Some Touristy Things in Seoul I Gone & Done

Hi friends!

This week has been a busy one, and a big time of reflection. Yesterday we finished our contracts at school and had the last night with all of us foreign teachers together. Sob! It is a sad/happy time full of nostalgia, so I thought a bit of a look back on the year was appropriate. Plus, it will prove to everyone that I actually have seen some of Seoul, instead of just sitting around shooting the breeze with my chums both online and offline!

When expats come to Seoul (or Korea in general), they often find themselves exploring the touristy parts of the city, without chipping away to discover the bubbling underbelly sitting just below the surface. Sometimes, even this faux-travelling halts, with ‘foreigners’ retiring to their comfortable, English-only expat bubbles (guilty), or worse, isolating themselves from all civilisation. Neither of these situations are ideal; however, after living here for a year and having a fairly good grasp of things (minus the language – a small oversight), I am starting to get the itch to discover a little bit more of the city from a traveller’s perspective. Although it doesn’t necessarily give you a taste of the real Korea, it is fun to see some pretty sights and get out and about in such a bustling city. Plus, Gav is leaving on Wednesday to go home for a month, so I will be needing to keep myself busy!

Throughout my year in Guri, I have done a few touristy things, but certainly fewer than you would think. Let’s start with the first: my visit to the National Museum of Korea! I went here randomly one night, when Gav was away actually, and I was feeling a bit down. It was a weekend, and I thought, that’s it, I’m sick of sitting around, I’m going to go to a museum. Makes sense, right? It was actually really rainy but a nice journey nonetheless. My pictures of the outside of the museum were a bit foggy and glarey, so instead I will serve you one of the beautiful ceiling inside the building:

The beautiful roof of the National  Museum of Korea
The beautiful roof of the National Museum of Korea

Sa artsy! Although I am not a big ‘museums’ girl, this one is really pretty to walk around. It is huge and there are so many rooms and wings and sections, it’s hard to discover it all at once. When I went, it was about 7pm and some of the exhibitions were closed, so I  went to see the main section with a lot of ancient artefacts and paintings. They had lots of traditional Korean paintings, whose beauty I couldn’t capture in pictures. So pretty, I don’t know how people paint like that but I’m glad they do. There were also lots of ancient hair pins, statues and tools used long ago in Korea. My favourite room was one with lots of stone buddha statues just hanging out together. The lighting was dim, they were giant and it was just cool. Take a look:

The awesome buddha room
The awesome buddha room

After this random, cultured visit (but possibly chronologically before), comes our visit to Yeouido Park. I spoke about this in a previous post, when we went to see the cherry blossoms and were sorely disappointed, except for the saving grace of the fairy floss. From the riverside, we could see Building 63, which is a fairly famous building in Seoul and which also touts an impressive view of the city. Although that could be difficult with all of the toxic dust particles from China floating in the air right now… but still it’s meant to be really pretty:

The view of 63 Building from Yeouido Park
The view of 63 Building from Yeouido Park

I still want to actually go inside this building, but its shiny gold exterior is oh-so-beautiful, no?!

Next on the list isn’t something you can see every day (which makes it even more special!), but it is uber-Korean. Early on in our stay here, we found out none other than PSY was playing in Seoul! This was fairly early last year and this concert was actually streamed on Youtube for the worldwide premiere of ‘Gentleman’. Kind of a big deal! After this song was released the kids wouldn’t stop singing it at school for weeks, months… even now it sometimes gets brought up, although they have recently moved onto ‘Let it Go’ from Frozen in a BIG way. This concert was so exciting and so much fun! Everyone was so hyped up and Psy even dressed up as Beyonce at one point to sing ‘Single Ladies’, which can only ever be a good thing.

Psy being Beyonce
Psy being Beyonce

Being Korea and being a Psy concert, there was naturally lots of glitter, glow sticks and confetti! Everyone got given a glowstick and/or flashing white ribbon headbands (think the Hello Kitty ones) and basically just went nuts. This was our first experience of a concert in Korea, and what an experience to have!  Oh, this was also our first introduction to G-Dragon too, who is a super-gangsta and super-pretty, somehow at the same time. Although Psy went on for a bit long and brought out the dramatics (and the encores! So many encores…) toward the end, overall he was a great performer and had so much energy, and humility too.

Pillow fight!
Pillow fight!

Last but not least, when my brother came to visit, he, Gav and I went on a day trip to the DMZ. This was actually a bit anticlimactic and not as dangerous as it sounds. For those unfamiliar with the Demilitarised Zone, it is the area of land that divides North and South Korea and despite its name, it is actually the most heavily militarised area in the world. Eep! There are a lot of packages you can choose to go here, and to be honest it was super touristy and it all sort of looks the same (because it is the same country and the divisions are solely political). Our tour guide on this trip was a kind but slightly loony lady that would combine information about the North Korean way of life with inappropriate comments about her mom’s opinions of her love life. An odd mix, that’s for sure!

Apart from the harrowing stories that occasionally slip out about North Korean citizens trying to escape, the half-finished building, the railway line that abruptly stops (because they ran out of money) and bizarre tales of restaurants with tables prepared to look as if they are anticipating a packed house (although no one is coming), we don’t hear too much about North Korea, although the South seems to be very open to refugees which is very heartening. South Korea is already a powerful country, and I believe that both Koreas will only become stronger upon unification. The Dorasan train line which used to connect the North and South, has been restored, and it will be an exciting time when they re-open it. And it really is a matter of when, not if.

Me + the DMZ
Me + the DMZ

Although this wasn’t the most exciting trip, it was cool to learn a bit more about their different culture – plus we got the Dorasan Train Station stamp in our passport which was a little bit naughty (not really)! 😉

A few other things that I would recommend doing in Seoul and Korea? Going to the beautiful Bukchon Village and Samcheong-dong and a visit to Namsan Tower, and Busan is great for a weekend getaway. This year, I really want to go to Lotte World which Gav, Sehar and Thomas went to when I was in Tokyo (sigh), and I’m sure a few other things will spring to mind, too. I find Seoul a very liveable country, in that it is less international than Tokyo, Beijing et al., with fewer noticeably unique attractions, but with a fantastic way of life. It reminds me of Melbourne in that way – although with a lot more people and a lot more convenience!

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this small wrap-up of a handful of touristy things in Seoul. As I have been writing it, I keep thinking of more things and places I want to mention, but I will save these for a later post. Information overload! My brain is a bit fried this weekend so hopefully this all made sense. I will be back tomorrow with Sample Sundays… Looking forward to writing about the Etude House Wonder Pore Corrector! ^^

Until next time,

Steph x

11 comments
  1. I love going to national museums in different places – they’re usually so interesting. To me, anyway. I think can be hard to play tourist when you live and work somewhere.. I’ve lived in NYC for a few years now and people always ask “Have you visited ____ [tourist attraction]?” The answer is sometimes yes, but when you get busy with day-to-day life it’s hard to see everything, and it doesn’t feel urgent somehow 🙂

    1. So true! I am like that with Melbourne, although it is a bit less international than NYC hehe. I can only imagine just living in New York is excitement enough! I guess that’s the good thing about travelling, you know you (usually) have a finite amount of time so you try and do things you perhaps otherwise wouldn’t. At the same time, I love settling into a place and spending a lot of time there as a ‘local’, and I feel that’s often the better way to do it! Oh the contradictions of my life… 😉

  2. Haha why does the DMZ have those big pop-art looking letters–I can only think of “TMZ” lol. It’s funny really that they call it the DMZ when there is definitely a military presence there, but then it’s also an attraction for tour buses? It’s really strange haha.

    lol Psy in the Beyonce outfit!!! Hahaha…very attractive. How do Koreans feel about Psy? I mean, did they like him a lot before his Youtube thing with Gangnam Style, or did he only recently get like REALLY popular?

    I’d love to see Lotte world pics if you go! I think MBLAQ went there on a show once with T-ARflop and there was this rabbit hood that I will probably obsess about for the rest of my life until I go there and get one myself, lol. Also–food pics! If you get yum yums in Korea please take pics so I can live vicariously through you. 🙂

    1. Lol! That’s so funny about DMZ/TMZ and so true. I don’t really get it, it’s just for the tourists and everyone gets their novelty picture there. It was a bit odd and didn’t really scratch too much under the surface. I guess we can’t really understand the North Korean way of life right now, although when they reunify I’m sure a lot of questionable information will leak out :/

      Re: Psy, yes he is huge here! He actually had heaps of songs from before ‘Gangnam Style’ that were famous in Korea, and he played them all. A lot of them were really good! The only annoying thing was that he did about 45893843 encores and there were a lot of (crocodile?) tears at the end. I do think he seems genuine and kind but it was super dramatic! But what else can I expect in the land of K-dramas?! It was so much fun and so electric though, I feel very lucky to have gone ^^

      And yes I need to take more food pictures! I actually only have like 2 pictures of galbi here, usually because I am so hungry when I go that I am just focusing on cooking the meat and then wolfing it down, lol. Gotta keep my eyes on the prize! But I will keep it in mind, perhaps I will do a food-focused post soon just for you 😉

  3. Oh please go visit my part of the woods, Songpa-gu! I absolutely love that part of Seoul and it’ll always be my third home :3 Please tell me you’ve been to a fried chicken place! They’re so hard to avoid! I swear I would pass like ten in just a few blocks to go to the bank -.-

    One of my favorite things to do was go to Dongdaemun Market and watch people frolic by the Cheonggyecheon. Do you ever have time to people watch? It’s fun

    1. Ooh I haven’t been there! To be honest I don’t get out as much as I should, hopefully I will change that this year! And oh yes I have been to many a fried chicken place, in summer I practically lived there hehe. And yes I love the Cheonggyecheon stream! One time I went for a meander and there was a band playing and children splashing and it was just so nice. I’m a bit obsessed with people watching too hehe, so interesting! It sounds like we’re on the same page 😉 thanks so much for your comment! ^^

      1. Ohh chicken in the summer! There’s nothing like friends, beer and chicken! Except, there are some weird chicken places O_o Oh! I usually never got outside to actually sit and be alone until night time so it was mostly awkward couples. hahaha. I hope you go outside your boundaries more this year! PHOTOS GALORE. I know you know that, but every time I’m always mad when I get back to the US as I didn’t take enough photos! 🙁

      2. Lol at awkward couples! You can see a lot of that at any time of the day though 😉 today I actually visited my friend in Anam so I’m already getting out a bit more, yay! And yes, I have plenty of fond memories (and photos) of chicken, soju (not a beer drinker) and summer… good times ^^

      3. Ahh…that is true. I remember walking through Gangnam and these older ahjummas tsking me because I was holding hands with my bf. Pshhh. OH OH. There’s a REALLY good sit down bbq place there…annnnd I couldn’t even begin to tell you how to get there. Fail. For some reason, I only drank beer in Korea. I think it’s because my friend just kept ordering it. I’m glad you had and are having a wonderful time. So jealous!

    1. Aww thank you so much! How funny you were in Guri too hehe, how did you find it? And whereabouts in Korea are you now? I absolutely love it here, yesterday I went shopping in Myeongdong but it was so busy and hectic and I really just missed Guri! Lol, Guri just has everything I need, most of the salesgirls here know me and we always wave to each other and it’s just so nice hehe 🙂 Thanks so much for your comment, hope you’re enjoying being back here ^^

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