Seoul: Day 1

Posted by on Jun 10, 2006 in South Korea | 9 Comments

I woke up at 8am with a reasonable 8 hours of sleep behind me and no jet lag. Although I am a bit sleepy as I type this, it’s nothing like the jet lag I used to experience when I first started traveling. I find the best way to beat jet lag is to act according to the time zone you’re flying to as soon as possible. If it’s three in the afternoon at your destination you shouldn’t be sleeping on the plane. Because my efforts to sleep according to Seoul time were thwarted by a 12-year old I went the other route—stay awake as long as you can so that you will definitely be tired when you arrive. Of course, this only works when you’re arriving at night, but it worked for me.

Knowing the exact day I would leave, I paid for all seven nights in the hostel and received the last night free. At 17,000 won a night ($18.50) I was glad to get a free night thrown in. That rate is cheaper than in Japan, but still much more than the $1-5 I was used to paying for my own room in SE Asia during Phase 1. My dorm room consists of three bunk beds (six beds), a couch and a bathroom. A private bathroom for each dorm turned out not to be as good as you’d think. It means that there’s only one toilet, sink and shower for six people to share and because it’s attached to the room it’s quite loud. I waited for two people to finish getting ready before I could jump in the shower and make my way down for free breakfast. I’m still in my American habits and had to eat four pieces of toast for breakfast. I felt like a pig, but I knew that two pieces (two buttered, two with jam) wouldn’t be enough. Besides Butter and strawberry jam there was also a fruit cocktail mixture and a strange tunafish concoction with corn mixed in. I don’t think I would eat that, even if it had been refrigerated.

Top bunk #3 Creepy soccer statue

With six days to explore Seoul I took my time leaving the hostel. By the time I was ready it had started to thunder and lightening so I decided to bring my coat—the same coat I had been cursing only 24 hours earlier. That turned out to be a good idea as it rained on and off (more on than off) for the rest of the day. I made my way by foot to The Museum of History, but ended up taking too many right turns and ended up at Gyeongbokgung Palace. I blame the creepy soccer player statues and talking soccer ball monuments I passed for messing with my navigation.

It turned out to be fine, because The Folk Museum is on the grounds of Gyeongbokgung Palace and I’m a big fan of museums. Because it started to pour right before the 1:30 Free English Tour I decided to wait out the storm in the museum. Unfortunately, I had to walk all the way around the palace walls to enter the museum and my huge hood didn’t keep the front of my legs from becoming completely soaked. I dripped through the exhibits, mainly focusing on the costume section where I found some really interesting hats.

Wicker moon boots Horse tail hair hat Gyeongbokgung Palace 3rd gate Palace guard with fake mustache

The rain hadn’t let up by three but I decided to show up for the next English tour anyway. A small group of us followed our incredibly polite guide around the grounds and I learned that the Queen in represented by the moon and the King by the sun. The architecture, especially the paintings on the support beams, reminds me of Nikko, Japan’s temples. This observation was met with little enthusiasm, as I learned that Japan has been pretty nasty to Korea in the past, including burning down that very palace.

After the tour I breezed through The Palace Museum and headed out to get some dinner. It was early and no one was eating so it was hard to tell where a good place would be. In typical fashion, I headed to 7-11 and picked up some instant noodles and a diet coke. On the way back to the hostel I passed by a French style bakery and picked up a cheese croissant to give my dinner some substance. Most of the hostel’s guests are huddled in the kitchen waiting for The World Cup’s second day to start. I think I’ll go to bed early instead.

9 Comments

  1. chup
    June 10, 2006

    are u spending all 7 day in Seoul or do u intend to explore around?

  2. Nancy
    June 10, 2006

    What camera did you decide to bring?

  3. Megan
    June 10, 2006

    Chup,
    I am spending the whole time in Seoul, except for a one day tour to the DMZ. I like to start out slow.

    Nancy,
    I brought a new Nikon D70s with an 18-200VR lens + 20mm prime for backup. I also brought my old Canon S60 point and shoot for backup.

    So far the Nikon’s pretty heavy and hard to get out of my bag quickly. Hopefully I will work that all out in the next few weeks.

  4. Jan Blake
    June 11, 2006

    Hope the weather lets up a little for you, I guess coming from Australia I should know it is winter there. Did you have any language problems or do most people speak enought to get by on?

  5. Megan
    June 11, 2006

    It’s actually summer here in the Northern hemisphere. I’ve heard that it’s 50 and rainy in Chicago too—almost the same weather.

    I don’t have long conversations with people, but everyone in the tourist industry speaks English well. I bought some food at a 7-11 and the guy asked if I wanted “take away” and a bag. Children here begin English lessons here in kindergarten so they should know at least basic English, even if they haven’t continued on as adults.

    I usually learn certain words when I get to a country but I feel lazy and haven’t bothered since I’m leaving soon.

  6. Michael McMillan
    June 12, 2006

    mEgan–

    Glad you arrived safely and are out exploring. Perhaps this trip would be a good time to explore a new diet too? 7-11! Soul food? Seoul food? whatever? but instant noodles and a diet coke? In any case, considering the food you?ve been using and the length of time you?ve been on it? you better first have a plan. I?ve heard junk food withdrawal can be intense. Maybe consider weaning off it while introducing herbs? I don?t know but enjoy your time in Seoul and stay healthy.

  7. Megan
    June 13, 2006

    MM?

    I will definately be exploring a new diet. Right now I’m trying to stock up on reasonably edible food before I go to Mongolia! I had a seafood pancake which seemed healthy…

  8. vlad
    June 13, 2006

    wow, i can’t believe you’re travleing around the world again. you are SO lucky! by the way, i *love* the new look of your blog. the flag icons next to each post, the green highlites when you hover over thumbnails, the “scratchiness” of the header photos… all of it is really slick!

    *v

  9. Claudia Cavazos
    June 14, 2006

    Glad your travels are going well…the pictures you’ve been posting are beautiful. Do you ever take any pictures with you actually in them?
    Well, carry on with your amazing adventure. Happy Journey.
    A very nosey fan of yours,
    Pura Vida,
    Claudia
    PS–i might go on a trip myself to New Zealand, keep ur thumbs pressed, as the germans say = wish me luck.