Picking the location that we wanted to stay in in S. Korea’s capital was pretty easy in the end. Hongdae is a well-known backpacker district that has a “college town” feel while still being close enough to the lights, smells and sounds of the big city. We will remember Hongdae for being packed with skin care boutiques, Norebangs (“singing rooms” – Korean karaoke!), Beer and Chicken places and, especially, a 24-hour Taco Bell which Ornella made pilgrimage to on many a soju-filled night.
Seoul didn’t immediately appeal to us from any adventurous/touristic perspective – our main goal was to have our visas processed so we could visit China (see Busan and Suanbo posts). A major highlight is of course visiting the border with North Korea – we wrote a separate update on that. All that being said though, we did come to see that Seoul could be a really cool place to live, but when you visit for a week you don’t exactly know where to start.
We ended up starting with soju. Soju is hands-down Korea’s most popular alcoholic beverage that comes in an array of fruity flavors, like blueberry or grape (the former tastes like medicine, the latter, like juice), that everyone can purchase at any convenience store. And trust me, the soju doth flow.
One of the most popular meet up spots for a night out was in a small city park, placed (conveniently) between 2 convenience stores. Loads of foreign travelers and students alike would gather and drink bottles and bottles of soju while hanging out on the playground until they ventured off to whatever club/bar was nearby. Or, they could stay and drink, sitting on the slide while listening to entrepreneurial buskers perform their favorite norebang tunes. This was a pretty cool place. If you ever stay in Hongdae, hostel staff can tell you exactly where to find “The Playground”.
We had a few nights that we kicked off chatting with whoever we bumped into at The Playground before either joining them at a bar or heading off to a norebang to wear our voices out.
More than once though, it was just the two of us busting everything from Elvis, Queen, Elton John, The Beatles, David Bowie and Prince, through the Backstreet Boys, Christina Aguilera and Destiny’s Child, to Beyonce, Sia and more. Karaoke makes for a very entertaining date night!
The one tourist attraction in town that we did visit was Gyeongbokgung Palace on a nice, blue-skied day. Click on the gallery below to check it out (learning new blog tricks…):
In the end, our opinion is generally that Seoul would definitely be a cool place to live but not a lot to necessarily see during a week-long visit. It would be better to be immersed in the culture for a longer period of time – a great place to study or work abroad!