Sixteen hours in the city of Seoul.
If you think I missed an opportunity to be punnier with the word Seoul, you aren’t wrong. But after all this travel time, the old brain ain’t churning like it used to, and so “Sold my Seoul” and “Seoul sister” are the only options I’m getting up in here.
Knowing I’d have only sixteen hours in Seoul, it was clear I had two options. I could either acquire one of those Hermoine time-turners to magically cover more South Korean ground, or, I could find a local to show me around. Just this once, I chose the latter.
With This Is Korea, finding a local was simple.
I don’t usually go on guided tours – which is ridiculous considering my ways with a map leave much to be desired – but because of time constraints, I knew a tour had to happen.
And as my exception to the rule, This Is Korea knocked my socks off. Here’s what we did…
Incheon to Seoul central
Despite my flight being a delightful three hours late, I arrived at Incheon Airport to find my guide Matt waiting for me at the gates, wielding a sign with my name on it. The sign read: “Davidson Demelziano”, and this is the story of how I stole Mr Demelziano’s tour.
Ok. Fine. It said “Serena Coady” and if I’m being straight up, it made me feel like one of those well-loved people who arrive at the airport with an ecstatic welcoming party flanking the exits.
The journey into the city was surprisingly long, but you’d hardly know it. My guide Matt was unique in his ability to expertly tell stories without it sounding like he’d told them a million times before. He gave me a rundown of Korea, from the North/South split to the fact that Seoul has more Starbucks than any other city.
Despite me being as tired as Satan’s lazy lap cat Frank, I was wide awake thanks to my guide’s easy sense of humour and willingness to answer all of my questions about Seoul, no matter how left field some were.
While it was midnight by the time we reached central Seoul, I was determined to see at least one or two things before turning in. So in the surrounding streets of my accommodation, Matt showed me around the ethereally-lit laneways of Gangnam.
Naturally, I was not photo-ready after a 10 hour flight. Nonetheless, Matt sprung into action as chief picture-taker. I had forgotten that This Is Korea included a photo service.
Soon enough, he shuffled me onto the Gangnam Style stage for an unmissable photo op, and he whirled around finding angle after angle. His dedication to #DoingItForTheGram was a treat.
Bukchon Hanok Village
Early the next morning, we made our way to a historic Seoul village.
On the way, Matt continued with his historical tales and take on modern Korea. His English was perfect, but he drew diagrams just to help me out.
Next up was Gyeongbokgung, where witnessed the guard changing ceremony. The drumming was incredible in its precision and harmony, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want one of those skinny beard and moustache wigs.
While the cultural aspect was fascinating, the highlight was when Matt – I kid you not – slid onto the bare ground like a water snake. He wanted to snap a good angle of me and the temple. Matt, my one true Instagram Husband.
Jogyesa Temple and Korean dress-up
The final stop was Seoul’s main Buddhist temple, the nearby food spots as well as one last surprise.
After a bit of exploring – and the purchasing of a delicious waffle purposely shaped like an actual swirly turd – the thoughtful Matt took me to the Insa-dong Center where this happened:
Even though we both knew I’d never have the natural suaveness of a South Korean, I had the opportunity to dress like one.
So there it went, sixteen hours in Seoul. If you need some inspiration for your upcoming South Korea trip, visit This Is Korea on Facebook and Instagram and start planning your an adventure of your own here.