A lot of my friends kept asking for our itinerary before we left, and well, we didn’t really have one. I just had a list of all the major areas of Seoul I wanted to visit, and get in lost in thanks to Henry (but even though I was really annoyed at the amount of directionless wandering we did, I eventually reasoned that hey, we might be lost, but at least we’re lost in SOUTH KOREA #brightside). So every morning, we’d wing it. I think that kind of harried, unorganized travel non-plan really suits us, though.
For our first morning, we woke up around 3am because jetlag. Luckily, there were a million convenience stores nearby, and Henry latched on to the GS25 around the corner and became a regular during our time there. We dined on packaged Korean pastries—I’m sorry, but I will eat the fuck out of anything filled with pat (red bean). I also finally had legit Binggrae banana milk and expected it to be gross because I typically don’t enjoy banana-flavored things, but this was like perfectly-sweetened liquid silk, I can’t even explain it. I would be so fat if I lived in Korea because I would probably drink it more than I drink coffee and I drink a lot of coffee if you didn’t know.
Chooch became obsessed with Shiro and Maro because he’s really into Corgis and Shiba Inus, so Korea was his Babylon in that respect. He made Henry get him one of these every day so he could collect the stickers.
While we were sitting there waiting for the rest of the city to wake up. I mean, Seoul truly never sleeps so we could have probably walked outside and easily found a soju bar still rockin’ at 5am, but we’re old people with an 11-year-old so we figured we’d just wait for the regular things to open.
I decided that I wanted to go to Myeongdong first. This is an area of Seoul known for all of its makeup shops and Kpop-blasting. But first, we had to fuck around with the subway! There was this thing called the Korea Tour Card that Henry wanted to get, because it’s made specifically for foreigners and gives you discounts into some of the palaces and shops, etc. But you can only purchase it in some locations, so we had to go to the station close to us (there were two — our hotel was super convenient) and get a ticket to Seoul Station.
Chooch ended up understanding the subway lines way before Henry which I think is hilarious. The amount of times Chooch got us un-lost was amazing to me and crippling to Henry’s man-of-the-house masculinity.
Long story short, it ended up taking over an hour trying to locate this stupid tourist card because Henry wouldn’t listen to us and insisted on walking us in circles around Seoul Station, and then when I found an American lady in front of us at one of the T-Money machines, I asked her how to get one and she was all, “Oh you can get one using this machine!” which is what Chooch and I kept telling Henry but he was like NO THAT IS NOT RIGHT. Meanwhile, two other foreign tourists approached Henry and gave him their T-Money cards because they were leaving and didn’t need them anymore. They weren’t the ones that Henry wanted, but it was still a sweet deal because T-Money cards are like $4 a piece, plus the fare money that you have to load onto them. And then all we had to get was purchase a child card through the machine for Chooch and luckily that was pretty much the end of our subway saga pretty much for our entire stay. Seoul’s subway system is amazing and relatively simple to master—we used it multiple times a day while there and it saved us so much time and money!
Plus the subway stations are filled with beautiful kpop idols.
We ran into this on our walk to Myeongdong and if you know Chooch, you know that he has to have his picture taken at every character statue thing he comes across which was cute when he was 4….
Anyway, by the time we made it to Myeongdong, it was still pretty early on Saturday morning so it wasn’t TOO NUTS yet but it was quickly getting there! The food vendors were already out and the kpop was blasting – it was just like how I imagined!
Myeongdong is the perfect cocktail of trendy makeup shops, stalls full of cheap but adorable socks (Chooch and I were sock-obsessed and bought a ton), and FOOD.
Side bar: We prayed the whole time that Trump wouldn’t plan his North Korea talk while we were there. It was already nerve-wracking just being an American over there. (I was practicing my “eh”s and “aboots” and “soory”s and maple syrup facts just in case – love you, Canada!!) Actually, there were huge protests going on all day on Saturday and there were actual busloads of police all over the street near our hotel. People were standing on things and yelling, but other than that, it didn’t seem violent. I couldn’t tell what was going on, but there were people holding the American flag and that made me nervous.
“Well, at least they’re waving it and not burning it,” Henry pointed out.
“What type of Hell did the subway bring me to?”
BTS and EXO were everywhere in Myeongdong because they’re the faces of various skincare lines. So is the actor Gong Yoo, and he’s one of my favorites so I definitely didn’t mind seeing his handsome face on every other store window!
Then we stumbled upon the Line Friends store and Chooch was like, “YES, FUN TIME!” I have to say, he was pretty content doing all of the things I wanted to do, as well, but we did try to carve out time each day for Chooch-appropriate activities, as well. Luckily (or sadly?), there are Line Friends and Kakao Friends stores in pretty much every major neighborhood of Seoul so he really enjoyed that.
I hate this picture of me, but the one where I looked normal was the one where Henry cut off Sally (the duck on the top of Brown’s head) because he is the literal worst person ever to take pictures. He never tells us when he’s taking the picture so I’m usually in the middle of talking or yawning or my hair’s in my face, and he’s just like, “K, done” and then walks away!? WE HAD TO STAND IN LINE FOR THIS FUCKING PICTURE!
Chooch would have went home with every one of these plushes if I was a nicer mom. But I only let him pick out one. A much smaller one, lol.
Or if I was more like my Pappap, who for sure would have had them all shipped back to Pittsburgh. He was the best.
(He was also a millionaire. I am not a millionaire.)
Henry was not happy about posing for this picture and refused to go inside the store to stand next to his bias, Jimin. I went inside and saw that they were selling BTS toothpaste sets and I really wanted one but then I was like, “Erin, you do not need a BTS toothpaste set.”
BUT NOW THAT I’M HOME I REALIZE THAT YES, YES I DO NEED A BTS TOOTHPASTE SET! I just hate shopping.
Then we had street food! We got some ttkeobokki and mayak kimbap to share. Chooch was like, “No, I like it. I swear I like it. It’s um…just a little spicy.”
Tteokbokki is my actual favorite. Henry makes it for me at home sometimes and I had to say, his is pretty comparable! I still prefer actual Korean street ttkeobokki of course. This was when I started to realize that the last year and a half of eating a 90% Korean diet has really dulled my tongue because when all the street vendors were warning us of things being “hot! very spicy!” I was like, “This isn’t spicy at all??” while Henry and Chooch were coughing out fireballs.
Looking back at our first day, it feels like such a blur. We were all still very jet-lagged and it also just felt completely like a dream. I kept catching myself looking around and staring at everything with my mouth hanging open like a farmgirl seeing the big city for the first time. It was just so stimulating, such a sensory free-for-all, walking down these streets that I have seen so many times on my TV, in YouTube videos and in dramas, hearing all of my favorite songs blasting at full volume, having an elderly man in a kpop merch shop showing Chooch and me his collection of Twice of memorabilia (I ended up buying a Taemin vinyl thingie to go with my G-Dragon one that I thought someone stole a few months ago!)
Be back later with part 2 of day 1! I am drowning in photo-editing.