Our vacation to Seoul was short and we knew that we didn’t have a lot of
time to see everything, so we decided on the city bus tour as a way to get around all the sights without having to worry about trying to figure out the subway! I have done this is a few cities including Barcelona, Paris, Edinburgh and Glasgow and is actually a great stress free way to get around the city. The hop on and hop off tours allow you to use it as a method of transport for the two days so we used it as a way to get around as well as seeing the sights. The buses also contain audio sets so you can listen in English about the area you are passing.
The first stop on the tour was the Namsan tower or Seoul tower, like Busan tower it has a ‘love park’ up the top in true Korean style! However this time we decided to embrace the tradition and even got our own lock. (which you can buy at the entrance to the tower!) Yes it might be cheesy however if you are a couple in Korea you learn just to embrace it… being in a couple is quite a big deal here (if you couldn’t tell from all my posts!) so instead of moaning about it you might as well enjoy it!!
Unlike Busan there are thousands and thousands of locks, so many that there are trees made from just the locks alone, they cover every inch of the railings and it was a task in itself to just find a spot to put our lock. There was a fence to stop people from falling down the side of the hill which was so full of locks that the actual fence was now no longer visible! It did make us wonder if they took down the locks every now and again so the place does not fill up… surely they will run out of space soon?!
Unfortunately like our DMZ trip the hot humid weather was in full effect and we decided not to go up to the top of the tower on account we couldn’t see anything from the height we were at let alone up the top of the tower from the fog!!
We jumped back on the bus and headed round the city to Myeongdong, the shopping district of Seoul. This was crazy!! The place was packed out and even had stores like Forever 21, H&M and Zara which felt like heaven for me… not so much for Andy!! The shops are open about 20 hours a day which seemed crazy but we put it down to people stopping over in Seoul airport who had a few hours to kill. Here we also visited the dog cafe which was amazing!
Moving on we made it to some of the most famous sites in Seoul. Gyeongbokgung Palace and Changdeokgung. Coming from Scotland where we have so many ancient buildings and castle not to mention after staying in Thailand where the place was filled with old temples I was actually very disappointed! During the Japanese occupation of Korea, the Japanese destroyed many if not most of all the palaces and temples in Korea. Even in Cambodia when the Khumer Rouge destroyed many of the temples they were left as is in part ruin which told more of a story that any explanation could.
However when they were built again they were built-in a better condition than they originally were in. Unfortunately this makes the place lose much of the charm it once had as it feels like you are walking into a brand new building. The inside was empty and there was not much to see. I have heard during festivals that the place is full and they conduct ceremonies here however out with this period not so much and we only ended up staying for 15 minutes or so. The guard display is quite fun to watch, and one of my favourite things to watch in all different countries! However I couldn’t help but feel a bit disappointed by the whole thing.
We stopped off at Yongsan station where we had heard there was an electronics market, it was a bit tricky to find but following the direction we found on the internet we found it eventually over an old looking walkway and into a building where many of the stalls are empty! We had a good look around as I was in the market for a new tablet. The market sells old demo laptops and second-hand tablets for good prices, I was able to get my hands on a nice new Samsung tablet which had just been on display for a lot less that in appears in the stores here not only that but a nice new leather cover was thrown in and we were able to barter the price down by a fair bit!
Our last stop was the Korean War Memorial, again using the bus as our form of transport which took us right to the door of the memorial.
Now this was impressive an my favourite part of the tour!
It might not be so impressive if you do not like history however I love learning about history and this was my kind of thing! The memorials outside were huge and very beautiful and you could spend hours walking around and looking at all the exhibits taking it all in, although on this sticky hot day we were both glad for the excuse to spend a few hours in the air conditioned museum!
There was even the exhibit telling about the turtle ship which made Geoje famous where Admiral Sun-shin fought off a massive fleet of Japanese boats of the coast of Geoje with only a handful of boats that had a hard shell preventing Japanese arrows from killing its crew. It was funny seeing it as there is a huge memorial along the road in Okpo just beside where we live. The museum is free to get in and has paintings, weapons and even vehicles for you to look at with enough English for you to understand. We could have spent much longer looking around the museum however it was closing and we were asked to leave!
Hopping back on the tour bus we set off for our hostel in Iaetawon, a busy night area of Korea where we were so shattered and tired after a few mental days and the weather we stayed in and went to bed early!!
I would love to say I loved Seoul as so many of my friends have said however for me love is a bit too strong a word… I liked it but I wouldn’t be keen on gong back for a while. It was too humid, crowed and a bit mental for me!
Seoul City bus Tour– 12,000₩ , 9am-7pm. Tickets available on board, to pay by credit card you must buy before hand
Namsam Tower– 7,000₩
Gyeongbokgung Palace– 3,000₩
National War Museum- FREE