lost luggage, business class and budget food in seoul, republic of korea (2016)
I would like to start this article by reliving one of the most distressing experiences of travel: losing check-in luggage.
Travelling light has become a paramount attribute of my travel philosophy. It enables travel efficiency. It avoids the need to frantically communicate with airport staff after a long haul flight who cannot speak good English about your lost luggage.
Before I set off on my flight to Seoul in January 2015 I knew that I needed to check in luggage. I have checked in luggage many times before, and as before, I put the unimportant, less valuable items inside the check in luggage. I also took a photo of what my luggage looked like. I made sure I hooked colourful fabric and shoelace material around the handles of my luggage. Differentiating your luggage from others prevents anyone accidentally taking your luggage, and it stops you from taking someone else’s.
As my flight landed, I patiently waited for my luggage at baggage claim.
This video I shot at Heathrow airport, unfortunately I did not video baggage claim at Incheon airport.
I was waiting longer and longer, and as the crowd faded out, I was left without my beloved check in luggage. I spoke to staff at the airport, who instructed me to fill out a lost baggage form. I also showed them the picture of my luggage that I took on my phone. Staff took a photo of my luggage on my phone using their phone. I asked for their contact details. They wanted to know where I was staying, so if they find the bag they could deliver it to me.
I left the airport feeling dejected and annoyed that my luggage was not with me, and it played on my mind throughout the rest of the day. A few hours later, I called the airport number that the staff gave me, but there was still no news of the bag. The next day I called them again, and they said they found the luggage! I had my luggage delivered to the address I was staying at. I felt a feeling of joy and relief, and I was ready to enjoy the next two weeks.
Let’s have a look at what to do in Seoul!
1. 토속촌 - Tosokchon
This is a famous restaurant in Seoul known for its Samgyetang, a chicken soup filled with Poussin chicken, garlic, spices, ginseng and rice.
The restaurant is in a good location just off a main road in Jongno district. When entering the restaurant, you walk through a corridor into a small square which leads to large separate rooms where people eat. It is in this small square where you take off your shoes, and as you enter one of the main rooms, you will be given sandals to wear.
There are no seats here! You kneel or sit down on a cushion to eat on a table. This may be uncomfortable for the uninitiated, but it is a unique experience.
The tables are linked together in a rectangular shape, giving it the feel of a community, however there are also separate tables if you would like your own table.
The food quality is excellent, with plenty of healthy spices and herbs in the soup. You can request for there to be no/little spice in the soup if you wish. This quality and experience comes at a good price, approximately 15,000 Korean won (£10/$13 usd) for a dish of Samgyetang.
2. 김밥천국 - Kimbap Cheonguk
I think this restaurant is great. It is a restaurant chain. It is not a fine dining experience, it does not look particularly good both on the interior and exterior, and it is not a particularly recognisible restaurant.
However, I think this restaurant is great for four reasons:
-It is incredibly cheap.
-Side dishes are free of charge (I was particularly attached to danmuji, which is a yellow pickled radish).
-It is open 24 hours.
-The food is simple; it is easy to identify what you are eating. It is not an artistic presentation and the food is not particularly attractive to look at, but it tastes good.
The particular restaurant I visited (on multiple occasions) was located near Apgujeong station in the Gangnam district.
Pictured are 돈까스 카레 Donkkaseu (breaded pork cutlet with curry), approximately 5,500 Korean won (£3.70/$4.9 usd) and 치즈 돈까쓰 Donkkaseu with cheese, which is around the same price.
I could not find a website for this restaurant.
3. 순희네 - Soon-hee Ne
Gwangjang Market 광장시장 is a worthy attraction to visit. It is a food market full of noise of people buying, selling, bartering, and talking while eating.
Inside this market lies a restaurant called Soon-hee Ne 순희네. It is constantly busy and you will be lucky to find a seat. It serves the wiidly popular Korean pancake bindaetteok 빈대떡, and the alcohol of choice for many Koreans, the rice wine makgeolli 막걸리.
Makgeolli is surprisingly refreshing, it tastes like a fizzy soft drink. Makgeolli can come in many flavours, and you can buy them all over supermarkets in Korea.
Film director Tim Burton visited here, and is a popular choice for the local hungry Koreans.
4. Business class with Asiana Airlines
On my flight back to London I flew business class with Asiana Airlines. I rarely fly Asiana and was looking forward to the experience, as Asiana is voted one of the world's 5 star airlines by airline review consultancy Skytrax.
It was voted in 11th place in the world's top airlines of 2015 (out of 320 airlines) and 16th place in 2016. The full list can be found here
The experience was excellent, and I would recommend it to anyone who has the opportunity to fly business class.
5. Other tourist attractions
If healthy eating is your thing, you must visit the American chain Sambazon in Seoul, which specalise in the superfood Acai berry. There are many stores scattered around Seoul, the one I visited was located in the central Gangnam area.
With it's excellent presentation and healthy content, it is without a doubt one of my favourite things to eat in Seoul.
Address: 59 Nonhyeon-ro 161-gil, Gangnam-gu, Seoul.
b.) Han river
The Han river flows throughout the city of Seoul. The Jamwon district area of the Han river is a popular spot for a picnic on a hot day. Bring a blanket, bring foldable chairs, pick a spot, and the scores of promoters with their flyers will do the rest.
Take away food is big business along the Han river, and promoters will do anything to stand out. Hawk-eyed promoters will give you a flyer as soon as they see you without food. I saw one promoter dress up in a superman costume in the hope of you choosing them.
How do you get food here? Look at the flyers, pick what you want, call them up, and they will do the rest. Just behind the picnic spot is a large car park. Delivery drivers on motorbikes will park here and deliver the food to you.
It is a shame that I did not take more photos of this area, as it was full of people along the grass having a good time.
c.) Jonggak back alley
The neon lit streets of this area is a great spot to absorb the nightlife in Seoul. Located at the back of the underground station Jonggak, it has many restaurants and allows a great photo opportunity.