After Bangkok, we were hoping that Japan would be reopened for us to travel there, but it wasn’t, so our best alternative plan was to fly to Seoul!
I had taken Bridgette to Seoul when she was about 9 years old, and we had a great time there. But honestly, this time around, it was the absolute best because she is now a teen who loves shopping and beauty products and there’s no better place for that then South Korea! Also, we had just gotten on board the K-drama train that has taken the world by storm, and so we had a newfound appreciation for everything Korean-related!
The flight from Bangkok to Seoul was short and uneventful, but upon arrival, we had to immediately do a PCR COVID test at one of the airport centers and no matter how many times we’ve had to do the nose swab by then, it was still very unpleasant. I was so relief when it was over and we hopped onto the Airport Limousine bus to head to our hotel.
We stayed at a hotel name RYSE in the Hongdae district. It was a very hip and modern hotel. Our room was a good size for the 3 of us, but the lack of closet space made it difficult to fully unpack. I especially loved that everyday, housekeeping would leave us 3 packs of face masks by our bedside, allowing us to nourish our skin after being out in the sun all day. South Korea is indeed a country that prioritizes beauty and skincare!
Our week in Seoul was definitely more vacation than Worldschooling, since we were traveling with Alan. Bridgette and I did a ton of shopping, from skincare products to accessories to clothes, and everything in between! Alan is not much of a shopper, so whenever we were in a store, he’d wander around looking for his next bite. Every other food stall would catch his eye, and I was seriously worried for his tummy because he almost never stopped eating, lol!
Bridgette got a spontaneous haircut at a salon name Juno, which we later found out to be a popular chain in Seoul. They did a great job and the price was even better–less than USD $25 for a cut, including wash, dry, and head massage!
Nearly a decade ago, I did a girls’ trip to Seoul with a couple of my girlfriends, and tried a traditional Korean bathhouse, aka a jjimjilbang, for the very first time. It both fascinated and traumatized me, and became a memorable story that I shared with many people through the years. This time around, I was eager to take Bridgette and Alan for their first jjimjilbang experience!
Since the bathhouses are separated by gender, Alan split up with Bridgette and I after we entered. We had asked our hotel concierge to recommend a local, authentic bathhouse to us, so naturally, nobody spoke a word of English there. 😆 We stripped down into our birthday suits and followed a few other naked Korean women into the bathing area, similar to a Japanese onsen. Afterwards, we asked for a body scrub and that was when 2 Ajummas dressed in their bras and panties scrubbed us down on these steel tables while pouring buckets of water to rinse us off. This time around, it wasn’t nearly as traumatic for me, just uncomfortable. It’s always mind blowing to see the gunk that they manage to scrub off your body!
After all that soaking and scrubbing, we got dressed in the t-shirts and shorts provided by the bathhouse and met up with Alan again in the common areas. There was an ice room which Bridgette retreated to for awhile, and then we indulged in some spicy Shin noodles from their cafe!
There are a lot of food markets in Seoul, but Alan’s co-worker had highly recommended the Gwajang Market, so that was one of the first places that we hit up. Alan was in heaven once we stepped foot in that market, surrounded by endless stalls selling anything from tteokbokki to mandu to fried chicken and every Korean food you can imagine. There is one particular stall that was especially popular, due to their famed episode on Netflix’s Street Food documentary. We decided to give them a try too and ordered their mandu and naengmyeon (Korean cold noodles). Both were delicious!!
In order to try as much food as possible, we had to be strategic in our portion control. Nonetheless, we’d still end up filling our tummies to the brim every day. Thank goodness for all the walking we had to do around Seoul!
We spent an afternoon at Insa-dong, an area known for a lot of small shops and arts and crafts. Bridgette ended up spending a couple hours doing a candle making workshop, which she really enjoyed.
One of our favorite district was Ikseon-dong, a neighborhood with a maze of alleyways that included many cute cafes, boutiques, and restaurants. The choices were so abundant we went back a second day!
Bridge decided to rent a traditional Korean hanbok one morning and we did a fun little photoshoot for her (not a professional one, I was the photographer, lol) at the nearby Gyeongbokgung Palace. Tip: when you enter the palace in a hanbok, they will waive your admission fee!
A very instagram-worth place to hit when in Seoul is the Starfield Library in Coex Mall in Gangnam. It is definitely one of those jaw-dropping places when you enter, with floor to ceiling bookshelves that are beautifully designed. The Coex Mall itself is a great place to spend an afternoon shopping, with a ton of shops, restaurants, and even a movie theater. We even stumbled upon a cosplay meet up and Bridge was super excited to see people dressed up as some of her favorite anime characters!
Before I end this post, I just have to share a heartwarming moment. On our first day in Seoul, we were walking around looking for the bathhouse our hotel had suggested when, suddenly, Bridgette leaped into the streets. amongst the oncoming cars. Just as I was about to call out to her for making such a dangerous move, I saw her rush towards an elderly man who was trying to balance an extremely heavy cart of cardboards on his back. Bridge quickly lifted the back of the cart up to alleviate some of the burden from his shoulder and continued onward to help him as he made his way to his destination. Alan also rushed forward to help, and the 3 of them trudged through the busy streets of Seoul block by block. After what felt like miles, but was maybe about half a mile, we arrived to the destination, where Alan and Bridge helped the man offload the cardboards.
I had tears in my eyes as I witnessed this act of love and service from Bridge and Alan. It was such a testament to the light that they shine as Jesus followers. They inspire me to think beyond just giving money to panhandlers as a single act of service but to open my eyes and heart to really look to see who may need help around me.