For those who followed me on my Instagram, you would already know that I just came back from Seoul, South Korea. It was a multipurpose visit; primarily for a very important business trip (more on this soon to be shared) and also, a vacay of course!
Before I get into a more in-depth post on my recent trip to Seoul, I thought I’d do a short post on some of the important things that caught my attention when visiting for the first time. It’s basically a teaser for most of you lots who are going to (or thinking of) visit Seoul!
Without further ado, let’s go ahead and start!
Disclaimer: These are my own opinions based on my own experiences. Please correct me if I’m wrong on any of the points stated in the comment box should there be any. Thank you!
This point I have to highlight as the very first point: SEOUL IS LITERALLY MADE OUT OF STAIRS.
*Total exaggeration* But it is true! It is immensely noticeable when you are traveling with a 10KG toddler… that you have to take turns to carry all the time… which brings me to another point: WE SURVIVED SEOUL WITHOUT A STROLLER OR A BABY CARRIER!
At first we contemplated to rent a stroller as we did during our Europe trip (because Aidan refused to sit on his stroller) but I argued saying that we can’t be carrying Aidan around anymore because he is super heavy. Plus, he has already gotten used to sitting in his stroller now because I made him, lol.
We tried to look for other alternatives: which was to look for people who would rent strollers there, in Seoul. There weren’t anyone who offered this kind of service (although big malls do provide stroller rentals but not outside though), so we resorted to asking Malaysians who were staying in Seoul if they would rent out their strollers. And we did find one person who was kind enough to rent baby’s stroller to me, so we agreed to meet up when I arrived.
But… clashing of schedules forced us to forgo the stroller rental. So we decided to not use a stroller. This decision was made after realizing the amount of stairs we had to climb at every metro stations we went to. Most of the stations do have escalators, but we realized when we had to change lines, there were more stairs than escalators.
So if you are thinking of bringing your stroller, I’d advise for you to think again.
#2 GOOD (HALAL) FOOD EVERYWHERE
I think there are more and more restaurants in Seoul that serve Halal food, because the number of Muslim tourists visiting are increasing rapidly by year. And if you worry so much about getting certified Halal food in Seoul, go to Itaewon.
We stayed at Itaewon and it was just like in Malaysia. Halal restaurants were scattered and they even had foreign food marts that carry international food. Some marts even sold halal meat and chicken and lamb – if you were thinking of cooking. Although I have to mention that most of the halal food are mostly Indian/Pakistani cuisine, Turkish cuisine etc the likes of kebab, beef shawarma.
I know, some of you might be thinking, what’s the point of going to Seoul if you don’t try to taste their local cuisine? Well, fret not! There are a lot of Halal Korean Cuisine at Itaewon as well! For first-timers, I most definitely have to recommend EID restaurant.
THEIR FOOD IS DA BOMB DOT COM. Enough said.
Too good that it totally changed my views on Korean food (I used to hate eating Korean food). Now I can’t get enough of it *cries*. You have got to try their Bulgogi (W10,000), Jjimdak (W12,000) and Samgyetang (W12,000).
There are also a few other restaurants that serve Halal Korean cuisine such as Makan restaurant which has really flavorful Kim as one of the side dish. But the mains are not up to par as EID’s… but each person’s preferences might vary, so give them a try!
#3 SHOPPING HEAVEN
This is a no brainer… but I included this in because I want to precaution those who are a shopaholic like me.
Before coming to Seoul, I did lots of research on the best place to shop for cheap. I jotted down each places (they were aplenty!) and made a mental note to at least try to go to each and every one of them to scour through to find something to buy.
True to recommendations, most of the places I went to do have lots of nice things to shop at BUT some where priced ridiculously that you can’t even haggle your way through it although you show strong interest in buying the items. It was utterly disappointing to me, to have gone all the way, went through the whole building/streets and ended up not purchasing anything that I found worth buying. Especially when I knew I didn’t have enough time to spare in Seoul.
So, to save time and kaching $$$, I will share my top shopping spots in Seoul BUT in a different post because it definitely deserves a post on its own.
#4 LEARN KOREAN, AT LEAST THE BASICS
In Seoul, I found out that language barrier was the biggest struggle that we faced. Most Koreans don’t speak English (technically the older generation don’t and the younger ones do, but most taxi drivers and shopkeepers consist of people from the older gen). Before coming to Seoul, I tried to learn the basic communications and also learned a little bit of Hangul (this helps too).
A few instances that we found extremely frustrating is that when we try to communicate with taxi drivers, we always have a hard time making them understand us. A tip I got from the internet ims to have the address written down in Hangul, for them to understand better.
This proved to not work… because although I provided them with the correct address in Hangul, they still did not manage to find it on their GPS. On the second day, I was late to my meeting and our taxi driver could not use the Hangul address my partner shared with me so I got fed up and WAZE-d the address on my phone and asked him to follow it.
It was really funny because he was holding the phone with his left hand and the steering wheel with his right hand, so he had a hard time giving signals. End of the trip, he sighed heavily and said “It was tired” with a laugh. He was such a sweet old man! But there were a few taxi drivers who weren’t very friendly and would not take you as a passenger because they didn’t know where we wanted to go.
Pronounciation is also very important! One time I told the taxi driver I wanted to go to “Hongdae” (I pronounced it as HONG-DAY) and he looked at me as though I spoke Alien language. I kept repeating many times until he finally perked up, looked at me and asked “Ye, HUNG-DAY???” I said “YE HUNGDAY HUNGDAY” and he beckoned us to get into the taxi. Hong and Hung, Potato Potata.
Struggle was real gais.
#5 SEOUL IS A BIG, BIG CITY
Like duh… you must be thinking. But I wanted to highlight this point because it’s important for you to properly plan your itinerary. Most of the tourist sites are scattered all over Seoul, and it actually takes quite some time to travel from one place to another.
Our main mode of transportation was the metro, and you don’t have to worry about the system as it is super reliable – just like in London. But it is really time consuming to travel via the metro from one district to another. Good news is that, it is relatively cheap to travel via the metro, from W1250. And they use T-Money card, kinda like Oyster cards that you can top up easily at kiosks placed at every stations. So you can manage your daily consumption easily.
An easy example I will give is that, it takes around 45 – 1 hour to travel from Itaewon to Gangnam. And we had to change FOUR lines (if I’m not mistaken) to get to our destination. It was tiring… transferring lines involved a lot of walking + carrying Aidan. We resorted to taking the taxi whenever we wanted to go to Gangnam after. Which costed about W10,800 per trip. *cries*
So when you plan your itinerary, be sure to slot in the tourist sites that are located within the same proximity so you save time and energy and also money getting around. Try not to be ambitious (like me) and arranged to visit more than three tourist attractions per day. Take your time to visit each attractions and just enjoy your time without rushing anything.
Thank God Nazeef checked our itinerary beforehand and made me change everything LOL!
All in all, I had a really good time in Seoul. I really loved Seoul, with all my heart I do. I can totally foresee myself staying there… but I will elaborate more in other posts.
Hope y’all enjoyed the “teaser” and will update more on the full trip soon!