some `Chicken and Beer` and to check out the live performances
I stayed at this pretty petite Airbnb, all I really needed was a bed and a bathroom.
This place has decent A/C, washer and fridge. This is a perfect tiny little compact studio for a light packer. What really appealed to me about this listing rather than a hotel was that I would "live" like a local to get the full hands on experience. It's a good idea to get earplugs as well because you are in the heart of the city. Listing here. The location is pretty perfect too, really close to Hongik University (take subway exit 3) and around many shops, bars, resturaunts and convenience stores. Pretty close to Hongdae, alternatively theres this neat hotel Ryse that is in the heart of Hongdae, behind the street of the hotel is party packed city.
Seoul was amazing, I was super happy just walking around the street with friendly people and amazing scent of food all around. It's quite amazing how far I can get around with only knowing 'Anyeong ha sayo' (hello) and 'Gamsa ham ni da' (thank you). Resturaunt owners and bartenders all befriended me and everything was relatively inexpensive. And of course, eating the delicious food with Korean music was fun, definitely enriched the taste. My favorite attraction was the Lotte World Tower, that view is stunning and I bet it's drastically different at night and the sunrise/sunsets must be amazing. Not to mention how New Years is either. My favorite moment was definitely meeting Tasteless and Artosis and watching a GSL (bucketlist checked). I met so many friendly people here and made some friends along the way, I would say Seoul is a top destination to visit because of how safe, relaxed and so many activities with the amazing accessibility of the subway. Also best telecomm/internet in the world.