Chuseok is a Korean harvest festival and a three-day holiday celebrated during the 15th day of 8th month in the lunar calendar. This year it (unfortunately) happened during Friday the 13th, but still, it was time for a lot of celebration for many Koreans. As an exchange student to Korea, I witnessed the Catholic university’s school grounds and the whole town of Yeokgok become close to a ghost town during these last few days. So, what do you do during Chuseok as a foreigner in Korea? Well, my friends and I took the moment to really explore Seoul and do some well-timed sightseeing
Thursday (September 12)
During the first day of our holiday, we decided we'd start by visiting Hongdae for the first time. I can't say we had a specific plan in mind, we were all just looking forward to seeing the area.
My first impression to Hongdae was it's the "youthful" feel it had in almost every aspect. The clothing stores were many and teeming with both Korean and foreign young adults. The clothes looked typical for a large part of the young culture here and the music they played managed to be equally modern and loud. Still, the atmosphere was fun and fresh to me. I personally liked the vintage clothes stores scattered everywhere as well. I've not really gotten used the overwhelming amount of clothes and brands you see everywhere in South Korea, so it was interesting to look into the small vintage stores to see where all the old brands and their editions end up.
As we continued to explore Hongdae, we discovered an Eyetrick museum at one of the streets. So, we decided to check it out on a whim seeing as we had the time and I felt like it would be nice to get a break from all the noise and colorful sweatshirts.
The Eyetrick museum had two parts to it, so we started at the ice area of the museum. It was basically a freezing hall filled with different ice sculptures and lights. It was all cool to see, but I still think the best part was seeing the reactions of the tourists when they entered the room. It must have been surprisingly cold to them but, to me, it just reminded me of the weather during New Year's eve in Sweden when your family forces you to see the fireworks outside.
The second part of the museum had the actual eye tricks and it was a lot of fun to do with my friends. We ended up spending a lot of time taking pictures and laughing with each other. The museum wasn't too long or tiring either, so we had a good time. Of course, I'll share some of the better pictures we took during the trip. I can safely say none of us was in any grave danger, so don't worry too much.
Friday - Chuseok (September 13)
During Friday, we wanted to check out the Gwangjang food market first. We figured it wouldn't be too many people there since it was Chuseok and it didn't end up being too crowded either.
I thought the atmosphere was very casual and enjoyable at first. It just seemed to be a lot of people hanging out and enjoying food together. We soon found ourselves hungry at this place filled with tasty food and great smells. So, I tried to get a snack by one of the stalls and I quickly felt the intensity of the atmosphere instead. The owners of the restaurants there seemed to be very eager and in a hurry to sell their food to us. So, it made me feel a little bit unsure about how I was going to talk to them, especially while using my awkward Korean language skills. Still, we managed to get some food in the end and left the market with full stomachs.
We still had a few hours left after that, so we decided to go back to Hongdae. Seeing Hongdae for a second time was great and we did some more shopping while we were there. I feel like discovering new locations around Seoul gets better once you keep returning to them to see more. After being to Hongdae a few times, I really enjoy the atmosphere of the place. It's full of life and people expressing themselves, either with their clothes or music performances on the streets. There’s still clearly a lot left for us to see there, so I’m eager to get back out there soon.
Saturday (September 14)
Saturday was the final day of our holiday and we spent it well at Namsan tower. We first went over to Myeongdong, to take a cablecar up the mountain. The line for the cablecars was a bit long, but it wasn't too bad. The waiting was definitely worth it because it felt pretty epic to fly up towards the tower. The weather was a bit cloudy that day, but we still managed to get some cool shots at the scenery. I liked seeing the mountain and all its nature. It was also amazing to see Seoul in the dark during the evening, with all the city's lights shining through the fog.
Our original plan was to see the botanical garden around the area, but we couldn't seem to find it and we didn't have a lot of time left for exploring. So, we spent most of our evening checking out the view and the tower. We stopped by an arcade and sang some karaoke together in one of the booths. I realized I have to practice the lyrics of all the rap lines in BTS's songs before I try karaoke again though.
During the evening, we went back down to Myeongdong and ate our fair share of street food at the markets there. It seems to me that most Korean food is delicious. I rarely know what I pick anymore, but it always tastes great to me. It was a nice way to end our holiday in Seoul, with a lot of delicious food.