One place I love more than Atlanta is New York City. Now I can add Seoul to my list of cities I love. If I feel lead, I might even look into trying to secure a teaching job in Seoul. I had the time of my life in Seoul. I went there for fun and left feeling extremely inspired.
Since being here, I can say Korea is a very safe place to live. Even in a bigger city like Seoul I felt safe traveling as a single woman, even at night. I came from Mokpo, Korea so it was a four hour bus journey to get to Seoul. The ride was very comfortable and I slept most of the time and finished up reading some chapter for my book report (yup still in grad school).
Once I arrived, which was super early in the morning, I was a bit nervous. The bus terminal was completely empty and it was much larger than the one in Mokpo. I had no clue which direction to go and of course no-one spoke English. So I just started walking and following the signs. I eventually found what I thought was the exit and bumped into a young Korean lady. People are very nice here, especially to foreigners. She walked me all the way to the correct side of the building which was a long distance away. On my own I would have never found where I needed to go. The place was a ghost town. When I left Monday it was like going to the airport. The place was an entirely different atmosphere than it was when I arrive Friday night. Thankfully I found a place where I could catch a cab.
Back in Mokpo catching taxis is super easy. Taxis are everywhere and empty all the time. I waited at least a good 20 minutes for a taxi. Once again the kindness of the locals assisted me in explaining to the driver where I needed to go. I thought all I needed to do was show him the address, but even in Korean it was not that simple. Thankfully I have street smarts and used my own navigation plus I had picture of the street address. Nontheless, I found my way to the hostel. From Seoul express station to Kimchee house I paid about $12 for the taxi.
Upon arrival I was shocked. I never in my life stayed in a hostel. It was live even at 1am. I was just ready to go to bed. I got to the room and everyone was sleep. My initial impression was wow it stinks. It was a mildew, moldy, older, people sweating smell and I was like no way will I stay here but where else was I to go at 2am? I tried to be as kind as possible and quietly get into the room which was full. Chile ya girl climbed on that top bunk and bayyybayyy! WOW. The whole bunk bed shifted, the rain fell to the floor, and it was so hard getting to that top bunk.
Once I was on the top but I had to get down for some reason. It was internally awkward for me being there especially arriving so late. It was also awkward sharing a room because I was trying my hardest to be quiet, but I felt like everyone couldld here me. How about when I tried to get down my pants got stuck and I was hanging on a piece of the bunk that was sticking out. My pants and my panties were up my rear end so far and I could not help but to laugh at myself. I felt like, I can not believe this is how I am going to die. Lol eventually I wiggled myself down.
I was unsure of the cleanness prior to going because after all the place was $10 a night. Thankfully, I was smart and packed a pillow case and a top sheet. I did that just incase the facility was not up to par with cleanliness. Finally, the next morning I woke up and to my surprise I was shacking with a room full of men. The listing stated the dorms are co-Ed, but I was not expecting to be partner with ALL men.
Any who, I started my day took a shower and gathered myself together to head out. I spent much of the night preplanning my day and looking at other places to stay. By morning I was like forget it. You lasted this night so you will be fine. Just come here, shower, and eat. Like I said I also had brought my own pair of sheets and pillow cases, towels, shower shoes, and many essentials for staying at a hostel. We had lockers and everyone seemed to just lay in the bed all day for the most part. Plus, my roommates were kind and smiled a lot, but they did not speak English.
Now to get to the good part. The key to successful travel is downloading all the appropriate apps for communicating, traveling, maps, translating etc. For traveling and communicating in Korea I suggest:
3. Google Translate (even though it is so inaccurate)
4. Currency Exchange App
8. Social Media Apps
During my stay here KakoMap came in handy. I was successful because I planned an itenaery and stuck with it. As you can see from the photos above of me infant of the subway I stayed near Chungjeongno station.
When traveling stay close by subway no more than 20 minutes walking distance for convince.
Take pictures of the place where you are staying and the address incase you have to find a taxi and let them know where you need to go.
Be mindful of the route you take a landmarks nearby. Sometimes taxis might take a longer route, especially in bigger cities.
Also, take pictures of your surrounding. Take pictures of where you stay, the subway you enter, the map where you entered (you are here), and any landmarks.
Download social media apps so you can easily #hashtag a place and see where it is or what is going on in the city near you. Instagram now allows the city you are in to pop up on your feed so you will not miss what is going on by simply following the #hashtags ad following the cities verified pages.
Also, download a dating app to connect with people. Being that I was in Seoul I looked forward to meeting some black men!!!! There are other teachers and a lot of Army guys in Seoul.
So like I said, prior to the trip I made a list of places I needed to go. Whatever I did I calculated the fact I needed to be home before 11pm because that is when the subway stops running. I am not 100% sure if this is accurate, but that is what I was told so I Ade my way back to the subway always before 11pm. Taxis are also an option, but it was very hard to find a taxi. Personally, I did not mind paying anything less than $20 for a taxi, but it is hard to find one because of the fact there are so many people and sometimes taxis will tell you "no."
I made a list of all the place I wanted to go.Trip Advisor is a great app to use for traveling. It provides pictures, address, reviews, FAQs etc. I made my list of all the places I wanted to travel and grouped them together by distance and location in Seoul. It was so so so much fun taking the subway and navigating myself around. It actually gave me a new found love for public transportation, something that is somewhat frowned upon in the south, namely GA where I live. In larger cities it is the best way to travel.
Any who, some of the places I wanted to visit included (pictured above)
1. Seoul Metropolitan Library
2. Trick Eye Museum
3. Natonal Museum of Korea
8. Western restaurants
9. Western shopping places
10. Lotte World
Additionally, there is almost always some type of festival going on in Korea. I like that there is always something to do and celebrate. Also, Seoul is very diverse. Thus, many people speak English and you can easily run into people and make friends. That is what I did. When traveling solo, you have to be open to meeting people. Be open to downloading dating apps in order to connect with people.
Truthfully, I miss black people. I love our insider and our common interests. So I was super open to going to Seoul using these apps to connect with people as well as just being friendly. Most people either live in Korea or Asia (teacher/military) or they are visiting. Either way, no matter where they are from or why they are there it is good to network.
Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, but the others gold. As you can see here I have no problem linking up with people. That is what made my trip worthwhile. Meeting likeminded people and doing the tourist thing together. Also, stay connected with people. I look forward to another weekend in Seoul. though I knocked off so many thing on my bucket list, there are so may other places to go. Stay tuned for my next Vlog and next Seoulupdate.
In the end, the hostel was not THAT bad. That first night I stayed there I was searching AirBnb for another option and I was Livid. However, after I settled in and saw the place in daylight it was not so bad. Plus it was so close to the subway and only $10 a night. Despite the smell and the very old bunkbed situation I recommend staying there BUT there is a #milddewmoldywetdrippingsweatymustysmell.
Also, you may stay in a room with men, which I did. I am not sure if it is because I booked last minute or because the female majoroty rooms were full. Also, be open to connecting with people. Interestingly enough, the people at the hostel did not seem to leave or travel much. They were friendly, but they seemed to have been there awhile and already cliqued up.
Staying at Kimchee house gave me a new appreciation for hostels and budget living and budget traveling. My biggest advice is to bring ALL your comforts. Towles, air fresher, cleaning wipes, sheets, pillow case, headphones, food. When traveling on a budget find a place where you can sleep, cook(a place that has a fridge and kitchen), and shower. That is all you need. Outside of enjoying the site seeing the hotel is just a place to get a quick nap. Leave early and come back late.
Until next time. To Seoul with love.