Katrina Avila

AUTUMN has always been my favorite season. There is something about fall that makes it all so whimsical. Seoul in Korea is the prefect place to visit when you are in the mood for orange trees, cold weather and a cup of hot chocolate.

I don’t know why, but every time I visit Seoul, it is always during the fall season. We took Cebu Pacific to Seoul from Cebu. After our four-hour flight, we were immediately greeted by our jolly tour guide. After which, we went straight to our hotel, Marina Bay Seoul.

The next day we set out for Nami Island. Also known as Namiseom, this half-moon shaped island is the famous setting for the popular K-drama Winter Sonata. Although not a fan of K-dramas, being in Nami is worth it, with its cool breeze and golden-orange trees, perfect conditions to have pictures taken. Indeed very Instagrammable.

Gyeongbokgung Palace is one of the most iconic sights in Korea. Formerly the main royal palace during the Joseon Dynasty, it was built in 1395. The palace is simply beautiful, and when you wear a hanbok, the traditional Korean costume, it feels like you are being transported through time.

Bukchon Hanok Village is a Korean traditional village in Seoul. Also an Instagrammable spot, the village consists of traditional Korean houses, also known as hanoks, that date back the Joseon dynasty. Today, many of these houses operate as cultural centers, tea houses, guesthouses, restaurants and cafés. This place gives tourists the opportunity to immerse themselves in the Korean way of life.

N Seoul Tower, also known as the Namsan Tower or Seoul Tower, is a communication and observation tower. One of its major attractions is its display of named padlocks, or love locks. The “locks of love” location is a popular spot for proposing or simply professing one’s love. The stores below sell padlocks on which you, together with your special someone, can write a dedication of eternal love.

Korea is also famous for its cuisine. A popular dish in Korea, aside from its famous kimchi and samgyeopsal, is ginseng chicken soup. Also known as samgyetang, the dish consists of a whole young chicken filled with garlic, rice, jujube (red dates) and ginseng roots. This soup is a traditional soup that is said to promote body health, perfect for the cold weather. But mind you, this soup is actually for hot summer days, a way for Koreans to keep up their energy and balance their body heat with the temperature outside. Very delicate in taste, you will really appreciate the use of aromatics like garlic and the feel of the ginseng. Simply invigorating.

Another popular dish is bulgogi. “Fire meat” bulgogi is made of thin slices of marinated beef or pork cooked on a stovetop griddle. It is very delicious, especially paired with its accompanying vegetables, and of course, kimchi. There is no Korean meal without kimchi. For those who are not yet familiar, kimchi is a staple in Korean cuisine, a famous traditional side dish of salted and fermented vegetables like cabbage, radish, spring onions, garlic, ginger and chili powder.

Seoul is also a shopping paradise. We had the chance to visit Lotte World Theme Park, but since it was a Saturday, the lines were simply unbearable, so we opted to go to Lotte World Mall, an all-designer global fashion hub with brands from all over the world. Literally “for your eyes only”, but if you have money to splurge, why not shop? Life is short.

Place to be

On our last day, we had the opportunity to check out some of Korea’s famous products like ginseng (medicine) and an edible seaweed also known as laver.

One must not leave Seoul without visiting the Myeong-dong district. Known for its shopping, nightlife and eating, Myeong-dong is definitely the place to be. Rows of cosmetic shops are found here. Koreans are known to have very good skin, glass-like even, and many flock to buy products from their cosmetic houses like Laneige, Missha, Etude House, Tonymoly, The Face Shop, Innis Free, Nature Republic, to name a few. All of them are found in Myeong- dong.

Street food like lobster with melted cheese, potato spirals, chap chae (Korean glass noodles), ice cream and Oreo churros are popular in the area.

Most definitely the highlight of my trip was wearing a hanbok. It has always been a dream of mine to wear this traditional Korean costume, so this trip, I made sure to do so.

Not only did my stomach feel full, but my heart as well. Travelling with friends and creating memories is always heart-warming; it is a chance to have a deeper connection with them. Seoul gave us the opportunity to let go and just be free spirits--exploring, sightseeing, laughing. It gave us a chance to bond.

I highly recommend visiting this fashion and technology forward city during the autumn season so you too can experience an indescribable, and Instagrammable trip.