I recently took a trip to South Korea. And I was instantly in love.
So, how does one fall in love with a country or city? It’s easy, really. When the country is as amazing as South Korea.
There were several things that made me fall in love with South Korea, and Seoul in particular.
The first was the people. My older sister and I went to Korea knowing only how to say, “Hello” and “Thank you” in Korean. We didn’t know the language. The money. The subway system. We could barely pronounce the names of neighborhoods. We landed in Korea with only a basic idea of how to make our way to our Airbnb apartment in Hongdae.
It would have been easy for us to get lost and overwhelmed and frustrated. However, the people of Seoul were kind and welcoming. It seemed that the people of South Korea wanted us to feel welcome and at home.
If we looked lost, they would stop and ask us where we were going. Even if they didn’t speak more than a few words of English. We were helped by strangers in the subway when our luggage was too heavy to lift off the train. A tour guide helped us order food at a restaurant. A group of grandmas in Busan offered me a seat on the train next to them and then gave me the thumbs up and big smiles when I sat down. The security guard at our apartment building asked us if we had eaten yet and if we were enjoying our time in Seoul. A group of passing school children waved at us as we sat in a cafe drinking smoothies.
The more time we spent taking in the sites and shopping and eating, the more Seoul started to feel like home in a way that no other city aside from Kansas City has before.
The second thing that really made me love Seoul was the combination of ancient and modern. Visiting the City Hall area, there are several ancient palaces. They are beautiful and breathtaking and stunning. And what made them stand out even more was that they were surrounded by modern skyscrappers.
There’s a huge, very old Buddhist temple right across the street from a giant, modern shopping mall.
The left side of the street:
The right side of the street:
When walking down this street in Gangnam, you hear the noise of the traffic. The movement of people from one place to another. But as you pass through the entryway to the temple, you hear nothing but a peaceful calm. The day we visited, they still had paper lanterns from a recent holiday. As the breeze worked it’s way through, we could hear the gentle flapping of tiny banners hung from each lantern. It was easily one of the most peaceful places I’ve ever visited.
The third thing that made me fall in love with Seoul was that there is so much to do and see and explore. From palaces, to street shopping. The trick-eye museums and animal cafes. The DMZ and amusement parks. South Korea is a world of it’s own and we were never bored.
I’ll do another post of some of my favorite places that we visited. (Including my absolute favorite stores to shop.) Suffice it to say, after two weeks, there was still so much that we didn’t have time to see and do. South Korea truly has wonderful things to offer for just about anyone, you just have to know where to look!
Between the wonderful and kind people, the combination of modern and ancient, and the abundance of things to do, I have fallen in love with South Korea. My heart has felt homesick ever since I landed back in the states. But I know that someday soon, I will make my way back to my second home and find more reasons to love it.
Have you visited a place that instantly felt like a second home? Where do you want to visit someday?