First of all, I want to say a huge THANKS!!! to the Korean Tourism Organization (KTO) – both my local Toronto office for recommending me and all their support; and the head office in Seoul for the absolutely amazing tour I was just on. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!
It was beyond wonderful to be back in Seoul again and have the opportunity to see some of my favourite places through new eyes and discover new adventures as well. I have so much to share with you that I’m going to break it into a series of articles – one for each day of the fabulous Hallyu-inspired tour, called “Surfing the Korean Wave”; as well as a before (this one) and wrap-up article. Don’t worry, there are lots and lots of pictures too (I took over 900)!
Overview of the trip
The tour itself was from Sunday evening until Friday night but I arrived on Saturday (to be rested and because otherwise I wouldn’t be in time for the activities on Sunday) and left the following Sunday morning. I loved each and every moment of it – I just wish it was longer (and perhaps a little cooler & less humid) because there was just so much fun to be had. Honestly, it was one of those perfect moments in time – I can (and will) gush with happiness in the upcoming articles about all the fun and exciting activities we did. But I’m getting ahead of myself… ^^
Thanks to the Toronto KTO Office
Remember I said I arrived on Saturday, one day before the tour activities started? Well, the adventure actually started way before that when I was contacted by the Toronto office of the KTO and invited to apply for it. They wanted to recommend me and I was thrilled. Thank you for believing in me and ATK Magazine and for your support. Huge thanks to Randy and Amy at the Toronto office for all their help!!
Seoul baby, I’ve come back ^^
After 4 1/2 years, I was back in Seoul! Happiness, oh the happiness… after a 13 ½ hour flight (yay, a direct flight on Korean Air) I stepped off the plane into a crazy heat wave but that couldn’t stop my excitement. I had booked one night in a guesthouse (what we would call a hostel) for Saturday night as KTO was putting us up in a lovely hotel for the tour (more on that in the next article). And of course, if I had to choose one neighbourhood in Seoul to stay at (for one night anyways) it would be Hongdae so that was where my guesthouse was located.
Next to Bangi-dong (my home for 2007 & 2008), Hongdae is my favourite neighbourhood in Seoul. It has everything a girl could want! Great shopping (there are some seriously fun stores and stalls here), good food, bars, clubs (I love dancing), and cute guys… what more could a girl ask for?!? And for the traveler, there are a variety of reasonably priced guesthouses (read: hostels) right in the thick of it.
Don’t laugh but it seemed appropriate given that I was in Seoul for a Hallyu tour to stay my one free night at a guesthouse called “Kpopstay”. It was a little pricier than some of the other guesthouses in the area but I just loved the name. Pros: clean, friendly, free WiFi, convenient location, shower bucket (neat idea). Cons: little pricey, shared (male/female) showers (I was lucky and no one else was showering when I was but so not my thing). The pod bunks were fun as it was almost private that way.
What did I do before the tour?
Unfortunately the friend I was going to meet wasn’t able to meet with me so I wandered around Hongdae seeing what was the same and what was different. The general vibe was similar, although it did seem a bit more trendy than it was before, and some of my old haunts were still there. I was super sad to see that my favourite club, Q-vo, is no longer there. Well, the building is still there and so is its sister club M2 but Q-vo is now a lounge. The other thing that stood out is TinPan 1 isn’t there anymore but TinPan 2 still is (too bad, I liked “1” better). But I was too tired for too much exploring so after grabbing lemonade-in-a-bag (highly recommended), drinking yogurt and triangle kimbap, I headed back to Kpopstay for an early night.
Sunday dawned hazy and with a brief rain just as I was leaving Kpopstay so I caught a taxi (so much cheaper in Seoul than Toronto) to The Plaza (the hotel the KTO was putting us up in) to drop off my stuff. It turned out I could check in which was unexpected as it was just after 11am and that totally threw off my schedule for the day (I thought I would just drop off my bags and come back later – after the posted check-in time of 2pm). But they were ready for me already.
Even though I knew I didn’t have enough time to make it to my friend’s wedding after checking into the Plaza, I did try but it was too late by the time I made it to Jamsil. Sorry Jihyun & Clement for missing your wedding! T.T I really wanted to attend.
But since I was back in my old stomping ground with no plans for a couple of hours, I grabbed a smoothie and went for a stroll (too hot for a walk) around Seokchon Lake. I lived very close by when I lived in Seoul (in Bangi-dong) and used to walk around it all the time. It’s really beautiful in the spring and fall.
And then wandered around Jamsil station looking at all the little shops and of course, stopped into Skin Food for my first shopping of the trip. I LOVE shopping in Korea!!
Check back soon for the second article in the series… the tour is about to start!