When it comes to booking flights, I usually prefer to do it online. But when it comes to booking major flights requiring connections, I almost always use a travel agent.
Well, sometimes they can see options that you can not see on Expedia and Skyscanner. So when we were planning our flight from India to New Zealand, I contacted my rockstar travel agent Tonya at Flight Center in Kelowna to see what she could find us. What she found us was a 5 day layover is Seoul, South Korea!
I had never been to Seoul. Kevin had never been to Seoul. So, it sounded like a great plan!
After Goa, we headed to Seoul!
I really had no idea what to expect of Seoul. What I did not expect when we booked the tickets was how cold it was going to be! Seriously, it was down to -7 degrees during the day!
Luckily, if I wore all of my warm clothes at the same time I stayed warm. I was so thankful for all my wool clothes, gloves and ear warmers I had brought. Although, I found these ear warmers and almost bought them. They look ridiculous but were unbelievably comfy and warm!
The first of her recommendations was to stay in the Hongdae area. So, we found an AirBnB that was directly above Hongdae University Station. It could not have been more convenient. The location made getting around Seoul effortless.
Over the next couple of days, we chose a couple of things from Lindsay’s list to do through the city. The first recommendation we started with was Namsan Mountain which provided beautiful views of Seoul. We headed up the mountain during the sunset and walked around.
Afterwards we headed to visit Gyeongbokgung Palace!
Unfortunately, we arrived just after it closed so the courtyard was as far as we got..
After the palace, we started walking towards Bukchon Hanok Village – another recommendation of Lindsay’s. Along the way, however, we were stopped abruptly in our tracks at the site of an interpretive art display.
I do not even know where to start figuring out what this means. It appears wrong on SO many levels..
While the display was wrong, Lindsay was right about Bukchon Hanok Village! It is a beautifully preserved traditional Korean village in the middle of Seoul. We spent some time walking through the alleys admiring the architecture of the village.
After a couple of days exploring around Seoul, we decided to get out of the city and head North. Towards North Korea!
We booked the DMZ (demilitarized zone) tour with USO. The DMZ is a 4km wide buffer zone between North and South Korea.
To be honest, I expected much higher security on the North Korean border…
The gate in which the flags are hung is a barrier to the railway connecting North and South Korea through the DMZ. More of the railway can be seen below.
Within the DMZ, we visited Dorasan Railway station. Situated on the Gyeongui line, it once connected North and South Korea. Currently, it only services trains connecting to Seoul, however, the station is set up for customs processing if the borders are ever reopened between North and South Korea.
Now getting to the good stuff! Through the DMZ, there are four infiltration tunnels that have been discovered leading from North Korea. We bravely took a walk down the tunnel towards the North Korean border. Unfortunately, we could not take any pictures in the tunnel. In fact, we could not even enter the tunnels with a camera or a phone.
Our last stop on the tour was the viewing tower of the North Korean border! It seemed surreal to be so close.
Speaking of surreal. The day we were there, we were unable to view the JSA, Joint Security Area where negotiations between the countries are completed, due to irregular troop movements and drone activity in the DMZ! Then the next day, North Korea launched a satellite into space which has been viewed as a front to test a ballistic missile.
What are the odds? Maybe they found out about all the photos we were taking and were pissed off… Kevin was questioned by a border control agent ..
Overall, the sites of Korea were great! But what made Korea even better was the food!
Two words: Korean BBQ.
Our first time eating Korean BBQ was total confusion! First, we had to figure out what to order. Once we figured out what to order, we then had to figure out what to do with it! Someone came over and dropped off raw meat at the table with some raw vegetables, sauces and soup. While they threw the pork chop on the BBQ, nothing else was said. Do we continue to cook the pork chop? What about those scissors on the table? Are those for cutting the meat?
After spying on other tables, we eventually figured it out! And once we started, we didn’t want to stop. Korean BBQ is amazing!
In addition to Korean BBQ, Seoul had many other amazing things to offer..
Overall, it was an amazing few days in Seoul and we will definitely plan another trip back. The city was clean and beautiful, the transit system was flawless, and the people could not have been more friendly and helpful. Not to mention almost everyone spoke English which was very surprising.
While Seoul is home to around 10 million people, it never felt busy or crowded, and nobody seemed to be in a rush. It truly is an incredible city and we could understand why those who come to work for a year end up staying much longer.
Oh and don’t even get me started on how fast their wifi is!
Anyway, after a few days in Seoul we were ready for our next adventure.
New Zealand, here we come!