Monday, November 18, 2013

Weekend in Hongdae: Shopping, lantern festival, and birthday celebrations

[As a part of National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo), I'm posting here once a day during November.  Today is Day 18.]

Korean class was cancelled this past Saturday, so I did some shopping in Seoul that afternoon instead.  I don't like shopping much and I don't like spending money, but I needed some warmer things since it's so cold in the English room at school every day.  And the weather is only going to get colder.

So I was really proud of the fact that I made several frugal purchases that afternoon: Two sets of black leggings with fuzzy insides (which I will wear under my pants every day until springtime); two long-sleeved plain shirts to wear under sweaters (one's black, one's grey); a long, thick, fuzzy scarf; another pair of thicker socks; a sweater; arm warmers (with thumb holes); and a winter coat with a hood (for $10! -- I should post a picture).  I got the coat at the Seocho flea market that I first went to a month ago, and I'm so pleased with it.  I'm saving it for colder days to come...

It's a TTG friend's birthday today, so she had a whole weekend of birthday activities.  She booked a hostel for six of us to stay in Hongdae on Saturday night.  After my shopping excursion I met up with Anne to walk around the area (I had never been) and later to find our hostel.  Hongdae is a trendy area near Hongik University that's known for its "urban arts and indie music culture, clubs and entertainments," according to Wikipedia.

I had the directions to the hostel on my phone (took a photo of my laptop screen with the directions up), so we used the hostel's terrible map to find it.  They provided an "easy" but longer route from the metro, and a more "difficult" but shorter route, cutting through an ally.  We weren't in any real rush to get to hostel (it was mid-afternoon), so we went for the shorter route.  It was difficult indeed, as our first turn was wrong from the get-go.  I didn't mind that we were getting a scenic tour of Hongdae, because again I think we'd be the first ones to arrive at the hostel and I wanted to see the area.  Then the weight of our backpacks became more noticeable, and another friend was trying to find the hostel as well, so I decided we should go back to the main road and try the "easy" route.

On the way back to the main road, we saw a landmark from the "difficult" route that we hadn't been able to find before!  So we took the turn, walked through a long, twisted ally and back road.  I was sure it was wrong, but we kept walking and surprisingly saw our hostel!  It was a glorious moment.

Anne and I walk up the stairs and ring the doorbell.  The hostel worker answers and asks if we're in Jessica's group.  Um no, no Jessica in our group.  We tell him the name of the reservation as we follow him inside and take off our bags.  He's sure that we must be in Jessica's group.  Nope. I tell him we're in a 6 person private room, and the name on the reservation.  Then I start to worry, did they not receive our reservation and the hostel's all booked up? Would we have to find a new place to sleep tonight?

I don't remember what made it click, perhaps Anne asked, "Are we at the right hostel?" and I realized: Oh no.  While figuring out who would stay in Seoul this weekend via facebook event wall posts, two different hostels were suggested, with links.  When I went to get directions on Saturday morning, I apparently clicked on the hostel that we did not book, and took those directions.  We went to the wrong hostel!

I could only laugh at this point, and laugh I did.  The guy at this hostel was super nice and let us look up directions to our actual hostel (after asking us if we didn't just want to stay there - hah).  The real hostel wasn't any easier to find, perhaps they had worse directions on their site, but the rest of the group was already there and checked in, so they helped us find the way.

We dropped off our backpacks, and then it was off to the Seoul Lantern Festival.  After this weekend I realized I really need to start using my digital camera again -- these iPhone pictures just aren't cutting it:

Then we had dinner reservations in Itaewon, the international neighborhood with many foreigners.  The restaurant had a full menu of burgers, and the menu was completely in English!  So I had my first burger in South Korea.  The servers were great -- they brought the birthday girl a huge piece of carrot cake, and the chef even came out to say hello after we had eaten.

Afterwards we went out to a few nearby bars.  It was really fun to spend the weekend with these friends!
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