South Korea – 23 hours in Seoul

Convoluted layovers used to really annoy me….. I still don’t love them but I have learnt to better exploit the opportunity to spend some time somewhere interesting.  As part of my 51 hour trip to Yap in Micronesia I spent a lovely 23 hours in Seoul.  Blissful!

Chinese tourists posing at the palace
Seoul is a fantastic town and you can get a lot in in less than a day.   My top tips….

See the palaces – Gyeongbokgung, Changdeokgung and Deoksugung

I saw the outside of all three but only Gyeongbokgung was open (it was a Monday) to go inside.  Be amused by the beautifully dressed guards and more amused by the Chinese tourists who hire traditional Korean costumes and take endless selfies.  Changdeokgung looked the nicest from the outside, so if you are short of time, focus there.

Guard at Gyeobgbokgung
Visit the museum of modern and contemporary art and the surrounding galleries

Seoul is blessed with world class art and galleries.  Start with the mmca Seoul!  It’s terrific (plus has free wifi, water, lockers and a great cafe).  If you have time also see the smaller sister museum at Deoksugung.  Then pound the pavement around Bukchon taking in some of the wonderful smaller galleries – Gallery Hyundai and PKM galleries in particular.  I didn’t make it to Leeum Samsang museum as it was the other side of town, but apparently it is good too.

Art exhibition created by visitors making balls of clay – this exhibit is about 20m wide
Exhibition created by applying paint to a soccer ball and dribbling!

The boots used to splatter the paint
Walk, walk and walk some more

I covered 24k easily on foot taking in all of the above as a lazy long loop from Seoul station up to Gyeongbokgung past city hall and Gwanghwamun square.

Splattered Bentley in Bukchon
Street art in Bukchon
Than I wanderEd through Bukchon traditional village to Changdeokgung and back down to do some shopping at Eujiro 1 intersection after a stroll along Cheonggyecheon stream (a stream which used to be underground and is now a delightful pedestrian thoroughfare).  Then take the cut through Namdaemun market to get back to Seoul station

Cheonggyecheon stream
Back alleys of Seoul
Go food shopping

Nothing helps you understand a culture more than going grocery shopping.  Koreans are tough…. they use their trolleys like bumper carts.   Watch your butt!  If you time it right you can eat for free, there were over 40 women handing out free samples of dimsum, bread and noodles at the Lotte mart at Seoul station at 5pm.  There was a whole aisle for dried seaweed.  I played Russian roulette and bought a random assortment of stuff to try.  I won some, I lost some.

Seafood skewers at Lotte Mart
Pickled veg in Namdaemun
Getting to and from incheon is a piece of cake on the airport train for £5, although it does take 45 minutes.  I stayed at the small but perfectly formed Kpop hotel which is 30 metres from the exit of Seoul station for a bargain £42.


Bibimbap – the breakfast of champions
Happy protestors
January 10, 2016, Seoul