During my third day in Seoul, I realized a few things: South Koreans are friendly, fashionable, and respectful, Seoul is more westernized/developed than I thought, Soju, young people like to party, hard, Soju, and more Soju.
When I first arrived at Incheon International Airport (after losing my flight in Hong Kong – long story) it was 2:30am. The Korean Train Express (train that takes you into the city) was closed and would open at 5am, restaurants were closed, I barely saw any people besides those from my flight and the currency exchange workers. I thought I was going to have to sleep at the airport (again) until I saw a similar store to CVS. I sat down and began looking through my options: Sleep, wait it out and do some work, Uber or Taxi.
If you’ve ever slept at an airport you know how uncomfortable that is, so that option is off the table. Waiting it out to do some work wasn’t good either. It was 2:30am and I was exhausted (first flight was supposed to be at 6:40pm). Uber didn’t work since I didn’t have a phone number and taxis weren’t working except unofficial ones, which…HELL NO! After debating (with myself) for 5 minutes, I decided to go exit the airport and see what I can find – Maybe hitchhike?
Once outside I saw people lining up at what appeared to be bus stops. I asked a couple that was walking behind me if this was a bus to Seoul. “Yes” – they said. I felt saved. For only 8,000 Won (1 USD = 1,113 Won), this was a no brainer. It took around 30 minutes to get to Seoul station. It was almost 4:30am. What should I do now? Well, I decided to take a taxi.
Taxis were parked right next to the station. I pulled out my phone and showed the driver the direction of where I was going. He nodded and signaled me to hop on the back seat. I could tell he didn’t know much English due to his one or two words answers to my questions about Seoul.
Driving in Seoul is done on the right side like the U.S. Taxis are metered as well but this one had three phones hooked up to the car. One was displaying the fare, another was the GPS and the last one I have no idea what it was for. It just displayed a bunch of information, obviously in Korean, that I couldn’t read. Looking out the window, I saw modern skyscrapers, buildings with LED lights, clean road signs, and 7-elevens everywhere.
Approaching my hostel, the drivers asks for my phone to clarify where I needed to go. He pointed in the right direction but where he pointed was pitch black. I put on a face of confusion that prompted the driver to drive a bit further (5 min.) to exactly where I needed to go. In other areas I’ve visited, this would definitely had not happened. The street was narrow, with low light, and barely any cars passing by. Sensing my fear of “lost tourist” the driver got out of the car and walked me to my hostel. Isn’t that great? All for the same price (9,000 Won).
I walk in to the hostel building. The hostel itself was located on the sixth floor. To go in, I had to input this four-digit code into a lock that was part of the door and it would let me in. Kinda fancy if you ask me. I go up, elevator doors open and bam, there was the hostel. The hostel’s name Is Mura. As soon as I got out of the elevator, I noticed the wooden ceiling, floors, and walls. It felt cozy to say the least. I saw the TV on and thought someone (the host) would be awake. But I was wrong. I sat down on the couch across the TV and waited 5 minutes for someone to show up; no one did. I emailed the host and messaged him several times through Whatsapp and KaKao (the Korean equivalent of Whatsapp or WeChat). No reply…
It was 6am and the sun was starting to rise. Being exhausted, hungry, sober, and carrying a heavy backpack, wasn’t the best situation to be in at the time. I left my backpack on the couch and decided to look for a 24-hour convenient store. Guess which one I found: 7-ELEVEN!!
I bought a bunch of snacks and water to at least trick my stomach into thinking it got real food. I went back to the hostel and still no one in sight; no messages either. This situation was sh*tty. I grabbed a pack of Oreos I bought, and decided to take a tour of the neighborhood.
There were small shops and restaurants left and right. I head north for 5 minutes until I see humans once again. Young humans to be precise. They were young people appearing to be leaving bars and heading home. The street I was in was lit. Literally lit; there were bars and clubs everywhere all with huge, bright signs. People were all over the place. I saw some guy one the ground, sleeping or passed out I couldn’t tell. A girl was fighting with whom I presumed was her boyfriend because whenever she walked away, he would grab her and try to hug her as she tried to pull away; interesting scene, very entertaining. I get to this hip-hop club called NB2 or Noise Basement. Apparently, it is one of the most popular clubs in the area, and it was still open. I asked a guy, who was smoking a cigarette about the club and the area.
This dude was hammered; he could barely talk but I got some information out of him. This is the “best” club in the area, closes at 7am and Koreans go out at 1am to wherever they want to go. He also said that foreigners are not seen that much in this area, which surprised me a bit.
Fast forward to 8am back at the hostel, still not a single person in sight.
Suddenly, a guy walked out of one of the rooms and I hurriedly went up and asked if he was the host. “No, he is not here” – he said. WTF?! Really, I could’ve at least gotten the memo. I told him about my situation of being here since 5am. He takes out his phone, dials a number and hands it over to me. He reached the host in less than one minute! Anyways, to be done with this post because it is a long one, I just asked for my room number and bed. I walk towards the 12-person room with bunk beds, get on bed (top bunk) without even settling my stuff down and just pass out.
Lesson to be learned here: Don’t miss your flight and never arrived after midnight because you will literally be screwed until 8am.