October 22, 2017, 3 PM

Our first day in Seoul is about to draw to a close. However, we want to maximize our time as much as we can. During our deliberation at Dal.Komm coffee shop, my friends and I decided to cap the day at Ewha Woman’s University, a particularly chic campus which draws different both local and foreign visitors with its modern and picturesque campus. Unbeknowst to some, it is also a prestigious university.

From Gwanghwamun Square, we traveled to Ewha Woman’s University (이화여자대학교) via the subway. Thankfully, Ehwa is just four stations away. However, we had to transfer at Chungjeongno station because Gwanghwamun station is along Line 5 while Ewha station is along Line 2. It took us thirty minutes to reach Ewha station. From the station, we walked for a couple of minutes to the campus.

Underneath this patch of garden plants is an underground campus. To see is to believe.
Ewha Woman’s University feels more like a park than a school.

Ewha Woman’s University was founded in 1886 by Mary F. Scranton, an American missionary of the Methodist Episcopal Church. The name Ewha was coined by Emperor Gojong, the 26th king of the Joseon dynasty. It is the first educational institution in Korea established solely to cater to women. As per Wikipedia, it is currently the world’s largest women educational institute. Now, that is quite a resume.

But more than the school’s colorful history, it is more renowned for the Ewha Campus Complex (ECC), a modern underground campus facility, designed by Dominique Perrault, an architect of global recognition. ECC’s design was selected through the International Design Competition held in February 2004. After the ECC’s completion in April 2008, it became Korea’s largest environmentally friendly underground campus facility.

As expected, what immediately caught our attention is ECC. It is pretty in pictures but it is even better in person. Although it was a Sunday afternoon, a mixture of students and local and foreign visitors have flocked to the campus to take a stroll, take some pictures, or simply just to unwind. Ewha campus radiates that relaxing vibe which easily draws in people from all walks of life. The autumn colors are also making the entire campus come alive.

Yes, this is a school campus.
Spending a splendid afternoon in one of Korea’s most prestigious universities.
Such picturesque structures characterize the entire campus.
Just another ordinary day at the campus.

However, it wasn’t only ECC that is environmentally friendly. The entire campus is the perfect equilibrium of nature and modern architecture. The school buildings are mixed in with tall trees and wide pathways. Moreover, most of the school buildings are inspired by English architecture. Stepping into Ewha feels more like walking into (what I imagined as) Oxford University rather than a Korean university. It is also difficult to imagine that this cool campus is located at the heart of a bustling city like Seoul.

After our very busy morning, we took our time leisurely strolling around the campus. Beauty is what Ewha campus is known for but for me it represents being dynamic and being innovative. It is a campus I would have loved to study in. We had a trip that night but my friends and I just took our time walking around the campus. It is pretty relaxing. However, our time wasn’t enough to explore the campus in its entirety. It is Gyeongbokgung all over again.

When it was getting late, my friends and I decided to go and look for a place to eat dinner. Ewha campus is surrounded with numerous shops, most of which offer a variety of chic clothing apparels. There are some food stalls, but most offer either clothing or beauty products, as expected. Koreans really have a thing for fashion and beauty.

South Korean Observation # 3: It is no secret that Koreans are crazy in love with fashion. But it is overwhelming to see how extensive this craze is. Entire blocks are dedicated for fashion/clothing shops. Even subway stations have clothing stores. Seoul is truly a fashionista’s haven.

A modern sculpture well-kept in Ewha’s obscured parts.
A promise to uphold education to its highest standards.

After a couple of minutes of walking around, we finally found another off-the-beaten path food shop. We ordered meals which cost us around 7,000 Won each. It is just our first day but my friends and I have noted how pricey the food is. At the minimum, we spend 7,000 Won PER MEAL. It is quite a steep price to pay. Even though we wanted to explore as much Korean food and delicacy as we can, we had to tighten the reins on our wallet. Literally. The meal was nonetheless worth it.

Following our dinner, we headed back to our accommodation to prepare for the next leg of our trip. Going out, into the street, we were immediately greeted by the cold evening breeze. To get to our accommodation, we hailed a cab. Again, we had trouble conveying our destination and it took a while to find a cab who took us in. Upon reaching our accommodation, we fixed our things in preparation for our brief trip to Sokcho, a city located on the eastern coast.

We were supposed to ride the bus at the East Seoul Bus Terminal or Dong-Seoul Bus Terminal located near Gangbyeon station (Subway Line 2). Unfortunately, upon arrival at the station, we learned that all the buses have been fully reserved. It never dawned on us to check the online reservation. We regrouped because we are left with two options – cancel our Sokcho trip or reorganize our itinerary. However, everything has already been arranged prior to our trip. and our accommodation for the night in Sokcho has already been paid.

Chameleon. Trying my best to blend in with my environment. I never planned this though.
Ewha campus is filled with Instagrammable features. It is a challenge to choose where to take those social media-worthy pictures. Why choose when you can have your picture be snapped in all parts? 

South Korea travel tip # 3: Always check online for transportation arrangements. This applies to both the Korean Rail (KTEx) and provincial buses.

In spite of this setback, we tried to search for alternatives. Just like a last minute save, a simple search online showed that there is another bus terminal catering to trips to Sokcho. Thanks God for other travel bloggers. Without wasting any minute, we traveled to the Seoul Express Terminal located in Gangnam district. It took as a while to get there because Gangnam is a bit away from Gangbyeon station.

All our efforts were not for naught as there were buses going to Sokcho. However, we have to wait for a while because the next trip is around 10:30 PM. As it was still early, my friends and I roamed around the famed Gangnam Underground Shopping Center. The shopping center is in a way, an extension of the subway station. Such underground shopping centers can be found all over Seoul. There is another one in Myeongdong station. I am not much of a shopping person but it was haven for our female friend. However, she wasn’t able to find anything to her liking.

Finally, it is time for us to depart for the second part of our South Korean Odyssey. At 10:30 PM, we left Seoul for the coastal city of Sokcho.

So what awaits us in Sokcho? Find out in the coming days! For now, I am wrapping up our first full day in South Korea.

A teaser for my first international hike.
To close our first full day of adventures in South Korea, here is my first jump shot. This is for prosperity’s sake. (Photo credit: Voltaire Coycoyen)