Travel Diary: The Rush in Seoul, South Korea Before Covid-19 Lockdown

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Seoul is definitely a favourite city of mine. It's the only city that i have visited all four seasons; spring, summer, winter and autumn. Because there's tons of things to do, every trip feels like it's new. If you're wondering how my first trip to Seoul was, read it HERE. The trip going there was planned ahead of time. My three years visa granted by the embassy is nearing its expiration, and i reckon a trip should be made soon, at least for the last time. Together with friends, we flew to Seoul in time for spring on a Friday night. 







By the time that i went there which was the first week of March, the news about Covid-19 was just starting. There were travel advisories for China, but none for South Korea. Business as usual, as i can see at the airport. Because the weather was lovely, i totally forgot about the brewing pandemic. Although many people are already wearing masks, which was the norm even before there was Covid-19, gatherings around Hongdae and Myeongdong were still apparent. 






Shopping
I remember buying face masks there, because demand for one in the Philippine is high, and stocks are very limited. Somehow, i felt like this will probably be one of my last trips this year. Since the start of Covid-19, i already had a bad feeling about it. It seems like this one in particular, will be here for long. I went to M Playground in Hongdae twice this trip, as it's where i buy my clothes. You see, i buy clothes for the upcoming seasons. I don't wear the clothes that i buy right away. This means, i am prepared for autumn and winter, as well as summer for next year. Like i always do, i extend my stay for a few days even after my friends leave. This is where i use the time to go around and shop for clothing and accessories. I don't want to bore my friends, and besides i prefer shopping alone as i don't like the feeling of being rushed. Hongdae is really an awesome place to shop. You may read how it was for me during my first time. Click HERE. Since two years ago, i have already started the habit of buying Christmas gifts early by visiting shops like Olive Young and Daiso. As long as the product doesn't expire by December, i think i can buy it already. One, this saves you time and money. I don't like the feeling of Christmas rush, and buying the first thing that you see even if you really don't like because you don't have anymore time in your hands. I also prefer spending money in trickles than in one go. As of this writing, i am done buying Christmas gifts for half of my friends and family. But, alas Covid-19. So, i think some things will change. 












I am quite disappointed that toys are hard to find in Seoul. Unlike in Japan were i would ogle at numerous shops selling all the vinyl toys and collectibles, in Seoul nadda. I collect Bearbricks and FunkoPops and i rarely see these being sold or even displayed. Trust me, i've done my research and the extra free days were spent visiting these shops. So disappointing! But i found a 100% from Series 35 to 39 at a shop called Art Box, which has been my go to shop for anything you don't need but you want to buy. 









Nightlife
Back in 2011 when my good friend Jihoon introduced me to Makgeolli in Sunchai, it has now become my favorite drink in South Korea. "Makgeolli, sometimes anglicized to makkoli, is a Korean alcoholic beverage. The milky, off-white and lightly sparkling rice wine has a slight viscosity that tastes slightly sweet, tangy, bitter, and astringent. Chalky sediment gives it a cloudy appearance" 









You can drink Cass in a bottle or two, or more, but sharing the drink with friends is the ultimate South Korean experience. I usually drink this with friends in a bar called JJ's Pub in Itaewon. We would order a bottle for sharing, and a dish with spam and egg. Drinking this is so much better in the cold season than in the summer. So much better! And we're good to go. Soon after, when we're all drunk, we would head out to the next restaurant to wash with beer and Samgyeopsal. Fun times! 




After getting drunk for two days straight, we skipped the alcohol for a cup of mint chocolate at Toms N Toms. Although it feels weird that we're inside a quiet coffee shop instead of a packed bar, it's a refreshing feeling that we won't wake up late the next day. 







Food
If you've been following my journey to South Korea since 2011, you know that i am not a big fan of Korean food. Guess what? It's now one of my most favorite. Slow burn, as others would say. Right at this moment, nearing 40 days in Quarantine, i can't wait for grilled beef, a plate of Kimchi and Soju. This is killing me. In Myeongdong, we go to this restaurant called Jikhwa Dakgalbi which sells Dakgalbi. "Dak-galbi, or spicy stir-fried chicken, is a popular Korean dish made by stir-frying marinated diced chicken in a gochujang-based sauce with sweet potatoes, cabbage, perilla leaves, scallions, tteok, and other ingredients. In Korean, galbi means rib. But Dak-galbi is not actually chicken's rib." We usually order three big plates of cheese, spicy and regular Dalkgalbi. Rice is optional, but why wouldn't you order one? Order all of these with a can of coke, what a life!









Because samgyeopsal is a given, sometimes we would opt for chicken and beer. And the one at Hongdae called Chicken Bus is where we usually go to for light dinner. I don't really recommend the street food at Myeongdong because it's kind of expensive and a little overrated. You can actually buy more food, sit in a restaurant and enjoy the ambiance for the same price as a stick of fried meat. 







I extended my trip for an additional three days. I felt that since this would probably be my last trip to Korea for a while, i would just stay and enjoy as much. The rest of the days were spent taking my time, and not rushing seeing the city. There's too many nice places to go to in Seoul, and the shopping, nightlife and food are just few of the many things you do and enjoy in the city. It's already autumn, and the temperature is much warmer than days before. On my last day, the snow fell. The whole gang was waiting for it to happen, but they left already. I stayed, and experienced it. I never knew this was the icing on the cake. Thank you, Seoul. I shall see you again soon. 






Additional info sourced from here and here

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