The end of an enjoyable trip never fails to make me melancholic. It sounds a bit like escapism, but leaving my everyday life at home and getting in a car or on a plane to go somewhere else has always been exhilarating for me. Getting to do it regularly has made me want to use a hashtag that could be considered somewhat obnoxious too (#nakaluwagluwag lol). Doing all those with C by my side, trading our daily adult responsibilities of being a corporate slave (me) and running your own business (him), with eating Korean cuisine every day and drinking beer (I like the peach flavored ones) while walking down the street in freezing weather – is honestly, a hard thing to leave behind. I also feel like traveling brings us much closer together because while we normally have the distraction of tons of things when we’re back home (I have mobile data everywhere and the downside of having a partner who manages their own business is that they’re working 24/7), we get back to the core of our relationship while we’re traveling. Simple things like walking hand in hand in silence, and taking everything in. There’s magic in that, at least for us. And we knew we were heading back to a crazy year ahead.
As with the most of our trips, we spent our last day exploring the area in the vicinity of our apartment after spending some time playing “who should be the first to shower and kick off our day today” in bed (aka rock-paper-scissors because no one wants to leave the warm bed with its heated blanket). Our first stop was Gyeongbokgung Palace which is probably the quintessential tourist spot for foreigners visiting Seoul. South Korea has their fair share of palaces, but Gyeongbokgung remains to be the biggest (and apparently, most beautiful but I’ve only seen this one so I can’t really make a comparison) of them all. It was the main royal palace, where the king and queen lived up until the Japanese invasion where the palace was set to fire and was abandoned until another reign came in and restore it. Up to this day, the Korean government has made sure to protect and restore the palace to maintain its glory.
I have said it repeatedly, and I will say it again – the #1 perk of visiting Seoul during winter time is the sheer decline in the number of tourists. While freezing your butt off is not ideal, we enjoyed the fact that we headed here during the weekend, on what Google says is its’ peak hours, and we didn’t have to share the spots with hoards of visitors.
After immersing ourselves in the architecture from ancient Korea, and walking through the same grounds that the royal families of the Joseon dynasty walked in, we headed out the Gwanghamun gate to go to Insadong. I find it awe-inspiring to have modern skyscrapers be the backdrop of this ancient palace. I feel slightly envious of the residents of this country because, as a whole, they have worked on preserving their culture while also working on progressing. I’d like for the Philippines to be the same as well, but obviously, a lot of our natural resources and cultural practices have already been exploited. ¯_(ツ)_/¯
While we’ve been here before (because we literally just have to cross the street from our apartment to get here), C and I still had a lot of alleys left to explore. A tourists group ahead of us had an English-speaking tour guide (yay for free tour information lol), and they mentioned that the reason why the area around Gyeongbokgung Palace is filled with hanoks (traditional houses) is mainly that this is where government officials of the Joseon dynasty resided (Bukchon Hanok Village is also a popular tourist spot). The guide also said there was a stream somewhere (but I couldn’t see where he was gesturing), and that when the country was invaded, wealthy families traded in their stuff by it, which is how this street-filled shops came about.
While we were exploring, C had to say that he now realized why I made it a point to find an apartment within this area. I have a tendency to enjoy places with a relaxed artsy vibe and this place fits that bill completely. There were tons of craft stores, as well as teahouses and galleries within every nook and cranny of Insadong.
C wanted to have another meal at Yoogane before we leave, which is why we took another taxi back to Myeongdong. Can I just say that we truly are fond of dakgalbi?
We had a free afternoon ahead of us, so we decided to follow the “scenic” route our Airbnb host suggested. We went on a walk.. and totally got lost. But we ended up in Samcheong-dong which is just plain picturesque. I can’t wait to someday pay this place a visit during autumn where its postcard-worthy quality will probably be magnified by 10x. We were totally missing out by not visiting this place earlier. We also passed by the shooting location of Goblin (the road where they first met), which was a 5-minute walk from the apartment, and was always crowded by tourists taking photos.
Waking up the following morning when we had to leave was such a mood killer. C and I somberly packed up our bags (mine was filled with skincare lol), knowing that we’re both going to miss our cute little second-story apartment (above a coffee shop, can I get more K-drama like than that), and our own little world. (The apartment is also a 2-minute walk to the airport bus stop, I love it so much)
I can’t wait for our next trip together! ❤