So welcome to Seoul! This is my first Asian country and it is definitely interesting. After our 11 hour flight here we were doing our best to not fall asleep on the bus ride to the hostel. We got off the bus and although we had printed directions to the hostel we could not find it! We stood in the street for about an hour trying to figure it out. Mind you it was a Friday night in a university area of the city so we looked a bit out of place standing in the street with huge suitcases while all the students buzzed around heading out for the evening. At this point we were still a bit timid to ask directions of anyone, and the one person we did decide to ask didn't speak any English. So with some help from the concierge at the hotel down the street we finally made our way to the hostel. After coming in and being shown our room I am not ashamed to say I shed a quick tear! This was NOT the Palazzo in Las Vegas!!! We were given a small room with two cots and a couple blankets thrown over the top of them which did not seem very clean in my opinion. I changed into my pajamas and laid on top of the bed afraid to touch anything while Marty was busy looking into other possible accommodations for us. It was hard to sleep that night due to all the partying that was happening just outside our window. I think I heard a few rounds of Karaokee, band performances, club music, and one fight where we both heard someone screaming, "You wana punch me!!!" It was not the best introduction to Seoul lets put it that way. I slept it off and the next day I decided I could make it through 3 more nights... I've been camping before and I made it through freshman year in a dorm so although it's been awhile since I've had to rough it this much, I told myself I could do it! As time has gone on this place has actually become a cozy little place to hang out and to come home to. The staff (especially our new friends Justin) is extremely friendly and helpful. There's a nice little lounge area with computers where you can kick back, relax, and mingle with the other guests.
Our first day out in Seoul was great. We went to visit one of the palaces which was beautiful, set back right against the mountains and so peaceful. Afterwards we walked through all the markets which was pretty cool. There are tons of market places selling all sorts of things and tons of food. Everything is new and different so just walking along and taking in the sites has been the best tour so far. There are all sorts of different foods to look at and taste. I'm not a big seafood fan so I had to stay away but there are tons of fried and dried seafood in the likes of octopus and squid, all sorts of fried breads and pastries, and chicken/meat skewers, sausages and hotdogs! They love their hot dogs here, they are EVERYWHERE. They only other thing more popular was probably the dunkin doughnuts which were literally on every single block, sometimes right across the street from on another. DD was our saviour in the end though because it was the only place where you could get a semi normal breakfast! So at one of the markets we bought this one thing that is like a flat thin hard pancake. I watched a woman making it one day and they heat the batter up in a little pan over a stove and then dump it out to flatten and shape it. It kind of tastes like burnt marshmallow sugar and was hard to chew and got stuck in your teeth. Finding "normal" food here has been challenging. I haven't seen one supermarket, fresh fruit, or vegetables anywhere! Everything here consists of either noodles or battered and fried meat of some sort....I really don't know how there aren't more overweight people in this country! Every time we try and be brave and order something authentic we never know what we are going to end up with! We have to go by what pictures are available in the restaurants and if there are some translations in English then that's a bonus! There's no altering your meal from what's set on the menu due to the language barrier! Our first night we ended up ordering to massive plates of fried chicken that came with nothing else. We could barely put a dent in it! After that interesting choice of dinner we ended up buying two waffle pies on the way home which consisted of waffles with 6 different flavors of ice cream inside. They were pretty good until the green and purple flavors at the bottom! The jet lag started to set in that evening and we could barely keep our eyes open at 8 o'clock that night. We went to bed early and then proceeded to wake up at 2 wide awake, and again at 4 and again at 6...I think we are only now just adjusting to the new time zone!
Day 2 took us to another palace where we did a self guided tour and then walked around this old village which was right next to it. The village was a mix of old architecture with more modern buildings. There were lots of little shops and restaurants along the street. We passed one restaurant that had pictures and one dish looked pretty good so Marty went for it. He ordered a noodle dish with seafood and vegetables. I tried the noodles and they tasted great! There were lots of locals having lunch in the restaurant as well. I then remembered something I had heard once about slurping your noodles to show appreciation for the food. I said it to Marty and soon after that's all we could hear coming out of everyone's mouth in the restaurant which left us in a little giggle fit. I was trying to get him to slurp his noodles but he didn't want to play! We came back to the hostel after that and hung out with some of the people here for a bit before heading across the street for a beer. Again the language barrier made things interesting as we tried to order beer and got two bottles of water instead. Marty soon sorted us out and we were sipping some nice Korean beer. Before the beers came the waiter dropped off a good size bowl on the table which consisted of shaved ice topped with strawberry ice cream, frosted flakes, red beans, and some cubed things which I think were fruit... We were wondering what the hell it was and why were we given it? Was this their version of a bread basket? I tasted a little bit of each thing just to figure out what it was! When we got back to the hostel we mentioned it to some of the guys who then informed us that it's a specialty Korean dessert and they had just paid 7000 won for one the other night! I guess we got it by accident so cheers for that...although I don't think we are too found of the connection that was their specialty! We slept pretty good that night, perhaps the beer is the answer to curbing jet lag and sleeping through the night!
Our last day in Seoul we went to this park which boarders the river. It gives you a great view of all of Seoul and was a good spot for pictures. We made it there just in time for a water show at one of the bridges. Apparently a few times throughout the day there is this bridge which does a water show. We watched as water was shot out into the river in time with various tunes that blasted out from speakers on the bridge including Mariah Carrey's "Hero"....whacky but true, kind of like a lot of things around here! It was a gorgeous day and we walked along the river for a little bit before heading back into the city. We wanted to wander through the markets one last time because they really are a site to experience! All in all Seoul has been a nice first exposure to Asian culture. More of a modern feel than cultural. We're looking forward to our next stop few stops in China!
To give a rough idea of prices, the following costs are as follows;Bottle of water; 700won = 45p Bowl of noodles; 5000won = 3 pounds Average price of dinner; 30,000won =20pounds Price of a pint of beer; 3000won = 2 ponds