Leading up to this weekend trip we were a little skeptical that we would have enough time to see everything we wanted to see and feel satisfied by the weekend. However, a weekend in Hong Kong actually ended up being perfect and we didn’t feel overtired or rushed at all. There were of course a few sites that we would have checked out had we had more time, but all in all we definitely didn’t feel like we missed out on anything.
We visited Phu Quoc in early Fall, a time of year that is supposedly risky in terms of weather for this part of the world. At the tail end of the rainy season, Phu Quoc in October is either beautifully sunny or violently thunder storming. This gamble is reflected in their hotel pricing, and we were able to snag an ocean view room at Sol Beach House for 1/4 of what they charge in high season. Peak the grounds below.
Alright so I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted and this is extremely overdue but I have returned in full force, ready to tell the tales of our misadventures in Vietnam. I had to take a brief hiatus due to an unforeseen injury that has made typing (among many other routine activities) much more difficult than usual. It was on this very trip to Ho Chi Minh where I took a tumble on the side walk, landing me in the hospital with a crack in the radial head of my right arm. But alas, things are on the mend and I can type once more.
It’s Saturday night. The sun is beginning to go down. Two foreigners are speed-walking through Seoul to try and make it to the Bukchon Hanok Village in time to see the sunset. In a cycle of frantic map checking and street sign scanning, they arrive at what they believe to be their destination. The area looks familiar but they aren’t certain yet. They continue up a large hill, checking every alleyway for a path to the heart of the village. The houses are looking older and older, and alas they spot some of the traditional Korean garb often sported by visitors and locals at common tourist attractions around the city. They know they’re in the right place.
While the hill was steep, the rewards made it worth it. We found ourselves in the centre of the village, one of the few parts of Seoul that has retained its traditional aesthetic through ancient, original architecture. The entire area is situated on a slope, with winding streets, brick walls and large wooden doors at every turn. As the sky got darker and darker, we walked faster and faster to try and find the beautiful lookout we’d read about prior to our visit.
Just as we were about to call it a day, we turned up a street and saw a small white sign on a stick. “Observatory this way” was pasted on a white arrow, which we of course followed. The signs were few and far between, but we managed to follow the route they had outlined for us, which ended at a dimly lit staircase in a little house. Tired and hopeful, we climbed two flights of stairs and arrived at what looked to be someone’s apartment. An old man emerged, and for 3,000 Won each, we were granted access to his deck. From the deck we could see for miles. It was a perfect panoramic view of Seoul, with the village fading out into the urban landscape.
We arrived just in time for the sun to set, and enjoyed the view over some orange juice that the man offered us upon our arrival. I don’t know if it was our fatigue from walking up those hills, the fact that we were hot and sweaty and hadn’t had a drink in hours, or maybe the orange juice honestly was a sweet nectar sent from the gods, but we enjoyed that orange juice so much we actually scoured our neighbourhood convenience stores the next day looking for it.
We thanked the old man, walked back down through the other side of the village (which was full of restaurants and shops), and found ourselves at a BBQ restaurant in Insadong. We filled up on beer, soju and pork belly and recuperated from our grand search.
Welcome to Itaewon! This has been our favourite neighbourhood yet. We got off the subway and immediately fell in love. It feels like the entire plateau of Montreal has been condensed into a few square blocks of winding streets and little alleyways. Every business was either an adorable cafe, a small boutique or a trendy restaurant. PLUS there are street vendors where you can buy everything from socks to basketball jerseys, and it also has your big stores like Adidas if you’re looking for something branded.
Our first major adventure in Seoul was a trip to the Gyeongbokgung Palace near Insadong station. Quite the magnificent spot I must say. Admission was 6,000 Won for the both of us (equivalent to about $6.60 CDN) and that got you access to the entirety of the grounds. From the mountain backdrop to the lush greenery and the vibrant architecture, it was really something.
My instinct here is to go on about the scenery, but seeing as you can look for yourself in the pictures, I’ll spare you the redundancy and attempt to provide some history on the landmark.
Well well well…we’ve finally arrived in Korea. After weeks of back and forth with Fed-Ex, the Korean consulate, and our favourite neighbourhood notary, we have touched down in the land of Kimchi.
From the top.