Visiting Gyeongbok Palace

I left Jung District with Seoul Metro Line 4 towars Hongik University Station which was ten kilometers away. I had to put a plastic bag at Kimchee Guesthouse Sinchon. Doing exploration by carrying black plastic would only make my face look more tacky.

The beauty of Gyeongbok Palace (source: http://www.agoda.com)

In thirty minutes I arrived.

Without having time to sat down for a moment, I just left the inn. That time I was going to the biggest palace in Korea.

—***—

Now I was taken by Seoul Metro Line 2. I was standing again because the carriage was full of passengers, requiring my right hand to hold the hand strap above so as not to fall because the train often braked at every station which train stopped at.

It was just, the situation got weird. A girl was whispering with a friend next to her and occasionally looking at me. I didn’t look at her but at least I could glance at her faintly. “Oh, someone is watching me,” I thought.

I occasionally glanced at that girl who continued to softly laugh. That laugh made me introspect. “Is there something wrong with me?” I tried to pay attention to myself, but still didn’t immediately find the oddity.

Until finally, I felt in shame when I found the source of my problem. It turned out that there was a large thread stitch at the base of the right hand. “Oh, why didn’t I check this used jacket when I bought it at Pasar Baru (the name of market in Jakarta)”, I slowly lowered my right hand, then checked the base of my left hand. Knowing the stitches were in good condition, I took turn holding the hand strap with my left hand. I slowly turned to that two girls and shyly nodded. It turned out that the two girls responded in the same way.

“Damn, during ten days of traveling, I just found out that in the bottom of my used winter jacket’s right hand there was a large seam to cover the rip,” I grumbled while shaking my head.

This incident made me feel embarrassed until I got off at Euljiro 3(sam)-ga Station to change to Seoul Metro Line 3. Now I was back following the pace of Seoul Metro to Gyeongbokgung Station in the north of city. This time I sat down until I arrived at the station.

To reaching Gyeongbok Palace, it was only a three hundred meter walk from Gyeongbokgung Station. Entering the gate yard of Gyeongbok Palace, many tourists were wearing hanbok clothes. The clothes were indeed effective in creating an aura of nobility for anyone who weared them.

Meanwhile, in every corner of courtyard was closely guarded by local police. It was clear that Gyeongbok Palace was closed that afternoon, no tourists were allowed in. I didn’t know what the moment would be held that afternoon?. Practically I could only enjoy my visitation by entering National Palace Museum of Korea which was located in the same courtyard as Gyeongbok Palace.

National Palace Museum of Korea (source: http://www.theseoulguide.com)

Visiting it was free, I was required to understand the story and ins and outs of Gyeongbok Palace from various relics in display at the museum. The 113-year-old museum looked clean and well-maintained. Although I didn’t fully understand it, at least I could enjoy historical objects such as some traditional clothes, ancient records, stamps and some paintings from Joseon Dynasty.

With the completion of xploration in the historical repository of South Korea, nicknamed the Deoksugung Museum, my adventure that afternoon left only one more destination….Gangnam District

Giving up in Myeong-dong

A side at Myeongdong 8-gil.

Unlike before, now I was so frantic looking for a bus from Namdaemun Market to get to my next destination, Myeong-dong.

Looking for all route boards at bus stops around Namdaemun Market, I still couldn’t find any clues. The cold wind finally brought me to underground. Yup, I was now stepping down the corridors of Hoehyeon Station, looking for a platform to get to Myeong-dong Station. I got it easily. At the edge of platform, my face continued to face left to look up the appearance of Seoul Metro Line 4.

The increasingly bright light slowly approached the platform, a sign that the train was ready to arrive. In an instant I was crammed to stand holding the carriage pole so as not to be hit by the flow of passengers. Shortly after all passengers were carried away, the Seoul Metro began to creep away from platform.

Not through for any station, I then got off at Myeong-dong Station, leaving all passengers who were still crowded in the carriage. I couldn’t wait to get away from the carriage when I got off because I wanted to see the bustle of Myeong-dong, a popular cosmetic shopping center in Seoul. Of course not to buy a lipstick, masks or face whiteners, but just wanted to see beautiful auras of Ginseng Country girl….Oops.

Coming out of Myeong-dong Station I kept muttering, “Why is today colder today than usual”. a gloves I was wearing couldn’t contain the cold that penetrated to outermost layer of my skin. As a result, I walked around enjoying Myeong-dong by occasionally gritting my teeth because I couldn’t stand in the cold air any longer.

It was true, tall, slender girls with white faces filled every alley in Myeong-dong. Cosmetic shops seemed full of shoppers. Meanwhile, some local culinary traders were starting to get busy setting up stalls at many points. Myeong-dong, which seemed to me already crowded, apparently hadn’t reached its peak point yet. Maybe in the night would be the culmination point.

Since that area was a cosmetic shopping center, it didn’t interest me to enter cosmetic outlets lined up along Myeongdong 8-gil. I just stood on the edge of Myeong-dong shopping corridor, enjoying the traffic of Seoul youth and the busy culinary traders who were busy preparing their wares. Meanwhile, several well-known cosmetic outlets such as Holika Holika, Aritaum, Missha and The Saem seemed to be flooded with visitors.

 Busy in Myeong-dong

Just standing still, made me an easy target for the cold air which blew in Myeong-dong. It was true, I could only endure the cold for half an hour. The rest I started shivering uncontrollably.

I gave up….

I started to move and was forced to enter one of outlets, as I remembered the outlet was called innisfree. Since most of the guests were women, I just pretended to be looking for cosmetic gifts so that I could freely enter the outlet. Of course I wouldn’t buy anything at the outlet. I just walked around while paying close attention to the various kinds of cosmetics sold at the outlet.

In order not to arouse suspicion, fifteen minutes later I decided to leave the oulet. Now I continued down the corridors in Myeng-dong while slowly moving away from the cosmetic center to make my way to the station.

Time to leaving Myeong-dong.

Yup, that time I intended to go back to the hotel first, put the groceries which I bought from Namdaemun Market before visiting Myeong-dong. For then I would continue to explore again to Gyeongbok Palace.

Ginseng from Namdaemun Market

Namdaemun Market, Seoul.

Moments after the last sip of coffee in my paper cup, the sky blue bus number 402 arrived. Didn’t go straight to bus stop platform. It turned out that the driver got off and hunted for coffee at G-25 minimarket, where I had gotten black coffee moments before.

I was already standing in front of the bus when he approached while holding his hot coffee.”*&^%$#@!()<>”, I didn’t know what he said while pointing at his coffee cup. But I understood what he means, “Wait a minute, bro, I’m drinking coffee for a while”. I smiled nodding and he held up his right thumb for me.

I leaned against the front of bus as I waited for him to finish his coffee behind the wheel. A few moments later, the sound of bus’ front door scraping was heard. Indicated that bus doors have been opened and I was welcome. Of course it was better to sit inside a warmer bus than cold out there.

A few moments after I sat in the middle seat, the bus moved to bus stop platform. Pick up passengers who have been waiting for a long time.

All passengers had taken their seats as bus slowly started to descend Namsan Mountain and exposed the beauty of Seoul through glass windows. The metropolis which seemed to be shrouded in a layer of fog below. I endlessly widened my eyes to stare at it from above.

Until not felt, the bus was speeding in city streets which were flat. Showing the busy streets of Seoul. Twenty minutes later I was dropped off at Toegye-ro Avenue right in front of Gate 5 of Namdaemun Market.

Seen from across the street, the aura of that 75-year-old traditional market was really tempting. The many stalls of traders in very clean floor of market were decorated with puffs of smoke indicating that traditional cuisine would be easy to find inside. It was said that there were 9,000 stalls in this market.

I started walking on the edge of market, taking a quick look at spice trade among local residents. Ginseng which was famous in that country was really tempting when it was displayed in every stretch of merchant stalls. And I didn’t know, how in an instant, I finally managed to have a pack of ginseng from a stall….. Wow, Hmmhhh.

Yuhuu…I bought ginseng…
Almond also.

Not quite up there. Now my eyes were attracted by souvenir display at a side of market alley. I approached and automatically started bidding at some cute and quirky keychains. Oh my God, the trade ended with the purchase of a dozen key chains which I planned to give to my office mates after returning from Seoul.

Wow, market aura really was really strong. Now I suddenly offered some almond snacks which in my mind, I would snack tomorrow during my long flight in the plane to Jakarta.

It took me a long time to walk around market, making my stomach hungry. Coupled with the exposure of culinary smoke which wafted through market alleys. Never mind, I decided to enter a tavern that was owned by an old woman who still radiated the remnants of her beauty aura, dressed neatly clean and full of smiles.

She just smiled and kept looking at me sitting at dining table. “Dangsin-eun eodieseo oneunga?”, she kept asking me who didn’t understand how to answer. Until a young man with a small laugh spoke to me. “She said, where are you coming from?”.

“Oh, just say to her, I am from Indonesia….Jakarta….yes, Jakarta”, I answered with a light laugh. “Hooo. Indunesiaaaa…. yes yes yes”, the old woman nodded as she continued to smile. She approached me and handed me a menu.

It didn’t take long, I immediately pointed to a menu. Not that I understoodd what the menu looked like. I just saw in right column of the menu that it was the cheapest food I could find. “Hoooo, sundubu-jjigae …OK”, the old woman gave a thumbs up and went to prepare the menu.

After waiting a while. The food was served on the table. Wanted to know the shape of that food:

Huh…. Hahahaha, that was what you pay for only rice and tofu… The rest of the menu was free.

My trip at Namdaemun Market finally ended at that simple eatery. Now I have left the market from original gate and I was ready to leave that four-hectare market.

 
Hahahaha, that was what you pay for only rice and tofu… The rest of the menu was free.

My trip at Namdaemun Market finally ended at that simple eatery. Now I have left the market from original gate and I was ready to leave that four-hectare market.

Namsan Tower Without Love Padlock

After returning from Banpo Bridge in Seocho District, I immediately rushed to bed to prepare myself for tomorrow’s adventure. Tomorrow was my last chance to enjoy Seoul because the day after tomorrow I had to leave to my homeland.

Huhuhu….Sad

—-****—-

The morning sun shone through the window in the sloping wall of hotel’s room. The hour hand had passed eight number. After morning prayer, I slipped back under blanket, refusing cold morning air which was able to penetrate window pane.

Realizing that I overslept, I jumped out of the bunk bed, grabbed a toiletries bag and an orange microfiber towel, then wet my body with a warm shower of Kimchee Guesthouse Sinchon. The other occupants were still asleep, continuing their respective dreams, faint light snoring could be heard from the inn corridor. Lucky me, that was an opportunity to linger in the shared bathroom.

Actually, my habit of lingering in the bathroom when traveling always has an excuse. That consistent warm showers hit my calf muscles is the most effective fatigue-relieving therapy. No need to look for the services of a masseuse to make the body fresh again.

After showering and fully dressed in winter equipments, I went down to the first floor and chose to sit for a while in the shared-lobby. Joined by some diligent tourists, they were the first to get up and ate their breakfast which they had prepared in the inn’s refrigerator. Several beautiful tourists from “Land of Red Bears” and a group of travelers from “Matador Country” looked solemn with their own homemade breakfast.

I? ….Yup, I was just a little busy opening the map and trying to make a visitation pattern that day. As soon as they finished their breakfast and started to leave the shared-lobby, I also left the inn. I didn’t know where they were going, but I had determined myself to go to the “Tower of Love”, especially if not Namsan Tower, a television transmitter tower as high as 237 meters and 52 years old.

Before entering Hongik University Station, I carried out my morning ritual, which was breakfast with the same menu formula, cup noodles and packaged white rice, bored but had no choice.

Can you afford to eat like this for four days?….Hahaha.

Repeating the habit of fighting boredom, I shouted “Kamsahamnida” to the cashier before exiting 7-Eleven. Usually I always waited for the cashier to wave before exiting convenience store’s door. Getting the wave I meant, I finally got out of the convenience store and fast stepped towards Seoul Metro Line 2 platform.

A few seconds after Seoul Metro stopped at the platform, I jumped in. The quiet morning atmosphere made the Seoul Metro line of carriages looked deserted. The iron snake began to exploring the underground passages. Station after station I quickly passed until finally I got off at Euljiro sam (3)-ga Station to change to Seoul Metro Line 3. Now my last destination was Chungmuro ​​Station.

It took almost thirty minutes to arrive at Chungmuro ​​Station. At the final destination, I exited the gate, then rushed to find a bus stop which would be passed by bus number two to get to Namsan Tower.

Not even five minutes of waiting, the bus arrived. I took a seat in the middle and in an instant dissolved following the groans of bus engines as I climbed the road about two kilometers from Chungmuro ​​Station.

Slowly but surely, the bus arrived at Namsan Tower courtyard. The bus stops at a long bus stop to share with other numbered buses.

The distance between Namsan Tower and bus stop, which was around 600 meters, must be taken with a swing of my steps. Finally I had to be willing to pant for the rest of path to Namsan Tower. In the middle of my step, I didn’t have time to feel the gasping because I often stopped and was fascinated by the scenery below which showed the beauty of Seoul from the height of Mount Namsan. I could imagine if the night comes….How beautiful.

In front of Namsan Tower or N Seoul Tower as its official name.

Climbing Namsan Tower is indeed synonymous with lovebirds’ love. At the top of tower, lovers will buy a padlock, then naming the padlock with their names, which are then marked with a red heart. Then the couple will lock the padlock on a long display case which displays various love locks from several periods of time.

Well….What should I write when I buy a padlock?

Ups….Who’s in love?

Namsan Tower in addition to presenting an aerial landscape of Seoul, also offers several well-known restaurants which might be cheap for those who are intoxicated with romance, for me it makes no difference, restaurants are still expensive items.

Visiting Namsan Tower does feel bland if you do it alone. That’s the reason why I didn’t linger on top. I decided to get off and chose to sip coffee made by G-25 minimarket across from bus stop.

Entering the mini market, brewing a cup of hot coffee, then sipping it slowly. But I continued to be filled with curiosity with every sip. I continued to observe the passing of buses with different numbers, not just the number 2 bus like the one I was riding earlier.

“Is it possible if I can find a bus which can directly go to Namdaemun Market from here without having to return to Chungmuro ​​Station”, I critically thought with curiosity.

I decided to take a sip of black coffee while walking towards the long bus stop opposite the mini market. I was so solemn ‘combing one by one the route boards attached to the bus stop.

“Yes…I get it”, I cheerfully exclaimed when I found bus number 402 which could directly take me to Namdaemun Market from Namsan Tower.

So I just had to wait for the bus while I finish my coffee………

Dinner at Banpo Bridge

The majestic Banpo Bridge straddles Han River.

Luckily I didn’t sink into a deep nap in Kimchee Guesthouse Sinchon. A little past five in the afternoon I woke up. Immediately unpacking contents of my backpack, I looked for a toiletries bag and microfiber towel for my first bathing needs since 35 hours ago.

I purposely splashed myself with warm water for a long time even though I knew there was an innkeeper who knocked on the door several times as a sign asking me to hurry up and finishing my bathing soon.

After washing my socks, I got out of bathroom and smiled at a female guest from China who had been waiting all that time. Of course my warm smile was reciprocated by frown lips from her. “I’m sorry. Ms, It’s been a long time since I’ve taken a bath, I’m so sorry …..” .

After changing clothes and wearing all winter equipments, I prepared to visit Seoul again until night.

I still remembered words from my office mates who asked me to visit a bridge which was often used as a setting in famous Korean dramas. Even though I heeded them when I left, for some reason, that afternoon I had a strong desire to visit it too. My friends said, when night fallen, Banpo Bridge often had rainbow fountains, a mix of fountains and light show in both sides of bridge. “Okay, there’s nothing wrong with me to going there even though I’m not a fan of Korean dramas”, I finally decided on a goal.

From Hongik University Station, I would now head to Seoul Express Bus Terminal Station, where I first set my steps in Seoul. The feeling of fullness from a piece of Kimbab which I ate at Hongik University Station that afternoon was gone. Now my stomach was starting to loudly sound as celebrating my hunger. But due to concerned about being stuck by night at Banpo Bridge for that night, I decided to put off my desire for dinner.

I immediately walked to Hongik University Station, picked up the arrival of Seoul Metro Line 2 and headed to destination I was aiming for. I really understood Seoul Metro line because I had been staring at the map since that morning, making me aware that I had to transit in Euljiro 3 (sam)-ga Station first and had to change rode in Seoul Metro Line 3.

It took approximately half an hour to reaching Seoul Express Bus Terminal Station. Exiting gate 8-1 in the station, I walked to Banpo Hangang Park, the best side to enjoy beautiful Banpo Bridge.

It took 20 minutes to get to the park in the banks of Han River. Entering the park, which was getting dark with minimal lighting, was actually a little daunting. Luckily there was a group of Korean families who entered the park and headed for the same place. By pretending to show composure I stalked them from behind….Hahaha, you coward, Donny.

That family group who were busy walking while preparing some cameras made me believe that they were going to Banpo Bridge view point. It was true, that local family and I finally arrived at river bank together.

Yeaaa….. arrived too.

The appearance of Banpo Bridge with sparkling lights did look beautiful as it straddled Han River. I was very enthusiastic about sitting on the bank of river waiting for the moment when rainbow fountain show started. Second by second, minute by minute, even though I had volunteered to be rolled up in the cold city temperature, the show never came.

As a result, with the end that local family visitation because of same disappointment, I was forced to resign from that place. “Yes, It will bad when I have to be alone in the bank of a river that is quiet and dark like this…”, I growled while holding back hunger which had been really messing with my concentration.

Walking away from the beauty of Banpo Bridge, I was really lucky to see the existence of a small 7-Eleven outlet in other side of park. The light from inside indicated that that outlet was still open. Then without thinking long, I hastened my steps closer to it. “This will be delicious, if I eat cup noodles with rice …”, my enthusiasm came while remembering the simple way of eating that I always practiced during my visitation to South Korea.

I shouted with joy that I got it. The excitement grew even more because 7-Eleven outlet provided a tent in outside to eat food which be purchased from that outlet. Uniquely, the tent was warmed by a fan whose its blades were made from heating filaments.

Wow….

Napping in Kimchee Guesthouse Sinchon

Forgot to take a photo while staying…. Hihihi.

I was still standing motionless in north of square to enjoying the majesty of Gwanghwamun Gate , the six-century gate belonging to Gyeongbok Palace. Gwanghwamun Square with its andesite rock floor and a mix of green garden grass seemed to be starting to fill up with the flow of tourists visiting.

Apart from the statue of Admiral Yi Sunshin, the golden statue of King Sejong, the Great-the fourth king of Joseon Dynasty was an important destination for travelers. They were too fascinated by that statues when I preferred to pay attention to the bustle of United States Embassy in the edge of Sejong-daero Avenue next to National Museum of Korean Contemporary History.

It didn’t feel like time had passed since midday, the rest of sleepiness after spending the night in Seoul Express Bus Terminal made me unable to hide the sleepiness in my eyelids. My body which hadn’t been soaked in water since 30 hours ago also made me not feel comfortable.

“It’s better to just go back to the inn”, so excited, my mind aborted my enthusiasm to continue exploration. “Damn….I give up this time”, I was groaning in annoyance, I entered the gates of Gwanghwamun Station.

“Goodbye Jongno District”, I quietly thought as I jumped into Seoul Metro Line 5 carriage. Without noticing commotion inside the carriage, I immediately headed to an empty seat near carriage’s connection. Without further ado, I immediately closed my eyes because of sleepiness.

Now, I was heading to Hongik University Station with one stop at Chungjeongno Station because to get to Kimchee Guesthouse Sinchon in Seodaemun District I had to take Seoul Metro Line 2.

24 minutes later I arrived at my destination. Before actually leaving Hongik University Station, I took time to go to T-Money card vending machine at the corner of corridor to refill my T-Money which was almost out of balance. That time I filled my Seoul city travel card with 10,000 Won, more than enough for the end of my adventure in Seoul.

My back and forth at Hongik University Station ended up at a G-25 minimarket for a simple lunch. I managed to get a piece of packaged Kimbab for just 1,300 Won. Enough or not, that was the only lunch that I had to accept.

After eating it in convenience store table, I immediately climbed the escalator which rose to surface, passed Sinchon-ro 2-gil alley, crossed Sinchon-ro Avenue, then rushed to the inn.

“Hooohh….You, Donny. Welcome, your room is ready”, said the same receptionist who greeted me this morning.

“Hi, Sir….Thank you. I think I should go to bed soon….Hahaha”, I lihgtly answered while clutching my blue backpack which I had put in the corner of front room since this morning.

“Oh yeah, you look tired”

“Yes, I spent my last night at Seoul Express Bus Terminal”, I agreed.

After receptionist scanned my passport which I gave to him, the room key was given. Not waiting long, I immediately went upstairs, entered the room, took off my winter jacket and shoes, then immediately jumped into bunk bed to daub myself until afternoon.

The Candlelight Revolution in Gwanghwamun Square

It was almost noon as I slowly descended alley after alley of Bukchon Hanok Village. Stepping between traditional Korean buildings seemed to throw me back in time, a time when Joseon Dynasty was enjoying its golden era.

A few moments later, my steps were parallel to Bukchon-ro Avenue section. I casually walked enjoying cool midday air of Seoul while occasionally stopping in several winter jacket sellers. But its price, which was still above 125,000 Won, made me reluctant to stop any longer.

I quickened my pace when the face of Anguk Station could be seen far ahead. But a few steps later, I slowed down my steps, my ears could barely hear Indonesian language from a small shop, four Indonesian travelers were enjoying a dish of Chimaek (a dish of fried chicken mixed with South Korean beer). Their joking fun made me reluctant to greet them but I was able to confirm that they were from the same nation as me.

Entering Anguk Station, I headed straight for the platform. Catching the Seoul Metro to get to Sejongno area immediately. Seoul Metro arrived just moments after I reached the platform.

The Dog…Oops…..

Entering a carriage, I couldn’t hide my chuckle. “Oh, No……”, this Seoul Metro was similar to the old Jakarta’s Commuter “Very funny …”, there were a seller screaming explaining goods they was selling.

That was not enough… there were men quickly walked through carriage after carriage to simply slip business cards between doors, carriage poles and whatever places to put it were possible. “Ohh my God…”, I was even lowering my face I still couldn’t hide my amusement.

That funny moments was closed with another funny scene where train officer combed the carriage to take all business cards which were tucked away before I got off in Jongno 3(sam)-ga Station.

Now, I was changing to Seoul Metro Line 5 to get to final destination of Gwanghwamun Station. Not passing another station, so I quickly arrived at Gwanghwanum Square.

Impatiently stepping the escalator, I tried to get as fast as I could to surface. Arriving at the exit I could only stand frozen, staring at a statue of a legendary South Korean fighter. It was a statue of Admiral Yi Sun-sin who proudly stood with a sword grip in his right hand and a suit of armor which covered almost his entire body.

Admiral Yi Sun-sin himself was a Joseon Dynasty era warrior who with his 12 fleet of warships fought Japanese invasion in 23 major battles at sea.

Meanwhile, Gwanghwanum Square used to be one of the most famous royal squares because several royal government buildings were placed around this square.

However, my arrival seemed to coincide with a large demonstration that was remembered as The Candlelight Revolution, a popular protest against corruption scandal which carried out by the President of South Korea, Park Geun-hye.

Beberapa tenda demonstran masih tampak tersisa di kiri kanan sisi patung Laksamana Yi Sun-sin. Tetapi itu semua tidak mengurangi rasa antusiasku untuk menikmati Gwanghwamun Square.

Bukchon Hanok Village: The First Destination in Seoul

“Kamsahanida……”, I loudly said to a female cashier in CU Minimarket in that corner. I have finished in eating packaged white rice and cup noodles which made my lips feel hot because of its spiciness.

“Cheonmanneyo …”, that beautiful white cashier smiled while waving when I was in front of glass door and reached its handle.

Coming out of minimarket, I quickly walked towards the gate of Hongik University Station which wasn’t far away, just to left of a bend ahead.

Descending a long escalator swooping down underground, I began to open my own printed plan, then pointed to a point of destination. “I have to go to Anguk Station,” I thought as I folded my plan sheet and put it in my back pocket.

Then I was in platform. By noon, situation in underground station was deserted. Suddenly, a street romance show at the end of platform faded my enthusiasm for waiting for Seoul Metro arrival. A pair of lovebirds seemed to be hugging each other’s waist while looking at each other affectionately. Every now and then that man kissed his girl…. “Oh God….”, my envy feeling appeared. Shows like that really didn’t surprise me because I’ve often saw them in same transportation mode belonging to Singapore or Shenzen city. “Think of it as a travel bonus …”, I thought while wryly smiling.

Their intimate embrace was released for a moment after the sound of Seoul Metro could be heard when coming from right aisle. Seoul Metro softly squeaked and stopped in front of them, they ended their romance and I as the lone that romance viewer also boarded the train.

Seoul Metro Line 2 was pushing away from Seodaemun District heading east. I would travel to Jongno District which was eight stations away and had to change to Seoul Metro Line 3 at Euljiro 3(sam)-ga Station and it would take about 30 minutes.

According to the estimated time, I was now standing in front of Seoul Metro door when the announcer sound said that the train would soon be arrived Anguk Station. After a perfect stop, I jumped out of the carriage which I was already on it since several minutes ago, nothing else memorable after the romance for about half an hour ago.

Exiting Anguk Station, I was faced with Yulgok-ro Avenue. Confidently taking a step to the left led me to an intersection which was bustling with fashion, culinary and cosmetic outlets. Looked like I went to the wrong way.

I stood rooted to a side of Enso monument which was located right in a side of intersection. Enso itself is a traditional calligraphy brush native to South Korea. I observed the behavior of local people who were busy shopping. Meanwhile, several groups of tourists from Europe seemed to be conversing in Tourist Information booth which was located next to the monument. Looked like I had to go to the booth and asked for directions to my destination. I finally walked over to it.

Me: “Hello, Ms. Can I know which way that I need to choose toward Bukchon Hanok Village?”

Her: “Hi, Sir. You can go straight there and then turn left in crossroad. You will arrive in Bukchon Hanok Village with walking about 600 meters”.

Me: “Very clear, thank you, Ms”

Her: “You are welcome. And this tourism map is for you”, she smiled as she handed me a Seoul tourism map.

I immediately headed north. Relaxing a bit while enjoying the bustling streets of Bukchon-ro, I finally arrived at Bukchon Hanok Village in 20 minutes. That cultural village was located in west of the main road.

Notre Dame Education Center in Bukchon Hanok Village.

To my surprise, this was different from Gamcheon Culture Village in Busan which I visited a few days ago. Bukchon Hanok Village featured rows of Hanok (traditional South Korean houses) which were neatly arranged along the contour of pedestrian path. The wood which was part of Hanok building looked shiny and well maintained, the alleys which could only be passed by walking looked neat and clean. This was the residence of Joseon Dynasty-era nobles which were more than six centuries old and were the pride of Jongno District.

In accordance with its nickname as the “North Village”, this village was indeed located to the north of two main icons of Seoul, i.e Cheonggye River and Jongno District.

In addition to functioning as a Hanok preservation, this village also functions as a cultural center, traditional inns, restaurants and a place to drink tea together.

Walking through the interior of village, several female tourists looked elegant in Hanbok (South Korean clothing) in order to walking through this cultural village more solemnly.

A beauty that was stored in Gahoe area, I finally managed to come to it. A classic impression, serenity, silence, full of meaning and cultural majesty I felt very strongly during this visit.

Sleeping for a while at Kimchee Guesthouse Sinchon

On half past nine in the morning, I was arrived at Hongik University Station, down the long corridor of station and went up a long-high escalator to surface. Station’s architecture greeted me with a garden decorated with beautiful flowers combined with several iconic sculptures.

I started down the main alley towards Sinchon-ro Avenue at north of station. As far as I know, the guesthouse which I booked was in an alley across the street. I crossed a single zebra cross at the road in front. Seoul Bus Rapid Transit was dominantly blue and white, with an outdoor AC compartment which extended on its top, complementing its long body, which seemed to be passing by, taking local residents who were starting their activities to appreciating the dawn.

I decided not to ask anyone about the location of guesthouse which I was staying at, I was sure in the middle of a super busy Capital City, it would be very rare for anyone to know where a small guesthouse was located in the middle of an alley in the middle of nowhere.

I picked up a map and quickly figured out which side of the alley to enter. I started entering Sinchon –ro 3-gil Alley and turned right at the first fork. As expected, I would find it easy.

Entering its unlocked door, I found the reception desk which dark and empty. Stairwell, kitchen and dining room equally dim. The guesthouse guests still seemed lazy in their blankets, as if they were reluctant to struggle with cold air outside.

With no choice, I entered the shared lounge which was equally dim, took a seat, put my backpack and cupped my face in my arms to fall asleep sitting down. At least the shared lounge was not as cold as Seoul Express Bus Terminal building that morning.

My sleep was awakened by the noise of someone who seemed to tidy up the reception room. Apparently I had been asleep for an hour. The young Korean man seemed to be looking at me expressionlessly. I rubbed my eyes to make my face immediately refreshed. Getting up from chair and rushedh towards him.

Me: “Hello, I’m Donny from Indonesia. I had booked a room in this guesthouse. This is my booking confirmation”.

He: “Let me see”, he carefully read the details of my sheet. “I think you will get your room on 1 pm, so I’m sorry”, I was amazed by British accent of his English pronunciation.

Me: “Oh, it’s OK. I know that. I just want to put my backpack here and I will go to sightseeing the city”.

Him: “Yeah, It will be better. Just put your backpack there”, he pointed to a corner of room which full of backpacks.

Me: “Ok, thanks, Sir”.

After successfully putting a backpack which started to make my back feel heavy. I immediately left the guesthouse. I had to find some breakfast before heading to my first destination in Seoul. Since talking to Mr. In Chul Park in Seoul Metro that morning, I started to hold back the hunger that attacked my stomach.

Crossing back Sinchon-ro Avenue I entered the alley leading to Hongik University Station. In the alley I slowly walked to find a minimarket. Yups….Finally I found a CU minimarket.

Browsing the shelves which filled with food, I found cup noodles and white rice packets, without hesitation I picked them up and took them to cashier. Like CU minimarket in Busan, CU minimarket Seoul also provides a dining corner, complete with a microwave and hot water. Customers are required to be able to operate that heating equipment and serve themselves to eat the food which they buy.

I, who was really hungry, ate the cup noodles and packaged rice quickly. Then immediately rushed to the first tourist destination.

Trying Seoul Metro: Heading to Hongik University Station

I tried to align my steps with Mr. Park who seemed agile for his age’s pace. Waiting for Seoul Metro at a side of station platform, we lightly chatted. I told him about my trip through East Asia. I tucked in some adventure stories in Tokyo, Osaka and Busan a few days before. Mr. Park seemed quite impressed to hear the story line that I told as short as possible.

While Mr. Park, In Chul Park his full name….Told about his daily activities as an Obstetrician and Gynecologist (Obgyn) at Myongji Hospital in Deokyang District.

“My job is to help the baby to be born”, that was how he conveyed about his daily activities.

Seoul Metro arrived….

Being at Line 6, the two of us entered in center carriage. The whole carriage looked deserted that morning. Not many workers have started their activities. The two of us sat in the middle seat and continued the conversation to next light topics, ranging from his small family to a little bit about the city of Seoul, I was flooded with valuable information that morning. I mostly acted as a good listener in our conversations.

Twenty minutes into a worthwhile shared journey with Mr. Parks. I said goodbye first, because I had to get off at Euljiro 3 (sam)-ga Station to change to Seoul Metro Line 2. Mr. Park still continued his journey through another 14 stations more to Hwajeong Station.

Getting off at Euljiro Station 3 (sam)-ga platform, I started looking for the passageway leading to Hongik University Station. Seeing me confused looking for the corridor, a fat man approached me.

He: “Hello, Where will you go?”, he started greeting with a question.

Me: “Hongik University Station, Sir. Which corridor should I choose?”

Him: “Wait…”

He also looked confused and took the initiative to intercept a Seoul Metro officer who was walking in a corridor. The two of them seemed to be conversing and the Seoul Metro officer seemed to be pointing at the other side of station building.

He: “You must steps over there!”, the nice fat man showed me a direction after a few minutes then asked the Seoul Metro officer.

Me: “Thank you very much, Sir. You are a kind man”, I really feel helped by his help.

No wonder it was hard to find, the corridor was at the end of station building with a corridor opening that was not too big. Walking down the corridor, I came to a platform. Now I was on the right platform with a green color code in each hint.

Five minutes later the Seoul Metro arrived, I immediately flowed down the underground passages of Seoul City with it. Seoul Line 2 was bustling with students. The faces of educated youth seemed to be crowded in the carriage. Didn’t get a seat, made me have to stand for 20 minutes onward journey.

Finally I arrived at Hongik University Station…..

Time to head to Kimchee Guesthouse Sinchon