Throwback to my first ever solo trip to Seoul, I noticed how much confidence I gained when it comes to travelling alone. 3 days, 3 nights. That was all. First ever solo trip, and a very short one.
Back in 2011, when my korean was still limited to 얼마에요? (How much is this?) and 이거주세요 (Please give me this), I thought that I would die without any access to internet (Mind you, I really rely heavily on the internet for everything.) Roaming did not work on my iPhone4, and I was too poor to rent a portable wifi or a local phone with internet access. This was back in 2011, where everything was still expensive and exclusive.
When a local low cost airline, Airasia X started operating KUL-ICN on daily basis in Nov 2010, Seoul became more accessible for those who travels in budget. Affordable fare, and it immediately became a favourite for Southeast Asians. K-pop was already a thing, K-Drama was long a craze culture hence the sector was booming and overflowing with SEAsians. I, too, was influenced.
It was Ramadhan. It was late, almost midnight. And it was a very hot Summer. I was alone, detached from the comfort of free wifi as soon as I left the airport. I had everything printed. The map to the guesthouse, my reservation details and my itinerary for 3 days. I thought I was armed with informations. I was wrong.
As soon as I got on the street from the subway, I was lost. I panicked. The street was still bustling. It was at the foot of Hongdae, a busy area with blinding lights full of youngsters, college youngins. Looking around, I caught 2 girls in their 20s staring at me. I was that interesting to them, map in one hand, heavy ass luggage in another. So I went to them asking if they could show me the way to my guesthouse. I just needed a point to start. I realized in an instant that they did not speak english by the frantic looks. Before I was even able to feel disappointed, they said ‘Wait!’ while one of the girls calling an Oppa (older brother/older guy friend) to come faster. So this guy was running towards us while clutching to the fedora that was on his head.
POINT A – South Koreans are friendly.
“English?” I asked him.
“A little. May I help you?”
I showed him the map. I told him I just need to confirm the starting point. He looked at me saying that it will be quite dark. He went to the cab nearby asking the cab driver if he could send me there. Driver refused because the address was not in his gps. Then he noticed that there is bus service going to that direction. He went to the driver, telling him to make sure I alight at the point he marked on my map.
I was this close to kissing him.
Got to my guesthouse in under 15minutes. Everything was well.
Point B- South Koreans are really friendly.
Day 3. I was looking back and forth to the signage and the map on my hand when a harabeoji (old man, grandpa) walked straight up to me and asked 어디가는거야 (Eodikanuengoya / where are you going?)
“Apgujeong. Rodeo Street.” A friend had asked me to buy something from a shop there. I was too poor to even shop at places like Apgujeong (and too fat for SK’s standard) LOL
He began telling me directions in koreans. I was not that fluent I can hardly understand farther than ‘Take that left turn.’
He looked at my helpless face and took out his phone, calling his daughter asking for help. And it was his daughter who guided me through the phone. Awesome people, the Koreans.
So I managed to get to the shop, but they did not have the hoodie that my friend wanted. It was Summer and they only had Summer collections. Went back and tweeted my friend about it. While preparing to leave Seoul, friend tweeted the store and the person replied asking if I could come to Hapjeong station. I went there and a staff came, carrying the said hoodie and another limited edition tee. Apologizing for having me went all the way and telling me the limited edition is a gift of appreciation. The tee was about half the price of the hoodie!
I left Seoul knowing fully well that I would easily return again. Anytime.
[Did not do anything much other than attending concert on Day 1, running around Seoul looking for friends’ stuffs on Day 2 & 3. Pretty uneventful. Stick around and you will see what I found in Seoul, AGAIN.]