#travelfails: Seoul, Interrupted

This week’s Travel Tuesday has a theme, and because I’m usually miles behind the curve and find out about the theme on the actual day of posting (oops), I am excited to be able to write to a prompt this week!
The theme is #travelfails, and whilst I could write about the scammers who tied some string around our wrists and then demanded payment for them outside the Sacré-Cœur in Paris or the time I’m pretty sure we paid a bribe instead of a fine on the Budapest metro, I thought I’d prefer to write about something that doesn’t bring me actual rage when I think about it. Also, both those things happened with my husband and I’d like him to actually want to go on holiday with me again at some point!
So instead I thought I’d write about something a little more lighthearted. 
Maybe the time we went to Korea with no coats and it was -8°C?
So, here’s why. We’d just spent 2 weeks in Australia over Christmas, where it was over 30°C every day. On the way back, we’d got a mandatory stopover in Seoul courtesy of our flights with Asiana. Due to alignment of flight times, we had about 12 hours in the city, during which the airline was obliged to provide us with food and accommodation. Pretty neat, so we thought, and looked forward to our 12 hours in Seoul. We knew it would be winter there, of course, being back in the Northern Hemisphere and all. But we had bags full of Christmas presents on the way out, and decided that bringing a coat for just one day’s use would be foolish.
We reminded ourselves of that as we piled on all the layers we could fit into our carry-ons, and bravely marched out of the front door of the hotel. Along with my jeans I was wearing two tops, three jumpers, a pair of gloves and a scarf. S was wearing a novelty Christmas jumper. The hotel staff eyed us with amusement as we strode confidently out from the heated lobby and into the instantly biting cold. We looked at each other, smiled bravely, and said “it’s not too bad, is it?!” before heading straight for the nearest shop.
Given we were staying in the Myeongdong district, the shops were plentiful. They were just a few steps from our hotel, so we gladly trotted inside the welcoming shopfront we saw.
All my favourite skincare brands were represented, and I made a beeline for my favourites. The sales assistants were oh so friendly (so friendly!) but all totally bemused at my lack of coat. They just couldn’t understand why I wasn’t wearing one, and kept asking me questions about it, and shaking their heads in astonishment. 
Of course, my Korean wasn’t up to explaining the whole coat/baggage situation. So I just played up the eccentric Brit thing and got on with the serious business of shopping.
Outside, we noticed that (of course) all the people were properly dressed for the cold. 
And that even though it was 9pm, the place was still bustling and the market was doing a roaring trade. Notice, once again, all the people wearing sensible coats, ear muffs, and hats. 
The trees were lit beautifully with fairy lights – perhaps leftover Christmas decorations, perhaps they’re just this festive all year around. It certainly gave a carnival atmosphere to the street, and brightened up the dark evening.
The cold reduced us to gibbering wrecks in just a few short minutes so we plunged regularly into brightly lit shops. We got plenty of strange looks, I have to say, but we were as excited as schoolchildren and jumped and shivered our way onwards regardless.
I found myself some utterly cute beauty products to take home with me, and S was having a great time trying to capture the scenes with his camera. Although his fingers weren’t working too well by this point. Pretty much all these photos are his, so I hereby give him credit and due praise. They’re good, hey?
All too soon we had had enough. Even the shops couldn’t warm us up, and I was beginning to suspect I was growing icicles from my nose – although I couldn’t be sure, having lost sensation there some time previously. 
So back we went to our hotel. We were both really disappointed – the streets had been so colourful, so brightly lit, and so utterly intriguing. Everyone had been so friendly, and there was such a lot going on to see and do. Despite being frozen to the bone, we’d both thoroughly enjoyed our short time in the city and were desperate to see more. I think, in total, we managed a grand total of less than an hour out of the hotel. Pathetic!
However, at the risk of hypothermia, it just wasn’t going to happen. Plus, we had an airport transfer bus arriving first thing in the morning for another 12-hour flight (and we all know how much fun those are) so wanted to get in some decent sleep. Thus ended our tantalising glimpse into Seoul and our deep regret for not having found the room to pack a coat.
Once again thank you to S for the photos, and for shivering through the streets of Seoul with me. As travel fails go, we’ve had worse, but this is a good excuse to share some nice pictures, don’t you think!?
Have you ever been to Seoul? Have you ever travelled somewhere with completely the wrong wardrobe for the occasion?!
-Rachel

Linking up with ChristineSara Bonnie for Travel Tuesday, and with Malinda for Wednesday Wanderlust.
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41 Comments

  1. LydiaCLee
    4th August 2015 / 08:55

    I love your story with the contrasting photo of the women in the fur hood with her face covered too! Ha! It’s funny these ideas you make then realise how dumb it is – I paid to leave our warm clothes in storage at a railway station while we travelled around Sicilly and it was suddenly freezing and I had to wear stockings and buy a jacket to wear with sundresses…

    • 4th August 2015 / 13:40

      She had the right idea, I’m telling you! It’s strange because I hate being cold, and I feel the cold very easily so I’m not sure why we thought it would ever be ok! We did consider buying a coat but all the clothes shops were shut 🙁 next time we will be more sensible!

  2. 4th August 2015 / 11:15

    It looks truly beautiful but wow you are brave for going without a coat! I mean it truly looks cold out there the way locals are dressed. At least you didn’t let that stop you from finding Seoul beautiful!

    • 4th August 2015 / 13:41

      Brave…. or stupid?! Debatable I think! It was really chilly, and I did definitely wish I’d just packed a coat anyway, but you’re right. I still loved the place and it gave me enough of a taste to know I’m keen to go back. So there’s that, at least!

  3. 4th August 2015 / 12:22

    Korean cities are so distinctive with their seemingly unending neon signs! I lived in Korea for a year after university, your post really makes me miss it. Did you get a chance to try Korean food? I crave it all the time. lol

    • 4th August 2015 / 13:42

      I’ve never been to Korea before so this was all new to me – although similar to film scenes, etc. You’re so lucky to have lived there for a year, that must have been an incredible experience. We didn’t get to try much food, and it’s difficult for me being coeliac, but the little I did try I LOVED. Also S’s Korean plane meals looked amazing, I was jealous sat there with my rice cracker…!

  4. 4th August 2015 / 13:18

    I’m so glad y’all survived the cold! Being from the South I would’ve definitely needed a jacket because we freak out when there gets the slightest chill in the air.

    • 4th August 2015 / 13:45

      I wished I had a proper down filled, fur lined situation I have to say! Even though I’m from Britain and it’s generally pretty cold and miserable here, I was still well out of my depth… I’m glad we got out for as long as we did though, it’s a magical place.

  5. 4th August 2015 / 13:58

    I wouldn’t really expect Korea to be that cold either to be honest…. I usually have my Arctic mindset when it comes to packing though and end up bringing winter sweaters to Germany when there’s 30 degrees…. 😀

    • 4th August 2015 / 14:32

      That would have been helpful! I’m usually the same, but I’d had to force myself into packing-for-hot-weather mode to pack for Australia and apparently, I can’t do both…! And some places I also just have an unrealistic expectation of what the weather will be like. I have no idea where it comes from.

  6. 4th August 2015 / 16:22

    I spent some time in Seoul during winter (January) and it was freeeeeeezing. I wore my down coat the entire time!

    • 5th August 2015 / 08:23

      What I wouldn’t have done for a down coat…! Did you enjoy your trip? How long were you there for? I’m so keen to go back. I thought Seoul was great.

  7. 4th August 2015 / 17:03

    Good for you for trying! I am always overambitious when I plan and sometimes it’s hard not to be disappointed when travel plans don’t go smoothly!

    • 5th August 2015 / 08:24

      I know, I’m so overambitious. I have a tendency to think I can fit like, 17 things into my day. And then get frustrated when I run out of time after about 3! I’m glad we gave it a go though, we had a fantastic time.

  8. 5th August 2015 / 08:31

    They are good pictures, at least you got those! I think I will try Seoul in the Spring or Autumn!

    • 10th August 2015 / 09:29

      Well even the pictures were taken by my husband so I should give him full credit for that! I think I took the one of the sparkly trees and that’s it. Still, you’re right, it’s good to have them at all. I’d love to try Seoul in the Spring or Autumn, maybe I’ll see you there..!

  9. 5th August 2015 / 09:15

    I love your attitude about this little travel fail! I was surprised at just how cold it was in Beijing in winter (similar latitute, I believe). If Korea felt anything like China, the you lasted longer out in the cold than I would have!

    • 10th August 2015 / 09:31

      I’m not sure we lasted particularly well – we could only manage a few minutes outside between shops! I was just so keen to see the city, though. And we only had ourselves to blame for the no coat decision so we just had to suck it up and get on with it! I think we were too excited to worry about it, really. I’d love to visit Beijing. How did you find it? (Other than cold…)

  10. 5th August 2015 / 12:10

    You did so well to go out and explore what you did. I get so grumpy when I am cold that this would have been an epic fail for me.

    Thanks for joining in #wednesdaywanderlust

    • 10th August 2015 / 09:32

      I get massively grumpy when I’m cold as well, but on this occasion I was just so excited to see Seoul that I managed to not be grumpy! Also we defrosted regularly in shops so it wasn’t so bad at all.

  11. 5th August 2015 / 12:14

    I would have asked somebody to lend me one! but in a foreign country where I can see how that would be a bit difficult.

    Last dec. we flew from Hamburg to south Texas with an extended layover in NYC and had all the winter gear we needed, but when we got to our final destination, carrying everything we had worn to keep warm, and got out of the airport we were hit with humid warmth.. not as bad, but similar.

    • 10th August 2015 / 09:33

      Unfortunately my Korean didn’t extend to coat lending requests otherwise I’d have seriously considered it! I can see how carrying all your winter gear in high humidity heat would be a drag. It seems like dressing for stopovers is more of an issue than I thought!

  12. Amanda Kendle
    5th August 2015 / 12:53

    This sounds like just the sort of thing I would do! Actually when I did go to Seoul (for a week) I accidentally coincided the trip with S Korea and Japan hosting the FIFA World Cup and didn’t bother booking accommodation (since I didn’t realise about the World Cup until the airport!) and very nearly didn’t find anywhere to stay. Turned out to be great though as I could watch the televised games out in the big crowds in central Seoul and it was fantastic. You have to go back, Korea is fabulous!!

    • 10th August 2015 / 09:35

      Ha ha that sounds like exactly the kind of thing I’d do. I’m just so clueless about big events (especially sporting ones!) so I’d be oblivious as well. With this stopover it was all arranged by the airline, and very confusingly done. We actually weren’t sure if or where we had accommodation booked until we arrived at the airport and found a special desk. Long story, but it could have gone badly if the forums we’d read had turned out to be wrong! I’m so keen to go back to Korea. We only had a tiny taste but I LOVED it.

  13. 5th August 2015 / 16:19

    I haven’t been, but my husband has. You are braver than me, I cannot handle being cold! I would have paid someone to give me their coat if i couldn’t find one haha.

    • 10th August 2015 / 09:36

      What did he think about it? I usually can’t handle being cold, but this was just such a stupid situation that it was more funny than annoying, I think. Plus I was super excited to see the city so that distracted me! I very nearly wore the duvet from our hotel room out but thought that may not be the best way to represent Brits Abroad…

      • 11th August 2015 / 21:49

        well, he went with the marines so i think it was a different experience than a tourist might have lol. he enjoyed what he saw though. lol i totally would have worn the duvet 😉

  14. 5th August 2015 / 18:53

    Gahh, I hate being unprepared for weather. That stinks!

    Okay, you are the second person to mention the Parisian Sacre Coer scammers. I just put it in my itinerary for next year to beware of. LOL

    • 10th August 2015 / 09:38

      I know, it was quite annoying to not be able to have seen as much as we’d have liked, but it was our own decision so we just had to suck it up! As for the Sacre Coeur scammers, they’re probably not even that bad but we were caught totally off-guard. I think if you have your wits about you and a large dose of cynicism when anyone asks you anything, you’ll be fine. Bit sad, but it is what it is.

  15. 5th August 2015 / 21:57

    I can’t handle the cold… hot, I can deal with but cold, I’m a wimp. Guess it’s because I’m from Texas where it’s over 100F in the summertime. When we went to Neuschwanstein Castle, it was freezing. We packed coats and jackets but since it was so warm the day before in Salzburg, I just opted for the light jacket. Big mistake, I winded up buying a pair of gloves and a fleece from the gift shop. Yay souvenirs! lol

    • 10th August 2015 / 09:41

      Oh nooo, I’d have found that really annoying. I think what made the difference was knowing we just a few hundred metres from our hotel at all times! I hate being stuck somewhere (eg a coach trip or day out) with the wrong clothes. I’d have definitely done the same with the gift shop! This kind of fear is why I often pack Contingency Jeans when I’m wearing a skirt or vice versa. It drives my husband mad but the number of times I’ve had to switch over means I’ll keep on doing it!

  16. 6th August 2015 / 12:29

    Ha I would definitely have tried to wing this as well. I think you guys did very well given the conditions – I am not sure I would have managed more than the first few steps!

    • 10th August 2015 / 09:42

      Good I’m glad I’m not a total loon for attempting it! We didn’t manage more than a few steps, but luckily there were shops at regular intervals so we could leap-frog between them and keep ourselves reasonably warm. It was definitely worth it!

  17. 6th August 2015 / 15:24

    hahah thanks for posting about the prompt! I really enjoyed this story!

    And, let me say, that the EXACT same thing happened to me in Paris with the strings. But I sure as hell didn’t pay them!

    As for the whole “no coat” thing, that totally sounds like something I would do! I once was in London in the summer and was camping out outside for the Harry Potter premiere, and didn’t bring a coat or any kind of rain protection…ROOKIE MISTAKE! I almost got hypothermia! haha. But just like you, it ended up being an amazing time even though I was freezing my butt off!

    • 10th August 2015 / 09:46

      Ugh the Paris strings. Such a bummer. I hate how it ruins your experience of a city – to have to be on your guard the whole time is such a shame. You camped out in London without a coat or rain gear?! Oh my goodness. I’d have gone home after the first 30 minutes! You’re much braver than me. Glad you had a good time in the end, though!

  18. 6th August 2015 / 15:47

    Hopping over from Malinda’s link-up. I love Seoul! One of my best friends is living there right now and teaching English as a second language. I went to visit her back in May and had a blast. The shopping in Myeongdong is amazing! And I love all the street food, too! Your pictures brought back some great memories!

    YES on traveling somewhere with completely the wrong clothing. I went to San Francisco in August, expecting the weather to be summer-like. In reality – it felt like the middle of fall! So I also ended up having to do some last-minute shopping, otherwise just stay indoors the whole time!

    • 10th August 2015 / 09:44

      I’m glad you enjoyed the pictures! How lucky to have a friend who you can visit. I so wish we’d had longer to look around, it seemed like such an amazing city. We will have to go back (with the proper clothes, this time). I think I’d have assumed the weather in SF would be summer-like in August, mostly because I assume that most of the US is way hotter than here in the UK, so I’d have done exactly the same as you. Still, some holiday shopping can be a plus point!

  19. 11th August 2015 / 10:18

    Well…I usually tend to be over dressed to be honest! I hate cold! And then there are those transitional seasons/months where you don’t know what to wear and I end up with warmer clothes than I really need!

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  22. Gerald Lee
    1st November 2017 / 05:13

    I can totally sympathize with you on that. I was in Seoul for a work trip in May last year and I thought nothing of it to bring any warm attire. I totally got all those looks of amusement and smirks when I went out in my tennis shorts and t-shirt into the streets. Would love to go back again for a proper trip soon. Awesome place.

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