The sunlight filtered through the window in our room and woke us up. We checked our phones. It was 5.30am (gasp) in the morning!
That was how we got our first taste of summer in South Korea. We would later find out that sunset typically occurs at 8pm. During the Korean summer, days are long and nights are short. Well, that’s not bad; it gives us more time to explore!
As it wasn’t yet time for breakfast, we decided to head outside to the streets of Sinchon and get our T-money card. Walking in the bright daylight at 6.30am confused us and jolted our senses awake. Heading into a GS25 convenience store, we saw an elderly man asleep behind the counter. A younger co-worker, counting stock outside, woke him up. We purchased our T-money cards from him (2,500 won per card), and he also helped us load value into them (25,000 won each).
Wandering the streets of Sinchon early in the morning was a strangely peaceful experience. Set up for a water gun festival had begun – there was a giant pirate ship at the road intersection and a water slide that wasn’t yet inflated.
We saw our favourite Gong Cha store and its eternal rival, Koi! They weren’t open for business yet, though.
In fact, none of the shops have opened save for A Twosome Place, a 24-hour cafe, and the first Krispy Kreme store in Asia. We saw Korean cleaners picking up trash from last night and people passed out on the streets, no one tending to them. This is Seoul at its rawest – if we had been on a tour group, we’d be whisked off to a 5-star hotel on a tour bus before we even had a chance to observe these things.
Eventually, we got tired and went back to our room to sleep haha! We woke up in time for self-served breakfast, which was bread and jam. For reasons unknown, the bread, jam, juice and milk in South Korea always tasted better than the ones we have in Singapore. We weren’t entirely sure of the reason why, but a good guess was their use of organic ingredients. We saw a sign that said ‘terrace’ and decided to check it out. As it turns out, it was a rooftop terrace that gave us panoramic views all around Sinchon!
This was something we were never aware of when making a reservation at 24guesthouse Seoul Sinchon, so it came as a pleasant surprise to us. We sat down and had our breakfast, at the same time admiring the view. We could see a church and Yonsei University, one of the top-ranked universities in the country. It was easily the best breakfast experience of this trip. Who needs the rooftop bar of ibis Styles Myeongdong when you’ve got this, at almost three times cheaper?
After breakfast, we checked out of our room and left our luggage with the same guy who passed us our keys. Thanks for readily agreeing to keep an eye on our belongings, although we never managed to find out your name! We made our way from Sinchon to Edae, which is actually within walking distance!
Rehearsals for the event had already kicked off. Looking at the performers, we guessed they were university students.
We passed by Homilpat, a shop specialising in patbingsu, which was on our list of places to eat, but it was so early they haven’t opened! We continued on to Ewha Womans University Street, which primarily caters to the students from a nearby prestigious educational institution (and you’ve probably heard of it before), Ewha Womans University! We proceeded straight on to the university campus itself to see its renowned architecture for ourselves. And impress us it did!
The most iconic structure that comes to people’s minds when they think of Ewha would be the campus complex. It consisted of a ‘campus valley’ that cut through a grassy hill. Situated inside the hill were lecture theatres, bookstores and cafes. This unique design stood out from the standard layouts of most universities, as well as in our minds.
The other buildings are really well-designed too, but in a different style. Like Clara Hall, which shares its name with Clara!
One thing we couldn’t help but notice was the incredible amount of tourists for a university. We would definitely be unsettled if NUS saw such tourist traffic daily, so how these students must feel was beyond our imagination. But then again, with architecture this astounding, it can’t be helped, right? One can only wish for buildings like these in their school.
Prof and Dancer, the best of friends, posed for a shot on a rocky landscape in the campus!
After touring around the campus, we walked the streets that cater to the students of the university. Because students have limited budgets, the stores here sell their goods at reduced prices. This makes Ewha Womans University Street the ideal place to shop, even for tourists like us!
We spent 2 hours walking through the alleys and into the many shops. It was very easy to lose our way, and we had to remember which shops we had entered before to avoid entering them again haha. Our haul included 10 pairs of socks (1,000 won each, which seemed to be the market price), 2 t-shirts (10,000 won each, could have been cheaper actually), a maxi skirt, a pair of chambray shorts (5,000 won each, what a bargain!) and a backpack (10,000 won). Ewha Womans University Street seemed to be an excellent place to shop for girls’ clothes – we frequently saw tops and bottoms going for 5,000 won, but the designs for guys were rather uninspiring, not to mention more pricey. I got tired of seeing the same old patterns pop up again and again.
Starting to feel hungry, we headed to Hongdae to have lunch!