I discovered in October of the previous year that there were flights from Chicago-O’Hare to Seoul for $499 RT. China Eastern Airlines would be starting service to American cities from Shanghai in March and the low prices were to drum up interest and basically fill seats; the next cheapest flight on United was around $850 RT. This was a short-term deal as by July, the flights were up to about $750 RT.
The catch to this cheap flight was that there was a layover in Shanghai, and quite a long one at that. The shortest we could find was a 12 hour stop, but there were options all the way out to 22 hours. Neither me nor my girlfriend who was travelling with me had been to Shanghai (not that a long layover counts as having fully explored a city) but we made hay while the sun was shining and took the 19-hour layover option.
I had wanted to go to South Korea for a while. After college, I was planning to teach English in Korea for a year, even going as far as to fill out the application and complete an FBI Background check, but didn’t pull the trigger. I decided to stay stateside, mostly for family, and everything that’s happened in the past six years has been the result of that decision, for better or worse. I wanted to go to South Korea to vanquish my old ghosts and see what the few years after graduation could have been different.
Which only left us to make our itinerary.
Arrive in Shanghai late
Explore the Bund area
4 pm – Arrive at Pudong for a 4:30 flight to Seoul
6 pm – Arrive in Seoul, find dinner, find hostel
The National Folk Museum and Model Village
The Secret Garden
Royal Tombs of the Joseon Era in Seoul
N Seoul Tower (and Mount Namsan)
K-Pop Hologram Concert
The Demilitarized Zone
Korean War Museum
2pm – Leave for Gyeongju on Korail
Royal Tombs at Tumili Park
Gyeongju Historic Areas
Yangdong Folk Village
Back to Seoul on Korail
Love Museum in Seoul
Now, I’ll be honest: we put a lot in each day. By the end of every day, we’d walked too much to get excited about Seoul’s nightlife. That’s especially sad given Seoul’s reputation. On paper, we didn’t think it’d be that bad because we mapped it out, clustering things near each other. But as we got out and started walking between the sites, we realized that we could have cut a few things out.
But alas, with our itinerary in hand, we packed our bags and left. Our first stop: a long layover in Shanghai.