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A Final Trip To Seoul And Goodbye To South Korea

SOUTH KOREA

Heather Markel, Best Selling Author, TEDx Speaker, Traveler, Full Time Travel and Business Coach

I can’t believe that my time in South Korea is almost over. As I take the train from Busan to Seoul, I’m reflecting on how much my opinion of South Korea has changed. When I first arrived, I felt lost and out of place, and contemplated leaving. Now, my heart is racing with excitement at the prospect of returning to Seoul.

After staying in the outskirts of Seoul, I’ve decided to spend my final week in Insadong, right in the center and one of my favorite neighborhoods. I get a room at the Moxy Insadong, and with my Marriott status, a room upgrade, and I love it!

Finally In The Right Place

My hotel is directly across the street from the wonderful passage into the village-like streets of the neighborhood. I spend a little time there every day, enjoying the variety of shops and restaurants, and the changing feeling from day to evening. I also notice that some nights, the restaurants on the main street explode with tables and chairs, right into the main street, at dinner time.

I return to the barbeque restaurant across the street, where I had originally eaten dinner with Matt and Avic a few weeks ago. I ask if I can eat there alone. They say yes, I just have to order two dishes. I’m so relieved they aren’t kicking me out! Clearly, staying in a neighborhood that caters to tourists in a city where I don’t speak the language well is a good idea. 

Durres port

I finally feel almost at home here. Things are familiar, and I’m comfortable walking down random streets and risking getting “lost”, all signs that I’ve assimilated into the culture better than my first week! I spend my last week in South Korea doing a bunch of activities I didn’t get to my first week in Seoul.

Obviously, one of the things I’ve been really looking forward to is the Hanbok rental! I hire a photographer and go all out! You can read about the experience in my post with advice renting your first Hanbok in Seoul.

Fun Photo Shoots

On the note about photo shoots, I had to try out one of the crazy-looking photo shops. You know how sometimes you see a photo booth, maybe in a metro station, where you can get passport photos, or, grab your significant other and take funny photos? OK, take that concept, put the photo machine next to a few others in a store, and you begin to understand the concept.

Inside the store, in front of the photo booths, there are strange head-bands, hats, stuffed animals and accessories. Everyone looks delighted. They don’t appear to be taking passport photos. So I don’t understand the function of these shops.  I step inside one and am instantly overjoyed. I peruse all the available accessories. This is crazy fun, and it’s about to get better.

I grab a few fun accessories, and head into a photo booth. A woman explains how to start taking photos, I have to use a joystick thing, and I change accessories in between each shot.

What I didn’t realize is that while I was snapping my photos, I was also being video-ed! The results are hillarious:

I’m feeling so much joy after this photo shoot that I do it again in another place the next day. Only this time, I’m wiser, and I realize I can get more photos in one round, and I know I’m being videoed, so I feel somewhat of an expert! LOL.

I am literally on cloud 9. This is honestly the perfect activity for me, and I want to do it again. One evening in Seoul, I pass by another studio, and they have a stuffed cow! I will be going there my next trip to Seoul for sure.

BTS Museum

This was on my list since I found out about it on a free walking tour my first week in South Korea. I had no idea it would be so fun and interactive! Since I have gotten re-anchored in my silliness from the photo booth experience, I go all out in this museum. When they offer me the chance to put an orange on my head and dance, yep, I did it! (Check out the video at the end of this blog post if you want to see me in my silly dancing glory!)

What I didn’t know is that the Hybe Museum (the actual name of the museum) also features K-drama, so learned about that as well, took silly photos, got a keychain, played with lights on the wall, and even tasted some Korean tea. What a fabulous way to spend a couple of hours in Seoul.

Korean Skincare and Makeup Tutorial

I didn’t expect to fall in love with the Korean skincare. In fact, prior to this visit, I heard about Innisfree, but didn’t think much of it. Now, I’m obsessed. Every Korean woman has the most beautiful skin, you can’t miss it. So, I book a makeup tuturial where I learn about blending the best colors for my skin, and all the layers of moisturizer that go into mastering proper application of makeup each day!

Korean Massage

Much less expensive than in America, I decided to get a massage while in Seoul. Once again, I found my way with Trazy.com and ended up at a massage parlor I would never have found in a million years. I honestly have no idea what they did – they used a strange impliment for part of the massage – but I felt fantastic afterwards.

The Secret Garden

Changdeokgung Palace has a secret garden. It’s usually only possible to visit it with a guide, but it turns out I’m there during a period where we’re allowed to roam freely! I don’t have enough time to do the full tour so I join in for part of it and then meander on my own while there. This is another of those wonderful activities you have to be in the right time at the right place for, and I have a delightful time.

Seoul Greeter

When I lived in New York, I used to be a Big Apple Greeter. I took tourists around New York and gave them a local’s perspective of the city. Happily there is a network of Greeters around the world, and Seoul is one of the places that has them! I sign up far enough in advance that I am allotted a greeter, and really looking forward.

Daniel brings me to one of the places I have been longing to go, the Lotte World Tower and surrounding area. It’s stunning to walk around. There’s also an amusement park and some scary looking rides and a rollercoaster I wouldn’t dare take, but we enjoy watching from a distance! He also shows me the Starfield Library which is a site onto itself!

Gwangjang Market

Korean streetfood at it’s best is at Gwangjang market. There are so many food stalls it’s overwhelming. It’s like roaming a giant crossroads with multiple streets criss-crossing and delicious food after delicious food. I walk around to get a sense of what they have, and what I want to try, and find a place with a seat available.

I start with an assortment of the savory pancakes I’ve come to love, and have enough room left over to have some interesting dessert to take home with me. I’m so glad I finally made it here!

Saying Goodbye

My final night in Seoul, and South Korea, is beautiful. I enjoy a Jeju pork barbecue dinner near my hotel, and walk along the streets at night relishing in the pop-up restaurants that have invaded the street temporarily. I am simply at peace and delighted to be here. I silently say thank you and goodbye to this wonderful city.

Morning comes and it’s rainy and overcast. I have a little time before my flight and have an early lunch in a strange restaurant near my hotel, within the village streets of Insadong. The outside photos make it sound well-known so I’m surprised it’s so empty. I order a salmon dish with rice, and it comes with some broth. The waiter tries to explain something to me about how to eat it, but I have clearly misunderstood. I eat the salmon over rice and it’s delicious. Some women sit at the table next to me after I’ve finished, and that’s when I learn the broth was supposed to be part of the meal, and I’ve prepared it incorrectly. And, as I eat, I see a long line is forming outside the restaurant! No matter, it’s delicious anyway, but next time, I definitely would pay more attention to how to prepare it!

At long last, I’m off to the airport, and off to my next adventure. I am definitely coming back to South Korea one day!

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