Seoul Mates

Originally published 20 February 2016.

Happy Valentine’s Day! OK, so it’s a little late by now, but we spent our Valentine’s Day in Seoul!

Fun fact: In South Korea, Valentine’s Day is all about the boys! Yes indeed, ladies first… the girls buy gifts for the their boyfriends or significant others that day. But never fear! March 14 is White Day, the day that provides the boys a chance to give a gift to their lady friends. By the way, it’s customary for the boys to pay three times more for their girl’s gift!

Bundled up with Valentine’s Love!

Valentine’s Day came early for us, thanks to our 6:00 pm bedtime. Yep, up at 1:00am! We did our best to rest until the gym opened at 6:00 am. And we decided to try out the hotel’s other breakfast restaurant, Asian Live. It had more of an Asian feel by decoration and atmosphere, but the food was largely the same as the other restaurant! Either way, we had sushi for breakfast, which is of course, the world’s best breakfast.

Then it was time to set out! We had decided that we’d try out the Seoul Metro system, since things are so spread out, and head to the Palace District. I took our guidebook and map to the concierge and asked how to get there and how to use their system (somewhere I’d read that it is a confusing system if you don’t speak Korean). Turns out, it’s very similar to DC’s metro system with colored and numbered train lines, and it’s directionally-based! Easy as pie. It took a minute to figure out how to use their ticket kiosks, but once we got it, we had it! The system is huge–over 650 with more being added!–but we felt pretty confident about it.

Mr. Peabody Pembroke rides the rails!

Fortunately for us, there is a metro stop that is semi-attached to the COEX mall, which is attached to our hotel! So we only had to walk outside for a few steps on our way to the metro. It was COLD that day!

We popped up out of the metro at the right stop, but the wrong exit, so we wandered around a little bit… and upon approaching the Gyeongbokgung Palace, we realized that the correct exit was right next to the Palace Museum. Whoops! But just a few steps farther was this:

Feng Shui says that it’s best to have a river in front of a house, and a mountain behind the house. You can’t see it, but there is a river, and of course you see the mountain! We read that there would be an English tour in about an hour, so we spent a while in the Palace Museum to keep warm while we waited.

The tour was great! Our guide was Korean, but spoke excellent English. She did her best to keep us out of the wind, since we couldn’t actually go into any of the buildings. She did a good job! She was upbeat and positive the whole time, except when she had to mention the Japanese. That was a dark spot. There are five palaces for the royal family that ruled for over 500 years, but the Gyeongbokgung is the main palace and the largest complex. When the Japanese came in (one of the times they came in), they destroyed 90% of this palace. They have only been able to restore less than half of it so far, but it’s an ongoing project! The history is complex and interesting. It even kept my interest in the cold and wind!

After the tour, it was high time to find a warm beverage! Thankfully, there is another museum–the Korean Folk Museum–just outside the palace walls, and they have a cafe! It was a little crowded, but we got served fast! Steve got a caramel macchiato, but I got the more exotic and exciting sweet potato latte! =)

After warming up so we could feel our toes again (I’m so glad I brought boot socks and my long johns!), we explored the Folk Museum. Fewer of the exhibits were in both Korean and English, so we mostly look at things instead of reading what they were.

Ready to head back into the cold? Here we go! The plan was to head back to the COEX district and find a Starbucks mug for our collection. Given the extensive size of Seoul’s metro system, it took a while to get back! We walked around to find a Starbucks (one of 284!), picked up their unique Seoul mug, and set out for our hotel.

The only thing about our hotel that was less than ideal for us was that the internet is only free in the lobby and common areas, not in each room. But we made the most of it! We found a quiet spot, brought down a cracker and some grape juice, and picked an old sermon from my congregation’s website back home. Technology makes life a lot easier! We did our “church” service, took a quick nap, and headed out to find supper. And what did we pick… Sushi! I told Steve he could pick, but he chose sushi because he loves me and wants me to be happy!

After sushi, we were pretty exhausted! I guess that’s just what happens when you wake up at 1:00 am! We slept while we could, read when we woke up at 1:00 am again, went to the gym, enjoyed a leisurely breakfast (with sushi!), and waited for our cab driver to pick us up. The hour drive to the airport was uneventful, but the line for security was unbelievable! I don’t know if Steve and I are just spoiled because of TSA Pre-check back home, but I’m pretty sure something about the security process at Incheon was broken.

Anyway, we made it home! Where will we go next? You’ll have to wait and see!

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