After only about a month and a half, I went back. I just couldn’t resist the allure of the capital.
To be honest with you, it's a little more complicated than that.
Thanksgiving in Korea is five-day long weekend affair, with most migrating home to spend time with family. I had initially planned to visit Jeju over the break, mainly because it would have taken me less time there than Seoul, and it would have been cheaper (I stay in one of the port towns that runs ferries to the island). But life happened, and I ended up in Seoul instead.
Let's start with what a massive difference a change in seasons makes.
The last time I descended on the capital, it was hot, muggy and just generally unpleasant. This time around, it's temperate, cool and the air even has a bit of a bite to it. It alters the character of the city completely, and it's impossible to ignore.
After arriving around lunchtime at the Central City terminal, I met up with my brother's girlfriend (who recently moved here to teach in the north-eastern province of Gangwon), and we set off to find our accommodation for the weekend. We settled on a flat in the student district of Hongdae, which was quite a steal considering that we'd left our booking until quite late.
Priority for me, as always, is getting a haircut. Following my last haircut in Seoul, I've come to accept that barbershops here don't charge any less than KRW60,000 for a haircut and beard trim. Rather than making an appointment well ahead of time, I've decided this time to play it by ear and see which barbershops are open. I manage to locate a spot called Slumdog Barbershop in the foreigner district of Itaewon.
With my fresh fade in, I was just itching to shoot. Itaewon's elevated vantage point and all-round charm meant I was able to capture rich details in the cityscape, along with fascinating characters on street level. I'd go so far as to say I made some of my favourite images in this area. It's absolute gold for street photography.
Later that evening I link up with some friends of mine from Wando, getting dinner at the famed Halaal Guys store along the main road of Itaewon.
It's a late start for us on Sunday, only getting out of our Airbnb around midday. I introduce Emma and Mia to my favourite breakfast joint in Hongdae, Travel Maker. Our wearied bodies mosey about the bustling district, and we find a cat café to while away some time. In all honesty, this experience was a bit underwhelming, mainly because cats are arrogant and obnoxious creatures. You're much better off going to a dog café instead. It wasn't all bad, however – if anything, it's a very relaxing experience that will leave you feeling a lot more 'zen'.
It's a beautiful time to take in the crisp air and savour the first taste of the autumn foliage.
From Hongdae, we make a late afternoon mission to the Namsan Tower. This was yet another spot that I hadn't managed to visit. This turned out to be a bit of a fail as we couldn't locate the busses that go up to the Tower, and when we eventually did, they were filled to capacity.
The day ended on a better note, as we devoured cheese ribs at James Cheese. In true Korean sharing style, this restaurant provides about 600g of ribs which are then split between patrons and dipped into melted cheese which is heated over a mini gas cooker. 10/10 would recommend.
I was determined to make up for everything I hadn't seen on my first trip here, and that trend continued as we ventured to Lotte Adventure World on Monday. Who doesn't like theme parks? We even got a half price discount for the public holiday. Score.
Lotte World has the world's largest indoor theme park, but don't want to waste your time on the indoor section – go straight to the Magic Island instead.
This goes without saying, but the earlier you get to a theme park, the better. Waiting in lines sucks, but fortunately at Lotte World it wasn't too bad, barring the hour-long wait for the Atlantis Adventure ride – which was well worth it.
After getting our adrenaline pumping, we took to the adjoining Lotte Mall to do some shopping. The girls set off in their own direction while I browsed the electronics outlets.
A couple of hours later and we were home, enjoying some Korean 'gugsu' (noodles) in our quaint little neighbourhood followed by drinks with some friends at the local.
Tuesday & Wednesday
Approaching the tail-end of the trip, we all felt like it had been a fruitful time in the city… But there was more to be done. I specifically wanted to do a spot of electronics shopping in Yongsan, and then hit up Myeongdong for some street shooting. So we did just that.
Myeongdong remains one of my favourite places to walk around. The street food, the atmosphere, the ambience, the outlets – these all make it worth a visit.
Later that afternoon we made yet another attempt at heading up to Namsan Tower, but again, the busses are way too full to even board. This is my first (and hopefully only) bad experience with the Seoul transport system; if a route is over-subscribed then surely it would only make sense to add more capacity. Not so for this line.
We put our second failed attempt at summiting the Namsan Tower behind us and head off to Itaewon for an Indian food buffet. This was something I'd been craving since arriving here; authentic Indian dishes that reminded me of home. The restaurant in question, Taj Palace, didn't disappoint at all. Five plates later and I stumbled out of the spot, almost paralytic and ready to give to my food baby. A good night indeed.
Our final day in Seoul was spent cruising the streets around the Ewha Women's University. This district is a hot-spot for budget shopping, so Emma and Mia went all in after we had a superb seafood pasta for brunch. I moseyed about, camera in hand.
Inasmuch as I managed to cover a lot of ground on my last visit, I only scratched the surface of Seoul.
This time around, Thanksgiving in the city left me feeling grateful for being able to explore once more, and finding amazing travel friends.