1 day layover in Seoul, Korea

Korea or Kentucky? Same thing…

I read somewhere that South Korea is the same size as Kentucky. The biggest difference is there are more national parks in South Korea and I can’t imagine hiking in Kentucky. Ok, it’s probably not the biggest difference. Also, I didn’t have time to hike, but the closest National Park to Seoul is only an hour away.

A man stands facing the Gyeongbokgung Palace gate holding a white umbrella, his back is to me.

My day in Seoul

Once everything is situated, I have a plan and I get to my room, I realize I am not in Seoul. I also am acclimating to time. I went to a buffet style dinner in my hotel lastnight around 21:15. I had a shower and cleaned my leggings that night, too. All of a sudden my energy was zapped- JET LAG! I was asleep by 23:00. zzZZZzZZzz.

2 plates on my table at the breakfast buffet. 1 plate is full of traditional korean foods and the other is more international/european foods.

I woke up around 03:00 and couldn’t go back to sleep, so I laid there to continue resting my body, I should be fully adjusted by tomorrow. I just had a buffet style breakfast in the hotel as well. There are at least 3 restaurants here. Typically, I would advise against staying in your hotel for everything. I love trying authentic food made by locals. However, to get into the city I need to take the train from the airport, taking a total of 1.5 hours. So I did my best to try the local cuisine. I had Merkel fish and a variety of dim sums. I also had some western foods.
At first I was upset; I had not seen an entire stand on the opposite side of the restaurant; then I found it. It was full of local foods. Needless to say I had way too much on my plates… 2 plates. Not much went to waste either- I was stuffed. I did make some good choices though and took small sizes so I could try more. I’m hoping I can move my massage up by 30 mins to get more time for the Changdeokgung Palace.
In hindsight- eating my meals in the hotel served me better than the city of Seoul on a tight time crunch without having more than a quick search to plan.

walking through a door in one of the buildings of Changdeokgung Palace.

The weather is a bit gloomy & under 60F. I’m hoping this will keep people inside- but keep the cherry blossoms in bloom! Kind of a conundrum. I always say this is better weather for a city; especially a big city like Seoul. It’s still off-season so it should naturally be less crowded. This weather helps with lighting for pictures too. I definitely am appreciative of Delta airlines for handling the missed leg of my trip as well as they did. I’m not at all bitter about missing 1 day in Chiang Mai. My AirBnB host was super accommodating as well. He switched my initial day to an extra day to the end of my stay. This was clutch as I would be cutting it close to catching the train to Bangkok otherwise… AND I had no initial plans my first day in Chiang Mai, I would just kind of grasp the city and adjust to the time difference.

In a way missing my flight beneficial; and Delta covering it was just the cherry on top! I needed a massage after sitting majority of my day yesterday in mostly cramped spaces. Not only would anyone be sore in that situation but I also have scoliosis and it’s horrible. I perked up when Delta said “I hope you’ll accept this massage as our sincere apology!” Yes ma’am, you’re all forgiven. I didn’t find out about all the meals until I arrived. I plan to have my lunch downtown though. I’m hoping to go to the Changdeokgung Palace becuase while it is not the largest or most visited, I think I’ll like it better. While I’m in Seoul I’ll look for a corner selling kimbap. It kind of looks like sushi, but a korean version. They’re Korean rice rolls filled with meat and vegetables sliced like a sushi roll. The meats are not raw however, and contain red meats as well as tuna and chicken… etc.
I think I’ll even have a little bit of time to stroll through Bukchon Hanok village. From the pictures it reminds me of the streets near Prague castle. I was rushed through those streets because I was on a tour with my dad and about 15 of his colleagues. It was such a cute and quaint area with boutiques and cafes; when I read about Bukchom Hanok village it sounded the same.
I’ll try and save myself more time for that. I have about an hour or so before my massage if they can move it forward. I’ll try and see if I can somehow create space in my bags. Otherwise, I guess I’ll be limited to only buying jewelry.

me standing at a tiny door in the Palace grounds.

10:20
I moved my massage appointment up 30 mins to buy time and am still just now leaving. I forgot I was in Korea! They had the cold tub so I obviously had to get naked and go in after my massage- I’d been to a korean spa in the states before (click here to read about that experience). I wish I’d known ahead of time when I was so impatiently waiting for my massage- I could’ve went in at 08:30. My massage went well. It was more of a deep tissue than a swedish massage. It reminded me of a massage from a boyfriend though… kinda like all over the place with intense pressure points except she actually did know what she was doing. At a couple points she had to climb on the bed and straddle me (without sitting on me) to put more pressure into my back. They definitely don’t do that back at home. She even finished the massage by doing the alternating karate like chops to my shoulder. I never understood where people got this idea from…
I’m headed to the train or bus now. I’m not sure which or if it’s an interchangeable term here.
…Ok, so I arrived to the airport and ended up just buying a $10 bus ticket to Seoul from the kiosks outside the shuttle loop. It should be 30 minutes less than the train… supposedly?! I don’t think I purchased a roundtrip ticket though so I’ll need to figure that out. It would’ve only cost me $8 to get an all day train/public bus ticket but this is a private bus. The palace is less than $3. Its not a big deal, I just don’t have any Korean won so I’ll have to find a currency exchange. For now, I have an hour of sightseeing by bus.

beautiful architecture at the Palace with bright shades of greens and red.

14:43
I’m finally on the bus heading back to the airport, then to my hotel and back to the airport. Traffic can be pretty bad. The bus was scheduled to arrive at 14:37 so I’m hoping I’ll get everything situated. I’m scheduled to checkout of my room at 16:00 and would like to be at the airport no later than 16:30. I didn’t get to Bukchom Hanok village. It was kind of confusing really- Google Maps kept saying walking wasn’t an option- “no routes found” and there ARE sidewalks. I did get to have kimbap and I don’t think I picked the best place.

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this in any of my other posts but I have truly come to depend on the kindness of strangers when traveling. The many Korean people I have asked questions to have all been tremendously helpful and kind. I had a really good day at the palace the rain actually stopped but it was still overcast- PERFECT.
There weren’t many people at the palace and it was all outdoors. It is nothing like a palace in Europe- in the general sense it is but not architecturally. I wish I could’ve seen the secret gardens. If I do get back here intentionally, I’ll plan it much better. You must book a tour in order to have access to the gardens. They really are hidden too, don’t expect to have a glance without access. The only available garden tour was at 14:30 and I needed to be on a bus then.
I took many pictures and then went to the gift shop. This would be the only time I’d have to find a Korean gift. I collect children’s books when traveling to new countries. I started this in 2018 so I don’t have all the places I’ve been- there’s maybe 4 main countries I’d like to go back to for a book. I started collecting them because I was buying them for my friends with kids and then I bought an extra… and ever since I thought it was a good idea. If I have kids it would be a fun way to share the world with them. Honestly, even if I don’t have kids I think it’s cool to have them. I don’t know any other language beyond a children’s reading level anyhow. The book I picked up is a Korean folk tale and has English and Korean on each page. It is called The Seven Brothers and the Big Dipper. There were a few titles and I didn’t read through any. As soon as I saw this title I had to have it. I am dying to read it! I might find time at the airport. This is going to have to fit in my carry on at this point.
After I purchased the book I discussed options of getting a bus or train back to the airport. The girls at the destination tried to assist. They were confused with the bus website, too. I figured I’d try the train. Before I left the palace gate I asked one more guy and he gave me a map to try and help- this showed only buses. I went back to the cafe for Wi-Fi to book my ticket online. I didn’t have any Korean won’s so to use a credit card I needed to reserve it on the website. I asked the girls for help to see if there was another nearby stop option. They found an option but said it was best to just have won’s. I explained I didn’t want to go to an ATM because I only needed $10 worth. They understood and, I think out of frustration with the website, the store manager came out and said she would just exchange my USD for won’s- no problem. I told them I only needed 10000 won, but because their phones were showing connecting buses only they said it was 15000 so I changed out 20 USD for 22000 won. I hopped on the Express bus and it was only 10000 won. I will use the other 10000 maybe at the airport, or maybe just keep it. Then I’ll have 2 single 1000 won ($1).

a young korean girl dressed in a traditional dress, green, smiling at the camera with a cherry blossom tree behind her.

As I was leaving to find food I stopped by some koreans dressed in traditional clothes. I asked to take a picture of the little girl with them. She was adorable. Anyone can rent these dresses at the store on the corner outside of the palace and across the street. I read online, if you come dressed in traditional clothes there is no admission fee, I believe this is true for any nationality who comes dressed this way.
I made it to the airport but it is already 16:15 and I cannot wait for the free bus back to my hotel. I was suppose to checkout 15 minutes ago! I have all my stuff pretty much ready to go but I cannot call the hotel.

The last leg to Chiang Mai, Thailand.

I ended up catching a taxi after my 4th attempt. It’s not hard, they’re waiting to take people to their hotels but they are so organized- maybe too organized. I went to 3 different ones but apparently they didn’t go to my hotel. I found the right group and hopped in. My driver got me to my hotel in record time. Meanwhile I called my hotel to say I was coming and apologized on being late for checkout. It was not an issue. Then I looked up the bus back to the hotel 16:50. I could pee, grab my bags and head back. I came down and they said that bus is terminal 1. Well I’m terminal 2 and that bus doesn’t come until 17:05. The latest you can check-in for my flight is 17:35 and it’s about 25-30 mins drive. Time to call a taxi.
I made it even with every little delay at each and every counter. I ran down the flat escalators, will definitely have shin splints, and then I sat. I was sweating.
I am obviously going to be the smelly one on the plane. I plugged my phone in and took my backpack and sweatshirt off. And LIT ER A LLY we were asked to board. I have an aisle seat, it’s better than middle but I have no where to lean and I’ll have to get up for the people in my row; that’s why I prefer window. There is a baby crying behind me and I’m just thankful I made it. I hear the air quality in Chiang Mai is horrible right now. Burn season just ended and it hasn’t rained and there’s no wind to clarify it. I’ll be there soon to see for myself.

Good news: plane is full, I mean completely boarded… it’s actually empty so I’m moving from my FULL 4 seat row to an empty row in the window where I can lean to the right and have no one next to me. I think this flight is about 3 or 4 movies long.

P.S. If you’re go to Thailand you need to show proof you’ll be leaving within 30 days if you are on tourist visa.
I needed proof at the check-in counter.
Although I did not have to prove this from the states; I assume I would’ve had to have proof before my connecting flight had I made it in time yesterday.

Kaitlin

A traveler who has allowed the World to show her that extreme posing beliefs are necessary to find the sweet spot that is revolutionary. Because life is too complex; it’s a balance of black and white; we need to blend the two so we can live in the grey space of an Open Mind. Currently finding a balance in exploring the World and being sustainable everyday.

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