Part 1/3

This was my third trip out of Japan to a nearby country, and my first trip alone! Seoul was a great choice for a solo trip. The flight time was short, about 2 hours from Tokyo. Navigating the Seoul metro system was ridiculously easy and also very cheap. Each one way trip only cost about $1 (US). Also, there was English everywhere, and where there wasn’t English, there was Japanese. Being bilingual is great sometimes!

My plane was taking off at 6:20 pm in Tokyo and would land in Seoul at 9:10 pm, so I made a point of getting my currency exchanged to Korean won before getting on my plane in Tokyo. But when I arrived in Seoul, despite the late hour, the currency exchange was still open! I’ll keep that in mind in the future. From the airport I took a train to Seoul station.

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So it’s 11pm, I’m alone in Seoul, what do I do? I go to a night market of course! There is a great night market in Dongdaemun that is open from 8 pm to 5 am. Dongdaemun is a short ride from Seoul Station. I arrived and put my bag in a coin locker ($3) and headed out to see the sights. There were a lot of people out shopping and eating food from street stalls.

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A stall selling some kind of omelet. I had a hot dog at a different stall later.

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The market wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. The items for sale were clothing, accessories, and cosmetics. Not very many souvenir type things. If you are serious about getting some clothes from Korea, then this is the place for you. The shoppers were a mix of people looking for good deals (everything was very cheap) or people looking for wholesale items to use in their own stores the next day. I simply looked around and enjoyed the atmosphere.

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Around 1 am I got tired and went to a tourist information booth (open at night!) and asked for the location of a Korean spa (jjimjilbang). I was directed to one in the basement of a large department store across the sidewalk. Why go to a spa? Because it is a cheap place to take a bath, get something to eat, and take a nap.

I really recommend staying in a jjimjilbang if you are in a pinch and need somewhere to sleep. I stayed the night for only 10,000 won ($10). When you enter, they give you a key with a number on it, take your bag, and give you some towels, a t-shirt, and shorts. First, you lock up your shoes in the foyer, then you go into the locker room to change and lock your belongings into a bigger locker. I was expecting the spa to be similar to a Japanese onsen, so I didn’t bring any of my shampoo or conditioner with me. Unfortunately the spa only provided a bar of soap. I made sure not to get my hair wet and took a relaxing bath and watched some television. There were a lot of other Korean ladies there doing the same thing, washing their hair, and brushing their teeth. It was a nice atmosphere. When I was ready for bed, I put on the provided t-shirt and shorts and found an empty bed in the sleeping room. Yes, there was a sleeping room full of beds. There weren’t any blankets, but it was warm enough inside without one. I got about 5 hours of sleep. Around 7 am everyone’s cell phone alarms started going off though so I took another bath and left around 7:30.

I don’t want to make this post too long, so I’m breaking my Seoul trip up into 3 parts.
Stay tuned for Part 2!