“In South Korea, they believe that when you turn 60, you’ve become a baby again and the rest of your life should be totally about joy and happiness, and people should leave you alone, and I just think that that’s the height of intelligence.”
– Alice Walker
Andreas and I finally went to Seoul together, after I went solo in 2011. Did much the same things as last time, but Seoul is a wonderful city with so much to see and do and it was amazing experiencing some of it again with my bro.
Andreas and I had talked about getting ourselves to Seoul to watch Tastosis cast the GSL. We had initially planned to go when I finished my studies, because finances aren’t great when one is a student, but then in the summer of 2022 Dan ‘Artosis’ Stemkoski decided to break the news that he was moving his whole family to Canada.
So now all of a sudden we had a 6 month window instead of a 3 year one… I told Andreas I couldn’t possibly commit to a Korea trip because I didn’t even know when my exams would be. So ultimately Andreas decided he would go without me. I told him he could borrow my Lonely Planet Seoul and that I would live vicariously through him. It sucked, but I had gone without him 11 years ago and I really wanted him to experience Seoul (and one of us should get to see the finals before Artosis left).
But then! A couple of months after Andreas booked his ticket and hotel I had more overview over my semester, what I had to hand in and my exams and I realized that I could get my exam written in advance of hand in if I worked at it. Which would leave me time to go to Korea… I got excited. I even considered NOT telling Andreas I was going. I knew what hotel he was staying in so I started imagining just showing up there and waiting for him in the lobby to see the look on his face.
But the GSL. The biggest reason we wanted to go in the first place… They have a severely limited amount of tickets and they sell out FAST. And if you want to sit together you have to buy tickets together because they’re numbered… All of a sudden I imagined Andreas and I sitting on opposite ends of the venue being like: “yay…” and I decided to call him.
Still made it funny though. I went “hey, could you do me a favour?” sounding serious, and he was like: “Yes. What do you need?”
Me: “Tomorrow when those tickets drop for the GSL… Can you buy two?”
And in true Andreas fashion there was no excitement in his voice when he said: “Sure. Are you going too?”
I was like: “Dude! Some excitement here, please! I’M GOING WITH YOU!”
He mustered some excitement ;-D
He was going to Seoul a day before me, but I figured we could go home together. I asked what flight he was on for the way home and he said: “That’s not going to help you much… I’ve booked business class…”
And I said: “Oh… Well, I could still be on the same flight.”
And Andreas, in true Andreas fashion, working off of me already crazily and spontaneously going to Korea said: “Well… You COULD book business too..?”
And I went:
“…You know what? Yeah. YEAH, I could do that! I’ve never done that!” #LaughingManically
So I booked business going back from Korea and he changed his seat so we could sit together. Then I grabbed my SC2-painted sign and placed it neatly by my front door so I wouldn’t forget it. Soon it would have Tasteless and Artosis‘ signatures on it too ❤
Ah, Business Class… Even the lighting’s different…
DAY 1 – ARRIVAL FOR ME, MONEY MUSEUM FOR ANDREAS
I arrived after Andreas and he was living it up at the money museum while I was making my way into Seoul and checking in to my hotel. His was fully booked the first night so I just got one of the closest ones to his the first night. I left my luggage and Andreas started coming back to our area to grab something to eat with me.
We opted for Korean BBQ for dinner because that’s what you do. I was sure of how to eat it from last time, until the menu arrived and I remembered that I never know how much to order at these places… We got some stuff and watched the waiter scissor it up onto the grill, it was fine. Good food, we were full… My stomach is never super good after a long transport leg anyway, but I remember “853” as nice enough to pin to my Google Maps. I think Andreas found it for us, he’s good like that. to be honest, I was still a little scrambled from the long flight so my brain wasn’t working properly.
On the way we saw cool stuff that reminded me of one of the reasons I love Asia. Randomness and translations from Google and zero fucks given about it. You get what they’re saying anyway, so as a tourist you get your shit together and stop being nitpicky.
First night was more acclimatizing to Seoul so we just wandered around taking in the sights. I even convinced Andreas he HAD TO TRY POCARI SWEAT!!11 It’s a rite of passage.
He wasn’t impressed…
DAY 2 – GSL FINALS and meeting Tastosis!
When I was in Korea the last time the games were played at the old GOM TV studios. The GSL has since then changed location to “FreecUp Studios” (yes, really) close to Samseong Station in Seoul. It’s bigger and better than the old studios (where the water in the bathroom wasn’t attached to a pipe so it just ran straight through and landed on your shoes when you washed your hands *lol*) and I wish I could tell you how many people it seated, but I’m rubbish at gauging stuff like that. The tickets sold out in under a minute though – so that’s saying something (both about how popular it is and that it’s not made for 1000 people).
The finals was between Maru and RagnaroK, with RagnaroK being the underdog and Maru being up for making history as potentially the first player to ever win the GSL finals five times. They even had a special trophy ready in case he won. Andreas had gotten us tickets and we were seated on the RagnaroK-side. Our seats had cheerfuls on them and various GSL/RagnaroK paraphernelia – we also met a guy named Jason who’d drawn Artosis in two different versions with the tagline “Save Artosis” on them. Unsure about what he wanted to accomplish, maybe he wanted to do his part for letting Tastosis remain together and casting the GSL online or something (ultimately it didn’t help, but it was a good effort and I brought both versions home with me).
The games were exciting and the atmosphere in the room was electric. The foreigners in the crowd (that’s us) all got ear pieces so we could listen to Tastosis casting and it worked well, even though we had to share one. Unfortunately the whole finals went by a little quickly, it was a best of 7 games and Maru won 4-0. RagnaroK was so disappointed the poor guy. He said afterwards in the interview he didn’t want to look at his family and my heart broke a litte… He played so well only to achieve this disappointing result and feeling he failed… Which he really shouldn’t because getting to the finals of GSL is one step away from being the absolute best. And his games are super solid – he is a great player.
Maru was being Maru. I suspect he is very uncomfortable with the pomp and ceremony, the interviews and the publicity… He has always seemed almost like he has a diagnosis to me, but he’s hardly the only StarCraft player like that. It takes a certain toll being this good at something like StarCraft. He’s pretty God level in his games though, it’s cool to watch.
But ok, I’m gonna (almost) stop geeking out. After the games and the ceremony and Maru holding his “G5L trophy” high we got to randomly meet RagnaroK so I got him to sign my sign too(!!) and later he said in an interview he was surprised and happy that so many fans still wanted to see him after he lost the finals so I’m glad we all managed to cheer him up at least a little.
Then we stood in line to meet Tastosis! Again!
This would be the third time I’d met them and the second time for Andreas (since we used to go to DreamHack Jönköping as well and they casted that one year) and they recognized us. I got starstruck. Not even going to try lying about it. These guys are so funny and they’ve done something incredible just by taking a massive chance. They deserve some recognition for that. 15 years they’ve been in Korea, starting as nobodies wanting to just work with StarCraft. Absolute geeks carving out their own space. And they’re still easy going and friendly. We congratulated them on a job very well done, said we were sad about Artosis leaving, but wishing him well… I didn’t want to leave because as anyone who knows me knows, I have issues with things ending. I have such issues with it… But my desire to not be ha crazed fan overcame so they signed my sign, we said out goodbyes, took a few photos and then just took in the whole venue once more before leaving.
We even got on YouTube!! They always film the audience and if you have cool cheerfuls (signs) you might end up getting filmed. Andreas told me “you need to hold up your sign cause the camera guy is looking for people to film now” and I did and he immediately came over and got a shot. Andreas regrets not looking into the camera, but I actually think the photo looks really cool. Me losing my shit and Andreas keeping his cool ;-D
It was a full day and night and it was super cool that the main event didn’t disappoint. I hope we get to go to more events in the future. It looks like StarCraft tournaments are now really on a severe decline, but I will keep holding on hope that these awesome experiences wont disappear completely ❤
DAY 3 – GYEONGBOKGUNG
I wanted to show Andreas some of the stuff I saw last time I was here and luckily he was up for it. We went to see Gyeongbokgung Palace (or Gyeongbok Palace, Gung means palace). Thiswas the main royal palace of the Joseon dynasty. Built in 1395, it’s the largest of the Five Grand Palaces built by the Joseon dynasty. It served as the home of Kings, the Kings’ households, as well as the government of Joseon.
We saw a lot of people there wearing the Hanbok, the traditional Korean dress, and I initially thought there was some sort of mass graduation going on where everyone wanted to take awesome pictures in their Hanbok on the palace grounds (like I had seen in Japan), but Andreas read some signs (as usual) and we discovered that if you wear Hanbok you get in for free *lol*
The grounds are pretty huge and as long as the weather is nice you can spend a good bit of time exploring the castle buildings. I’ve always found it a bit fascinating that all the temples and castles I see in Seoul have the same patterns painted on their roofs. They’re beautiful and very colourful, but they all look pretty much the same. I haven’t figured out if the pattern means anything special. It’s also really cool to see this massive, ancient buildings (and grounds) smack in the middle between skyscrapers and modern city life… It’s like being in the past and present at the same time if you use your imagination a little bit.
We also found the statues signifying peoples’ birth animals. For example I’m born in the year of the goat/sheep and so is Andreas. So we got to do a redo of the photo I took in 2011.
We ended the trip by trying to find our way OUT of the grounds, exiting at a different gate than we came in, getting a bit lost and finding a bakery that looked like it was run by Willy Wonka (sans the colours). Like Andreas said when he saw the video after we got home: “I didn’t remember this place, look at that plate, wtf?”
The baking goods were huge, sugary and we couldn’t even finish them. Good times ❤
After loading up on sugar (and for Andreas: Coffee) we walked through Seoul to track down to one of my favourite places in Seoul: Cheonggyecheon Stream. (On the way Andreas showed me a burger place he’d seen before. The “No Brand Burger – Why pay more? it’s good enough.” *LOL*
When I was in Seoul the first time it was raining heavily when I first saw it so it wasn’t so cool, but then I found it again on my last night after walking forever in the heat and I ended up dipping my hot feet in the water and watching the people hanging around. I don’t often use words like “Tranquility” because I feel like a yoga-influencer-wannabe, but that evening was super tranquil…
We got there in daytime, but the weather was really nice so Andreas got to experience this little green patch in the middle of the huge metropolis. The stream is another thing that was started during the Joseon dynasty and it went through a process of being built over to gain roads etc, until it was refurbished to the recreational space it is today.
“Cheonggyecheon is a 10.9-kilometre-long (6.8 mi) modern public recreation space in downtown Seoul. The massive urban renewal project is on the site of a stream that flowed before the rapid post-war economic development caused it to be covered by transportation infrastructure. The US$ 335 million project initially attracted much public criticism, however, since its opening in 2005, it has become popular among residents and tourists.”
We also walked by a shopping mall on our way home with a Fjällräven-store (yay, Sweden!), I bought some incredibly ugly DHL-logo socks (because Asia, guys) and Andreas found a place for dinner. A BBQ place with a robot server! We walked over, got a table and then realized the robot waitress wasn’t working that night (literally, it was broken)… Disappointment ensued until the food came. It was massive, tasty and very barbequeued. UeueueueueueueueueD.
DAY 4 – NAMDAEMUN MARKET & going home
Last day I asked Andreas if we could go see Namdaemun market to see of we could find some gifts for the kids back home and maybe a souvenir or two. I had already gotten my “Christmas ornament” – a string with a replica of the old coins they used before (closest thing to something decorative I can hang on my tree), but I needed to find a special little figure for my “little sister’s” daughter and something for her sister. Mustn’t treat them differently, you know ;o)
“Namdaemun Market is a large traditional market in Seoul, South Korea. The market is located next to Namdaemun, the “Great South Gate,” which was the main southern gate to the old city. It is the oldest and largest market in Korea.”
Go to markets in Korea. It’s so much fun. The first thing we found was a toy gatling gun(!) and from there it was just all colours, randomness and weird sh*t. #TakeMyMoney
I still regret not getting the Trump-socks… I could be spending my life stepping on Trump on a daily basis, but I had to be “smart”…
I even found a Christmas Shop! But it was closed for refurbishment… My disappointment was palpable. Anyway, we found out I have my own tower, just before we found yet another bakery. I am realizing Andreas and I have a problem…
Then we attempted to get in to the money museum so I could see “all the economy” too, but it was closed this day 😦 So we ended up just walking around and taking in the sights, killing time before our taxi to the airport and the magical trip home in Business Class ❤
On our way back to the hotel we stopped by the Myeongdong Cathedral because why not. We’re cultural. And also I hear you have to stop by all the churches, temples and castles because if not, have you even really been there?
To be honest we were just goofing around at this point trying to find the shortest route to our hotel, preferably stopping by a convenience store on the way to get some Hot Six so we could try them out. We had to. They sponsor the GSL. They must be judged. (One was ok, the other awful, but in true Andreas and Anne Karen style we don’t remember which is which…)
Anyway, we watched old GSL episodes on YouTube from around 2009-2011 (jesus, Tastosis… you were KIDS!) and waited in my room until the taxi came. I had booked the hotel for the following night by mistake, but it turned out to be a good thing because that way we had a place to hang out. Walking around for 8 hours can be pretty tiring.
The taxi came and took us to Incheon International Airport were we checked in and headed for amazing lounge benefits, food and drinks. Yummeh!
The food was great, the private access to the gate was even better. The fast lane in to the plane was the best. Until we got extra mattresses for our seats, that was really the best. Until the flight attendent poured the champagne. I don’t even like champagne, but it was excellent. I was hoping I wouldn’t get one of those snobbish flight attendant that makes you feel like you don’t belong there (to be fair, I DON’T belong there *lol*), but this guy was super attentive and seemed to like my undivided gratitude for every single thing he brought me.
I even got a new bag for my toiletries. Randomly. Rich people have it too good, people. We should eat them.
To be serious for a second, it was super fun to try it once. We went to the bar and drank mojitos at several thousand feet before watching too many shitty movies and sleeping pretty comfortably. I felt rested when we landed. It was a weird sensation. While I don’t see myself splurging this much for a flight ever again, it was kind of like my night at the Burj Al Arab. Worth it to try that absurd luxury once.