Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Spontaneous Trip to Seoul

Within 48 hours of making a final decision to travel alone to meet my husband I was boarding a plane to the city of Seoul, the capital of South Korea. Traveling alone and on a whim to a foreign country is not my usual style, but Matt was on liberty while in Korea and convinced me to meet him for some sight-seeing. The flight out was uneventful, and when I landed in Seoul I was greeted both by my husband AND a performance of Broadway hits! Korean entertainers sang famous musical theater pieces in English within the airport. My favorite way to enter a country ever!!!

"Culture touch the Sky" 

Since the trip was so last minute and I very much wanted to stay on-base for the inexpensive and American-style hotel rooms, Matt and I had to continuously switch between lodging on two different bases within Seoul, based on availability. After the airport we grabbed dinner, took a train to the closer army base, and took an hour ride by bus to the air force base with rooms available. We did not get in until almost midnight and I had literally been on trains, planes, and automobiles all day. 

On my first full day, Monday, we stayed close to base and enjoyed the shopping and eating. I was very concerned about the restaurants since I do not like traditional Korean food (kimchi- bleh!), but I was happy to discover that close to American bases many establishments cater to foreign tastes. 

Coffee and Pizza - bait for Americans. Worked on us!
The Turumi Lodge on the air force base was very nice and clean with a coffee shop for breakfast. It was exactly what I expected for lodging on a military base. The Dragon Hill Lodge on the army base was not what I expected at all. It was AMAZING! The rooms were huge with king sized beds. A pool and a  landscaped garden with a waterfall could be seen from the windows. Downstairs were multiple restaurants, shops, and travel agencies. Best of all, it was within walking distance of the Seoul district of Yongsan, known for it's large population of foreigners. As a result, the food was spectacular and from a spectrum of cultures: from Mexico to Europe to Thailand.

Astroturf floor + Beanbag chairs + Chandeliers + Pad Thai = The Glamping

Brunch at a French restaurant. Until Matt ordered squid ink ciabatta bread, which is so not French.

Enjoying calamari salad and the perfect outside temperature. Not in Okinawa anymore!
In addition to our constant trips with luggage between the two bases, we took day trips throughout Seoul and tried to see as much as possible within our few days together. By the end of the week I was exhausted with sore feet, but little did I now I had one last adventure before I made it back to Okinawa. Since a typhoon had hit Okinawa, my flight was delayed by several hours. I was grateful that I could sleep later before having to repeat the long journey in reverse: bus ride to subway to train to airport. It took multiple hours for Matt and I to reach the airport, and when I began checking in 50 minutes before my flight time everyone urged me to hurry, which seems unhelpful when waiting in line through security. That did take longer than expected, and I had to wait in line for an underground shuttle, then up three flights of crowded escalators, then book it to my gate. I made it with five minutes to spare! The flight to Okinawa was fine - the offered snack was onigiri (tuna salad wrapped in rice wrapped in seaweed), but I had brought a sandwich that I ate instead- until we actually reached Okinawa. The outer bands of the typhoon were still present, and the plane could not land with such heavy wind. The plane circled the island for what seemed like a long time, and many people started puking with the combination of flying in circles and heavy turbulence. The pilot attempted to land, but pulled up sharply at the very last second. The pilot made an announcement in Korean, and the couple next to me looked disbelieving. "What did he say?" I asked. "We are going to Jeju," the boyfriend replied, but he could not tell me where Jeju was! I pulled out a map so he could point... back to Korea! We flew to the island of Jeju to refuel the plane before heading all the way back to Seoul. They passed out snacks again, and luckily this time it was a banana and muffin. Still, that was the only dinner provided as we landed in a closed airport. There were no counters or food vendors open. I am grateful that they provided us with a bus and rooms at a nice hotel. However, I found myself in a predicament. Since I had stayed on base with Matt, I had to adaptor for the Korean outlets. As a result, my phone began to die with no way to charge it. I also had no Korean currency and knew none of the language. Hmmm...

I did venture out of the hotel around midnight to find food, and I found a 24 hour coffee shop that took Visa. Food!!! I decided to order a wake-up call from the front desk since I could not use the alarm on my phone. There must have been some miscommunication with the language barrier, because instead of a wake up call thirty minutes before the bus arrived I got a call from dead asleep when the bus was loading people and luggage!?! I freaked out and threw everything haphazardly into my bag. I still can't find my watch...I did stop to brush my teeth and change out of my pajamas, but I was mortified that I had to be the last one on the bus (they did have to hold it just for me) with no makeup or contacts or breakfast. Well, all's well that ends well. I made it to the airport with enough time to buy a pastry and orange juice before boarding the plane - Can you tell my well being is directly tied to food consumption?- and this time the plane landed safely in Okinawa.

I had several other wonderful and zany experiences traveling with little foresight to a foreign country that I will share in future posts!


  1. OMG!! That same thing happened to us when we were on our way to Ishigaki! There was heavy winds/clouds and the pilot couldn't see the landing strip so he pulled the airplane back up and we circled the island for thirty (LONG) minutes!! Thankfully we made it to Ishigaki and they didn't fly us back to Okinawa, but i call it my "near death experience". I was soooo scared!! Besides all that craziness, i'm glad you had a fun trip to Seoul!! I'm dying to go!

    I think the Dragon Hill Lodge is kind of like the New Sanno in Tokyo!! It's soo amazing, especially for the cheap price! :D

    1. I think what made it crazier was the language barrier. I had no idea what was happening since all the announcements were in Korean. I thought we were landing, then OH MY GOSH WE'RE NOT LANDING. I was happy to be on the ground, even in the wrong country.

      And when you visit please stay at the Dragon Hill Lodge. It was so inexpensive and nice and the nearest subway station was a five minute walk.

  2. what an adventure you had! so scary about trying to land in the typhoon but happy you made it back safe and sound the next day! I took Eden (my 5 year old) to Seoul last Thanksgiving for a little girls trip, it was awesome and I would love to go back!

    1. What a perfect girls trip! I found the shopping there to be fantastic. I want to go back as well, but with a little more planning next time.

  3. Wow!! You are becoming a very adventurous Georgia peach! I am totally impressed! You go girl!

  4. Ugh! What a crazy trip. I cannot believe they took you all the way back to Seoul. You had to have been EXHAUSTED! I wish you could find your watch... any chance you could email the hotel?