I did it!
I managed to sleep for most of the flight from San Francisco to Seoul! My father did upgrade me to Economy Comfort+ as a travel gift, so that definitely helped. Look at all of this leg room!!!
I fell asleep immediately after popping a couple ZzQuil and eating the carb-heavy flight dinner. We had a choice between chicken and pasta. I chose the chicken, thinking it would be healthier, but it was a sesame-soy glazed chicken with a heaping side of white rice and a dinner roll. It did come with a yummy mustard quinoa salad, though! The most interesting part was the dessert – green tea ice cream. Certainly not the worst meal I’ve had on a plane, but it still left me feeling pretty gross.
I would slept for 3 hours, woke up for 10 minutes, slept for another 3 hours, woke up for another 10 minutes, and so on. I refused to look at the clock when I woke up as I knew it would only increase the pressure to sleep. Before I knew it, 10 hours flew by and they were turning on the lights for breakfast!
This time we had a choice of eggs or noodles. I chose the eggs and it was a pathetic lump of scrambled egg, foamy potatoes, and sausage puree. I’m flying United but it’s operated by Asiana so all of the crew and most of the passengers are Asian. Unfortunately the plane is still the old, crummy United aircraft!
I’m writing this on the plane as we start our descent. I’ll be sure to take photos during the ride from the airport to Seoul and of the apartment we are staying at. Hopefully we can navigate the public transportation smoothly!
We made it to the Airbnb without much trouble. The only incident was when we purchased a one-way metro ticket to get into the city. The metro has the normal turnstyles where you swipe your card to get inside and out. It worked fine on the way there, but when we tried to leave the metro, it wouldn’t let us! Alarms sounded and everyone stared. We figured it meant we needed to add more money, but there were no machines or staff to help. We ended up flagging down a worker who shrugged and let us leave without payment. Sometimes its good to be foreign!
Our neighborhood was so cute! It was in the university district but nothing about it seemed like a college area. We were 3 blocks from a major subway stop and there were countless cafes and restaurants lining the streets. We dropped off our bags and were greeted by the Airbnb host, Jenny, who gave us a run down of the rules. We made a pit stop at the local GS25 (equivalent of 7/11) to get a few necessities like shaving cream and beer. I even got banana flavored milk!
We left shortly thereafter to explore Seoul. We wanted to see the iconic North Seoul Tower, so we took the subway and walked there. What we didn’t realize was that the tower is on top of a giant mountain that you can either hike or take cable cars to the top of. We opted for the cable cars and waited around an hour in line. They had a special 2-for-1 deal where you got a discount if you bought your cable car tickets with a meal. We didn’t have any plans for dinner so we decided to do that.
We made it to the base of the tower and realized we had to buy ANOTHER ticket if we wanted to go to the top of the actual tower. The view was already amazing and it was getting to be 9pm, so we decided to skip that. After taking several touristy photos and admiring the “love locks” couples attach to the fence line, we set off to find the restaurant that served our dinner.
The complex was fairly confusing and resembled a tree house with wooden stair cases leading all directions. We spotted the restaurant but couldn’t figure out which staircase led to the door. All we could find was a giant square pane of glass without a handle, knob, or doorbell. We figured this HAD to be the entrance, but there was no way to get inside. After circling the building a few more times, we saw a Korean couple approach the door and hold a hand against a designated square. This triggered a sliding door and we were finally allowed to enter!
Our meal was pork tempura, miso soup, rice, kimchi, and slaw. It was delicious but a little bland. Near the end of our meal, the waitress approached and demonstrated that we were supposed to add sauces to the meat and slaw. That made it taste MUCH better!
After dinner, we took the stairs down the mountain to avoid the hour long line for the cable cars. We laughed the entire way about how horribly designed the stairs were. Every other step was so different in height and width and there was even a “mistake” section where they had built stairs in the wrong direction! We finally reached the bottom and caught a bus to Itaewon – the foreigner district. Most of the online guides said to stay away from this area unless you want to be surrounded by Americans, but we wanted to check out a couple good bars there. The first we went to – Dillingers – was the epitome of an American bar. They were playing Avicii music and showing baseball games on a big screen. They served pitchers of beer and the waitresses all spoke perfect English. They even had dollar bills in the tip jar! While this was comfortable, it definitely wasn’t ideal for a trip abroad. We took the subway back to our neighborhood – Hongdae – where we planned to go to a club.
I was initially pretty worried about clubs in Seoul. From my online research, they are expensive. It costs around $18-25 just to get in the door! But that does include a free drink ticket. Most of the reviews claim “body to body” capacity and the total inability to move. Bouncers also perform “water checks” on people waiting in line. This basically means they can turn away anyone too underdressed or anyone who looks too foreign. With my blond hair and Joe’s darker skin… we definitely fit the bill.
Luckily, Club Vera let us in without hassle. We even met two Russian girls in line behind us! The “free drink” left much to be desired. You could either choose a shot, a beer, or soda. I opted for a shot of vodka, half of which was immediately spilled as someone at the bar was shoved into me. The music was amazing and the dance floor was packed. I was mostly amazed by the hype crew. Clubs will employ people to get guests hyped up – usually by dancing or giving away free stuff. This club had people shooting t-shirts out of cannons, throwing candy to the crowd, and even pouring alcohol straight into people’s mouths! I definitely partook in the last one.
We stayed until around 3am, which is fairly early considering clubs stay open til 7am. We were exhausted. We made it back to the Airbnb and made plans to wake up the next morning at 11am. Needless to say, it was a pretty successful first night in Seoul!