Last weekend I had the pleasure of embarking on my first and LAST ever bus ride to Seoul from Busan. Myself and a group of girls from my neighbourhood decided to book a trip with WINK (When in Korea Tours) that would have us spend the weekend in Seoul for the amazing lantern festival. I had went on a WINK trip previously, to a pair of winter festivals. I had a good time on that trip and expected the same from this trip. Our trip leader was the same guy, Barun, who is a really good guy. he loves Busan and he’s got a lot of knowledge on Korea. He has a special attachment to this trip because it was one of the first ones he ever ran on his own (last year). We all set off to Sasang station at the bright hour of 6am, all of us running on little (me 4 hours, Gillian 2 and a half hours) to no (Megan did not sleep.) sleep. We have been spending most friday nights at the local CU, where a few of the Hwamyeong expats and some Korean students come to hang out, drink, and eat too many cheesesticks from Lotteria. It’s really an enjoyable time but I knew I had to get some sleep before I woke up that early.
We made it to Sasang with a little bit of time to spare, not enough time to get food but either way. The bus pulled up shortly after we got there and it was one of the smallest buses I had ever been on. The trip was pretty small, only 12 people on the bus from Busan to Seoul, grabbing 3 people in Daegu. Our first stop was in Daegu and we grabbed some snacks from Paris Baguette and were back on the road. The trip to Seoul itself was pretty uneventful, aside from a few near-miss traffic accidents. When we were finally close to Seoul, or at least I thought we were, we were told that our lunch was going to be ready when we got there. And unfortunately we sat in traffic for a long while after that and when we did get to the Wink Kitchen and Tap house, our meals were stone cold. Kind of unfortunate as I was looking forward to my burger and waffle fries but I was too hungry to even really care at that point. We were dropped at our motel after and our four-person group was crammed into a 3 person room. We made do with what we had. We were then rushed off to the palace (not after the owner of Wink tours was kinda rude to us…) with less than an hour to explore.
I had always wanted to go to Gyeongbokgung palace because of the pond that is there. And surprisingly even though I’ve been to Insadong several times, I had yet to be to the palace that is so close to it. We had the choice of walking around on our own or keeping with the group, we decided to split off from the group and did a quick tour of the palace. We found the pond, as well as a hanok type area. It was really nice to look out at Seoul from the throne area because you’re surrounded by a beautiful old palace area and then you can see out into the busy area of Seoul. I love that part of Korea though, there’s so much history. After our whirlwind palace tour, we made our way to the Cheonggyecheon stream area were a lot of the lanterns were placed. In all my time spent in and around Seoul, I’ve only ever looked at the stream, I’ve never been down walking beside it. It was a beautiful time to go because the sun was just setting and they were turning on the lights. I heard that the area gets really crowded when it’s night-time, so I’m glad we went when we did.
After the quick tour of the stream, we made our way to the festival. Unfortunately I was without a phone for the majority of the day (before the end of Saturday we all were basically). So my pictures are few and far between but to be honest, I didn’t really miss it that much. I was able to really enjoy the parade. I did ask my friend Alice to get pictures for me (a lot, sorry Alice <3). We were really close to the front of the parade and had a good view. I really enjoyed it because the people walking in the parade looked like they were having such a great time.
After we walked on the empty Seoul street (SO COOL) that was quickly reopening… we made it to Jogyesa temple. I really liked walking on the street because it is so rare that there aren’t a million cars on the road there. The sidewalks were soon packed with people making their way to the temple and it really was quite the sight to behold. It was covered in lanterns and there were so many people just there to send their well wishes. The temples in Korea really get lit up around the end of May for Buddha’s birthday. (I went to an amazing temple in Busan the following week, post to come!). We had our fill of pictures at the temple and then we all decided to head to Hongdae. It was Megan and Gillian’s first time in Seoul, so maybe I shouldn’t have taken them to Hongdae on a beautiful Saturday night but… they sure got the full experience.
Hongdae exit 9 is torture on a good day. That night was no exception. We weaved through the thick crowds of people watching buskers, and made it into the H&M. We all tried some stuff on with no luck, then ventured to the Forever 21, I grabbed some cheap necklaces and bracelets. And then we went to my favourite place in Hongdae: Taco Bell. My love for crappy mexican food knows no bounds. It it turns out that most of my friends had never even tried Taco Bell before (GASP!), They liked it well enough but I’m sure they won’t be rushing back there any time soon. AFter having our fill of delicious amexican food, we hopped in a taxi and then got lost on the way to our motel. Thankfully a kind gentleman pointed us in the right direction and we all flopped into bed. Our room was like something out of a 70’s porno. It was complete with an orange cocoon-type bed, with a mirror, that one could view themselves in while…you know. For the hotel being so close to Gangnam… we really didn’t enjoy that version of Gangnam style.
Sunday morning proved better, we had a delicious breakfast at the Wink Kitchen, I was one of the few people who had the biscuits and gravy, and it was great. Perfect thing to start off the day. And we got to spend a majority of our time in Insa-dong, my favourite part of Seoul. I played tour guide for my friends, bought some presents, and we all got a few bags at the $10 bag store. After exploring and shopping, we got to see the lantern festival street and then we even got to make a lotus lantern. Unfortunately I didn’t finish mine but it still looks nice. my friend had such a cool experience, having an older Korean man help her make her lantern beautiful! We were all kind of jealous.
After that, we were all rushed off on to the bus back home to Busan. With a few stolen winks of sleep, a bit of reading, we all resolved to go back to Seoul again, never taking a bus and only taking a train. Traffic anywhere is the worst.
I’m glad I went on another WINK trip, but I’m not rushing to go on one again. I love Seoul, but I can only go every few months because it’s soooo busy. I still love it though!
Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed it!
Until next time,