I realized I hadn’t blogged my trip to Asia from in May! R and I went to China to hold some engagement banquets for my grandparents who are unfortunately not in good enough health to make our wedding this month. On the back end, we added a stop over in Seoul, Korea. It was completely worth it. My only regret was that we didn’t have more time!
First, we flew Air China (if you’re trying to get miles via Star Alliance, do not fly Air China, the award miles you receive is ridiculously low and Air China’s service is pretty bad too), and had to go through Beijing’s massive international terminal. While the terminal was indeed impressive in size, we couldn’t help but notice the pee yellow pollution in the skies outside. It is sad that there is no political will to do anything when China as a country has such great impact on the health of this planet.
We got to enjoy lounges on this entire trip thanks to having status with the Star Alliance network. I will lose my status next year as I no longer will be traveling for my relationship, but I think it’s a great trade-off =) For those who can fly at least 20K miles with Star Alliance, you should take advantage of the Aegean Airlines hack which will give you Gold status for 3 years (but you don’t get as many good upgrades, but the lounge access is better than having gold status with United). Thank goodness R works for an international company that sends him traveling, I think I’ll get to enjoy the perks for a bit longer when traveling with him =)
Our first stop in Seoul inevitably involved eating delicious Korean beef
Korea is big on street food, beautiful food, good food, just lots of food. There are two things that stood out about this visit – people love to shop, and people love to eat and drink. Also, Seoul – love your subway system. So very organized, all stops announced in 4 languages (Korean, Chinese, Japanese, English), clear subway stop numbering system. With a little guesswork, we were able to navigate around the entire city with little trouble.
My favorite district to visit was definitely the Myeongdong district, which is a big clothing shopping district with plenty of street food vendors at night. I’ll spare you the millions of photos I took of me with street food of all kinds, I ate so much that R started getting worried we didn’t exchange enough cash to buy all the food I wanted to eat. These photos are actually taken closer to Insadong during the day. This waffle with ice cream did not last long.
We met up with my college friend Susan and her cousin Jacob who took us on a cultural tour of Seoul, starting with Gyeongbokgung palace
We then walked through samcheong-dong which has many coffee shops and galleries, not to mention traditional style abodes lining the streets
Jacob acquired a chic scarf in the antiques shopping district of Insa-dong (mostly touristy stuff, but fun to walk through at least once)
Thank you Susan and Jacob for a great tour!
I’ve heard a lot about Seoul’s markets, where each vendor specializes in one particular item. I called up my church friend David who is currently working in Seoul, and we got a really authentic trip. I love the authenticity of the food that is cooked by ajummas whose recipes have been passed to them through the generations. There will be little to no English (menu or service-wise), so it is definitely easier to go with a local. David took us to the Gwangjang Market which is known for fabrics and textiles, but there are also many delicious food stalls in there
On our last full day in Seoul, R and I attempted to hike Bukhansan National Park. I say attempt because I’m terribly out of shape. The trails are in really great condition, mostly stone steps, with spectacular views at the top. You’ll need to come prepared with hiking shoes and plenty of water.
We also spent two very romantic evenings walking along Cheonggyecheon Stream, which was decked out at that time for buddha’s birthday. During the day you see that it is beautifully sculpted on both sides with clean walkways and fun stone bridges if you want to attempt a crossing
At night, the colorful lanterns as well as the special holiday sculptures placed in the middle of the stream made for a festive sight
On our way back to the US, we had a longer layover in Beijing airport and enjoyed the excellent food offered at the Air China Business Class Lounge in terminal 3E
A grateful thank you again to all our friends who offered us traveling tips, especially to Susan, Jacob, and David for showing us around!
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