Our first trip to Seoul did not go as expected. Prior to arriving in Seoul, we were unusually busy adjusting to living and working in a new country. Alli and I just figured that if we got on the bus, had a place to stay, and made it to the city we would be fine. How wrong we were.
First off, the bus from our province drops you off on the north end of Seoul, which is fine if you know the subway system. We don’t. So we were dropped off in this huge city, overdressed with warm clothes since we were used to the weather in north South Korea, with no idea where we were or how to get where we wanted to go. We panicked for a second and caught a glimpse of McDonald’s. We figured we would get a Big Mac while we thought this out. By the way, McDonald’s in Korea have delivery drivers 24/7. Pretty sweet!
After our burgers and a bit of map studying, I thought I had a grasp on where to go. The hotel was in Dongdaemon, so I thought we just needed to get off the subway at that stop. We went down into the subway station and spent a bit of time getting the payment system down, but we were quickly on our way to the hotel. We got off at the stop and surfaced, still not having any clue where to go. Asking and looking around does not yield much help as English is rare in Korea. Alli found a hotspot where my iPhone could get wireless (we did not have our phones yet) and tried to get directions. It turns out, Dongdaemon is huge. It’s like saying we will meet you in Detroit! It did tell me what subway stop to get off. We went back in, looked at the map, transferred to a different line and eventually we found the hotel after three hot hours wandering around Seoul with our luggage.
Alli and I then decided to do some shopping for things we were wanting (clothes for Alli). The people at the hotel spoke English well. We asked them where to go and grabbed the subway again. The shopping center was crazy! This part of Seoul consisted of huge shopping centers with many booths crammed into each one. It was sooooooo crowded (and very hot!). We set up a place to meet and went our separate ways. When we came back together, neither of us had been very successful. The crowd and lack of fitting rooms was too much for us so we bailed on this shopping experience. So far we were about 7 hours into Seoul and getting nowhere.
We wandered the crowded streets for some dinner and settled on a place. It was Soju (the Korean rice whiskey) time we decided! After dinner and a few shots, we went back out to the stores a little looser. The same stores were empty and much cooler. Alli could peacefully try on clothes. The store clerks were available to help. Prices could be bargained. It was a much better experience for which I credit the Soju.
Seoul is a huge place with a lot to experience. When we return, we will have a better thought-out plan so we can experience the sights and sounds without being lost. Our trip was not a total waste because we learned about the subway system (which is incredible), the different neighborhood locations and what not to do. Next time it will not be Seoul ridiculous!