KTO Hallyu Tour – Day One

Yay! We're about to find out about our tour.
Yay! We’re about to find out about our tour.

The excitement begins…

If Sunday was our warm-up, “get to know each other” day, Monday was the day the fun truly started. Just looking at the schedule made me smile… it was a such a fun start to the tour.

After meeting in the lobby of the Plaza and checking in with our lovely team leaders – Min Seon, you were super fun and friendly!! – we all headed off to board the tour bus that would take us all over Seoul to the magical places we visited for the next week.

And we’re off…

So if you’ve been reading for a while, you probably know that I lived in Seoul for two years – 2007 and 2008. But I haven’t been back since and I missed Seoul – and my friends – terribly so this trip was a dream come true. I was super excited even before I saw the itinerary… Wow! I was just so excited to have to the chance to not only see Seoul again, but to see the vibrant city through the eyes of a tourist (it’s a completely different perspective than how I looked at it while I lived there). I was literally bouncing in my seat on the bus while we journeyed to our first stop of the day.

Our first stop – The KTO Office

Korean Tourism Organizer head office in Seoul
Korean Tourism Organizer head office in Seoul

The Korean Tourism Organization (KTO) was our first stop – it was time for our orientation and to learn more about this amazing trip we were on. We were ushered into a room and given a bag that contained our badge, some information for upcoming challenges, maps and other information. Jisoo, our tour manager told us a little more about the trip and introduced all the other wonderful staff. I really can’t say enough about how friendly and helpful everyone at the KTO was.

Learning about all the fun we are about to have ^^
Learning about all the fun we are about to have ^^

We all then signed up for buzz Korea. Hmm… I wonder if I was the only person who was already a member? Now that we knew more about the game plan for the week and were ready & willing to share all the fun, it was time… to dance. ^^

Our second stop – DEF Dance Skool

Guess what we're about to learn?
Guess what we’re about to learn?

This was one of the elements I was most looking forward to. Oh, I knew I was going to suck but man, do I love dancing. I really, really do! (Why do you think I spent so much time in Hongdae when I lived in Korea? ^^) Plus I knew it was would be super fun. I may not be able to follow choreography to save me life – remember I said I sucked? I can dance freestyle in a club but follow a routine and I have two left feet – but it was both extremely fun and a killer workout. (We were all quite sore the next day but it was worth it.)

Our tour manager, Jisoo, with the dance crew from DEF Dance Skool
Our tour manager, Jisoo, with the dance crew from DEF Dance Skool

The instructors rocked and were super cute. After some brief introductions about the dance studio (they teach/taught some K-pop stars there) and the instructors, we got down to business. Oh, I bet you want to know what dance we were learning – it was EXO’s Wolf. I’m not sure how long we practiced the 20-30 second segment of the dance but I’d suspect it was close to an hour and wow, are there some complicated moves in that dance (or at least complicated for me ^^). I have a lot more respect for K-pop idols for doing all those dances now!

Learning the dance to EXO's Wolf
Learning the dance to EXO’s Wolf

Don’t laugh but even though I wasn’t very good, I’m extremely proud that I lasted the entire lesson (not everyone did) AND I still remember it (I know because I did it just before I wrote this to check). I expected it to be fun and it totally exceeded my expectations. It rocked!!! So much fun! If you love K-pop and/or you like to dance and you’re in Seoul, I’d definitely recommend DEF Dance Skool. Even if you’re not in Seoul… find a local K-pop dance class. You’ll love it and get in shape.

Our instructor was soo much better than us! And cute too ^^
Our instructor was soo much better than us! And cute too ^^

The third stop – Lunch

Lunch - yummy kimbap
Lunch – yummy kimbap

Once our fabulous dancing lesson was finished we were whisked off to lunch and with a teeny bit of free time to explore the street. Our lunch was a lovely example of fusion food. The creamy tteokbokki was delicious, as was the chicken and I always love kimbap. We had a bit of fun trying to decide how to drink the melon slushie (there were four straws in the glass) but ultimately decided to pour it into smaller glasses.

Lunch - melon slushie
Lunch – melon slushie

One of the best parts about lunch? Getting to know some of the other participants on the tour! We then broke into smaller groups to wander down the street to meet the bus – we had about 30 minutes to explore.

Lunch - dessert
Lunch – dessert

Our fourth stop – Everysing

SM's Everysing noraebang
SM’s Everysing noraebang

The SM lovers in the group were in heaven as our next stop was Everysing (the Apgujeong location). Everysing is a noraebang (노래방, private singing room/karaoke) owned by SM Entertainment. The second floor is a SM K-pop wonderland of merchandise – lots of cute stuff that several people on the tour took advantage of. And I’ll be honest with you, if it was a similar place filled with YG stuff I would have definitely bought some Big Bang merchandise. Oh yeah, I did that when shopping later in the week! ~.^ Big Bang is my K-pop weakness… shush, don’t tell.

Inside Everysing (the store portion)
Inside Everysing (the store portion)

After a few moments of shopping we moved up to the third floor to the noraebang which has every song ever released by SM. So if you’re an SM fan, this is the noraebang you want to visit (they have other locations too). I love going to noraebang with friends so this was a ton of fun. Plus, I recognized the location as a friend of mine used to live close by when I lived in Seoul.

Inside Everysing (the noraebang portion)
Inside Everysing (the noraebang portion)

Our fifth stop – CUBE Café

CUBE Cafe - Look! It's G.na
CUBE Cafe – Look! It’s G.na

This stop was also neat as we walked past CUBE Entertainment and JYP Entertainment on the way to CUBE Café. Which is, of course, owned by CUBE Entertainment. We took some pictures and looked around while our team leaders got us some coffee – or in my case, a yummy iced black tea latte.

Inside CUBE Cafe
Inside CUBE Cafe

Our sixth stop – Dinner

My first bindaetteok
My first bindaetteok

I love Korean food and eat a lot of it. I even cook it (and teach the occasional Korean cooking class, no joke). So I didn’t expect to try anything new on this trip but I did! For dinner we went to Gwangjang Market and ate bindaetteok (빈대떡, thick Korean pizza/pancake like dish similar to pajeon/파전) with makgeolli (막걸리, a sweet milky rice wine) and dubu kimchi (, a tofu and kimchi dish with pork). I eat pajeon a lot but had never tried bindaetteok before (it’s heartier and more filling than pajeon). It was a lovely dinner and while I’m not a fan of makgeolli, it went with the rainy weather we were having.

Mmm... I love tofu kimchi ^^
Mmm… I love tofu kimchi ^^

Our seventh stop – Gwangjang Market

Gwangjang Market
Gwangjang Market

After dinner we had some free time to wander around the market. There was a little confusion about the 5,000won voucher we had to spend at the market but that was quickly worked out and off we went. It’s too bad we’d just finished dinner because there was tons of interesting food I could have bought but I ended up with lemonade-in-a-bag (my new favourite summer drink) and gum (I love Korean gum).

Gwangjang Market - so much yumminess, too bad I just ate
Gwangjang Market – so much yumminess, too bad I just ate

We all then walked back to the bus; full up on good food, new friends and new experiences. And it was just the first day… there were four more wonderful days to come! Stay tuned! If you want more pictures, check out our Facebook page. ^^

Gwangjang Market - yay! another place to have lemonade in a bag
Gwangjang Market – yay! another place to have lemonade in a bag

Have you done any of my fun experiences? Want to try one? Let me know in the comments below. ^^ 

Cindy Zimmer

Live life to the fullest everyday - this is a the philosophy I try to live by and it's taken me on many adventures. I write about Korean culture from a non-Korean perspective as the editor/founder of ATK Magazine and I'm the Chair of the Board of Directors of the Toronto Korean Film Festival (TKFF). Previously, I ran a Korean-English language exchange group (in Toronto) for 3 years to stay connected to my three years living in Korea as an English teacher. I love music, film, food and sports and write about 3 of the 4.

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