If Hong Kong is equivalent to New York, then Seoul is to Paris. However, that’s just how I see things after having visited all these four cities.
No matter whether it’s the two Time Squares, or the way people dress in a simple chic fashion, each city is highly inspired by one another.
After visiting Seoul for the first time in forever, I could see the resemblance to Paris (that time I visited was in 2014) in not just the people and the way they dress, but also the abundant holes in the wall that I’ve discovered.
The people were… well, they don’t speak English, neither do they need to. Their fashion? Yup, reminds me of Parisians. Super simple and chic, minimal colors yet flows very fluidly. You are surrounded by nudes, beiges, browns, blacks and whites. Their shops? Surprisingly very very very nicely decorated/concepted. Way better than Japan. Japan is just neat, which is a heaven for people who are OCD.
Upon arriving Seoul, I tried not having too high of an expectation.
Between the exchange in conversations of “Oh, if you like Japan, I don’t think you’ll like Seoul” to “I like Seoul sih, it’s very different from everywhere else. The nightlife is lit”… I grew very confused. One big mistake I did was indeed to compare Seoul to Japan.
First day I arrived I was already bombarded by a screaming ahjussi that was very impatient at the bus stop. Mind you, this is one of the first few trips I traveled alone with a friend. Celine’s growing up, everyone, no more papa Kotji to the rescue. It was all about discovering the city and planning where I wanted to go, but of course I had Jane to help guide.
The two areas I chose to stay at was Gangnam (naively, I did not know Gangnam covers a huge ass area of Seoul) and Hong Dae. Both very different areas – Gangnam is a more adult, young professional area, HongDae a more young and hip area. I stayed at two very recommended Airbnb which I will add at the end of this post.
Out of all the places I have explored in Gangnam, I would say my favorite area is the Garosugil area where the Tamburins store is located (also where the Kitsune cafe is at). There are an abundant of shops, restaurants, bars in that area that are worth checking out. Also, if you want a step up, you can also go to Sinsadong. That one is also a cute neighborhood. I don’t think I can ever state each and every store because… well, I don’t remember the names because they were so generic and random. There can be a store that’s named “White Concept” and you’d be like wtf, but just go with it and enter if you think it’s pretty. Notice how they decorate their store fronts, notice what they display and notice the vibe they were going for… I am pretty convinced that Koreans are really good in branding and concept stores. A few stores/bars/areas I can mention are —
- tamburins (a store with super extra decor and a twist – they only sell about 4-5 types of products. What!)
- Fake Me (this sunglasses store really reminds me of a famous brand in Indonesia/Jakarta called Raito. But I’m not entirely sure who is inspired by who or is it just pure coincidence. I’d like to give you the benefit of the doubt.)
- Collection Lounge, Art C and Pizza Express (bar, wine lounge, and pizzeria. Worth checking out. I had a blast at the Collection Lounge as you may have recalled from my Instagram story. The drinks weren’t too cheap but are very well-made. They are about 16.000-18.000 won)
- Queen Mama Market (this store is pretty funny since they change up their store display every couple months. I think by now, this is one of the sought after destinations for us Indonesians who go to Seoul. Because of its pretty display, I have seen a lot of my friends IG story-ing this store. Yes, must visit. I did quite a bit of shopping here.)
- Just like how there are many shops that are tucked deeply and randomly at the alley ways, my suggestion is to really just explore. Keep in mind to download Citymapper/KakaoMap because your Google Map will not work in Seoul.
- Gentle Monster store……. rada creepy sih kaya museum. I didn’t like it too much because of that aspect but if that’s your thing, you’ll probably really like it. It’ll make you want to buy a pair of their quirky glasses just because the branding flows so nicely.
- Also in Gangnam, I went to the Cooking Library for lunch one of those days and sat outdoors. Second day in and I was having trouble with the food served in Seoul. Perhaps because it was all written in Korean (which to be honest, isn’t even aesthetically pleasing to the eyes), but it seemed like it was hard for me to order because they aren’t written in English. Because I’m a freaking picky eater, it was a huge turn off and I’d rather not eat anything at all – it’s true, I barely ate anything in Seoul and I lost about 2-3kg.)
- Coffee is really big in Seoul I noticed. Sadly, I don’t drink coffee so I wasn’t on the lookout for good coffee. But those that I had were pretty good. I went to Sapoon Sapoon a few doors down from my Airbnb, really nice, I liked it. We spent about 3 hours there before check in.
- Itaewon for vintage shopping. Umi brought me here to see and do some shopping. I think it was somewhat harder to access because it is at a very awkward area, almost no one spoke English but damn! The vintage shops were………. out of this world. Some artists even recreated their own pieces of art with existing pieces. I just respected the stores when they said no photos. No instagrammable photos but etched a memory in my heart. One day when I have my own place, I’d go back to Seoul to buy the items. I did get something though which I will take pretty pictures of. You’ll probably see it on IG in the next few weeks.
- Still Books. This building is super close to Itaewon but you still need to walk a distance. Again, Citymapper will bring you to a very weird area but just go ahead with it. This can easily be one of my top three destinations. Highlight? There was a wine and book bar on the top level. Wine, books, music. That’s so me. My cells tingled when I was there.
I like this area too but I would rather skip it. I shopped the least here but had a real fun time bar hopping. Because I was VERY lit, I don’t remember all the names of the places I went to. There was also Stylenanda and it’s SO much better than the one in Myeong Dong (despise that area, f-ing crowded. super anxious and claustrophobic). But man, it was fun. My suggestion… just let loose and explore! Walk into alleys and be curious and masuk ajaaaaa. Banyak tempat menarik.
The subway and bus system isn’t too complicated as long as you use the Citymapper app. Purchase the card at the subway system. I used about 10.000won for 6 days and still had about 4.000won left. Super affordable transport system! Staying in an Airbnb that’s in those prime areas helped too!
I spent 3 nights in Gang Nam at this Airbnb, another 2 days in Hondae in this apartment and 1 night at Hotel Cappucino back at Gang Nam again. They are all in different areas with very different vibes. My Airbnb at Gangnam was the most spacious and I turned out to like that one the most. Reason? It was very close to A LOT of shops.
Both airbnbs were okay and worth the price that they are rented for. Each have their own perks. The one in HongDae is a bit small, so if you’re going to go with a lot of friends, trust me… don’t be too cheap. I love having space when I’m traveling with friends, there are some days you’d want to be together, some days you just don’t want to… In that case, sewa more rooms so you have your own personal space. But if you guys are tight on a budget… then no choice.
The one in Gangnam was the nicest in my opinion just cause it’s spacious and super fancy with heated floors.
I don’t know what else I haven’t covered and I feel that this is quite informational. In any case, if there are more things I’d like to discuss, it would be on the second part ya. Thank you for dropping by!