Today is Mother’s Day and I can’t help but remember one of my favorite travels with my mom 3 years ago. There was a time when my mom and I were both into Koreanovelas. My favorite before was Full House and she was such a big fan of Coffee Prince, Jang Geum and Winter Sonata. So on 2012, for her 64th birthday, a few months before I got married in July, I decided to surprise her with a trip to South Korea! 🙂 This was my last travel date with her as her single daughter before I left our home to get married. I wanted to do something nice for her but really it was for me. I wanted our own time together and so off we went to Seoul!
Her birthday is in April 10 and it falls on the end of autumn in Seoul. Spring is starting which was a good time to visit. I was hoping to catch the cherry blossoms but during our visit there was a shift in the weather and the cherry blossoms were pushed to another week.
One thing we noticed immediately when we arrived is that South Korea has a very nice and modern airport. A train inside will connect you to the terminals as well as to the city train. I also love the design and look of Incheon International Airport.
The view from the train going to the city will show you this big body of water all the way. South Korea is bigger than I expected and it took us a while to get to the city.
It was freezing when we arrived in Seoul. We didn’t feel the cold much since we were indoors from the airport to the train. But when we were so surprised the moment we stepped out when the freezing cold hit our faces. We had to go back in and layer on before walking out to our hotel. We checked in at Astoria Hotel which was in a very central location already. They also had heating systems in the room and in the toilet and bath.
After checking in, we walked around the vicinity of our hotel found a place to eat then explored the nearby Namsangol Hanok Village. It was a touristy village where you can experience Korean culture. The first thing we did was dress up in their traditional hanbok! Oh it was fun playing dress up with Mama and I know she enjoyed this too! :p This is a famous thing to do when you’re in Seoul and the place was filled with tourists.
Afterwards, we went to Myeongdong, the shopping district of Seoul! This is a very crowded and busy area but I really love the vibe. Here you can see their local fashion brands along with the global ones. It’s my favorite place to shop but it’s also quite big so we weren’t able to go through everything. It’s interesting to see their kind of fashion though. I discovered a lot of Korean brands that I really liked. It’s a good thing that our hotel was quite near Myeongdong as I was able to go back here and grab some last minute items (like this colorful leather bag shop we saw on our first day) hours before our flight back home.
The next day was our Nami Island tour day! This was such an experience for both of us! It was fun riding the ferry on such cold weather! The ferry was nice and new and the ride wasn’t that long. Plus you’ll get to enjoy a beautiful scenery on the way. We had a really nice time! 🙂
Nami Island is that famous island used in the ever so popular Winter Sonata series that my mom liked. I never watched it but I’m familiar with it because of her so we were both excited to see it. It’s really something like out of a book or movie — misty tall trees everywhere, a view of the lake and mountains, stone houses and nipa huts and a lot more! It’s all very scenic and beautiful and from a different world! I’d love to go back here and explore it in a different season.
After our morning in Nami Island, we had lunch with the rest of the group in a traditional Korean restaurant. I don’t remember what our food was called but we all shared one whole sizzling pan of mixed ingredients. We had no choice but to have that for lunch hehehe!
The next day, it was time to see some famous Korean palaces and temples! We went to Gyeongbokgung Palace. This is Seoul’s grandest palace and it was a nice and pretty place to explore. If I remember correctly, I think it ends at Gwanghwamun Square where we saw some traditional rites being done. It’s just like what we see in koreanovelas! :p
For lunch we went to Insadong and ate at this restaurant, Ssamziegil, recommended by my sister. It’s a good place with a nice ambiance. Insadong is also a great place to shop for artsy unique stuff. The building is elliptical and you can just go on and on from one store to another and you’ll find yourself at the top. Outside is a street market where you can also discover different items.
After a long day of sightseeing and shopping, our 3rd and last night was already the eve of Mama’s birthday. We just had simple dinner at our hotel, rested well and went through the items we shopped hehe!
The next morning we had early breakfast and we still had the whole morning to explore since our flight was in the afternoon. We decided to go to Hongdae and try to find the Coffee Prince Cafe at the Hongik University area. We found it but it was closed! Apparently they are closed on Mondays. It was too bad but at least we were able to sightsee one last time before we said goodbye to Seoul.
We took a taxi to the airport and it was long drive. The city is far from Incheon International Airport and we we were surprised to see that there are cherry blossom trees already nearing the airport!!! It was so beautiful to just even glimpse it from the taxi! I wanted to ask the driver to stop so we can take photos but the trees were on the main road. Too bad I wasn’t able to take photos because I was so excited. I just promised to come back again for it.
We enjoyed our time at the airport waiting for our flight. Incheon is one of my favorite airports (after Singapore’s Changi Airport) to date. I love that they have very good restaurants, strong wifi, modern and clean facilities, lots of entertainment activities (there are even people performing on stage for you to watch), nice shopping stores, etc. etc.
South Korea is a beautiful country to explore. It’s very different from us and I had a hard time with their food but the sights and the whole experience is really something else too. It’s big and there’s so much more to see. I’d love to go to Jeju Island next time and come back to Nami when the trees are blooming and experience their cherry blossom festival too.
This Mother’s Day is extra-special to me today for various reasons and it’s nice to look back to some of my special travels with my mom. I was blessed to have these experiences with her when we are still able to travel leisurely before life gets too busy. Someday soon we’ll come see you again South Korea!
To my mom, who will always be the amazing SuperMom to all three of us, her children and to all her grandchildren, thank you. We are truly nothing without you. You will always be loved and appreciated so greatly by all of us. Thanks for this experience with you Mama, you will always be my Seoulmate! ❤