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.
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.
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.