Our 4th Chuseok in Korea, Part 1 – Seoul
Growing up, Thanksgiving was always my favorite holiday. There is no pressure about gifts, the family is way less stressed, and it is all about gratitude, family, and good food. My kind of holiday. The day really embodies Fall, with it’s smells and sweaters, colors, and football (or nap time for me).
In Korea, Chuseok is compared to Thanksgiving because it is also a harvest festival (minus the genocide and kum ba yah stories of sharing some turkey), but it is as big as Christmas is in the States. Being that it’s one of the two biggest holidays in Korea, we usually get 4 or 5 days off! Hooray!
We also got some pretty great Chuseok gifts this year, and if you’re interested in seeing what kind of quirky things we got check out the video!
In the past we’ve taken part in Chuseok activities in Seoul, gone on a trip to Gangwon-do, and have had a laid back stay-cation, but this year was really special. My Aunt Kathy came to visit us for the holiday! She is our first family member to come visit us in Korea, so it’s an understatement to say we were really excited. We’ve been waiting for years to share our life here with people we love, IN PERSON. It’s one thing to do these blogs and videos, after all family is the reason we started doing them in the first place. But it’s just not the same as seeing everything in real life. My Aunt Kathy and I also have a special bond because we are kindred spirits, so the trip was extra special for me.
We left on Friday right after work and took the train up to Seoul. I could write a whole post about how stressful it was getting the train tickets for Chuseok weekend, but I’ll just say I had the help of my coteacher, her husband, 2 computers, and a phone. Traffic is insane during Chuseok so traveling by train is the only way to go. I’m so thankful for my coteacher’s help in getting the tickets for us!
Anyways, our plan was to hit the ground running. We met her in Myeongdong, and as we got out of the taxi from Seoul Stn. it was so surreal seeing my Aunt sitting there waiting for us! After living here for 4 years and never seeing family, it was such a new feeling seeing a loved one’s face in the landscape of Korea. After lots of hugs, we ventured up Namsan mountain via cable car to see the city from the top of N Seoul Tower.
They were closing the tower so we had very little time up there, but at least we got to go up! It made me remember just how huge Seoul is, it’s almost overwhelming sometimes! After admiring the view we went back to check out our hotel, Fraser Suites in Insadong. I highly recommend it if you’re looking for a nice place in a great location! So many things are within walking distance, there is great service, and we even got upgraded to a 3 bedroom apartment! Our place was so nice that we didn’t wake up THAT early on Saturday – me and Evan were enjoying the comfy queen sized bed and my Aunt was still catching up on sleep.
It worked out perfectly because I wanted to be starving for what I had planned that day. As you guys know, near the beginning of the year we went on Zen Kimchi’s Dark Side of Seoul tour and really enjoyed it. We knew we wanted to do one of their food tours and this was the perfect opportunity. A group of us met by Mapo Station at 1pm and we set off for some delicious BBQ. The Mapo neighborhood in Seoul is famous for it’s style of BBQ, with a tray around the side of the grill where egg is mixed with kimchi and green onions and cooks alongside your meat. This style has become popular all over Korea in the past few years and can be found everywhere, but it’s great to eat it where it all began. This was my Aunt’s first Korean BBQ and she loved it! This will be a common theme, hehe!
We also had some of the best Korean food (and drinks) I’ve ever had at two other restaurants, but I’m going to save the delicious details on that for another post.
After we sobered up a little bit we jumped on the Seoul Bus Tour. Our first stop was Deoksogung Palace. We arrived at dusk and it was gorgeous. We sat by the pond and just admired our surroundings, all the while I was eaten alive by mosquitoes! After that we took a long bus ride following the Han River to see all of the best night views of the city. I love how many cool bridges there are! If you haven’t used Seoul City Bus Tours I highly recommend it. Just 12,000 for a day and you can hop on and off where ever you want.
The tour ended at Gwanghwamun Plaza, so we got off and walked to the Cheonggyecheon Stream. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect, so after walking around a bit we grabbed some coffee and just sat at a table by the stream! We decided to try to throw a coin in this circle in the stream for good luck, and Aunt Kathy got it in on the first try! This was just the beginning of our great luck on this trip.
Eventually we wandered over to the plaza to admire the great statues of Lee-Sun Shin and King Sejong. We sat in the grass and had a long talk about everything we did and saw that day. It’s so refreshing to see Korea through the eyes of someone new to the country again. It makes everything exciting and new again for us …not that we were getting tired of it here!
On Sunday we didn’t do that much because we had a train to catch to Busan! But before we left we had time to take my Aunt to one of our favorite places in our first neighborhood, Yangpyeong! It sits by a stream that flows into the Nakdong river, and there are also great views of the more famous Mokdong neighborhood behind us. We also managed to meet up with our good friend Michael, take her to Le Cafe, our favorite coffee shop in Seoul, and eat bingsu of course!
We only had a short time in Seoul but I think we made the most of it without making it stressful! When we travel we don’t like to see it all, and I knew my Aunt felt the same way so it was great to show someone around that was laid back and mostly wanted to relax and see the highlights.
Be on the lookout for a post about the Busan part of our trip coming up soon!