If you've been reading my blog for awhile now, you'll know that travel is one of my biggest passions. That's why I've decided I want to feature travel posts more regularly here on my blog...aka I'm introducing Travel Tuesdays! I don't plan on doing travel-related posts every single week, but hopefully this will be a fun feature that will be popping up from time to time. For my first official Travel Tuesday post, I thought it would be fun to share some photos from the day Cameron and I spent in Seoul, South Korea on our way home from our trip to Thailand over the holidays!
We flew on Asiana Airlines to and from Bangkok, and on the way back we had a long layover at Seoul, South Korea. We had hoped to get out and try to see some of the city if possible, but weren't sure how complicated that would be. We were very pleasantly surprised to find out that Incheon airport in Seoul (which is super nice by the way!) actually offers free transit tours! These tours allow travelers to get out and see a little bit of Seoul, while taking care of all the details as far as transportation and timing to ensure that you won't miss your next flight. The tours are technically free, but for the one we chose you did have to pay a nominal fee for lunch and insurance; however, at $13 a person, it was totally worth it! The timing actually worked out really well because we arrived to Incheon airport around 8am (after taking a red-eye from Bangkok) and signed up for the 10am "Highlights of Seoul" City Tour, then got coffee :) Our tour was 5 hours long, which got us back to the airport in plenty of time to get on our evening flight back to the US. We were pretty exhausted at this point in our trip, so this tour was the perfect way to get out and see Seoul without having to do any work or planning :)
It took about 45 minutes to get from the airport to the tour's first stop, but the tour bus was really comfortable...and actually allowed us to catch a quick nap!
Our tour guide (whose name I can't remember...but she's the one with the flag!) spoke pretty good English and was able to give us some interesting information about Seoul and life in South Korea.
Our first stop was Gyeongbok Palace, which is actually a large palace complex with many different buildings. The palace has a long history in Korea, however, there wasn't much English signage and honestly, Cameron and I were both pretty tired at this point so we didn't really absorb a whole lot of information from our tour guide...ha! However, the architecture of buildings so it was really beautiful (and quite different from Thailand!) and so it was fun to walk around!
One thing that I thought was awesome about the transit tour is that they really thought of all the details for travelers like us on our layover. Coming from Thailand, we didn't have any warm jackets with us yet it was freezing cold in Korea. But it was not a problem at all because they actually had tons of down jackets (in multiple sizes and colors!) on the bus for everyone to wear on the tour.
Our group, sporting their borrowed down jackets :)
I was trying to get a picture of this courtyard and happened to catch Cam looking at me...for some reason this picture cracks me up, it reminds me of a Bigfoot spotting or those pictures of Buddy the Elf walking through Central Park (most random Elf reference ever, ha).
Even though it was quite chilly, the sun was out so it was perfect for walking around!
All the intricate details on the buildings were so colorful and beautiful!
Random story about this picture - we had this guy take a picture for us who was literally taking 1029832 pictures of his wife in front of every building...he was super nice about taking a photo for us, but then wanted to get photos (yes, multiple photos) of his wife with Cam and I...ha! It was super odd (and kind of hilarious), but whatever!
After we left the palace, we headed to see the Jogyesa Temple, which is apparently the most important temple in Korean Buddhism. Buddhism is not nearly as prevalent in Korea as it is in Thailand, and our tour guide told us that many people in Korea are really not religious at all.
For lunch, we had a delicious Korean beef dish...I don't remember what it was called though!
After lunch, we had some time to walk around Insadong Street, which is a very popular pedestrian walking street filled with all kinds of shops, snacks, and street vendors.
For the first part of the tour, Cam said he was fine just wearing his sweatshirt...but eventually he got so cold that he caved and borrowed one of the puffy jackets :)
Even though it was freezing out, lots of people were walking around with these weird, twisty ice cream cones...so naturally, I had to get one for myself!
It was OK, but there was too much cone to the amount of ice cream in my opinion :)
The people watching in Seoul was pretty fantastic :)
Even though it was a very short visit, I'm so glad we were able to see Seoul!
It was actually quite interesting to see it in contrast to the cities we saw in Thailand, as the cultures were very different. I think that (naively) I assumed much of Asian culture was somewhat similar from country to country, however, this trip made me realize just how diverse and interesting the region is. I'd love to go back sometime in the future and see other countries as well!