We left Chun'cheon on a full stomach after we had breakfast in an unassuming small restaurant a block away behind from IMT Hotel. How my friend's father found it, I don't know. We had spicy fish soup with a 100-year old kimchi. Was it really a 100-year old kimchi, I didn't dare ask. They were all eating it so I ate it too. I couldn't quite decipher the difference between a 1-year old kimchi to a 100-year old kimchi. But nonetheless, the spicy fish soup was delicious.
After a 2 hour ride from Chun'Cheon to Seoul, getting pulled over by the traffic officer because our driver wasn't wearing his seatbelt and received a ticket for it, we finally arrived at Seoul! I said goodbye to Sae's family and thanked them for taking care of me in Chun'cheon.
Jo, Sae's sister and her friend, took me to the hostel I booked to stay the remaining week in Korea. Seoul Backpackers (www.seoulbackpackers.com - Seoul Backpackers is now called Banana Backpackers www.bananabackpackers.com and a new Seoul Backpackers has opened close to Seoul Station) is located 3 blocks away from the Anguk Station and Insadong. It offers bare minimum accommodations but it was clean and the staff speaks English and was very nice. I checked in but found they placed me and my friend in a 6-bed dormitory room. When I told them that I booked a double room, for me and my friend who was arriving that night, I was told that there were no double room available but there was an empty 6-bed dormitory room that is available.
With no additional charge, they gave it to us for the 8 nights of my stay! I didn't hesitate and took the offer. All the bedrooms have its own bathroom which was cleaned as per your request. After checking in, Jo, her friend, and I walked to Insadong, which is only 2 blocks away from Seoul Backpackers hostel! This hostel is located between major attractions and subways stops! I love it since I am walk-aholic! I can just walk anywhere! We browsed through the traditional stores. It was a Sunday so the entire Insadong Street was close to commercial traffic. Booths lined the streets selling wind chimes to food. I bought postcards right away because I knew I had to mail it the next day. Jo and her friend then took me to the "piano street" and the Gwanggyo stream, which apparently were well-known due to being featured in numerous Korean dramas.
Seoul: Insadong - I think it says "how are you?" in Hanggul
After walking around, we decided to eat! It was already past when we realize how hungry we were. We went back to Insadong and after a few turns in narrow streets, we arrived at Song Do Restaurant. I would never have found this place on my own, but hey, we had a native Seoul-er (I'm making that up) with us. We had BBQ and kimchi, of course. In the 4 days since I arrived in Korea, I have never eaten so much vegetables before. And I didn't mind it because it seems just so natural to do so. We took off our shoes and sat on the floor with seating pads. We chose a table against the wall so we had something to lean on. We ate, chatted, and made a call to Sae, who was leaving for his honeymoon in Cebu that afternoon. When I offered to pay, Jo's friend refused and said it was her treat since it was my birthday.
Seoul: Insadong - only Starbucks in Hanggul
Oh crap! I actually forgot it was my birthday! We later went back to Seoul Backpackers to rest before meeting up with a mutual friend whom a friend from NYC who contacted to let him know I was visiting Seoul. He was kind enough to offer to pick up my friend, Karen, at the airport. She was arriving from Hong Kong that night. We got on the train and met up with Albert outside of Yeouido station. He lives a few blocks away from the station. I thank Jo and her friend for all their help and planned a day before she leave to hang out or for dinner to return her hospitality. Albert drove to Seoul-Incheon airport and we waited for Karen's arrival. We got to know each other and talked about NYC and how he liked living in Seoul - he has been living in Seoul a little less than 2 year due to work.
Seoul: Insadong - some performance
Karen finally arrived 30 minutes after the scheduled arrival time. We were waiting at the gate but didn't see her come out because she ended up exiting at a different gate! After the introductions, we went back to the hostel to check in Karen and off we left again for Itaewon. By then, it was already 11pm. Albert took us to Don Valley Korean BBQ restaurant popular with non-Koreans. It was open 24-hours, too! Again, when I offered to pay, they refused. Karen remembered it was my birthday and that precipitated for Albert to offer to pay. Albert drove us back to our hostel again after dinner. He had work early Monday morning and it was already past ! With that, my 24th birthday and my first day in Seoul ended. It was definitely the mellowest birthday I have but it was nice for a change and turning 24 wasn't such a big deal. I guess that's how it is when one is getting older? Hehehe...
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