About a decade ago, a family friend recommended a Korean drama called “Winter Sonata,” but she warned us that once we started watching it, we’d be hooked. She was right. Fifteen K-dramas later, I suddenly felt the urge to visit the country after seeing the beautiful landscape, bright city lights of Seoul, the unique food and fashion-forward styles. Ever since then, I had always been interested in one day visiting South Korea.
I never thought the day would finally arrive.
Recently, my mom and I have made it somewhat of an annual tradition to take a mother-daughter trip together every year, or at least every other year. Our minds were set on traveling to Italy this year, but after hearing all the news about Paris and Brussels, we thought it’d be best to reconsider and go somewhere a little farther away from the chaos. So I proposed Korea, and my mom was all in!
There were a couple local tour company options, and the one that stuck out to both of us the most was Discover Digest — mostly because that was the one that also had its own TV series. And how cool would it be for the host, David Lim, to be our tour guide too? After a few phone exchanges with David, my mom and I were totally sold!
Journey to South Korea
On April 6, we departed from Honolulu to Incheon International Airport via Asiana Airlines — I have to admit that I was a little nervous about flying Asiana after hearing about the big plane crash in San Francisco a few years ago. But David convinced our tour group that Asiana was a superb airline and that he actually preferred using it over Korean Air. That calmed my nerves a bit.
The flight included our own personal monitor to show movies — both American and Korean — and lots and lots of food.
Our first meal was the signature Korean dish, bibimbap, which is a bowl of rice topped with mixed vegetables, beef and a spicy paste to mix in. This was a great way to ease us into the Korean diet that we would be adapting to for the next week.
After a long nap, the flight attendant handed over a turkey sandwich wrapped in saran wrap. Since we figured it would be a long stretch of time before we would arrive and have dinner in Seoul, we thought it’d be best to eat the sandwich to hold us over. But after a few more hours, we were surprised by yet another meal! This time, dinner included a tray with boiled fish with that Korean spicy sauce, steamed veggies, fruits, shrimp cocktail and a bread roll. Well, I couldn’t just let it go to waste, so I ended up cleaning my plate good.
After nearly 10 hours, we finally arrived in Incheon!
We boarded our bus — which was more like a party bus, decked out in flashy LED lights! Well, we were in Korea after all. Time to party!
After driving a little over an hour, we arrived at our hotel in Seoul: The Hotel Manu, which is an arm’s length away from the Itaewon shopping area.
Because our flight was slightly delayed, we landed a bit later than anticipated. It was almost 10 p.m. by the time we got to the hotel, but since our itinerary promised dinner upon arrival, that is precisely what we did next.
Yep, after having three full meals on the plane, we were up for a fourth. But I wasn’t going to complain about that! We went to the restaurant right next to our hotel called Mapo Hwangso-Garden where we arrived to a large bowl of beef bulgogi on a hot plate accompanied by tiny dishes filled with assorted vegetables.
If you don’t know what a typical Korean meal looks like, this might be a good example! It seems as if almost every meal comes with at least a few side dishes of vegetables or some other kind of appetizer.
After our beef bulgogi finished cooking, it was time to chow down! All in all, this meal was the perfect way to start our South Korean adventure!