36 Hours in Seoul

A friend and I planned a quick trip to Seoul for the weekend. The weather report indicated that there was snow the day before we arrived and chilly weather was forecasted while we are there. I packed my scarves, hats, and gloves and carried on my coat and wore my boots and headed to ITO. After solving a forgotten phone hiccup, my friend and I made it on our plane from ITO to HNL. The flight was slightly delayed due to some bags still needing to be loaded on the plane. Our flight from HNL to ICN was also slightly delayed but we settled in our upgraded seats and relaxed on our 11 hour flight to Incheon. I watched finally watched the Disney + version of Hamilton and thoroughly enjoyed it and want to know more about A. Ham and A. Burr and everything about Eliza.

We landed at ICN at around 7:30 p.m. with our K-ETA approvals and health QR codes in hand and had a smooth entry into the country. I came across a hiccup at baggage claim. We waited and waited at the carousel but my bag never made it. After filing my missing bag report, we headed to the hotel and luckily, I had my overcoat and boots and headed to Myeongdong to find food–but first, I stopped at 7-11 to get some underwear and toiletries since mine never made it. We were so hungry, we stopped at the first open place we found and it was a pojangmacha–or tent bar that you might see in KDramas. We sat on plastic chairs and ordered soju, Saba, kimchi pork belly stir fry with tofu; and a noodle with spicy fried tako while making some friends from the next table. We got back to the Lotte Hotel Seoul around midnight and I went to sleep with hopes that my bag would be here in 24 hours on the next flight to ICN.

When I woke up, it was snowing! I walked to the convenience store and picked up a sandwich, musubi, and boiled eggs for us to tide us over until lunch. The boiled eggs were especially delicious! We hired a driver to drive us around on our first day. The first stop was to Itaewon where my friend searched for a shop that was there 30 years ago. We stopped to pay our respects at the spot of the Halloween tragedy. There were so many flowers and other items in the area. As we walked around, we didn’t find the store my friend was looking for, but we did find a leather goods shop she recognized. After Itaewon, we headed to Namdaemun where I got clothes and makeup since I still didn’t have my luggage. It was a cold day so we asked our driver to find a kimchi chigae restaurant for us. He took us to a place in Myeongdong and YUM–it hit the spot. We visited Insadong next where we did a bit more shopping before heading back to the hotel to recharge for dinner. My pal must have been so tired and her recharge lasted all afternoon and through the night.

I woke up the next morning hoping that my bag arrived last night at ICN. The front desk clerk helped me call the ICN baggage service but there was no answer. My husband contacted the HNL baggage service desk and spent hours and hours both in person and on the phone and found that my bag went to Haneda the day after I left, back to Honolulu, and then was scheduled to leave for ICN that afternoon. By then, I resigned myself to the fact that I would not be getting my bag during the trip and maybe never. I went to Myeongdong to buy a suitcase to take home the things I purchased on this trip. We decided to have lunch at a restaurant at the Lotte Department store that is connected to the hotel and decided on a BBQ place on the 12th floor since my traveling partner didn’t want to go exploring in the cold weather. It was ok but for my next trip, I’ll plan to find a BBQ place in Myeongdong. After lunch, I took the subway to Dongdaemun to search for a sporting goods store to get some FIFA goods to bring home. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to find it but luckily I was successful and my son was so happy with his gear. On the way home, I stopped in Myeongdong again since I’m running out of clean clothes. We tried finding a nice cocktail lounge to celebrate our last evening in Seoul but even with the help of the concierge, we were not able to get a reservation anywhere. We ended up getting champagne, soju, and snacks and enjoyed it in our room with lots of chatting.

On our last day in Seoul, we enjoyed the breakfast buffet at the hotel. I had abalone porridge, dim sum, and bulgogi from the massive buffet selection. After breakfast, we walked to Insadong to pick up some gifts. After getting back, I took the subway to get to Seoul Station for my Lotte Mart visit to get some kochugaru, kochujang, and some fun Korean almonds before getting back and packing for our flight home to Hawaii. We paid to have a 5 p.m. late checkout so that we can rest and refresh before heading to the airport. I got a call from the baggage service that my bag is on its way to me. I would rather have had it fly back home but that wasn’t an option so I received my bag and then lugged it right back to the airport to check it in for its flight home. The ride to the airport was over an hour since there was rush hour traffic on the road. It’s a good thing I had allowance for three bags since I had to check in my original lost suitcase, the new suitcase I bought, and the small overnighter suitcase with my coat that I didn’t want to take on the plane. The security line was pretty long (almost an hour wait) and I had time to be entertained by the signs telling me that kimchi and kochujang should be in checked luggage. Once we were in the terminal, our upgraded seats got us access to the Korean Airlines lounge where we enjoyed some snacks and drinks before boarding the plane and settling in for the just over seven hour flight home. I slept for a solid 5-6 hours in my lay flat seat. We had a little less than a two hour layover at HNL but as it turns out, our flight was delayed for over three hours so we spent a lot of time at HNL. But three hours isn’t bad compared to some other stories I’ve been hearing. I’m glad I made it home. Along with all my bags. Living Hilo Style in Seoul.

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