Sleeping on the laundry room floor could be fun!
Seoul Travel Blog› entry 290 of 658 › view all entries
People i met here who contributed to, and improved my trip: Polina (Kazakhstan/Russia/Korea), Mukesh (India), Joon (South Korea)
Arriving into Incheon airport at 18.30, i eventually got onto an airport bus and was heading to the centre of Seoul a little after 19.00. I was dropped by Anguk tube station in Insadong, but had no idea of the direction i needed to be heading in, so went into a building to ask a security guard. His English was non existent, but he got what i wanted and managed to point me in the right direction, which i was very grateful for. I managed to get a bit lost in amongst a lot of small alleys when i was trying to find the hostel i wanted and eventually a Western couple helped me out and pointed me in the right direction, with the warning that the hostels seemed pretty busy due to some concert taking place in the capital.
The first hostel i reached was full, so i began to wonder onto the next one, but got the same reply. It was nearing 21.00, i was wearing a pair of shorts and it was beginning to get cold, so when i walked into Beewon Hostel and got told that the place was also full, i started to feel a little desperate. The receptionist, a very friendly guy named Joon, told me that he would call the other hostels listed in my book, but to my horror, all the responses also came back negative.
What happened next was my first real introduction to Korean hospitality, when Joon explained there was a small room upstairs where they stored the sheets and rather than sleep on the streets, he said i could sleep there for free instead! I immediately jumped at the chance without even checking the place out, but when i did take my bag up there, i found a little box room, with a heated floor and all the spare blankets and duvets that the hostel owned.
I arranged with Joon that i could stay in the room over the weekend and we agreed on 5,000won ($5) a night, in comparison to 17,000won ($17) in a 4 bed dorm. For this price i also got free laundry, internet, breakfast and tea and water all day. Anyone thats ever been to South Korea will know that this is an incredible bargain! So with my accomodation sorted, i decided to head out for the morning, but was disappointed to open the door on a grey and rainy day in Seoul. Ann had given me a fetching yellow raincoat in Taiwan, so i pulled this from my big ruck sack and trudged off into the gloom.
First stop was Changgyeonggung Royal Palace, which due to the rain no doubt, was basically empty. The complex contained several impressive buildings, a nice pond, botanical gardens and a stele containing Royal umbilical cords, which i found a little wierd. But the place made for an impressive introduction to the city. The birds were twittering in the trees, i managed to see some little squirrels and there were some ducks in the pond, who didn't seem too concerned about the constant drizzle! From here, there was a path that led into neighbouring Jongmyo Palace, so i wandered into there and saw much of the same, impressive renovated buildings and only a handful of people.
I wandered back to the hostel with some sandwiches and crisps and had my lunch there, whilst trying to warm up.
By 15.00 i'd had enough for the day and just headed back to the hostel to watch the TV, use the internet and just basically laze around for the rest of the day. I ventured out briefly just to buy some food from the local grocery store, but other than that there was nothing of note to report.
On Sunday morning my first task was to navigate the gigantic Seoul subway, but thankfully there are plenty of English signs and maps to help you out. On top of that, i found a nice old Korean guy who spoke a bit of English and was only too happy to point me in the right direction. My first stop was the Seoul World Cup Stadium, which hosted the final of the 2002 World Cup Final between Brazil and Germany - a real must for any football enthusiast like myself. I had planned on doing a quick tour of the ground, but was told i couldn't buy a ticket for another 45 minutes. I therefore walked around the ground and took in the scale of the place, before heading back to the ticket office, where a man then told me that it was impossible to do a tour, as there was a game on later in the day.
Once i had secured my seat for later on, i took the subway to go and see the Jeoldusan Martyrs Shrine, a Catholic memorial that was built for the Korean Catholics, who were massacred by their countrymen in the 19th century. After some French bishops had been killed by Koreans, the French sent 2 warships to seek some form of reparation, but left empty handed. As a result, the Koreans felt angered to have faced such a situation, so blamed the Catholic religion and thus tortured and massacred anyone admitting to been of the Catholic faith.
On the front lawn was a large monument of Saint Andrew Kim Dae Gon, who was an important martyr at the event and also some interesting stele and carvings.
My next port of call was the War Memorial Museum, which is housed in an impressive building and also has plenty of outdoor displays to boggle the mind. These included a Sherman Tank, The statue of brothers, a tracked landing vehicle and several large aircrafts, as well as an obelisk.
Thankfully no goals were scored in the first 10 minutes of the game between FC Seoul and Daegu, as i wasn't there in time to see this part of the game, but the crowd were already singing and chanting like somebody had scored! The game was very entertaining, with both sides playing open and attractive football.
The second half began with the eruption of some fireworks, as did each goal that was scored, which always made me jump! The fans seemed to sing, dance, chant and cheer for the entire 90 minutes and they were rewarded with 2 second half goals, the first a penalty, which secured FC Seoul a 3-1 win and maintained their unbeaten start to the season. I left the ground buzzing to have been back in my element and decided that if i was still in Seoul on wednesday, i would definitely go back to watch them again!
I had arranged to meet one of Julia's friends called Polina in the evening and we were accompanied by her Indian friend Mukesh.