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Passport Wanders

Hello lovely people! 🙂

I have now arrived at my second last destination of my travels (sadly)…. In Seoul! I am very excited to be here as I have always been fascinated by Korean and Japanese cultures- I had no idea what to expect when I arrived but I love Seoul so far! 🙂

So… to start at the beginning of how I arrived. It was a SUPER long day. I got up at 5 am to get the bus from Manjimup, Australia to Perth Airport- Phillip was very kind to drive me to the town center, and the bus left at 6.30. The bus journey was good (seats were better than in a plane lol) so no issues there and I arrived at the airport well. The bus journey took 4 hours- I arrived at 11 am. I then had a long 5 hour wait at the airport, which I spent doing a bit of rebranding for my blog. Stay tuned for the new website, it is coming soon! 😀 Then at 4.30 PM, the first flight begun- this part of the trip was from Perth to Bangkok, with Thai Airways, and I think I have a new favorite airline. Thai Airways had absolutely incredible service, the seats in economy even had a footrest (it’s the little things in life haha) and they were bigger than normal I’d say and more comfortable. Normally my backside hurts after being on a plane for so long, but not here which I really appreciated! This 7-hour flight went smoothly (despite being 30 minutes late) with nice entertainment. I then (because of the plane being late) had to literally RUN to my next gate for my next and final flight- from Bangkok to Seoul. I only had 20 minutes from when my plane landed until my next flight started boarding, and I must say here I was slightly scared of my checked in luggage not making it, but luckily it did.  Again, this was with Thai Airways and the service was spot on. This plane was older with a low-resolution entertainment screen, however there were new releases, and the seats were good and comfortable. Then, after 5 hours, I landed in Seoul at 7 am local time! My time at the airport here was quite stressful. I found the signs and layout of the airport quite confusing, and I had to get a Korean sim which did not work at first. I needed the mobile data to work to find my way around the city for sure (I don’t know what I’d have done without google maps throughout my travels haha) and it didn’t to start with. After registering and following the instructions on the pamphlet that came with the sim, I went back to the store I had bought the sim from. He told me to sit in the seating area outside the store and a technician would be able to help. He was right, and 10 minutes later a guy comes up and asks if I had problems with my sim- I said yes, he took 2 glances at my phone and it was fixed! It had something to do with my old sim card (my UK one) which had an account stored on the phone which was messing with other sim registrations! Anyway, thought I would mention that great service as I was really impressed 🙂 Finally, I then could figure out how I could get to my Airbnb! I then after some trial and error got to the right train (the signs at the airport quickly only have Korean characters) and I was on my way to my accommodation.

Now… My accommodation is definitely the worst place during my travels I have stayed in so far. I’ve never met the host, and my room is SUPER small. To put into perspective exactly how small- the front door to the room cannot be opened fully- there is a desk in the way. I have a TINY, hard single bed- my feet BARELY fit and as most of you know, I am a small 5’3 person. I have to sit squint on the toilet as my knees don’t fit if I sit straight, and the door to the toilet does not open fully either because the sink is in the way… There is a shower head in the corner above the sink, but there is no space to properly wash, so the way I clean is basically using a washcloth and hair washing in the sink…. It is quite smelly too as the plumbing pipes are exposed and the sink leaks a bit of water on the floor. The only good thing about the place is the one large storage area by the door (although as mentioned, this stops the door from opening fully) where I can have my backpacks and my suitcase JUST fits under the desk. Oh well- I guess experiences like these are inevitable and it is not for long, so I will survive! I had just expected something else from Airbnb to be honest 😛 After doing a bit of reading about Seoul accommodation in general afterwards, these types of “apartments” are apparently standard for most people here, so if you book accommodation, read reviews and find out how big your room is going to be!

Okay, so after that little rant 😛 After arriving at the accommodation, I then went to sleep for a few hours as I was suuuper tired, as you can probably imagine after such a long day of travelling.

When I felt rested, I went to the Myeongdong district at about 12 pm for some retail therapy and let me tell you… Seoul is every shopper’s dream. There are SO many cute things, ALL the famous Korean beauty products, independent and unique items literally everywhere. There are underground shopping malls too, which are almost like cities in their own right. Myeongdong has everything, and it was a great area to explore! I then went to another famous shopping district, called Dongdaemun. This area is even bigger, and I did not have time to see everything before it got really dark haha. This district is home to more than 30000 stores and over 25 malls, so if you need anything just go here- you are sure to find it! J  I went down quite a few streets and 4 malls. At this time, it was close to 9.30 pm, so I then headed on home and went straight to bed! 😀 This took some time because even with the apps I used on my phone to find my way, I still got confused- the apps can never find my exact location. Don’t get me wrong, the public transport in Seoul is great- there are so many options (busses, trains, subway) and most are written in English as well as Korean. However, the road layout in the city with the tons of one-way systems and the signs being difficult to follow (numbers can mean subway line numbers or track numbers, for instance) I do think it takes some time to get around here… I hope I’ll get the hang of it quickly 😛

And then day 2 arrived! As I was quite tired from the day before, I had slept in and it was about 11 am before I had headed out the door to get brunch. My agenda for today was not too big- I headed to the National Museum of Korea and spent a good few hours here, and I can definitely recommend a visit to this museum. It is free and the building is modern and new, with a great layout inside. The gardens around it are beautiful as well. I walked around the gardens for photos and then at 1 pm, I joined a guided tour around the museum. The guide was good (although slightly difficult to understand at times) but he was friendly and more than happy to answer questions. The tour lasted an hour, and after that I just walked around some more as the guide had not taken us everywhere in the museum. The museum is beautiful- it has of course a lot about Korean ancient and modern history, beautiful artwork, a section of general Asian religions and countries and other beautiful crafts.

At this time, it was about 4 pm, and I headed off to the famous Gangnam district. This district was definitely the richest area I had been to so far- the other areas, while some stores were new, I found that the majority of the buildings looked a bit run down and the streets were quite dirty. In Gangnam, this was not at all the case- all buildings looked new and modern, skyscrapers which were definitely maintained and a lot less litter. And there were so many fancy cars too. This was also a good area for shopping, so I did a lot of window browsing (yeah, fancy area means fancy stores aka Prada, Louis Vuitton etc. so a bit above my budget haha) and walked along the main boulevard a bit further away to a less expensive area (still within the Gangnam district) and got a few things for a photoshoot I’ll do on Saturday! In this district I also had a few erhm… weird encounters I guess you can call it. I was walking along and just totally randomly, a guy and a girl come up to me and ask how I’m doing. I say I’m good, and they ask If I want to come HOME with them and have dinner and dress up and take photos- they say it’s for an important national day for South Korea (I googled, the only important day according to visitkorea.com in December is 25th of December) for meditation or something, and they show me photos of other people on their phone all dressed up in Korean national dress. They want me to come with them on the spot. At this point, alarm bells are going off in my head so I just say no thank you and go along- they seemed friendly enough, but you know, you can never be too sure about stuff like that. And then, I am not kidding, about 20 minutes later another guy and girl approach me with the same tactics- here I just state I have no time to talk and walk along. I definitely thought that weird- they could be genuine, but you know- NEVER GO ANYWHERE with strangers, and I thought I would mention this here because I never thought that stuff would happen in Korea. It just does not seem like a place for that to happen because in general, I feel really safe here and I thought it would be like the first time I was in Japan- which is definitely the safest I’ve ever felt. I guess it just goes to show weird things happen everywhere and to be alert and safe wherever you are! After having finished my shopping for the photoshoot, it is about 9 pm so at this point I head on home and went to bed 🙂

And that’s my first few days in Korea over! It has definitely been eventful so far and it is an interesting city- a bit difficult to get around, also because most Koreans are not very good at English, but I am enjoying my time for sure 🙂