Day 0 Arrival, Sunday March 10

Red BeanBased on WhatsApp messages, it sounds like little by little everyone has arrived. (Sorry about the bus transfer and extra taxi Clare!).  So, what are your first impressions of Korea, of Seoul, of street food, of Myeongdong, and of everything else?

I just love first impressions, and this is our moment for first impressions of Seoul, Korea.

Photo: Bungeoppang – Fish bread with red bean paste inside.

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26 Responses to “Day 0 Arrival, Sunday March 10”

  1. John R Says:

    I was surprised by two things to start:

    1) the willingness of the people to speak English
    2) how easy it was to get around without domestic currency

    On #1, I had the expectation that the people would be cold to someone who did not speak the language: a friend of mine who had just visited Seoul felt like he was given the cold shoulder many times, but I found this to be the case more so of Tokyo than of Seoul.

    We dropped our bags at the Aloft and ventured out to get street food and I was surprised to find that one of the street vendors actually would let me pay with a credit card. I was surprised at how digital friendly the payments systems were.

  2. Nicholas Pyne Says:

    I had no idea how much I would love Korean food. From fried chicken and barbecue to bibimbamp and bulgogi, we ate extremely well throughout the trip. Among the many amazing street foods we tried, my favorites included both Bungeoppang and the Hotteok (sweet nut pancakes).

    Anyone else excited for Left Wing Bar’s first US location to open on Guadalupe next month? The first round of wings is on Waldo!

  3. Nikki Says:

    Even though we were so jet lagged soon after we reached the hotel on Saturday, we went on a stroll around Myeongdong to find some food and my very first impression was “Wow it is so lit up”. Besides that – it felt like my kind of place where the street food vendors were wearing hair nets, masks and gloves. It was so clean and sanitary.

  4. Leili Says:

    Unfortunately, little first impressions from Day 0 since I happened to get sick on the flight before even making it to Seoul. 🙂 I did appreciate how easy it was to take the bus from the airport directly to the hotel. The underground crosswalks did throw me off a bit!

  5. Chase Says:

    Sunday was an exciting day of exploring Seoul! My initial impressions were:
    -The streets seemed surprisingly empty (I later learned that South Koreans tend to start the day late on weekends)
    -South Koreans love their coffee – there were coffee shops everywhere
    -Street food is delicious:)

  6. Jackie Margol Lewis Says:

    I accidentally put first impressions on day 1 rather than day 0. I was surprised to see how active the areas around our hotel were at night, especially the pedestrian only streets. I got my first Korean snack (kimbap) from a food stand and did initial recon of skincare products. All around, a great first impression!

  7. Margaret Mauel Says:

    My first impression of South Korea was amazing. When I first arrived in Seoul, I was welcomed at the airport by a concert of 5 South Korean men singing in suits on a stage while a crowd of about 50 people sat in chairs to watch them! I was so surprised to see that kind of performance at an airport, and even more surprised to see that many people sitting and listening.

    After exploring Seoul, my first impressions were that (1) the metro was unbelievably efficient, cheap, and clean, (2) Seoul does not get going until about 11 or 12 on weekends (we couldn’t find a coffee shop other than Starbucks open until 11 on Saturday/Sunday!) and (3) Korean barbecue is delicious.

  8. Anika Urfi Says:

    At the airport, I was pleasantly surprised at how clean and new everything was and the image of mountains and cherry blossoms on every major wall. It was a wonderful welcome that reflected the culture and landscape I was to experience in the upcoming week. The airport shuttle bus seemed luxurious compared to our airport shuttles in the states and my first impression of the area we were staying in, in the Cosmetics district, was like that of a smaller Times Square: lots of lights, people walking around, shopping and food! Very exciting!

  9. Grace Ferguson Says:

    When I first arrived in the Seoul Airport, I thought that it was very efficient and that everyone was nice and helpful. When we needed help to get to the hotel, we had several people stop to help us. Then when it was time to go explore the area around the hotel, I found it to be clean and quiet. This is something I continued to see throughout our time in Seoul. The streets were clean and people spoke quietly. The area around our hotel was lively with lots of street food and people shopping in various stores. It was fun to try some of the food and step into the stores. I did find Seoul to be rather inexpensive as all the street food was delicious and cheap. Also, the stores were inexpensive as well.

  10. Emma Blumstein Says:

    It seems like many of us had similar initial impressions of Myeongdong right off the bat: English-friendly, helpful people, delicious (and cheap!) street food, and impressive technology across the board.

    I got in rather late (~8:30 PM) and was the only person on the bus into Myeongdong. The street our hotel was on was quite busy and I was shocked when the driver parked the bus and proceeded to carry my two very heavy bags through an underground tunnel from one side of the street to the other. He carried my bags all the way to the hotel while the bus was casually parked in the middle of a very busy street! I don’t think anything like that would ever happen in New York City….

  11. Jeff Ochfeld Says:

    I agree with the sentiments above that the organization and efficiency at the Seoul airport made it a seamless experience to get to the hotel. It was neat to stay so close to the street food market in Myeongdong. One thing that particularly surprised me was the emphasis on cheese – – as it’s seemingly an imported good, and not native to the Korean cuisine, I was surprised how many things had an almost cheese whiz-like substance on top of fried chicken, wrapped around other foods, or somehow integrated with many of the food options. It was quite tasty although I wasn’t sure exactly what I was eating!

  12. Paula M Says:

    Upon arrival, I was impressed how everything was so clean and well-marked in the airport. It was tricky to find an ATM which I later realized that it might be because Seoul is primarily a cash-less city with various payment methods.

    The people of Seoul seem to love their coffee with multiple shops on a block (apparently they drink it up to 5 times a day?!) and sleeping in (it was a ghost town until about 2 pm each day).

    I was surprised that the skincare frenzy lived up to its hype. Myeongdong was swarmed every day and night with people buying up products left and right. Meanwhile, I have no idea where they store everything — our airbnb was tiny!

    The people were all very kind and helpful!

  13. Cecile Cosby Says:

    My first reaction to landing in Seoul was how efficient and fantastic the customs process was. I also was very impressed with the bus system. We walked out of the airport, bought a ticket and hopped on the bus that took us essentially straight to the hotel.

    Unfortunately, Leili had come down with a bit of a bug and was throwing up on the bus ride. All of us were hoping that she is feeling better by the start of Day 1.

  14. Bryant Buraruk Says:

    My first impression of South Korea was how easy and simple it was to get from the airport to the hotel. Whenever I travel overseas, I assume leaving the airport will be the most difficult due to an unfamiliarity with the city and more often than not the language barrier. I was surprised to discover the numerous, affordable routes to various parts of Seoul.

  15. Laura Greissing Says:

    Seoul is a MASSIVE city. So dense! As someone in real estate it was amazing to see the density and different architecture all over. The streets are always busy yet quiet. No one talking on phones, carrying coffee cups. Life seems simpler here. No trash cans either and no trash on the ground! American’s can take a page out of their book…

  16. Rachel Says:

    When I first walked over to Myeong-Dong, I was hit with a huge sense of excitement. After stepping off the day long flight, I was expecting to grab a quick bite to eat and go to bed but instead was reinvigorated and eager to explore. From the Korean food stalls lining the sidewalks to the overwhelming amount of K-beauty stores taking over the area, I couldn’t help but try one of everything: dumplings, fried cheese covered in sweetened condescend milk, and of course, a few face masks. It was an unexpectedly perfect start to the trip.

  17. Amanda Wilson Says:

    I was so excited upon arrival in Seoul! I got through customs extremely quickly, found a friendly cab-driver, and made my way to Itaewon ( I arrived a day early). Arriving at 5 pm, the drive into the city was so beautiful as the sun was setting, a wave of excitement came over me.

    Walking through the streets of Itaewon on Saturday night, I was immediately struck by the energy of the city. All of the small streets were full of charming bars, restaurants, and coffee shops overflowing with young, enthusiastic people. Eating dinner alone my first night, the Korean server did not speak much English but she was eager to help me find a dish I liked. She was overwhelmingly kind and hospitable, and it turned out, this is not uncommon of Koreans. It was a great first night!

  18. Kat Robinson Says:

    Day 0 touching down in Seoul found me jetlagged with a painful contact lens situation happening in my eyes (but after hearing about Leili I felt way more empathetic and it put my itchy eyes in perspective), but excited to be in a new place with a lot of relatively new-to-me people.

    As others have mentioned, customs and baggage claim and everything else about the airport was seamless. I almost kept waiting for something to go wrong in typical Kat-travel-mishaps style. The drive that evening from the airport into Seoul was grey and rather desolate – it almost felt like another world – but then our Aloft was smack in the middle of a lit up, bustling area. I was surprised to see so many people out and about. We ventured down the block to Myeongdong and I was immediately in street food and skincare heaven. I took in the all the sights and smells and bought delicious gyoza, and carried some back to the room for Emma who was getting in later… and made a mental note of the giant Innisfree on the street…

  19. Kat Robinson Says:

    Day 0 touching down in Seoul found me jet-lagged with a painful contact lens situation happening in my eyes (but after hearing about Leili I felt way more empathetic and it put my itchy eyes in perspective), but excited to be in a new place with a lot of relatively new-to-me people.

    As others have mentioned, customs and baggage claim and everything else about the airport was seamless. I almost kept waiting for something to go wrong in typical Kat-travel-mishaps style. The drive that evening from the airport into Seoul was grey and rather desolate – it almost felt like another world – but then our Aloft was smack in the middle of a lit up, bustling area. We ventured down the block to Myeongdong and I was immediately in street food and skincare heaven. I took in the all the sights and smells and bought delicious gyoza, and carried some back to the room for Emma who was getting in later, and made a mental note of the giant Innisfree on the street…

  20. Blake Schwartz Says:

    My first experience in Seoul was a great and fitting introduction to South Korean culture. The first was an extremely friendly taxi ride from the airport. In what seemed like a common theme throughout our trip, our driver was excited to converse with us and emphasized that he was hoping for unification between North and South Korea.

  21. Waldo Arreola Says:

    “Impression” to me is a very interesting word choice in the context of the picture attached to this post because there is a fish-shaped impression on the bungeo-ppang pastry, but this street food offering actually contains sweet red bean paste and no fish.
    I was very impressed with how clean and efficient Korean culture is, from navigating the airport upon arrival to hitting the street food next to our hotel as one of my first activities. A safe environment was also a key observation on the aforementioned activities.

  22. Ramon Cordova Says:

    “Day 0” for everyone else in the blog comments was “Day -1” for Garrett and me, as we were either still at the wedding reception in Miami or trying to stay awake in the airport/plane after pulling an all nighter to make our early morning flights. Nonetheless, I think that staying awake all night and on the plane from JFK to Seoul was probably one of the best decisions I’ve made in recent memory because it helped me avoid jet lag upon arrival in South Korea. Worth it!

  23. Jaey Li Says:

    My biggest initial impression, as well as surprise of Seoul was how similar it is to China, which I am quite familiar with. I had visited Japan and other Southeast Asian countries before and each has its own distinct characteristics. But perhaps due to its proximity and history related to China, Korea gave me a very Chinese vibe. The way shops are setup along the streets, the aesthetics of signs, logos and even buildings, seem to be all carry the same vibe. Even the fashion on the street reminds me quite a bit of northern Chinese cities. It’s actually quite a strange feeling for me, as it feels like I’m still in China but I cannot understand any of the characters written on signs. I felt very intrigued and was very looking forward to explore more about the city.

  24. Garrett Arras Says:

    At this point, Ramon and I were still en route to Korea. However, we were able to experience flying on Korean Air for the first time! We flew a large two deck airplane, which was completely sold out. I was extremely impressed by how quickly all the passengers were boarded onto the plane. The service on-board was impeccable! I was seated next to a mother and her son, who said “hello” and waved at me for multiple hours during our 15 hr flight from JFK. Overall, it was a great trip and the airplane made the long flight pass by quickly. We were excited to join everyone in Seoul once we landed!

  25. Jolene Wang Says:

    Arriving at Incheon airport, the entire process of locating the bus and purchasing prepaid sim card was seamless and very convenient. People are lining up at the bus station in order. The bus was surprisingly comfortable and very spacious. Aside from the fact, the hotel name was spelled wrong on the automatic ticketing machine and caused little confusion, the entire process of getting to the hotel is quite easy to navigate.

  26. Neomi Sanghrajka Says:

    Upon arrival in Myeongdong, I was amazed at the cleanliness of the street food stalls and also the number of restaurant options around us. I was impressed that we were so quickly able to find a vegetarian-friendly, delicious Korean porridge place. Having arrived a day early, we were well rested for Day 0! A few of us spent Sunday exploring shops in Garosugil and visiting the National Museum. I was also surprised at how easily we were able to figure out the subway despite the language barrier.

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