I’m back to blogging. Well, I hope to post more regularly than I have as I am now free of responsibility (at university) for the next three months! It also helps that I’m going on an adventure too.
It’s Saturday 11th June. (Well, imagine it is anyway…)
The title has been chosen because it’s Seoul’s newest attempt at making the city a cool place to be. They have the saying in huge letters by the Han River near Yeouido that many instagrammers have already taken many selfies with. (It has been widely criticised by young Koreans for being the worst slogan ever… hehehe)
Today, on the 11th June, I woke at 5am to catch a plane from London Heathrow that would take me to my first stop: Amsterdam. I’ve never heard Dutch being spoken in front of me before and it was fascinating to listen to. A university friend of mine has been studying it and I have to say that I’m impressed she says. It sounds like a “fluffy” language that is a mix of sounds and the word “-argan” and I love it. (Sorry for stereotyping the language but that’s all I’ve picked up so far!)
The first flight was about forty-five minutes long and I spent the whole journey talking to a chap called Lindsay Reau as he was travelling on business and was a chatty American. I think I must have an approachable aura when I get on planes because I do end up talking to serious businessmen… Sometimes couples too. He was from California and we bonded over experiences in China and travelling. It was great as it meant I didn’t notice us take off or land. Once we were off the plane we bid adieu and I went to find the gate for my next flight.
I had a two-hour stopover in Amsterdam to them board my next flight to Guangzhou (广州) in Southern China. I was dreading getting on a packed A330 plane but I surprised myself. Maybe it’s because I have a mum who’s hypnotherapy tapes help me sleep (or at least rest) or the fact I had bought drowsy cough medicine in an attempt to lower all risks of catching a bug on my long exhausting journey. (I’m thinking it was the sedative.)
Anyway. As I hadn’t had much sleep due to celebrating at our Graduation Ball on Thursday night, the last thing I wanted was to get ill… Nevertheless, I managed to dwindle the long eleven hours down to just under seven. Even though a Chinese lady enjoyed waking me up for food and water which, for once, I ate ravenously (it was a really well-made chicken with rice and broccoli) then went back to dreamland. The entertainment was also pretty good. I managed to watch a Korean movie, a Chinese movie and of course, Zootopia. Although the second half dragged, I finally landed in the world of China.
Guangzhou was boiling and humid. I was so glad that I had decided to pay to go into the normal airport lounge to shower before I boarded my final flight to Seoul. It was the best thing I’ve had in ages. Considering what has been going on in the past two weeks, that’s how relieved I felt to be clean and fresh after almost 24 hours of travelling. It also meant I didn’t arrive looking like a wreck in Seoul to meet Danny. The final flight passed somewhat quickly. I tried to sleep as much as possible… Even though I think I ended up drooling on the guy to my left as I was knocked out asleep… It was enough to sort me out for the rest of the day.
I arrived before Danny and decided to take my time walking to the passport control desks. I sat down on the side of the corridor to wait for him to appear… After twenty minutes I thought I’d better join the queue….
The queue took a really long time and somehow we ended up missing each other. As there was no wifi in this part of the airport I had no idea where he was… And, as I am silly, got increasingly worried that some disaster had happened. Once I was finally through to baggage I found my bag off the reclaim belt by the side of the hall and managed to connect to the wifi. Eventually, I found Danny on the other side of arrivals and voilá!
We have been reunited ☺️
It was really nerve-racking in the moments that I walked up to the arrivals double doors. After a long seventeen weeks and eight days, many skype conversations, battling time difference and our ridiculously busy lives, and still in the process of getting to know one another… it was worth it. Y’know when you get those moments that all your brain seems to process is “what on earth is going on? how did this all become to be? am I really halfway around the world right now? and to see a boy!?”
Obviously, it is positive bewilderment at my life and the series of events that are happening around me. My racing heart told me that.
Once he came into view I was able to breathe out a breath I didn’t realise I was holding in.
And from there it was all a bit of a blur… We had an easy journey to the centre of the city on the “Airport Railroad” metro train that took us to Seoul Station, where we then changed to Line 1 to head to a station called Sinseol-dong. Upon arrival, we realised we hadn’t saved a screenshot of the hostel’s location and asked a gentleman in a 7-Eleven next to the station if he knew where to go. (A 7-Eleven is like a Tesco extra here, it’s really popular and full of just snacks and drinks and other basics. There other stores for the same purpose as called GS-25, CU and Storyway.) The guy behind the counter hardly spoke any English but pointed around to the left then said “Kitchen!” so we thanked him and left on our quest to find this little hostel.
We followed the direction he pointed and knew we had walked too far so turned back to then realise there was a restaurant on the corner that would have a kitchen! So we followed the alley in between the buildings and turned a corner to catch sight of a white and pink sign bearing the name ‘Unni House’ on it. Woohoo! We had made it.
The hostel was like a little Korean house which had a main lounge/kitchen with rooms going off it that were a mix of dorms and bedrooms with double mattresses on the floor. There were three young Chinese sat at the table in the lounge area who we spoke to briefly in Chinese rather than English before I wanted to collapse on the bed from my rather long 6,000-mile journey. As it was about 6pm and we knew we needed to eat dinner, we headed out into the city for our first adventure.
Dongdaemun was the destination of choice. It was only two metro stops away from ours, Sin-seol dong, and I knew it would be bustling and lively in the evening. On one side of the plaza there is the old ‘East Gate’ and across the car-filled road, there is a newer construction called the Dongdaemun Culture and Design Plaza which is an attempt at good architecture… but it instead a massive silver building curved in the shape of a massive bubble that comes out of the ground. (Picture below to help with awful description:)
The one really lovely section of it is a small area filled white roses lit up to create a sea of pretty lights. It’s one of those places that you just get to stand and watch the world and life just unfold around you. I have a lot of those kinds of places and moments in South Korea which I think makes me love it just a little more than I thought I did. For a very busy city that is alive pretty much 24/7, there are moments of peace that manage to capture you when you need it most.
And that’s only the first part of my journey so far. If you wanna have a little go at Korean, this is what Danny and I have nailed saying:
안녕하세요 : ahn-nyong-ha-se-yo = Good morning/Hello
아니요 : anee-yo = No
네 : neigh (i’ve written how to pronounce it in the most english way possible) = Yes
Conclusion number one: Seoul is rising in my “places I want to live in” list… 😀