So we made it to our first holiday courtesy of well placed public holidays! Having the whole week off, Monique and I decided to go and explore Seoul. We booked a place on an Adventure Korea tour to Munyeong for the Chasabal Pottery Festival and Ziplining, as well as tickets to ‘The Winter’s Tale’ and the Dark Side of Seoul tour; the rest we’d figure out as we went!
The first step was catching the bus from Seongju to Seoul, which turned out to be a pleasant experience; super comfortable seats, the drive only a little over 3 hours with a 20 minute stop and direct from our little town! The subway was pretty easy to figure out and we had it down within the first day. The air-bnb that we stayed at was right next to a bus stop and was only a few minutes away from a subway stop in Hongdae.
Our first event was Shakespeare’s ‘The Winter’s Tale’ by the Seoul Shakespeare Players. A well acted performance which did justice to the play but certain directorial and technical aspects let the show down as a whole. Inconsistency in how the stage space was used, walls broken at arbitrary times, climatic moments brushed over while more mundane scenes played quite powerfully, the stage never properly lit and the overall pace a little too quick. Despite this it was an enjoyable experience; we suddenly had to gear up our English brains again to follow the text!
Sunday was spent with Adventure Korea. At 7am our bus left for Munyeong, to the pottery festival and we arrived shortly after 10am. The location of the festival was incredibly picturesque, I could happily spend many weeks there walking and reading! We each got to make a clay pot but then were quickly whisked away before we could really explore the festival. This caused much grumbling from me and Monique as we would have loved to explore a little more! The next stop was the zipline and it made up for our previous complaints; the forest canopy just as stunning and a lot of fun going done the lines. Health and safety is not a thing here though, as I remember a pretty lengthy safety video in SA before doing a zipline course but here we were literally told, ‘don’t touch the wire here or you’ll lose a finger’. Safety instruction done. In future we possibly won’t use a tour company for festivals but the convenience of not having to figure out transportation is great!
Monday we had a late start, explore Hongdae some more (great place for shopping), and met up with Stuart, an old school/varsity friend, for lunch. He’s been here in Korea for the last 4 years and it was great to catch up! Discussing shared experiences is a fun way to spend the afternoon! We finished a lot later than expected so Monique and I weren’t too hopeful that we’d see everything else we’d planned but we made our way to Insadong (the art district) to find some local art and stumbled on the 똥 카페 (Poop Cafe). It was hilarious! The food was pretty crappy but the toilets were clean enough to eat off! We decided we needed some dinner by this point and ate out of miniature toilet bowels; it was worth it for the laughs! By now we thought the Gyeongbokgung Palace (the main palace in Seoul) would be closed but maybe we could get some good photos of it by night so we ambled across there anyway. Turns out it was a special open night with the Royal Culture festival and it was open until late. So we were treated to stunning traditional music and beautiful light displays! Lastly we made our way down to see the lanterns from the lantern festival, everything within walking distance but oh my did we walk a lot! The lanterns we magical and we could have spent many hours there but we had to keep in mind when the last bus was running so we eventually pulled ourselves away to go home.
Tuesday, our last full day. Monique has always wanted to go to a Hello Kitty Cafe, we thought this was quite far away but thankfully my quick log on to Pokemon Go showed that there was in fact a cafe not 500m away from where we were walking! So we ticked that off the to-do list with a delicious fro-yo and coffee/hot chocolate, enjoyed in the pinkest room I have ever been into in my life! Worth a visit if you enjoy themed cafes and not actually that expensive! The rest of the day was spent filling hours before our Dark Side of Seoul ghost tour. Already pretty walked out I as not prepared for another 3 hour walk but we survived! The tour was great from a historical and creepy point of view; if you’re ever in Seoul I would definitely recommend going on one of these tours at the beginning of your stay so you have some ideas of historical and culture locations to visit. We saw palaces, and side streets, learnt about the bloody history attached to many key points and urban legends that exist in Korean culture. Next time we are going to do the Chicken and Beer tour!
The trip was well worth it, we know a lot more of what we want to see the next time we visit Seoul! As wonderful as the trip was I definitely still prefer our little town here in Seongju, crowded streets, buses and subways are fine for a time but I need breathing space.