Korea + Japan Summer 2023

This summer we managed to have more vacation time and decided to go back to Japan. Back in October, when we started planning, prices for Japan were incredibly high, so we opted to visit Korea instead. We had never been to Korea and with so much of K-culture popping up here and there, we decided to forfeit Japan. As we planned our first trip to Korea, we kept thinking “but Japan is just so close…!”, so we ended up extending our trip and going to Japan as well, flying through Korea.

In the end our itinerary ended up something like this: Lisbon > Seoul > Busan > Osaka > Kyoto > Tokyo > Seoul > Lisbon.

We almost always have a calendar of our trips, and now it’s even more useful with the kids, because they get to see where we are going and when. They were especially excited for the alpacas visit and the Disney Resort.

We had a big layover in Helsinki, Finland, before we flew to Seoul, and got a few hours to explore the city. I loved Helsinki’s vibe! It gave me Reykjavik’s vibes with its cleanliness and sharp beautiful surroundings. President Biden was visiting the city and we ended up not seeing as much as we wanted because some streets were blocked, but even so, it’s definitely going on my bucket list.

Temppeliaukion Church

After this small stop in Helsinki, it was time for the big flight to Korea. The girls were excited for the trip, even though they had no idea that we were going to be flying for over 11 hours… they were still excited when they saw the little tellies on the plane, so all was fine.

The view from our Airbnb in Seoul.

We were greeted by a gloomy, rainy and somewhat warm Seoul. After a train ride from the airport we went straight for our Airbnb in the Chungmu-ro area.

Umbrellas in hand and we were off.
One of the most popular meals in Korea: fried chicken. And it’s the best fried chicken you’ll have.
Myeondong – where we strolled through the street food market, on the first day.

Throughout my teens and adult life I came across k-culture a lot. Before there was a K-Pop craze I already knew K-Pop groups (SES anyone?) and K-dramas (Winter Sonata, Boys over Flowers the Korean version) and had watched many of them. But my preference was always the Japanese ones and that has stayed pretty much consistent until these days.

In Japan, I know a few words, I recognise most of them, and even the alphabet is familiar. In Korea, that was not the case. That was a bit of a shock for me. Of course the language would be complete foreign but somehow I expected similar things with Japan and what I found, even though, on the surface there are similarities, was a completely different vibe altogether.

I found Seoul a city full of life, vibrant colours and people just…doing stuff. At all hours of the day and night. Stores and restaurants stay open until late (11 PM) and people are out and about chatting, smoking, dancing, you name it, without a care in the world. That is very different from Japan, where generally people are quieter, and focused on not bothering others.

We had had some experiences with Korean food, but nothing prepared us for the delicious fried chicken (kyochon’s was our favourite).

The weather was always wet, humid and hot. At our Airbnb nothing seemed 100% dry. Ever. We tried every iteration of AC on/off/dehumidifier/open window/closed window. Nothing seemed to help. It felt like we were sleeping with bed sheets that were always a bit wet… yeah. Not great, but we learned to live with it.

Even though M, being four, doesn’t really use a stroller anymore, we felt it would be better to take one for the trip. She still naps every afternoon, and we would be walking quite a lot. We brought a stroller that we had to buy in Japan back in 2018, when our airline lost our stroller. It’s a Japanese sub brand of Cybex, and the stroller folds itself up into a little cuboid. Very useful when in restaurants or trains. Overall, it would’ve been better to walk around without a stroller, but it was really useful for our little one. And we would sometimes swap them. I have to say, though, that our oldest, L, was a trooper! She walked as much as we did most of the times. Piece of advice if you are planning on travelling with little ones: get them some comfortable shoes. These were Skechers’ sandals, with unicorns and lights and everything, but suuuper comfortable.

This was absolutely delicious.

On our first full day around Seoul, we strolled around Bukchon Hanoi village, Ikseondong Hanoi Village and ended up in Gangnam. We went for dinner to this fried chicken place that apparently is famous because Jungkook mentioned it somewhere…? Regardless, it was absolutely scrumptious. Salty, crunchy and the best juicy chicken one can get. The only complaint I have was that it was incredibly cold, because the AC was on full blast and freezing.

And these were our first days in Seoul.

I’ll try not to take an eternity to produce another one of these. Hopefully I’ll finish before Halloween. Ahah!

Thank you for reading!