Okay, so using the word “soul” in the title of a post about Seoul is probably the oldest cliché ever. But nevertheless, that was exactly what my days in Seoul were – days, where I got to reconnect with myself, get myself back down to earth, take a breather and reflect on the beautiful life that I was so lucky to be given, but sometimes forget to appreciate. Seoul is not a bad place to do that. Not only is the city rich on history and culture, it’s also a paradise for hikers with many nature trails starting right in the center of the city.
Before coming to Seoul, quite a few things had gone wrong, some making me lose faith and some making me downright scared. First of all, I was in the middle of the earthquakes in Japan just a few days earlier, which scared me half to death and most of all, made me want to go back to my family in Denmark. The day before that, I had smashed my phone, which meant that I had to rely on other people to get me up in the mornings, and it also meant that I had no way of not getting lost without my offline map. To top it all off, I had recently found out that Mongolia had changed their visa rules, which meant that I, as a Danish citizen, now needed to get a visa.
But, instead of letting myself be a wuss, I decided to fix my problems; get my visa, get my phone fixed and get over my earthquake experience. Lastly, I wanted to explore Seoul and enjoy Seoul.
I spent the first afternoon trying to get my iPhone fixed, but because my screen is fake (this is the third time that I’ve broken it…), the Apple store wouldn’t repair it. Thankfully, with the help from my hostel, I found a lovely local guy in the neighbourhood, who was able to fix it in under an hour – and even let me watch as he was doing it! It was very complicated, haha. That was my first mission and although it was literally smashed to pieces, it was still fixable. Thank you friendly local guy! Also, thank you to my lovely grandmother, who sent me the money to get the phone fixed because of my bad luck. In times of desperation, family is gold.
The next morning, it was time for me to go to the Mongolian visa center and get my tourist visa. A few weeks earlier, I had found out while reading about Mongolia that Danes need visas since January 1st 2016. I planned my journey last year, when I didn’t need a visa, so I was panicking, thinking that I would lose both my ticket to Mongolia and my ticket from there to Kyrgyzstan. So when I went to the visa center and the lady was like “yeah sure, it’s 96000 WON and you can pick it up in two hours.” I was like “whaaat, hell yeah!”. I didn’t think it would be so easy! Things were finally starting to go my way!
Once I had gotten those two things sorted, my next missions were to go sightseeing in Seoul, visit the DMZ and at the same time, find peace within myself and the beautiful world surrounding me.
Seoul is a vibrant and dynamic capital with a lot to offer to both citizens and visitors. Despite this, I failed hard at sightseeing. Partly because I didn’t want to pay the prices for the sights and partly because I just wanted to walk and feel the city. Experience the city in my own way, with music in my ears and fresh air in my lungs.
I tried to be cultural at the Gyeongbokgung Palace, but the entrance price was ridiculous and I wasn’t quite feeling the place – or the many tourists.
Instead I spent my days walking by the river, people-watching in lively neighbourhoods and hiking in the mountains surrounding the city.
One day, I was trying to find a bench to have a picnic, but the search ended up bringing me to the top of Mount Ansan at 295 m. before I finally found it. Because of the lack of hikers, I didn’t even realize that I was on the trail before getting to the top. It was an unexpected mountain hike, which resulted in one of the best views for a picnic that I’ve ever had!
On my last day in Seoul, I wanted to hike another mountain, so I decided to go with Mount Inwangsan at 338 m., where the view is also said to be spectacular. Unfortunately, on a day that I actually wanted to be hiking, the summit of the mountain was closed… I found out the hard way that a lot of sights around Seoul are closed on Mondays. An old fortress wall runs all the way to the summit, where the Tangchundaesong Fortress is located. I would’ve liked to have seen that, but I did manage to find some stunning views from some rocks half way up the mountain. I spent the rest of the afternoon chilling by myself with the exception of a few birds that came to claim their right to my bread every now and then.
Those days with nature were exactly what I needed to reconnect to myself and get my thoughts straight. I needed to be alone and although Seoul is swamped with people at all times (especially at peak hours in the subway), it proved to be a great place to be exactly that – alone. Although people were constantly around me, I was walking by myself, thinking to myself, reflecting by myself, and I really enjoyed my solitude.
South Korea has been a pleasure to explore and the Koreans have been some of the friendliest people that I’ve met on my way. Seoul helped me to find peace within myself, to trust nature once again and to make me realize that there’s always a solution, no matter how tough things get. After spending time in Seoul, I felt like I was ready to take on the rest of the countries on my journey and fully enjoy it. And I realized that it’s okay to not see all the sights in a city, as long as you make the most of your time and do what is right for you, which is exactly what I did!