I have only three days in Seoul and after setting aside a day to visit the DMZ and another for a day trip to PyeongChang to surround myself in the Olympic aura, I only really just have this one day to do and see all I can here in downtown Seoul.
With that being said I got a much earlier start than I had the last couple of days and was out of the hostel by 9am.
As I stepped out the door I found a nice little surprise on the ground…
Just a bit, but still there was snow on the ground!
Now I personally get excited by seeing snow because even though I’m from Canada and alot of people think I live in a snowhut year round, I actually don’t see much snow on the west coast of the country.
And as long as it’s not foot deep snow that I’m trying to navigate through, I’m good.
Anyway, off to explore this city…
I wanted to get to the Gyeongbokgung Palace by 10am as that’s when they do the changing of the guard.
I thought I had given myself amble time to get there but I found myself running from the subway exit to the front of the Palace right at 10.
Didn’t miss a thing!
The ceremony itself lasted about 10 minutes and while I’ve seen a few palaces and a few changing of the guards on my travels, it never gets old.
I don’t know… something about the pageantry and the history of it all.
Just really cool.
Anyway, you know what else is cool?
Meeting the aunt and uncle of newly crowned gold medal winner Cassie Sharpe who had just won for Women’s Halfpipe.
Trish and Dwayne were taking a break from the Olympics to take in a bit of Seoul before heading back to Pyeongchang to celebrate at Canada House later in the night.
Anyway, guess that makes me, what, 2 degrees separation from an Olympic gold medal winner!
No complimentary closing ceremony tickets though…
They’re going for about $900 by the way…
Anyway, there was a free English tour of the Palace at 11am so we along with about 20 others joined in to tour the grounds for an hour.
Not surprisingly, by the way, a palace is a palace is a palace…
Although, something about visiting it when the ground was covered in snow did give it a special feeling like something romantic.
At noon, we went our separate ways and I was off to the nearby Bukchon Hanok Village.
Bukchon Hanok Village
Almost immediately to the east of Gyeongbokgung Palace is the Bukchon Hanok Village a short 10 minute walk away.
The streets are narrow and filled with shops selling crafts and food.
It was interesting walking through the streets because you definitely get a friendlier vibe than I did in China.
I don’t know if it’s just because tourism is ramped up because of the Olympics or if this is just an every day Seoul thing but either way, I was loving the vibe.
After a lunch of chicken with rice and egg, it was time to trade the craft stores for full blown souvenir shops…
Located about a 20 minute walk south of the Bukchon Hanok Village is the Insadong area of Seoul.
This area is known as where the tourists go to shop for souvenirs.
I was a tourist! I wanted souvenirs!
On my way!
Sure enough there were dozens of shops side by side lining the streets.
Most were selling the same tacky souvenirs but there were also some that were showing off some more unique crafts.
And there was some great street food!
I wish I hadn’t just had lunch because I would definatly gorge myself here.
I did end up picking up a nice tasty treat called Hodduk with is a sweet pancake made with a brown sugar syrup filling.
This place wasn’t originally on my map of things to see but I noticed it was just a short walk from where I was so I headed over there around 2:30.
Hah! You need to go on a guided tour to enter!
The tour itself was cheap but the next English one wasn’t until 4pm.
Well, I ain’t hanging around here for an hour and a half to see a shrine…
Sorry, Jongmyo. Maybe next time…
Relax a bit
I was way ahead of time on my day and I actually decided to go back to the hostel to relax a bit as the next things on my list weren’t until the sun went down.
It finally happened!
I got a little too cocky with navigating subways and I ended up getting on a train heading in the wrong direction.
I wasn’t even listening for my station name to get off, I just knew I had two stops to go so I got off at that station.
Sure enough, it finally dawned on me that I was totally in the wrong station and after a little 15 minute unexpected subway tour, I was headed back to the hostel.
By 6pm the sun had set and I was on my way to Namsam Hill to get a nice view of the city.
You can obviously visit Namsam Hill during the day but who wants a day view when you can get yourself a nice night view…
After walking for about 20 minutes from the subway station, I finally reached the bottom of Namsam Hill.
The N Seoul Tower was waiting for me at the top of the hill.
Luckily there is a nice little 5 minute cable car that will take you up the hill for 8500won ($8.50) return.
Of course there was a nice little lineup too but with 30 people being loaded onto a car at a time, the lineup went fairly quickly.
Once at the top you can either walk around the park of head up the N Seoul Tower for another 10,000won ($10).
Well, why take photos of the city at night from down here in the park when you can take them from 236m higher?
Turned out to be a waste of 10 bucks…
The tower is just really a money grab as you are bombarded by upselling opportunities and the the view is through thick, foggy windows that just show a reflection of the inside in your photos.
But you can get popcorn and drinks with your ticket!
Or buy a photo they make you pose for before you go up!
Or buy a souvenir from the shops on the Observatory deck!
Actually, I bought a couple souvenirs so shhhhh…
Anyway, after about 15 minutes I was headed back down to the park to take my photos instead.
Go Canada Go!
By 9pm I was back in my neck of the woods.
I grabbed some street food for dinner – an egg pastry, meat on a stick and shrimp dumplings – and headed back to my hostel.
Canada vs Germany semi finals for the Men’s Olympic Hockey was starting at 9:10 and I was going to try to watch it on my netbook.
It took awhile to figure out how to stream the Canadian broadcast of the game but after switching to a VPN with a Canadian IP address, I was finally watching the game.
Oh, crap! 4-1!
4-2! Yes! Here we go!
4-3! Yes! C’mon boys, plenty of time!
Did we just lose to Germany?!?
The worst part is there are Germans here in my hostel and you just know I’m gonna hear about it the rest of my time here…
Well, aside from an auspicious end to the day, I actually had a really good day and wish I was in Seoul a couple days longer to go back out and explore other parts of the city.
Nonetheless, I have a couple exciting days ahead…