South Korea 2013: Welcome, Saturday shopping and my first time in Myeongdong!

I left my story at the arrivals lounge of Incheon International Airport, where I was now tasked with getting a bus to Cheongnyangni Station in the city of Seoul, a two hour drive from the airport.

Even on just leaving the plane, without even having stepped a foot outside, I could feel the insane heat of Korea’s summer which was in full swing by my arrival. Before I did a thing I removed my leggings and changed my shoes so I could simply breathe and then I set about getting a bus into the city. My wonderful buddy Yeon Su, whom I had yet to meet in person, had given me instructions on which bus to get to the station, how much it would cost and approximately how long it would take. While the task seemed extremely daunting, it was actually very simple. I left the airport to find a road full of coaches, or airport limousines as they are called there, with numbers on the front. I quickly found mine, with Cheongnyangni Station written in big letters across the windows along with the other stops on the way, loaded my suitcase into the hold, paid 10,000 won and sat down in my seat. The coach left and I was on my way to Seoul!

And we’re off! Driving along the airport highway.

I have never been one to find a journey interesting. Most coach and bus journeys I find monotonous and are simply a means to an end, but while driving into Seoul I was more interested in a coach journey than ever. The city was like no city I had seen before. Sure, there was lots of traffic, lots of people and lots of things going on!

Driving through Seoul…I spy a PC bang!

True to Yeon Su’s word, the journey took approximately two hours from start to finish, and I was one of three people left on the bus by the time we arrived. Stepping off the coach, I was hit with a wave of pure heat, and also fear, as I had no internet access and had not planned where I was to meet my buddy! I waited at Cheongnyangni station for about 20 minutes (the longest 20 minutes of my life!), sitting on my suitcase – I got lots of stares! Eventually, Yeon Su arrived looking wonderful despite the heat, and we jumped in a taxi to the University of Seoul.

Cheongnyangni station, next to Lotte Mart – if you watch K-dramas you may recognise this as the filming location for Secret Garden, where Lotte is changed to Loel!

The taxi drive was pretty short and very cheap! We arrived at the university residences where Yeon Su got me organised in my bedroom and I had a super quick shower before heading down to the welcome party to have some food and meet everyone! Unfortunately I missed the first hour, but I was able to get some food and meet some of the friends I had been chatting to online before we got there.

After the party (where I ate sushi for the first time) I had a very small amount of time to go back to my room to sort myself out because we were all going to a place called DDuk Tak, a Korean pub, to drink! We paid 10,000W each for unlimited beer, and I also got to try soju, a distilled rice liquor, and makgeolli, a fermented rice and wheat wine. All the Korean buddies went, as well as all the international students, and we had loads of fun, getting to know each other, laughing and playing lots and lots of drinking games. I learned both Korean and American drinking games that night, as well as playing games I already knew!
Some of my friends and I went back to the dormitory a little earlier than the rest as we were still very tired from travelling, myself no exception!

“Jjang!” – “Cheers!” in Korean, used mostly by younger people.

Beer, soju and makgeolli!

Meeting Ruth and Mike for the first time…V signs have already started!

The next morning, Brittany and I decided to go exploring in Seoul by ourselves (not too far, we went on foot!) and did a little bit of shopping. We walked out the back gate of the University of Seoul and headed to the around around Hoegi subway station where we founds lots of little shops, cafés and restaurants. We got some breakfast at a really cute place called Dilly Dally, where I had my first ever peach iced tea (which I am now in love with and miss like there is no tomorrow) and shared a sweet French bread tower with Brittany. We then headed out to the shops where I bought a new skirt and top at the insistence of a lovely little old Korean lady (she gave me a discount, what a sweetheart) and where we both went to Etude House for the first time and I bought my first lot of Korean nail polish!

French bread tower with peach iced tea at Dilly Dally… cute!!

A cute little café/bakery. I love cake!

Some of the cool graffiti.

After our small shopping spree out the back of the university, we headed out the front gate to Cheongnyangni Station, where I arrived the day before, with Brittany’s roommate and our friend Janja. Attached to the station is Lotte Mart, a huuuuge department store with a massive supermarket (including food, drink, crockery, clothing, toiletries, homeware etc.), a fancy department store for designer clothing, electronics and beauty products, a cinema, a food court, a rake of restaurants and cafés of all types of food and drink, and gosh knows what else. We went for lunch in one of the restaurants on the ground floor and shared a hotpot type heal with rice and all sorts of yummy stuff. We then headed into the fancy department store and had a look around.

Lotte from the outside.

Inside the Lotte department store. You may recognise this as the filming location for the Loel department store in k-drama Secret Garden.

Yummy scrummy lunch. Needless to say it all disappeared!

That evening I spent drinking with other new friends at a bar out the front gate of the university, and on the way home (and a little tipsy) I played leapfrog over some bollards in the street. I got a few stares…apparently quite a lot of people had never heard of leapfrog before!

The next day was my first proper journey into the city of Seoul. I went with Brittany, Jazmine and Vivian to Myeongdong, an area of Seoul which is very famous and very good for shopping! The atmosphere was awesome, if a little overwhelming. There was a crazy amount of people, probably owing to the fact that it was a Sunday, though we still stuck out like a sore thumb.

The first thing we did was something we hadn’t planned to do…we visited a dog café! For those of you who don’t know, dog and cat cafés started in Japan and were made for people who want the companionship of a pet but can’t look after one themselves for whatever reason. We paid 8000W to enter, which bought us a drink and as much time as we wanted with the dogs, and it was definitely worth it! We spent a good hour or two in there, chatting, fussing the dogs and having cuddles. One super cute dachshund decided my lap was a comfy place to take a nap so I had a friend for an hour, until a bully of a dog came over and pushed her off. The workers at the café were great, playing with the dogs and being really helpful, and they were super quick to clean up any doggy business.

Me and my sleepy buddy.

Puppy cuddles over, we left the café to get some food and continue shopping. We went to a lot of beauty stores (and when I say a lot I mean A LOT – they are 10-a-penny in Myeongdong) which hand out lots of freebies, lots of accessory stores where I fell in love with Korean earrings which just so happen to be insanely cheap and pretty, and we also went into Forever 21 where I bought a pair of denim shorts. I practically lived in those things for the entire trip so that was a good 20,000W very well spent!

After a Burger King lunch (don’t judge, we wanted something quick and easy that meant we didn’t have to figure out what we were eating) we went to a K-pop merchandise shop where I bought my very first SHINee album which came with a free poster. We continued to wander around Myeongdong for a while and then headed back to the university for another night of socialising with new friends. 🙂

Shopping in Myeongdong

Outside the fitting room in Forever 21!

Cardboard cutouts of K-pop stars from boyband SHINee ouside Etude House!

A rather informative poster in a clothes shop

Beauty shops…beauty shops everywhere.

Thus brings us to the end of my first three days in Seoul. In the next instalment I will be telling you all about my first few days of classes, including our trip to Korea House, Changdeok Palace and Insadong. 🙂

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