Our first order of business after landing at Gimpo was finding the train into the city. We found an ATM and got out some cash so we could purchase the one-way ticket to Seoul Station and our TPass cards for the metro and bus. ATMs here are a bit different as you have to select how many 1,000 won notes you wanted – in my case eight – rather than the dollar amount – 8,000.
Finding the airport train was a bit convoluted from the international arrivals terminal, but once we were headed in the correct direction it took about 10 minutes by foot. Ticket machines were in English so we had no trouble getting the tickets we needed. Then we headed downstairs to wait with loads of other people for the train. Thankfully we got seats!
When we arrived at Seoul Station it became clear that something went wrong with my single-use ticket. Eric passed through with no problem, but the machine threw an error when I tried to exit saying my card had never been activated. I think it’s because someone was trying to exit from the other side of the same stall when I scanned my ticket originally, so the door opened but my ticket wasn’t used. Or something. Who knows. Anyway, an employee opened the gate for me so I could get out. Then, after even more walking, we arrived at another set of gates I needed to scan through and, of course, my card didn’t work. This time a kind lady came over and put her card on the reader to get me free. This wound up being only a mild inconvenience but I was unable to get the 500 won refund back on my card because it was technically never used. Sigh.
Our room at the Millennium Seoul Hilton was like a mini mansion after staying in tiny Japanese hotel rooms for the past week and a half. We unpacked, then took advantage of the Executive Lounge as we planned our evening.
On our way out, we asked the concierge where to buy a TPass and she suggested the local drug store across the street from hotel – 4,000 won for the card and we loaded them with 10,000 won each for travel. Not sure why the cards were 1,500 more than I had found online, maybe because of where we bought them or perhaps the Line Friends branding?
Buses turned out to be the easiest way to get around our first night, as the network was extensive and they ran during the hours we needed them (we weren’t out after midnight).
After getting off the bus we started by exploring the Cheonggyecheon stream – this allowed us to stretch our legs, plus enjoy the various art installations, a light show, sand drawing demo, and photography exhibit along the way.
Our next stop was a nearby basement bar, The Booth Brewing, for a small pour each of two Mikkeller beers, a stout for me and a lambic for Eric.
We weren’t super hungry, so we split a single burger (no onion) with Cajun fries at Bas Burger (Gwanghwamun) for dinner. Eric ordered an orange Fanta and I tried an (unnamed) stout. I was confused by the bill when our waiter dropped it off as it was less than I was expecting. Eric eventually figured out that he charged us separately for Eric’s drink and discounted my more expensive one due to their “set” deal that included a drink. Sweet! Oh, and it was quite tasty too!
The night was still young, so we caught a bus to the Itaewon area and stopped in at Magpie Brewing Co. for one more beer. It’s a small, casual place with several interesting beers on tap. We grabbed two seats at the bar and ordered “The Ghost” (gose) for Eric and a “First Train” (baltic porter with coffee) for me.
We sipped our beers until last call and then headed back to the hotel, once again via bus. Thankfully the TPass cards were working fine!