Off to Seoul for Cherry Blossom Season

Published on 31 March 2023 at 18:09

I left South Carolina after lunch on Wednesday and arrived in Seoul at 4:30 Friday morning. The actual travel time was about 25 hours, and fortunately I had pleasant flights and seat companions. There were numerous families flying with very young children, who were surprisingly good little travelers.

My longest flight leg was on Korean Air, which I love. They served a tasty meal (with real silverware) then we napped with quiet time and lights out until another meal was served before arrival. My evening meal was bibimbap with hot sauce, soup, pickles, and fresh pineapple. It's just what I needed to get me in the spirit of my trip to Korea. They also provided slippers, toothbrush, toothpaste, water, blanket and a headset. And this was economy! (I don't foresee the day I'll be in first class.)

The real adventure was after landing in Seoul. It was 4:30 AM, so we breezed through customs. After that, I felt like I was in "Hotel California", because I wasn't sure I would ever leave the airport! Everything was closed, but I was in no rush. I couldn't load money on my subway card because you can only do that with cash. Won cash, not dollars.  I couldn't find an ATM that would work for me. None of the currency offices were open. I was determined to use the subway, not a bus, taxi, or train. That's when I decided to have coffee and remain calm. It's been my experience many situations can be made better with either coffee or wine. At 8:00 AM I was finally able to exchange dollars for won and be on my merry way. It's a good thing I had dollars on me. They wouldn't take a credit or bank card to make the exchange!

As I've mentioned on past trips, the subways in Seoul are easy to maneuver, quiet, and very clean. I had to keep checking (and double-checking) apps and maps to make sure I got from the airport to the hotel. Several Korean people noticed my confusion and tried to help. We had half-conversations since I don't speak any Korean and they didn't speak English, but they still tried to explain the directions for me. I just nodded to agree with them. This encouraged them to keep talking to me (still in Korean) and they were all so sweet, it completely made me forget how stressed I had been at the airport. 

I finally made it to the hotel, and then set out to explore the neighborhood, find cherry blossoms, and eat lunch. Success on all counts! At lunch a young lady was trying to help me with the menu (another language barrier) and we had a good laugh because my translator app said crazy things about her food! A young man told me (in English, this time) to try hot crab bibimbap, so I did. Look at all this food! They serve so many side dishes. Also, I got a compliment from a man at another table about how good my chopsticks skills were!

After lunch, I set out again on the subway to see the grounds of the Gyeongbokgung Palace. It was such a beautiful day, with people of all ages in hanbok (traditional Korean clothing.)

Then, I went back to the hotel to wait for Caroline. Look at this view of the Han River from our window!
For dinner, we had Korean barbecue, but we were both too tired and hungry to take any pictures!