The flight from Indonesia to Seoul was uneventful after Indonesia immigration confirmed that I was allowed to leave the country despite having an empty emergency password without any stamp showing when I entered the country. Garuda airlines lounge sucked and their business seats were not really lay flat, but they sucked more in waking us up every hour or so with useless announcements when we only had 6H of sleep on that short red eye.
The first two days of our South Korea trip (sunday-monday) would be in Seoul before taking a bus tour of southern South Korea on tuesday.
After landing in Seoul, we took the KTX express to Seoul and a cab to Bukchonmaru Hanok Guesthouse, our homestay. This was my first chance to find out that Korean taxi drivers seem totally unable to drive to a clear point on a map with streets in Korean, unless they have an exact address they can enter in their GPS. Our driver did very badly when I had a clear google map showing him where to go, and he ended up calling our homestay to ask for directions... (I'm only mentioning this now because this experience was repeated multiple times later).
pretty futuristic looking airport with maglev train, sadly not going in our direction.
KTX express train, 300kph
Seoul Station, downtown
We arrived at our homestay around 11:30, a bit later than expected. So we dropped our luggage, got our keys and headed to Changedeokgung Palace to pick up last minute tickets for the secret garden tour. We then had a quick lunch and headed to Changedeokgung Palace for our tour. To be honest, the secret is actually that you can sign up for that tour in any language, and ditch the tour and walk on your own once you've gone through the entrance (just in case your language isn't available anymore).
Also, I should note that because it was the lantern festival weekend for Buddha's birthday, many people were wearing costumes:
Next, we went to Gyeongbokgung Palace:
they had michoko birds running around :)
We had a quick peek at the folk village museum that was right there too:
Next, we went towards Jogyesa, a nearby buddhist temple that was celebrating Buddha's birthday with the 2nd day of lantern festival:
Had some quick roasted pig over a hot stone before going back to see the festival at night. Very pretty with all the lit lanterns:
It was then time for some sleep in our traditional guest house. The next morning the owner served us breakfast and they allowed us to wear some traditional costumes they had:
We then walked around the traditional village houses around the one we stayed at:
We took a quick cab back to Gyeongbokgung Palace to see the changing of the guards, and they also had another station where they let us wear traditional clothes:
From there, we went to Gangnam to have lunch at google, a good place to get a few pictures from high up, and then got a Gangnam style picture by the subway station of the same name :)
We then took the subway to Coex Mall and aquarium, since all museums were closed on mondays. The Coex Aquarium was much better than expected:
We then finished the sightseeing day by going to Bongeunsa, a nice temple nearby, also with lanterns for Buddha's birthday:
We then had another complicated cab ride to a restaurant where I had the exact address and name on my phone, but the driver was unable to drive there because he couldn't punch it in his GPS :-/ I mean how hard is it really to drive to a point on a map that he could just scroll to on his GPS and select? The cab ride too more than twice as long as it should have, and we arrived quite late for our dinner with Doer Ahn and his wife, who nicely agreed to have a dinner/chat with us in a nice BBQ restaurant (sadly Jennifer had food poisoning from an unknown prior source, maybe even Indonesia, and wasn't really able to enjoy the food).
It was great to be able to chat with them and learn more about Korea and Koreans, thanks to both for spending the time to eat with us:
It was then time to go back to our room, and pack our luggage for the early-ish 4 day East Korea bus tour the following morning.